I have set up a team on Slack for The Garage Lab, you can get your invitation here or by using the widget in the sidebar. I'm hoping to provide a place for general discussion about 3D printing, electronics and CNC machining - feel free to sign up and talk about your projects or ask questions.

If you haven't heard of Slack before it is a communication platform oriented around teams of people - they describe their platform as team communication for the 21st century. What it looks like in practice is Internet Relay Chat (IRC) updated for the web. Many of the existing IRC concepts are there - channels, slash commands (including /kick) and the @ symbol to prefix user names.

Slack on Tablet

The biggest difference is the web based interface and support for what Slack calls Integrations. These allows you to easily configure Slack to feed data from external sources into the chat - commits from a GitHub repository or updates from an RSS feed for example.

As well as the provided integrations Slack has a rich API that allows you to make your own integrations (and they helpfully provide a Python wrapper for it as well). At a simpler level you can use webhooks to get data into and out of your team chat. For The Garage Lab team I've added the slack-overflow integration to add the /overflow command (it searchs Stack Overflow for the search terms you provide). Looking at the code for that integration will show you how simple it is to write your own.

From a makers point of view this has a lot of possibilities - one of the things I would like to play with is a simple Slack to MQTT gateway; send certain messages from Slack into MQTT to trigger physical actions in my home or office. If you combined that with a chat bot smart enough to recognize simple sentence structure you could get to the point where you can have a conversation with your house (this is not a new idea of course).

Slack Screenshot

For now though I would like to build The Garage Lab team into a friendly place for chatting about electronics, CNC machining, 3D printing and anything related to designing and building projects. Once again; you can get your invitation here or by using the widget in the sidebar. I am using the excellent slackin utility to automate processing of invitations so there is no delay involved.

If you would like some more information about Slack here is a list of articles you might find useful:

  • Slack Chats - a directory of Slack groups you can join.
  • 11 Useful Tips - a set of useful usability tips for Slack
  • Slack Tutorial - takes you from creating your own team up to using the basic functionality.