If you use @here/@channel more than 2 times a year, please read this post

Since @here/@channel is the digital equivalent to standing in the middle of the office and shouting at your coworkers, are there ever legitimate use cases and why do people abuse it?

What exactly do the notifications do?

First, definitions: @here notifies anyone who is a member of a channel in Slack and is also online. @channel notifies any member regardless of their status. More in-depth details can be found on Slack’s website. For the purpose of this blog post I’ll be using @here/@channel to mean “notifying a large group of people in Slack.”

Slack’s own website says, “We suggest using @here, @channel, and @everyone sparingly. If you need to get an individual’s attention, you can simply @mention them.”

@here/@channel legitimate use cases

What are some legitimate uses of @here/@channel? I would argue that @here/@channel is good for announcements and very very rarely is it good for questions/requests. Announcements are statements that do not require an answer back.

Examples of announcements:

  • Today is the last day of Open Enrollment.
  • The office is closing 1 hour early today for a staff event.
  • The parking lot is raising their weekly rates from $40 to $50.

Just because you are making an announcement doesn’t mean you should use an @here/@channel. Most times, you probably shouldn’t. A good test is to look at the channel you’re in and assess if the information you want to share is relevant & impactful to the majority of the group

In my first example “Today is the last day of Open Enrollment” the answer is “Yes.” The majority of people in the #general channel of your office would care about that, since having health insurance is required by law.

My last example, about the parking in the building is probably only relevant to a handful of people who drive to work. Using my above framework of “Is this information relevant to the majority of the group?” it’s easy to determine if an @here/@channel would make sense or not.

In San Fransisco very few people drive to work but in Utah almost everyone does. In a distributed office (like Lambda School’s) we have channels set up for the specific offices #staff_ut and #staff_sf. It would be inappropriate to announce the parking situation in #staff since a decent amount of our company works remotely. 

I would not use @here/@channel in #staff_sf (but would create a thread and tag the drivers I knew) and maybe use @here/@channel in #staff_ut.

A rare but legitimate use case for @here/@channel is when you need time-sensitive assistance. Something has happened and you’re in a crunch and you don’t know what to do.

Examples include:

  • Locking yourself out of the office
  • A major bug/system error that is impacting lots of users

One day someone arrived super early and forgot their keycard. They did an @here asking if anyone was around and could let them in. Totally legitimate since they didn’t want to individually Slack every member of the office asking to be let it. It was also appropriate that they used @here instead of @channel because they only notified people were online and working.

When your emergency issue is resolved it’s polite to comment in a thread that you are all set. That way if someone stumbles across your request later they don’t need to wonder if it has been addressed or not.

What are the root causes for @here/@channel abuse & how can it be addressed?

So with the legitimate uses of @here/@channel out of the way, why do people still abuse it? When I sent my tweet about the issue I received a thoughtful response from Brant Choate (which actually inspired this blog post!). His answer resonated with me:

The biggest reason people abuse @here/@channel is they don’t trust that posting in a channel by itself will garner a response. This is due to communication and trust issues within the org, as Brant noted.

At Lambda we have a #staff_salesforce channel, of which I am a member. My team and I monitor this channel closely as we own our Salesforce instance and any issues that might arise. The channel has ~80+ people in it and for awhile we had some issues with @here. 

This is because it wasn’t clear to members of the room that it was monitored with regularity and clear etiquette hasn’t been established. Slack is doing good work in this arena with their new Workflow Builder. It allows you to send a custom message to people who join your channel. It would be easy enough to add @here/@channel etiquette guidelines as well as who the “owners” in the channel might be.

Another reason @here/@channel is used is because a process has not yet been implemented to solve the communication issue. Say your support team needs to know when a customer’s order has been shipped and the only way to know is to ask the shipping team. Whenever an angry customer writes in wondering the status of their shipment an @here/@channel feels warranted!

