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How we use Slack in our family (earthpeople.se)
383 points by fjallstrom on Feb 1, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 115 comments

For those who don't want to use Slack but want some sort of family automation, Huginn[1] may be useful.

[1] - https://github.com/cantino/huginn/

That's pretty neat. I wanted to create something similar to this in python, but it looks like you saved me the trouble.

a great concept, anything like this in python?

Check out https://home-assistant.io similar but with some extra home automation focus.

This is amazing.

wow! cool tool, thanks for the link!

This looks amazing.

Nice job

My wife and I use slack. In the past ~6 months we: got engage, planned a wedding, a wedding reception (2 different dates), honeymoon to Australia, a baby, a new house, and renting out our townhome.

While slack is really a gussied up messaging platform, the extra polish they have on things like search, pins, and documents, made planning and executing on 3 of lifes major milestones significantly easier to manage.

So far we use only a couple of integrations: google calendar, and a custom build slash-command that pushes events to IFTTT's Google calendar event reciepe.

You got engaged over slack?

Hah. No. That I did in person (though I did flub up my rehersed speech) https://www.instagram.com/p/3dJYnyOtVg/?taken-by=balls187

That's awesome. You're lucky she didn't just elbow you in the face from adrenaline.

I talked about that with the other krav instructors. The girl behind me in purple was there to make sure no one accidentally ran into me while launching into their attack. So it was up to me to protect myself if she hit me.

As you said, luckily it all worked out.

The slack 'reactions' feature is a real lifesaver for that kind of thing.

/propose girlfriend


5 hours ago

Well, technically hubot did the engaging.

> things like search, pins, and documents

GMail also has built-in search. Google docs has documents. Both are free.

Slack is easily free for a family of 2.

Gmail's search is very good (but only useful if everyone avoids the habit of using Email like an IM client [ie unhelpful body and subject texts]).

Google doc's is okay.

Without thinking about it, slack organizes your messages into topics (aka channels), and it's easy to drag-n-drop files into channels, which are then archived, and easily found.

GMail's search also works for hangouts messages.

Does hangouts have a concept of topics? From my limited uses of it, if you chat with a single person, you can't create a new chat with that person around a different topic.

In slack, I can (and do) have multiple conversations with the same person, but organized around topics.

In hangouts, how do I easily see the files that have been sent? I opened a hangout I've had with a buddy of mine, and it (at least to me) wasn't obvious where those files are.

Also, how do I star a comment? In slack, it's handy to star a comment, or even pin them, to make finding them easier.

No question that you get slack like functionality across a myriad of tools you currently use and are familiar with. However as far as an integrated, easy to use experience, Slack is fairly compelling.

Just to be clear, I was only commenting that GMail's search can be used for chats. I was not commenting on other features, but I'll try to answer your questions if I can.

> Does hangouts have a concept of topics?

Yes, in that you can title group conversations. It's weak though.

> From my limited uses of it, if you chat with a single person, you can't create a new chat with that person around a different topic.

AFAICT, this is correct. If you try to make a group chat with only one person, it will just open the existing chat that you have open with that person.

> In hangouts, how do I easily see the files that have been sent?

I honestly have no idea. whenever I've needed to send a file to someone over hangouts, I share a dropbox link.

> Also, how do I star a comment? In slack, it's handy to star a comment, or even pin them, to make finding them easier.

This is not possible AFAIK.

Their search seems really unreliable to me. It doesn't find things that you can find by just scrolling up.

That's a busy 6 months...

My (now) wife and I decided to start a family. After that decision, we were pleasantly surprised that things moved along quicker than expected, but meant we had to accelerate a lot of things. We're both engineers, so we approached it like engineers: take big problems, break into smaller problems, prioritize, delegate, and execute.

Slack helped us keep focused and organized without a lot of effort on our part.

Also we had a lot of luck, pretty much everything went according to plan.

You had a baby in 6 months? What CAN'T Slack do.

What nine women can't, apparently!

Nice use of slack.

