1 min read

You asked: How did you communicate when Slack was down?

From the mailbag:

I'd love to know how you collaborated/communicated internally when your own Slack client was down - if it ever happened that way!

JR Sims

We just texted each other or hopped on the phone in 2013. This quickly stopped working as we grew, and we went through a few different iterations after that. 

The first team to make the move out of text messages was the Customer Experience team. We already had a globally distributed support organization by mid-2014, and CE was on the pointy end of communicating with everyone during outages. CE began using whatever Google was calling its Gmail-integrated messaging feature at the time (Google+ Hangouts? Google Talk? GChat? Let’s say GChat.) when the service was down. 

CE continued to grow and bumped up against the limit of 50 people in a single GChat room, so it was split into separate rooms by global region. Engineering also moved to GChat and then also hit this 50-person limitation before too long. We began “dynamically adjusting” the membership of this room as needed by unceremoniously kicking out one engineer if we needed to add a different engineer to help with the current incident. Zoom played a role in a lot of these incidents as well — sometimes the only thing we used GChat for was to share a Zoom link, and then we’d all meet up there. 

Despite sounding horrible, this system worked well for years! We eventually spun up a canonical Zoom doom room for outages, a single link that we all bookmarked, and abandoned this baroque GChat scaffolding.

As we continued to grow, we had more and more colleagues who were not part of our alternate communications universe but needed information. This is when we dropped down to the lowest common denominator platform — email — to send out a notice to everyone in the company that Slack was, in fact, down. This is literally the only time that the company-wide email alias was used for any reason!