I have found the less process-oriented a business unit is, the more likely their respective channels are @here/@channel chaos. No one knows who is in charge and who can help them, so screaming into the ether feels like the most effective method. Clear processes help the flow of communication and information between groups.

The siloing of information is a bummer, but I assume Brant is talking about other etiquette and org norms that I’m not addressing here. A personal preference of mine is to discuss anything related to work that might be relevant for other people in a channel vs. 1:1 messaging. This allows others to see/learn and also chime in if they have experience. I learned this from Ryan Mason who always encourages people to discuss data-related questions in the #staff_data_analytics channel instead of in his DMs. This behavior greatly increases transparency and the flow of information–especially at distributed companies.

In conclusion

2019 in seconds

I captured 2019 in one second snippets thanks to a handy app called 1 Second Everyday. The app is pretty straightforward. Every day you capture a little bit of video and trim it inside the app. At the end you mash your video together to get something like this:

I was inspired to try it out by Elise Cripe who started doing hers in 2016. She wrote that she wished she had done this pre-children, so I figured I should take her advice. I’m guessing the content will change pretty significantly once we add a baby to the mix!

I actually didn’t take a video everyday. In fact, there were quite a few months where I missed 5-10 days. November was particularly bad. I didn’t let this stop me and just forgave myself and moved on. Don’t quit! (Note to self: This philosophy applies to way more than just one second videos.)

Some highlights from 2019:

👟I did a lot of running for the first 6 months of the year. I joined an Orange Theory Fitness across from our apartment and went January-June. I capped off my OTF attendance by signing up for the Capitol Hill Classic 10K. I’m would never call myself a runner, so this was a fun challenge.

🍶I threw a lot of pottery. I started pottery in 2018 but stuck with it in 2019. I don’t have much to show for it besides a couple of tiny bowls and a few mugs. It was super fun, but fairly expensive and in a location that was difficult to get to. I haven’t picked it back up and I’m not sure if I will.

✈️We traveled to London, Paris, and Hong Kong. We squished London and Paris into a 36 hour trip over President’s Day weekend. It was a crazy short time period–but you can’t live your life waiting for the perfect opportunity and I’m happy we went. We were in Hong Kong for a week and it was incredible. I never wrote a blog about it, but I took some notes here.

🤪My coworkers got iced a lot. I don’t know why there are so many snippets of people drinking Smirnoff.

🎉We celebrated others. My baby sister graduated high school, a couple weddings, and a friend bought her first home!

🏠We moved…twice. We moved around April out of our beautiful but expensive apartment on 14th St. to a larger but more affordable apartment in Adams Morgan. This was completely upended when we moved only 4 months later to San Francisco.

👩🏽‍💻I got a new job! After 4 years at Industry Dive and 7 years in DC Jordan & I packed up and moved to California for my new role at Lambda School.

2019 was interesting because it didn’t end anywhere close to how it started. I didn’t begin 2019 with the desire to look for a new job or move out of DC. I’m excited to see what 2020 holds for us in this new city.

Other thoughts:

At first I wished I had ~*curated the video to make it shorter and snappier, but I’m happy with the length and even the seconds that don’t look “perfect” (whatever that means). They all are memories and have meaning to me.

I have a 64G iPhone and never had a storage issue. I back up my photos/videos occasionally to Dropbox but as soon as I finished compiling my video I deleted all the individual clips off my phone. I did not store the final 4 minute video on my phone, only on YouTube + Dropbox.

The app is free but you can pay a fee for backup, music, and logo removal. I did not pay for the app until the end–I wanted to be able to add some music to my final video. Luckily, you get a 14 day free-trial so I’ll cancel my subscription before then.

2019 Book Review

This year I set a goal of 30 books on my Goodreads challenge. That felt ambitious, yet doable and I’m proud to say that I’ve surpassed that number by a few books–and the year is not over yet!

I read too much non-fiction. I don’t really know why, except I surround myself with people (via Twitter, mostly) who recommend non-fiction way more than fiction which is how I’ve read Atomic Habits twice but never The Nightingale.