Side question : anybody here using some sort of hosted family social network ? I'm thinking about doing that. We have a huge family (around 200 alive members who are connected in real life) and thought about installing something, with a facebook/g+ login with oauth. I thought about maybe a wordpress + budypress thing but.. maybe I'm missing something better ? The first requirement is that anybody must select his parents, so that an ancestry tree can be created, etc...

I've used https://elgg.org/ and enjoyed it. I've also fiddled with https://www.humhub.org/en. Self-hosted!

> Side question

what about sandstorm.io, rocket chat (and there are more apps which may fit) ?

Our extended family have been using Path for some years (https://path.com). It's private so even young children can post, no ads, very slick app. It doesn't support albums but posting pictures is easy.

Not sure about their business model, I would pay for the privacy and safety angle.

Why not just create a Facebook group? What features are you missing?

(Not the OP) I have relatives who object to using Facebook.


Doing group chats with my family of 5 using Signal private messenger. The privacy guarantee is nice, but I'll admit there are lots of little issues in Signal group chats, often between iOS and Android.

We do this. Works surprisingly well... We've had two weddings planned, and several family reunions w/ 70+ people.

Best of all, I don't have to maintain a thing...

Totally just curious, did you miss Slack's notion of multiple persistent channels, where you can be talking about the wedding in one channel and the reunion with the Southern California part of your clan in another (location is just illustrative)? Or is creating multiple groups, one for each part of your family okay?

We use posts as 'channels'... they're generally short-lived.

There isn't nearly as much 'chatting' there as 'information sharing'... announcing milestones (pre-public baby announcements)... Etc.

For example, we just had one family decide they want to go to Knots Berry Farm the day after the wedding... Those who are interested replied, those who won't be sticking around or otherwise not interested didn't reply... so each post becomes a sort of persistent channel about a topic.

We have posts about the suggested hotel, and another post about a large AirBnB house that several families are going in on.

We're talking about 5 comments a day, max... and sometimes weeks w/o anything. We're generally fairly 'public' about things and use regular wall posts for general communication.

Are you crazy?

I'm not sure what's "crazy" about it. My family uses a private Facebook group and it works very well. We send events and keep each other updated on our lives. It's nice because there isn't a separate login to create or app to install.

Wow, is this relevant to me! While my family is only 3 of us, I am quite content using a private (and self-hosted) social network. I ended up using Gnu Social (http://gnu.io/social/).

Here are the reasons for wanting a private network: * Wanted to teach my young daughter how to behave and what to be prepared for (i.e. cyber bullying) while utilizing social media...BUT...In a safe environment before going out and facebooking with her friends and such. I think of this environment as my daughter's staging social network before she deploys to production. ;-) * Wanted to talk with my wife via private mechanisms that aren't as easily mined for data. Signal (the app) has actually replaced this need quite nicely: https://whispersystems.org/blog/signal . But its nice to know we can still use our private social network for private conversations. Though admit my stack is absolutely no match for NSA-type intrusions. * Wanted to keep MY OWN ARCHIVES of a timeline of important family events. If i lose an important photo/note, its on me, and I don't have to rely on Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Challenges I faced (and you might want to consider): * My daughter is already getting fed mis-information from her (air-headed) young friends that facebook, twitter and the like are the only social networks in existence (or the only ones that matter in their eyes). It took some teaching to inform my young daughter that the web is open, and that Daddy can manage our very own network, thank you very much. ;-) * My wife has a habit of relying on conventional text messaging - she is by no means a tech guru, so tends to forget that we have our own social network and text messaging isn't needed between us 3. * All the usual challenges that come with self-hosting stuff: uptime/availability, software updates, maintenance, etc. are your responsibility. Like spider man's uncle Ben said: with great power comes responsibility.

