Sunday March 06, 2016

Running a family on Slack

The family that Slacks together, stays together.

The family that Slacks together, stays together.

Listen 9:01

Peder Fjallstrom is a developer in Stockholm, Sweden. When he wanted to organize his family, he turned to a tool he uses at work: the small business focused messaging tool, Slack. In addition to the program's regular features, Peder added special family oriented tools, like an interactive shopping list, and the ability to track the location of his children.

Peder wrote about his experiments with Slack on his blog, and we have recreated his post here.

MY FAMILY USES SLACK. IT'S PRETTY INTERESTING.

Everything changed for the better when we started using slack at work. We've made countless custom integrations; doorbells, intercoms, travel cards, reddit, lunch menues, git hooks, server monitoring, you name it – we haz it.

My family has been using Google Calendar for a few years. Me and my wife used to think that we we're busy every night and that there was no room for improvisation. Google Calendar showed us that we had lots of free evenings and weekends, which has been great.

When it was time to evaluate a group chat app, I saw no reason to use HipChat, Skype or anything like that. Slack to the rescue!

Slack's free tier gives us 10 integrations, search for the latest 10 000 messages and 5GB storage. This is plenty for a family of 4. In this blog post I'll go through how we use it and the integrations we have made to aid us.

We use channels just the same way we use them at work. "fixahuset" is a channel for stuff that needs to be fixed around the house, "general" is important stuff, "handla" is for picking up milk on the way home, "mathem" is an integration i'll get to in a bit, and "random" is the usual cat gif mayhem we've all learned to love/hate. "pedertest" is where i test new integrations.


INTEGRATION NO 1: WHERE ARE THE KIDS?

We, as most parents to 10yo kids, ask this question daily. Picking them up at school, but they're at a friend's house, etc. Gah. This is a custom Slackbot command, which calls out to my server and returns the result.

My server runs a little curl script that calls out to Find My iPhone and returns a static GoogleMap image. The kids will probably start to question this thingie eventually, but works for now.


INTEGRATION NO 2: GOOGLE CALENDAR

Our old Google Calendar integrates very smoothly, just hook it up and let Slack know when you want the notifications.


INTEGRATION NO 3: SCHOOL INFORMATION

It turns out our school is living in the future, providing a RSS-feed per child. I had no idea. RSS works very well with this setup.


INTEGRATION NO 4: ONLINE FOOD SHOPPING

In Sweden, MatHem is one of the biggest e-commerce sites for groceries. We use them for a weekly delivery, and it works great. The night before delivery we generally take 10 minutes and cram everything we can come up with into our cart, which means that we miss a lot of essentials. What if we could add uhm… juice to our cart throughout the week, the moment when someone realise that we're out of uhm… juice ("sök" means search, "köp" means buy).

This integration is not kosher at all, and I'm probably breaking some terms and conditions. But we need this, and it could be done, so hey. If you work at MatHem or is offended by this in any way – please let me know and I'll cease and desist.

That's all the stuff we've got now, but more to come. Applying tactics from work to family life may seem cold, but I see this as a way to make the most out of our time. It's not like we're writing Jira stories or planning our vacation in Trello. Yet.