We’re exploring capping our Slack to let the Community grow in other ways

In March 2018, I started the ResearchOps Community Slack. After 5 years of specialising in ops for user research, I was under the impression that I was one of just a few geeks in the world who really cared about this stuff. When I started the Slack, I expected a dozen or so people to turn up.

Just 3 months later and the Community is now 785 strong: a fair percentage are inactive members; I get around 15 requests a day for invitations; many more are invited in other ways. This thing is growing fast.

More than just a Slack, we’re now a community who meets offline too. The #WhatisResearchOps workshops are now in 25 cities and 13 countries with more coming on board. We’ve got a team of 35 people (that number grows each week) who dedicate time and brain to making things happen. What we’ve achieved in 3 months as a co-ordinated community is nothing short of epic, and we’ve only just begun. We’ve got something very special, but it’s now time to think about how we grow; a ‘Slack cap’ would give us some breathing space to do that.

I’ve spoken with many people who run established Slack communities, some of them very large. Slack doesn’t scale well and communities tend to ‘lose their sparkle’ as they grow bigger and more noisy. Many members of large communities reminisce over the good ol’ times when a community was smaller. Also, the communities become difficult (and very time consuming) to manage, with the net results being less interesting. Which brings me to the point of this post.

Capping so we can grow in other ways

TeamReOps* and I are exploring the idea of capping the Slack community at 500 members. This is not about making the Community closed, at least that’s not our intention. It’s about expanding its focus beyond Slack, and creating the opportunity for us to share the conversation more widely and in more open spaces.

We want to grow the Slack as a community of active contributors, and use the power of that focus — and the admin time we save (endless hours a week) — to do a better job of organising in-person and virtual events that are open to everyone; more tweeting, blogging, sharing bookmarked content from the Slack; and anything else we can think of and manage to produce. So if you’re not an active Slack member, you’ll have access to the best of the community, curated for you. No FOMO. And if you’re super-enthusiastic to get properly involved, you can get on the waitlist and grab a spot in the Slack when one frees up. We’re also thinking about using an old-fashioned forum.

* The core team of 12 who help coordinate the Community.

Nothing is set in stone

As has been our style so far, we’re paving new paths and exploring new ground. We’re experimenting. We’ll ask the Community for feedback and either amend the number or pull the approach entirely. The Community will have their say. We’ve frozen new invitations for now, and the Community is discussing the idea this week.

If the general consensus is that we do want the approach in, TeamReOps and I will review how things are going every 3 months and change if we need to. It’s all about striking a balance and that might take some tinkering.

How this will work

We don’t want an application process. For two reasons: 1. it’s time consuming and complicated 2. it doesn’t feel right to have to make subjective calls on who’s in and who’s out. So we’ll explore this approach:

  • We’ll set up a waitlist that anyone can sign up to.
  • Slack keeps a log of who’s an active member and who’s inactive. Every 3 months, we’ll delete inactive members from the Community and invite new members in from the waitlist on a first-come-first-serve basis. Enough to top up to 500 people.
  • We’ll keep working to grow the community beyond Slack and take feedback from everyone whether you’re in Slack or not as to how we do this.
  • Anyone who becomes an active member of the Community (an organiser, coordinator, or writer etc.) and who’s not in Slack, will be moved to the top of the list. The Slack part of the Community will always prioritise active contributors. After all, collaborating on stuff is what Slack is all about. We’ll be using it for what its best at.

Hopefully that all makes sense. If you’ve got thoughts, get in touch on Slack, Twitter or email. I’m not always able to get back immediately, but your message will be seen and you will get a response.

If you want to become a member, we’ve got a freeze on new invites for now. If you want to be a part of the Community when we unfreeze or a slot comes up, please add your name to the waitlist.