This led me to realize that astronauts are, vaguely, to the general US public now as Catholic nuns (at least schoolteacher nuns) were to previous generations. They are cloistered away to be closer to heaven. They have to live in close quarters and collaborate under conditions of micromanagement. They go through arduous selection processes and care a lot about education. Nuns had Rome, astronauts have Houston. We are in awe of their dedication and endurance and altruism and grace. And just the sight of one of their uniforms/habits triggers that reaction of awe.
(Your mileage may vary, conditions may apply, vanity, vanity, all is vanity.)
How the new LightHouse for the Blind models building for inclusivity
This is what you see when you enter the new headquarters of the LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired in San Francisco: After passing through glass doors and entering the lobby, your eyes are drawn across the reception area and the sofas and chairs neatly arranged next to it, before coming to rest on a large, modern staircase on the far side of the room next to windows that look out on the cityscape.
This is what it’s like to enter the space if you can’t see: After the glass doors swing silently shut, you enter an insulated space where the acoustics have been purposefully engineered so that you can hear the receptionist welcome you from across the room.
The cement floor is intentionally bare so that the sound of footsteps falling and canes tapping informs you that the space is full of life. If your hand were to graze against the furniture in the lobby, the material would be soft to the touch, as would the smooth wooden handrail to guide you up and down the staircase.
The new $20 million LightHouse, which opened its doors in June, was designed to be a multisensory beacon of community in the lives of the people it serves — those with little to no vision.
It’s also an example of universal design and an innovative workspace for the blind and sighted alike.
Space to connect
“How do you build a machine for community formation?”
This was one of the questions LightHouse CEO Bryan Bashin asked himself in the early design process of the new headquarters.
The LightHouse had already gone through more than a few transformations in its 114-year history. The non-profit started out as a reading room for the blind in a San Francisco library. By 1918, it was a workplace for hundreds of blind people who made products such as rattan furniture, baskets, redwood planters, brooms, and industrial-strength rope and cable under the brand “Blindcraft.” The goal then, which was revolutionary at the time, was to reduce the high unemployment rate among the blind and enable self-sufficiency. After WWII, the center became a rehab center and classroom for returning soldiers, teaching them life skills like how to read Braille.
Today, the core mission of the Lighthouse is to teach and empower the blind community, in the Bay Area and beyond. Under Bashin’s leadership, another goal is to connect tech designers with the millions of blind and visually-impaired people who could benefit from more inclusive technology products and services. On a deeper level, the place provides opportunities for the newly-blind to find mentors and role models.
The idea of community is especially important to Bashin. He was a full-sighted kid. Like 95% of blind people, he lost his vision as an adult, and credits the blind people he met at the time with helping him enter into blindness in a way that made him feel positive and self-confident.
And that’s what he wants for others.
“When someone becomes blind, you’re thinking, what is my life going to be like?” says Bashin. “Is my life going to be confined to these drab social service organizations? Will I be around depressive people with low expectations or are there other opportunities? I want the message for blind people and their families, friends, and children to be one of play and potential.”
The design solution for this at the LightHouse was to dedicate a lot of space to chance encounters. The non-profit is spread out over the top three floors of an 11-story building. On each floor, there is a prominent lounge space full of comfy couches and chairs.
The LightHouse still offers life skills classes such as cooking basics, how to walk with a white cane, and more advanced courses like ProTools for blind audio engineers, but for Bashin, the most important lessons aren’t learned in a classroom.
“They happen in informal education when you’re kicking back in a living room space,” he says. That’s when someone might hear a story about a blind person hopping on public transit and heading to another neighborhood for lunch. “Once someone hears that,” he says. “They will never be able to change their opinion of what a blind person can do.”
Design for the human condition
Part of the magic of the new LightHouse comes from how it was designed to be inclusive of all people.
“Typically, architects and designers design for a fairly narrow spectrum of the human condition,” explains Chris Downey, who worked with the architecture firm Mark Cavagnero Associates, as a consultant on the project. “There’s the assumption that we all walk around on two legs, have two arms, two eyes, and experience things in a typical standard way.”
