Making the most of Slack

3 minute read

Written by: The Coop Team - Fred Hutch Bioinformatics & Data Science Cooperative

In our previous post, we provided a basic introduction to Slack as a communication mechanism and oriented you to Fred Hutch’s Coop Communities Slack workspace. A few reminders that are useful even for existing members:

  • Fill out your profile to maximize your networking opportunities!
  • Find more channels by clicking “Channel” in the lefthand sidebar, and look at the channel details for more information.


Once you have a feel for how Slack works, here are some ideas to customize your workspace and make the most of this resource.

Managing discussions

If you’re wondering How do I get started? or Where do I post?, here are some tips to help you think about the best way to converse with other people in Slack channels.

  • Post in the appropriate channel based on subject matter, tool, or topic. Sometimes this can be challenging to determine in a new-to-you workspace, but the channel descriptions should help guide you. It usually helps to choose the most specific channel possible. For example, a question about the best R package for a certain type of data visualization could go in #general, #question-and-answer, or #data-viz, but would probably get the most responses in #r-user-group since it’s specific to a certain programming language.
  • If you’d like to respond directly to someone else’s post on Slack, start a thread! Threads allow you to reply directly to a message, preserve context and encourage conversation without distracting the larger channel’s conversational flow. To start a thread, hover over the message in the channel you want to converse about and click the “Start a thread” icon.
  • We recommend not double posting the same question in multiple channels, as it can be confusing keeping track of answers. If you think another channel might be able to help, we’ve had luck sharing the link to the original post or question (click on the three dots to the right of the post to find the “Copy link” option).


Do you have an urgent announcement that requires immediate attention, or would you like to give specific people a heads-up about your post? Slack allows you to notify people using the at sign (@). With great power comes great responsibility though, so here are a few hints for proper etiquette when communicating with people in Slack.

Use the appropriate @ for your purpose:

  • @username - notifies an individual that your comment is directed at them; if you aren’t sure of someone’s username, try typing @ and Slack will show a list of members. Start typing a name to narrow down the options.
  • @here - alerts only people who are both in the channel and currently using Slack; inactive users will receive the notification the next time they open Slack. This is our preferred method of notifying users about optional but time-sensitive messages.
  • @channel - alerts anyone who has joined the channel whether they are online or not; we use this for urgent messages and high-priority messages.
  • @everyone - notifies everyone in the Slack workspace.

Because the last three methods notify a group of people, we suggest using them only infrequently. This is because folks who have Slack installed on their desktops and phones probably don’t want to receive too many notifications! If you’re interested in modifying when you receive notifications through Slack and for what purpose, please see Slack’s guides to mobile notifications and desktop notifications.

Formatting and post content

Writing and responding to posts in Slack is fairly straightforward, and Slack’s instructions to formatting messages covers the basics. A few additional tips to managing messages on Slack:

  • If you’re including computer code in your post, there are a few ways you can make it more legible for your colleagues. If referencing code inline (within a sentence), surround the code with backtick symbols (`), so it appears as computer code. For multiple lines in a code chunk, begin your text with triple backticks (```), so it formats as a block of code:

formatting code

  • If you’re sharing more than a few lines of code, consider creating a code snippet.
  • Want to collect some polling data in the channel from your lab or team? We’ve enabled polls in our workspace so you can quickly poll your group and gain feedback.
  • A wide variety of emojis are available in Slack, and can be used both within messages and as reactions to posts. Learn more about finding emojis and even adding custom emojis here.
  • We’ve also enabled the use of gifs in our workspace through the Giphy app.
  • Animated images and emojis can be distracting for some participants. Slack includes an option to disable animations and gifs

Getting help

Still have questions? The Slack Help Center has lots of great tips! Also feel free to contact a member of the Coop Team or email coophelp at