Here's some info which may help you decide what would work best for your scenario (understanding i don;t know what your skills or expected time investments are):

* I tested out Friendica - which was pretty straight-forward to install (just simple PHP stack) but seemed a little cumbersome to use. To be clear, it does alot out of the box, though now thinking, maybe it was too much GUI, widgets, etc. for my small family...And, what I needed was simple service, like a private twitter. I am interested when the red matrix project (same originators of Friendica) becomes more mature. Ultimately, i killed this Friendica installation and moved on.

* I tried pump.io, which actually is pretty cool...but because all my stuff is on a small VPS infrasturcutre, pump.io seems to want to be on its own vps...So, to install it on infrastructure that is shared with my personal site, etc. just seemed to consume too much time. i abandoned this - just didn't have time to play sysadmin. Much like red matrix, here's another project that has a bright future (at least i hope). Just understand: pump.io is a protocol and not a single app/server, so until the killer server setup is created (to implement said protocol), I think adoption - for folks who can but don';t have time to play sysadmin - might be slower than it could be. By the way, from the mobile client perspective, I played around one of the more popular clients: Impeller (http://impeller.e43.eu), which actually worked really well. Before I setup my own test server, i tried it on another person's server (that opened up public registrations) and found impeller to be pretty fast/nimble.

* Finally, I installed and have been using Gnu Social for many, many months now. The install was a simple php stack, some-what straight-forward. The only annoying thing is that the documentation - at last months ago - was slightly inconsistent between website and what gets downloaded with installation bundle. But in actually once that inconsistency was surpassed, the install scripts work pretty well. It was the simplest of the installs compared to the platforms i referenced above. An important point: what actually kept me on this platform so far has been the mobile client (an app called &status: http://andstatus.org). While the platform itself seems pretty solid (I can't speak to scaling issues, considering I have only 3 users!). But this mobile client is pretty freaking fast/nimble; and i don't think its my little VPS! There was another client called mustard which worked ok too. I suppose because the underlying platform is decent enough, but the clients really shine here. In this case, with my wife being more used to native styles of text messaging apps, &status really helped with her adoption. In any case, Gnu social is what i have been running with, and so far so good.

There are many other options (buddycloud, diaspora, etc.) which i did not try, but which might be quite worthwhile depending on your use-cases.

Good luck!

Diaspora? http://github.com/diaspora/diaspora

(Its available as apt-get install in debian unstable)

Pitching my own company here: https://www.cloudron.io . Cloudron is a smartserver that lets you run web apps. You can add users in the web ui and users can access all the apps that you install on the server. https://cloudron.io/appstore.html has the app listing (rocket.chat, owncloud, ghost) to name a few.

I've been working on something, just specs right now, to handle just that scenario. Something I'll have open source. It is a problem and not a small one.

"It turns out our school is living in the future, providing a RSS-feed per child."

That's crazy (awesome).

Seems like a great use of Slack. Unfortunately, my first and only experience with Slack has not been a fantasy. I joined a public slack on startups and everytime I check, I'm 100+ messages behind. Seems like a giant chat room.

I'm missing the magic.

Well, yeah. That's not the intended use case for Slack. People do use it for public groups organized around a shared interest, but it is intended for teams or companies.

What is this curl script that calls out to Find My iPhone...

I'm surprised that the web api is trivial enough to script but would love to use it.

It's not really scriptable, but if you look at the network traffic you can "copy as curl" one of the URLs that pop up as you're playing with "Find My Friends" on icloud.com and paste it into a terminal. It will return a JSON blob with geo information of all of your friends.

I don't know how long the cookie that "copy as curl" grabs lasts, but if it's long-lived I can absolutely see dropping it into a little script and feeding the lat/long into a static Google Maps tile URL.

Right on. I would have figured that iCloud would have one of those iterating cookies (I have no idea what it's really called) where each request iterates the request-data of each subsequent http call so a copy curl wouldn't work.

Very cool automation.

I was so intrigued with the idea of this, and didn't quite find anything I liked, that I whipped up a javascript version of this for use later. It's minimal at the moment, but it works: https://github.com/jziggas/node-icloud

there are loads of github repos for this, i just grabbed one and was on my way.