In reality, as Downey knows firsthand, there are many variations of the human experience. He was a practicing architect for 20 years before a 2008 operation left him without his sense of sight or smell. Since then, he has specialized in architecture to accommodate the blind. He’s also a LightHouse board member and teaches universal design at UC Berkeley, which is the design of products and environments to be usable by all people.
In the case of the LightHouse, the architecture is bending to accommodate people, as opposed to people having to bend to accommodate to the architecture, he says. Examples include the attention paid to the level of lighting, more accessible signage, and all the intentional acoustics designed with audio engineers so the blind can experience the space through sound. It’s accessible to the blind, people experiencing hearing loss, or both, and those with mobility impairments.
“We assume the broadest range of human experience as we can for the space,” he says.
Importance of sound
Unsurprisingly, given all the attention put into the acoustics of the new LightHouse, it’s the most common thing sighted people comment on when they visit and experience the space through more than just their eyes. There is the absence of sound in some areas, like the incredible silence in the glass walled-meeting rooms, thanks to extra thick windows, and the wooden slats on some walls and ceilings and colored German felt on others that help insulate and control sound.
In other areas, like the open offices and lounge spaces, voices and energy drift out and infuse the LightHouse with life. Downey sees this attention to sound as a lesson we could learn.
“Typical office space is deadly silent and that’s good for concentration,” Downey says. “But there are times when a little life is helpful.”
Designing for everyone was originally published in Several People Are Typing — The Official Slack Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
Introducing new integrations with Salesforce CRM
Slack and Salesforce — both big parts of many people’s working lives. And the better we work together, the more productive you can be. That’s why we’re officially partnering with Salesforce to deliver several new integrations over the next month (with many more to follow). Here’s what’s coming:
Search Salesforce from Slack
Using the /salesforce slash command you can search for an opportunity, customer, contact, or lead in Slack. Your search will return three results, and when you click one, it will expand to provide you with basic account details right where you’re working.
Keep Chatter and Slack in sync
Use either the /chatter slash command or the /slack slash command to send updates from Slack into Chatter and vice versa.
Connect Slack channels with Salesforce records
Assign a Slack channel to a Salesforce customer record and a new section on that record will display the unread message count for the connected channel. This way anyone working in Salesforce will be able to see when an account is being actively discussed in Slack.
Finally, as an added bonus, Salesforce URLs will now unfurl in Slack and include better formatting.
These integrations will be available for your team to use in the next month. Want us to send you a message once they’re ready? Sign up to be notified at our Help Center.
Slack: Now with more Salesforce, and vice versa was originally published in Several People Are Typing — The Official Slack Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
Saturday morning I had started individually messing with 30+ events, because the MoMI is doing a complete retrospective of Krzysztof Kieslowski's films and I am inwardly bouncing up and down with joyous anticipation about seeing Dekalog again. And then I thought: I bet I can automate some of this tedious labor!
So I did. The create-fixed-ics.py script (Python 3) takes a plain text file of URLs separated by newlines (see movie-urls-sample-file.txt for an example), downloads iCalendar files from the MoMI site, fixes their event end times, and creates a new unified .ics file ready for import into a calendar. Perhaps the messiest bit is how I use a set of regular expressions, and my observations of the customs of MoMI curators, to figure out the probable duration of the event.
- It can be a bit slow as the number of URLs adds up -- it took maybe 5 minutes to process about 31 events. I oughta profile it and speed it up. But I usually only need to do this about six times a year.
- This script is not careful, and will overwrite a previously created .ics file at the same address (in case you're running it twice in one day). It has no tests and approximately no error-checking. This was a scratch-my-own-itch, few-hours-on-a-Saturday project. No Maintenance Intended.
- Absolutely not an official project of the Museum of the Moving Image.
How Slack teaches Slack
While most new Slack employees are familiar with the product, they’ve usually only been on small teams or used it in more casual settings. Joining a team with hundreds of users and thousands of channels brings with it a whole new level of working in Slack.
So in their first week, every new hire spends two one-hour sessions learning how we use our own software to get things done.
