“The Boy Who Lived.”
From time to time I am asked, “Where did Measure Slack come from?” or “When did Measure Slack start? It sort of came out of nowhere.” The truth is that Measure Slack was a combination of “I wonder if…” and needing a back channel that worked on multiple platforms.
“I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.”
Measure Slack has been around for YEARS, but not really on Slack. The first “inkling” of Measure Slack started in March 2011 with a “trouble making” group that jokingly called itself “Team Evil Forces”, and wanted a way to communicate with each other, in a less public way than Twitter. We had all met via the web analytics industry, but considered each other to be friends, and communicated as such.
Team Evil Forces primarily used a chat program called Beluga, because two of the members weren’t iOS users and we needed a cross platform solution (if memory serves they used Blackberry and WebOS (Palm), and we needed a way to chat using a web browser.) The web browser portion was vital, because who wants to type on a tiny phone when you have your laptop open? This would come in handy at conferences, where we could conduct behind-the-scenes discussions about sessions, as they happened.
One fond memory was a couple of us sitting in a sessions where the presenter went through about 150 slides in 20 minutes, with a good number being filled with bullet points, and they were speaking a mile a minute. It was insane! We couldn’t leave the session, we wanted to see if they could keep up the speed the entire time. They did. The funniest part of the session was that a member of the Beluga pod was also on stage. You could see him reacting to his phone quietly buzzing away with all the messages coming in.
This is when we knew that having real time access to others in the industry was vital.
Most of the members of the Beluga pod (as they were known as) were Web Analytics Association members and were subscribed to the Yahoo Group for web analytics, but there was never a place we could all call “home” and certainly neither of those environments embraced true real time communication. Twitter was an option, as that is where many of us first “met” each other, but any further conversations would have all been public or the direct messaging would have been only 1-to-1, thus defeating the purpose.
It wasn’t all jokes. This group allowed us to discuss analytics challenges, and tap into collective brain power that proved really valuable. We had a wide range of perspectives – vendor, agency, consulting, practitioner. We enabled each other to consider alternative solutions to our challenges.
“This little beauty’s taught us more than all the teachers in this school.”
In June of 2011 I decided to make an attempt at a primarily “work-led” version of the group, but with still some fun, called “Measure X.” The name was partially a commentary that the Web Analytics Association was lagging behind in continuing to call what we’re doing “web analytics” when in reality so many people were doing analytics on many different sets of data, some not even marketing data. In March of 2012 they finally rebranded from Web Analytics Association to Digital Analytics Association, not a bad start but still not perfect in my mind.
Growth was slow and many people were already on Twitter using the hashtag #measure (previously #wa, story here). There was enough momentum on Twitter that I decided to end my efforts and just keep Measure X around as more of a marketing ploy for people to feel as though they were part of something. There were shirts, coffee mugs, pint glasses – all your typical CafePress wares: http://www.cafepress.com/measurex
“It was not, after all, so easy to die.”
Facebook, who had acquired Beluga in March 2011, finally killed off the service in December 2011. We used it to the bitter end. This was pretty much the death of Team Evil Forces and MeasureX – we no longer had a place to freely chat in private, that met our requirements. We tried a few other things, that all had their own challenges. iMessage (not cross-platform and, at the time, no “Mute” options), What’s App (at the time, no desktop option), Facebook Messenger (required everyone to be Facebook friends)… etc.
“To the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.”
In early 2012 I left my job at IBM and joined a start-up. At the start-up we internally used Google talk with PartyChat for all the teams to communicate. It was nice to once again have a place to openly chat with people about a specific topic and have a separate 1-to-1 conversation with them in private. Google eventually killed Google talk and forced everyone to Google Hangouts, which as a result PartyChat died when Google talk did. While Google didn’t pull the plug overnight, we needed another way to match the functionality of Google talk + PartyChat. There were discussions of going old-school and using IRC, or other less known solutions, but nothing was matching our needs. There were a lot of opinions floating around the office on what to do but we could never reach full consensus.
“He must have known you would always want to come back.”
In August of 2013 Slack was made available and one of the folks on our development team had early access to the limited preview. It wasn’t love at first sight but there was potential. The biggest advantage was the cross platform functionality with instantaneous notifications that would “follow” you to the most appropriate device.
My love for Slack grew more and more with each new integration. I had created a couple test teams to see if it would be a potential replacement platform for the old Team Evil Forces / MeasureX folks to come back together. The itch for a similar experience had returned and by this point Twitter was a wasteland of vendor SPAM, obnoxious post hashtag noise (“my cat weighs 15 pounds! #measure”), conversations that were difficult to follow, and generally it was more frustrating than useful.
In November 2014, almost as a joke I wanted to see if the URL measure.slack.com was even available. I know a number of companies that use subdomains like analytics. or measure. or stats., what are the chances that Slack already reserved the measure subdomain? They didn’t.
At first Measure Slack was merely a rehash of the original Team Evil Force core group. Bit by January 2015 we had over 100 people when I realized that Measure Slack was going to be something much more than what Team Evil Forces or MeasureX ever had been. Without explicitly calling it a “beta” I started sharing with a couple people that we were going to open the doors a little wider. All of a sudden we were growing so fast that I needed to introduce a request form. No longer could we scale with people requesting access via friends second hand, or DMs on Twitter. I didn’t know a good number of the people asking to join and I purposefully didn’t want Measure Slack to turn into another noisy Twitter experience.
In a little over 2 years we have grown way beyond my wildest expectations and are just about to hit our 3,000th user. THREE THOUSAND!
If you too would like to join Measure Slack sign up here to request an invite!
So that is the story of how Measure Slack was born. The next post will cover the growth of Measure Slack since January 2015.