Agreed that was probably the most interesting tidbit for me to read in the article. I never considered using Slack integrations for personal use cases but it was nice to read about it here.

> Our school is living in the future, providing a RSS-feed per child.

That is actually really cool. Are there any privacy concerns though?

hi. article author here. the feed url is very long, and parents can disable it entirely. so i guess it's fine.

> the feed url is very long

What does this have to do with the security of the feed?

Put another way: all security is security through obscurity. Whether we're guessing URLs or brute-forcing passwords, logging HTTP traffic or keylogging someone's machine. I hardly see the difference. It's not easy to tell where "obscurity" ends and "security" begins.

It's Kerckhoffs's 2nd principle:

"[The system] should not require secrecy, and it should not be a problem if it falls into enemy hands"

Which gives rise to the idea of "security though obscurity" is bad. A system is said to rely on obscurity if the bad guy learning any facts about it (other than the special secret keys) represents a compromise.


No, theres a huge difference.

Security through obscurity means that if the details of the algorithm are known then your secrets are no longer secret. It relys on keeping the encyption method itself secret.

Compare with most good encryption methods, if you know which algorithm was used to encrypt my hard drive you cant use that information to decrypt it. The algorithm is published and the enemy knows the system but the system is still secure.

You can usefully distinguish between the name/location/identity of the resource and credentials/password used to access it. "Security through obscurity" is a specific criticism that usually means that the system doesn't adhere to Kerckhoffs's principle.

Obscurity is when the secret part is entirely based on one side of the transaction (I hope they don't find this URL) whereas security involves secrets on both sides that must be discovered (here is a key exchange where we both know a secret thing).

One-time pads as long as the message aren't security through obscurity are they? There's no way to brute force them. No future maths or quantum computer could ever crack them.

'How the pad was generated' is the obscure part with OTPs.

I'm getting the fear.

If you can guess a really long URL you probably can also guess all information about any children you want.

most likely tokens

given it's for feeds you have to (most likely) manually regenerate them

I am also intrigued by this. Would you mind sharing what other types information the feed provides?

sure! - what lunch is being served in the cafeteria - homework and due dates - private messages from teachers (not the full message, just a notification) - reminders like "bring ice skates"

That is very impressive - so impressive that I never see it happen here in Germany at some point.

I think the MatHem hack is pretty neat, why would anyone be offended by it?

Evil coder is making it easier for his family to buy stuff from our site, better send him a cease and desist!

Pretty neat is an understatement. It's genius. Love it.

Does anyone have a favorite "Shared Family Calendar"? We need something to keep track of everyone's school schedule, reports/projects due, sports games/practices, etc. etc.

I've tried Google and Trello ... wondering if there's something better.

Out of interest, why didn't shared Google calendars work for you? It works quite well for us.

It didn't "not work" but neither of my kids have gmail accounts so they can't see the calendar on their devices.

I just thought there might be something a little more vertical/family-focused.

What does Google not do? In our family of 4 everyone has their own calendar and there are a couple of other shared ones that we can all see, and it works great.

The Family Sharing in iCloud works exceptionally well for us.


I built a Slack bot to digitize movies, so everyone in the house knows when to swap discs, figure out tracks and post to the TV hub.


As a B2B SaaS app founder I dream of the day when our app generates this type of positive, organic coverage so effortlessly. It's no wonder Slack are growing at such a rate, they've built something that provides a serious amount of value to people.

There are a few things to unpackage here!

1. Whenever you catch yourself thinking that something uncommon is effortless, you're probably not seeing what's going on behind the scenes. Or at least– getting to the point when you've set the flywheel in motion (and people are trying to use your product or idea as a centerpiece for discussing something of their own) is non-trivial! But I'm sure you know this.

2. There are B2B SaaS apps that provide a serious amount of value that grow nicely, but still don't grow as quickly as Slack does– Slack is kind of an outlier in this regard.

3. There's a predictable news cycle that these things go through: https://medium.com/backchannel/how-the-tech-press-forces-a-n... Within this model, Slack is currently between 4 and 6 o' clock. This will change, inevitably.