A quick count tells me 40% of my books read this year were fiction. I consider that a grand achievement. (Side note: Does Goodreads provide analytics on this? I had to count by hand but would love to see data around genre, length, etc.)

I don’t really have a rhyme or reason for reading the books that I do. About 50% of my books are read via Kindle while the other half is dead tree checked out from the local library. I had to carry around Steve Jobs for 2 weeks and that is a book I had wished I had read on Kindle.

I read a few obscure sci-fi books such as The Amber Project which was a post-apocalyptic series about people being driven underground because of a weird gas that took over Earth. The series follows a bunch of kids that have been genetically modified to resist the gas. This was one of the Amazon Lending Library book offerings which are always lesser known and of dubious quality. But! Fiction is fiction and it helped me towards my goal so I’m pleased.

My reading philosophy is that life is too short to suffer through a book you don’t like–so put it down if you’re not enjoying it. I usually have half a dozen books going at once and I’ll stop and start them without much guilt.
For example, I’m about halfway through The Ego is the Enemy but that’s not really a book you just tear through in a couple days. It’s been sitting on my Kindle for the past 2 weeks unread but I think I’m ready to pick it up again. Same with The Courage to be Disliked.

I devoured Sally Rooney’s two books–Conversations with Friends and Normal People but I don’t know if I’d recommend them. They left me sort of sad and hollow inside. It bummed me out to think that young people would read these books and imagine relationships had to be this way–overly complicated and full of drama.

For 2020 I might up the ante to 40 books and shoot for 50% to be fiction. If you have any fiction book recs–please let me know!

Playing around with SoqlX

A fun thing about starting new jobs is being exposed to different tools & ways of doing things. This is my first job where my computer is a Mac instead of PC. A popular tool in the toolkit of Salesforce Admins is DemandTools. It’s a pretty nifty software but at its core it’s a GUI for using SOQL to find and update records. And it only runs on PC. What’s an enterprising Salesforce user supposed to do?

I was introduced to SoqlX, an open source tool for Mac users to edit, update, and query data. I’m going to walk through some of things I’ve learned since I’ve started using it. Between SoqlX and Dataloader, I’m pretty set and don’t miss DemandTools at all.

Ever since I started using SoqlX I pretty much avoid using Salesforce’s report builder. I find SOQL faster and easier overall, plus the added benefit of being able to edit a record directly within the UI of SoqlX.

Getting familiar with SoqlX

The SoqlX UI

I use the tool 100% for querying data, but you can also explore the schema and run anonymous Apex. All your objects (and fields!) are on the left. You write your query in the white box at the top.

The Recent button in the upper right shows you your past ~3 most recent queries. Which is super helpful if you forget to save your queries.

You can save your queries (DemandTools users might know these as “scenarios”). I highly recommend doing this when you think you’ll use it again. Especially if you took the time to write out a bunch of custom fields.

All my saved queries so far.

Command + S saves a query for you & Command + Shift + S saves the query results into a CSV.

SOQL 101

SOQL stands for Salesforce Object Query Language, it’s basically the command you tell Salesforce to give you the data you want. If you’ve ever used report builder in Salesforce it’s SOQL that’s running it under the hood.

Here’s a simple query, where I’m asking Salesforce to give me all the leads where Smith is the Last Name.

SELECT Id, LastName, State
FROM Lead
WHERE LastName = 'Smith'
You can edit records in-line too. So I could change MICHIGAN to MI.

Once I run the query, I’m given all the records that fit the criteria, up to 2000.

You can also count how many records that fit a certain criteria as well by modifying the query (the answer is 1,362)

SELECT COUNT()
FROM Lead
WHERE LastName = 'Smith'

SOQL is pretty powerful. If you aren’t super familiar with it I recommend reading SFDC’s developer docs, which are quite clear and useful.

Searching against the database

This is obviously one of the main benefits of DemandTools, but can be achieved using SoqlX as well if you have a little bit of a patience and a coworker (thanks Leon!) who can help you write a nifty Excel formula.