Even people who considered themselves expert users learn new things that help them use Slack better. We thought we’d share some tips from these sessions so that any company, whether just starting on Slack or already all-in, can customize them to help get new employees get up to speed.
This first session is mostly spent teaching new employees how to navigate channels, find specific things, and tweak the Slack app to fit their personality and work.
Everyone at Slack is a member of four vital channels.
The first is a general announcements channel, a low-chatter channel that only includes a handful of important company-wide messages per week. The default name for this channel is #general, but it can be changed (ours is #announcements-global). There are also channels for regional announcements, with specific information for each office and country location (e.g. #announcements-sf), and employees will join the one most applicable to them.
The last two company-wide channels are specific to software startups: a #released channel shows what new features have rolled out to the public, and #released-internal announces new beta features everyone can help test.
Depending on what team someone joins at Slack, they’ll also be added to a handful of additional channels once added to their official user group in Slack.
Channel naming conventions are important as they help everyone find information according to predictable patterns. We have dozens of channels that begin with the following prefixes:
- #team-* (each team has a channel where they talk to each other, like #team-ios)
- #triage-* (where problems are reported and handled, from software to HR)
- #help-* (request general help from these channels, separated by team and function)
- #feat-* (all new software features are organized as projects in these)
- #launch-* (all new software feature launches are organized in these)
When someone needs help finding something, they can always ask their own #team-*, but if that doesn’t work, launching the quickswitcher and typing #help- should narrow the options down to a specific team that might have the answer.
Searching in channels
Searching an already busy Slack team is vital to getting information out of it as an employee. The easiest way to start with search is by using the keyboard shortcut command-f (ctrl-f on win/linux) to search just the currently viewed channel. Results can be filtered by messages or files, and you can even filter down to a specific file type, like images.
There are many additional search modifiers, but people tend to use things like has:star, has:(reaction emoji), and time-based modifiers. As part of new hire training, it’s fun to give an exercise where people are asked to search for a message, fact, or file that was posted well before they arrived. For example, how the company got its name (if the answer is deep in your Slack archives, like ours is).
Courteous communication with teammates
We use emoji inside of Slack, but only as frosting, never as cake. That means don’t use emoji to replace words in a sentence, as it makes messages more difficult and slower to read for the team while also being invisible to search if many words are replaced by emoji. Instead, we prefer if people use emoji at the end, or in addition to their message.
We ask that everyone displays first and last names in Slack, so we can use the last name field to alert coworkers when they are out of the office, on extended leave, or sick for the day.
Do Not Disturb settings are worth a revisit to modify from defaults, and employees know they should feel free to use DND mode throughout the day when they’re working on things. DND helps minimize distractions while also letting coworkers know who is busy and won’t be responding immediately to questions.
Other important tips
New users should become familiar with all the options available in preferences. It’s especially good to try out the sidebar settings in the Advanced/Channel List to find which option works best.
We close the first day of training by reminding everyone of the power of marking important messages with a star, as well as using stars on people they DM often and channels that are most important to them, to make it easier to find them in your sidebar.
Our Slack 102 post will go deeper on how to manage a busy Slack team in your workday, cultural tips on how the team works together, and all the settings that help you get your work done.
Slack 101: Onboarding was originally published in Several People Are Typing — The Official Slack Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
Real-world stories and strategies for getting that thing done on deadline
Most of us have a complicated relationship with productivity. No matter how many new fads and programs we try, we often fall back into our regular rhythms of struggling through last-minute crunch time.
Instead of inspiring stories of people going all-in on magical approaches, we have a few real stories of how things actually get done.
These aren’t how-tos on filing systems or stuff from best-selling business books, but stories of humans being human, making due with whatever they’ve got to Get It Done.
Mo Cohen, video game designer: applying social pressure
When Cohen is facing a work deadline she knows she has to meet in short order, she resorts to drastic measures.
She starts with a box under her desk filled with pictures. She unloads it, taking out framed pieces of art made by her fans—all drawings of her previous video game characters—and places them around her workspace.
Cohen gets her best work done and meets tough deadlines when she literally has her fans staring back at her through their art.