We plan our vacations in Trello! Personally I think that's less hardcore than using Slack for family group chat.

Trello is great for vacation planning - have used it for this purpose!

I also wanted to setup something like this but I did not see an option to switch languages in Slack and since no-one speaks any English, it's not going to work well...

Looks like you're right: https://get.slack.help/hc/en-us/articles/215058658-Using-Sla.... That's surprising to me.

If you're writing your own Slackbot it shouldn't matter, should it?

The interface of Slack is still in English which is a major blocker for me.

I use Hangouts for that sort of things and this dude pretty much gave Google and Facebook their roadmap for the next couple years.

See, people. This is how Slack should be used. For family daily use, not as the only communication tool for opensource projects.

What's the benefit of using this for family vs hangouts?

Is it possible to get all the stuff in the article integrated with Hangouts?

Right now my wife and I just use Google calendar and iMessage, but I can see a time soon when my child can speak, read and type where it might be handy to have a group chat.

Although reading this now I wonder if it would be handy to have this for my in-laws who all live in the area, since right now we all have to coordinate via email.

But how would you deal with losing history? 10K messages is not very many.

I've been using gmail/gtalk for ~12 years -- I can quickly dig up (and regularly do) pretty much anything my parents and I ever talked about. I consider this to be the killer feature (vs, say, hotmail, where I had to keep deleting messages because of the 10MB limit, back in the day).

> But how would you deal with losing history? 10K messages is not very many.

That's a good point, although in practice I rarely have to search through our message history.

Also, since we're using iMessage, it's really hard to search anyway.

You have a very affordable paid option if you need paid features!

If you haven't already, shared photo albums on iOS are a really great way to share baby pics with family members without overwhelming your Instagram feeds or having to email all of the time.

Someone at work was recently giving me the slack pitch, and mentioned the cool bot that be configured to announce people, answer questions etc...

It made me very nostalgic for my old IRC friends, both people and eggdrop bots alike.

I have long held that IM (in particular MSN Messenger) was what killed community usage of IRC.

Before XP shipped with Messenger bundled, and aggressively pushed (i recall you would get a big window in your face on first login "demanding" you set up an account), basically everyone with a net connection in the local area was found on one or more regional channels.

After IM came however, things became very "cliche-y" as people were "approving" each other over IM and then dropping off IRC.

For those using Slack, I recommend you to check out this to-do app http://www.zlapps.com/todo

Disclaimer: I built it :)

I use this for groceries and it's great! Really easy to add items as I think of them, then check the list while at the store. Thanks for the app!

Smiled as I read this, seeing as I'm on Slack largely due to my "extended family" from my previous job (everyone else left but we stayed in touch over Slack).

Are there any downsides to using slack for family uses? I can only of think of my personal need to separate work/personal chat apps

the apps support several teams, you're set to go

this is so awesome. My wife and I have been thinking and working on how can family productivity be improved. It's not an easy task as we are figuring out. There was a recent blog post that became reasonably popular. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/where-slack-moms-slackformoms...

The challenge I feel is to determine if one should take a broad-based approach to family productivity that addresses all aspects or should one take a narrow high-value problem and solve for improving the productivity of that task. We have approached it from the point of view of making kids' activity planning as a task easier. We are going into beta in a week or so. We'll know if this works.

We also use slack in our family - haven't customised anything other than adding an emoji for the dog. I've found slack channels to work well with different sections of the extended family.

I just moved into a house w/ a few room-mates, and we were looking to make a discord channel for the house and write some bots around home automation.

It is cool to have all these conversation been backed up by the NSA ;-)

Would this be doable with IRC?

Well, yes people have been doing similar stuff with IRC bots. But you would miss the possibility to show widgets inside the chat client (eg. map, calendar, etc)

Absolutely yes (aside from visuals).

Slack has IRC gateway too ;-)

Did you look into Trello?

They should have used IRC.

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