I usually need to search against Salesforce using email addresses. This is a common situation where a user extracts a list, but then they want to know more attributes about the records.

“Do you have record IDs?” I ask. “No just emails,” they say with a shrug. 🙄 (Note: I’d use the same steps below if they had record IDs, I just prefer them over emails because they are unique.)

When writing a query using emails, it needs to be formatted like this.

SELECT ID, FirstName, LastName, State
FROM Lead
WHERE Email in ('testemail@gmail.com','testemail2@gmail.com')

You don’t write an equals sign because you’re looking for many records. The syntax is pretty straight forward, but what do you do when you have a 100+ emails? Certainly you’re not going to write them out by hand.

The Excel formula allows you to take a row of emails and immediately format them so they are read-for-SOQL. I made a Google Sheet that you can copy here.

The formula concatenates all your emails while respecting the single quote comma syntax that SOQL wants. Note: SOQL has a 20,000 character limit for queries so keep that in mind–if you try to shove too many emails into a single search you’ll get an error.

Let me know if you try out any of the above or if you have better tips that I’m missing! 👋🏻

Tradeoffs in getting rid of stuff

In advance of our move to San Francisco, Jordan and I are getting rid of almost everything we own.

There are only a few ways to get rid of your possessions: sell them, toss them, or donate them. I am using donate loosely. As long as you are not throwing it in the garbage or getting money for it, I will consider it a donation.

I immediately realized there was a framework I was operating under when deciding what to do with each of the things we owned.

Time: How much time will it take to offload this item?

Value: Does this item have good resale value?

Effort: What is the effort involved in getting rid of this item?

For me, most high value/high effort items were furniture and appliances. Our couch is practically brand new and I knew its resale value would hold. So I was willing to invest more time into getting it sold and out of the house. On the flip side, my random collection of wrapping paper and mason jars were much low value/low effort. I could easily toss them or donate them without taking much time.

Examples of low value/high effort items are large, broken things. Think of your grandmother’s garage with two TVs from the 90s. No one wants these things but getting rid of them will involve some effort on your part. As you go through your life try to jettison these items or avoid them all together. It makes moving much easier.

I made a spreadsheet of our high value items with the understanding that it would probably take more time to get rid of these things. I immediately listed our dresser, Vitamix, KitchenAid, etc. on Craigslist so that I wouldn’t be in crunch at the end trying to offload this stuff.

I think the biggest mistakes people make when moving are underestimating the sheer amount of stuff they own and the time it will take to organize/pack/get rid of the stuff they own. If time is on your side (which it usually is) then start the process as soon as you find out you are moving. Jordan thought I was nuts for immediately culling clothes and books but it has made the whole experience way less stressful.

Another mistake is that people totally overvalue their possessions. A good rule of thumb for selling items is 50% off the retail price. Sometimes lower. It cracks me up when people list couches that were purchased for $1200 for $900. People buy used stuff because they want a deal. Understand your target customer.

You also need to remember: You are balancing between the desire to get paid and the desire to get rid of it. I might not have gotten top dollar for everything I sold but I got it out of the house and made some money so I considered it a win.

Tactically, what does getting rid of stuff look like? I leveraged Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, my friends/colleagues, and my local Buy Nothing group.

Some things like stationery, books, costume jewelry, and small decorations are low value/low effort. I could just toss them in the trash! But that makes me sad, so I’ve actually increased my effort by offering these small things to friends and colleagues which sometimes means I am a lugging stuff around to its new owner. However, I happen to value gifting/donating this stuff over throwing it away. That’s just my preference.

Back to lifting

I’ve been lifting weights in various forms since 2012. Like many women, weights alluded me in college in favor of an elliptical but once I graduated I joined CrossFit and began my love affair with barbells.