Katie Lane, attorney and negotiation coach: breaking up the work
For Katie Lane, the trick to getting huge projects done in a small amount of time is a system of rewards that creatively incorporates social pressure from friends.
When she had to create, record, and deliver a three-to-four hour video class on negotiation in less than a month, she broke the class down into chapters, sections, and tasks.
Each task had a reward—five minutes on Twitter, a walk around the block, a cup of coffee or candy. “There were bigger rewards for finishing sections or chapters, like going out with my wife or friends for a drink or lunch or something,” Lane says.
“I made sure they knew it was a reward so I had outside help to keep me motivated.”
Lane is more productive with breaks and rewards than when she tries to push through. “I get more done and make fewer mistakes,” she says. “Plus, I don’t beat up on myself nearly as much, so I feel better once the work is done.”
Mark Goldberg, visual effects supervisor: getting psychedelic (with music)
Goldberg works on a lot of pilots on roughly a four-to-six-week production schedule, which guarantees he’ll be working a lot of overtime.
“When things are tight, and you’re down to the wire, most of the people I work with do the same as I do,” says Goldberg. “Put the earbuds in, hunker down and enter a zone that allows them to work almost without thinking too much.”
Sometimes it comes down to listening to the same albums over and over again, which allows him to clear his brain, focus, and get stuff done.
“Working on shots is kind of like that scene in For Love of The Game,” Goldberg says. “Kevin Costner plays a baseball pitcher who really has to focus, so he does something called ‘clearing the mechanism’ and all the stadium noise fades away as he hones in on the batter in front of him.”
Goldberg’s playlist recommendations (he mostly follows psychedelic-related playlists on Apple Music): Best of 60’s psychedelic rock, Return of Retrofuturism, and Electronic Pioneers.
Ken Tsui, event producer, creative partner at Here There Studio and producer of The Golden Dumpling Cook Off: staying limp
“Someone once told me, apropos of nothing, that I shouldn’t brace for impact in an impending collision because seizing up does more damage to my body than good,” says event producer Ken Tsui. “According to this person, it’s always better to ‘stay limp’.”
Tsui thought it was the strangest advice he’d ever heard, but came around to finding real value in it.
“It re-appropriates nicely into how I best deal with a deadline,” he says. “When I’m being thrown around in the overwhelming inertia of a project and things go wrong in those final moments, seizing and holding on for dear life hasn’t done me any favors.
“In letting that piece of stupid advice echo in my head,” Tsui continues “I’m able to remain flexible, identify what’s essential, translate that into help from my team, and get it done.”
The final push was originally published in Several People Are Typing — The Official Slack Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
The nonprofit expands its global reach with support from Slack
“I t’s not about the men who are in the room, it’s about the women not in the room.”
So said the Honorable Philip Dalidakis, Minister for Small Business, Innovation, and Trade for the Victorian government in Australia, at the Australian chapter launch event for Girls in Tech on September 7.
His statement reflected the importance of the global not-for profit’s mission, which is to engage, educate, and empower girls and women who are passionate about technology and entrepreneurship. The launch location was significant, too — honoring the history of women in technology, the event was held at Melbourne’s Kelvin Club, once restricted to men only.
Slack was honored to be an event sponsor, and staff from Slack’s Melbourne office attended the launch, including Senior Recruiter Marissa Senzaki, who is one of 16 women currently volunteering on the advisory board, as the Learning & Development Lead.
“Melbourne is a city full of creative and inspiring people,” says Senzaki. “The tech scene is still young here so there is so much potential to encourage a diverse workforce from the start. I want to spread the message that working in tech is rewarding, and create a community that supports women in their careers.”
More than 300 guests celebrated with live music, a virtual reality station courtesy of REA Group (one of the organization’s major supporting partners), and a silent auction of original prints showcasing historical women in technology, such as Ada Lovelace.
Girls in Tech has a lot of great projects coming up, including the Catalyst Conference, which showcases executive women in STEM fields, as well as various bootcamps, hackathons, and mentorship opportunities. And with the launch of their Australian chapter, we’re happy to support the organization’s new, wider reach.
Girls in Tech launches in Australia was originally published in Several People Are Typing — The Official Slack Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.