Over these past 7 years I’ve done it all: CrossFit, Olympic lifting classes with a former Olympian, bootcamps, bodybuilding programming, powerlifting programming, Orange Theory, and Barry’s. All of them have their merits and I’m firmly in the camp of “the best workout for you is the one you do.” I have many girlfriends who aren’t interested in lifting weights and choose barre or spin classes. While I’m still convinced they’d see better results if they picked up something heavier than 10 lbs., I’m happy they’re dedicating time to their pursuit of fitness.

For the first 6 months of this year, I did Orange Theory Fitness classes. Orange Theory focuses on interval training where you spend time on a treadmill, rower, and floor with dumbbells. I chose it out of convenience (I lived across the street from the studio) and because I was tired of hyping myself up at the gym where I lifted.

You don’t realize how freeing it is to be able to walk into a room and not think. After a full day at work where you’ve been making decisions left and right I relished the opportunity to just show up and be told what to do.

Admittedly, I should have been doing that with my weightlifting programming (which I pay for and do not write myself) but even getting to the gym and needing to fight for a squat rack felt like too much effort compared to the handholding that Orange Theory provided.

My 6 month contract with Orange Theory ended in June and so did my interest in their workouts. While my cardiovascular health improved tremendously (I ran a 58:08 10K in May) I missed the sense of accomplishment that came with squatting, pressing, and pulling heavy weights.

I’m currently doing 3/week program by Bret Contreras who is extremely knowledgeable about all things lifting. The price? $40/month for programming that is total body but has a slight focus on glutes. 🍑🏋🏽‍♀️

I used to feel guilt that I couldn’t stick with just one type of workout. But humans like novelty and mixing up my workouts has helped me achieve my fitness philosophy which is “keep moving.” What is yours?

Accepting change

I have been thinking a lot about change recently and how quickly time goes by. This topic has been rolling around in my mind like a marble for the past 6 months and this is my first attempt to articulate my thoughts on the matter.

We moved apartments and 2019 is almost half way over. My (no longer really a) baby sister just graduated high school. Friends are getting married, having babies, and buying homes. Topics of conversation in my friend group include debating the merits of screen time for our unborn children and the benefits of therapy. The last year of my twenties is upon me in full force.

I have never been one to reminisce on the “good old days.” My perspective is that these are the good old days. I have my health, a wonderful spouse, a challenging job, fun hobbies, and loving friends and family.

But then I remember that while I am sitting here writing this that even though I feel at peace now, my current emotion is not representative of how it felt to get here. Change in the moment is stressful. As humans we say things like “Embrace change!” or “Change is inevitable” but if we were as gung ho about change as we say, there wouldn’t be books, blogs, and entire professions designed around shepherding humans towards adoption of a new tool or process.

How can I simultaneously feel at peace in the current moment, grateful for what I have while acknowledging that this moment will pass and new challenges will arise?

I recently read Start Here Now by Susan Piver which is a friendly, accessible book about meditation. She follows the Shambhala tradition of meditation, which includes meditating with your eyes open and palms downward. While I’m still not a meditator I appreciated many aspects of her book including viewing your thoughts as a train racing along the tracks. For many people you are riding the train, unable to get off or observe your thoughts. Through meditation you can disembark the train and instead of being on the train you will be on a hill watching it go by.

After that book, I sought out additional content by her and found an interview with her and Dan Harris on his podcast: 10% Happier. In the podcast she was discussing her new book on marriage and how it relates to the 4 Noble Truths, which could be a post on its own. I was not familiar with the truths prior to this episode:

  1. The truth of suffering
  2. The truth of the origin of suffering
  3. The truth of the cessation of suffering
  4. The truth to the path of the cessation of suffering (source)

The first truth is often stated as “life is suffering” but not in a painful, Jesus on the cross way. According to the podcast, it is hard to translate the concept into English in a way that conveys the original meaning. My understanding is that this “suffering” is caused by our desire to hold onto impermanent things in life. Holding on to our desire to not age, to never leave vacation, to not experience change.

This resonated with me and with my bolded question above. It is such a delicate balance to love the moment you are in while not despairing that the moment will pass.