Heating Up

Somebody posited a great idea on one of my Slack teams today:

I need to fix my notification settings so I'm not late to the party all the time, but there's nothing between "everything" and "mentions only" and what I really want is "hey this channel's blowing up."

There is something kind of in-between. You can be notified based on a list of keywords, so every time a person posts a message including "photo", for example, I get notified. But I'm using Slack (and I suspect an increasing number of folks are, too) for social purposes. This means that keyword-based notifications have a more limited use in practice. One of my teams has a "Camera Talk" channel, so why do I need to be notified every time somebody uses the word "camera" or "photo"? I don't want to be notified for EVERYTHING in that channel, do I?

So I'm thinking of something more specific now, and here's what I have in mind - whether implemented as a bot or some other custom integration to each team that I'm part of:

Hot Channel

Using Slack's API, you can retrieve up to 100 messages in an array. Each message entity includes a Unix time stamp. My thought is to determine some sweet spot here - like, 10+ messages posted in 10 minutes or less means the conversation is moving, and might be worth watching. Unix time stamps are in seconds, so you could collect the latest 10 messages and subtract the oldest time stamp from the newest. If the difference is less than or equal to 600, then take some action. If all this is handled by some kinda bot integration, then every 5 or 10 minutes it would poll the channel and post a message to the channel. Slack lets you choose a phrase to trigger a notification, so perhaps this bot posts "The channel is heating up!" or something. You get the picture.

There are ways to make this more sophisticated, like allowing individuals to have their own preferences. Maybe a friend only cares if there are 30+ messages in 10 minutes, for example. I dunno.

I want to try building this myself, but I'm not developer, so it could take me a while. If anybody thinks this is a useful idea, please run with it, or point me to existing work if it's out there.

Think Piece on Today's Apple Watch Announcement


Better Know a Ploafmaster

If you can stand the sound of my voice, I was a guest on Mike Beasterfeld's “Better Know a Jackal” recently. It was a load of fun, and I'm grateful to Mike for the chance to talk.

Your Own Personal Slack Team

Slack isn't new, and if you read what I write, you probably already know what it is - but in case you don't: it's group chat. Okay, it's fancy group chat. It's built so well with just the right kind of niceties to make its use a pleasure. An increasing number of teams and companies are using Slack for collaboration in the workplace, but not around my office.

Essentially fed by increasing frustration with Twitter, I've noticed a number of people start up Slack Teams to share with friends. I've been invited to a few of them myself, and the whole thing has been pretty refreshing. Because they're not public, there's far less fear of words/images/links reflecting poorly on everybody. It's already a warm audience, so engagement isn't measured in likes or retweets, rather in the very human way that we all prefer: we talk to each other. Conversations!

It's not all perfect, of course. These are fairly closed rooms. Some have shared admin/invitation control, some do not, and either scenario has its risks. Does the team remain exclusive and private? Does the fun vibe of a small conversation get diluted or ruined entirely as the chatter increases to a hard-to-follow roar? Slack has a few things built-in that should, in theory, mitigate the latter. You can easily have private conversations with individuals, or create channels within a team for particular subjects or whatever.

I don't want to worry too much about where it's going, though. For now, it's super fun to use something truly social on the internet again. It's not about exposure, or having people follow my links, or any of that crap. It's people, conversing.


I'm pretty behind on my podcasts (I mostly listen in order), so I've only just listened to the 1/24 episode of The Talk Show. Early in Gruber's conversation with Ben Thompson, they mentioned an app called Duet. Well, really it's a desktop app working in concert with an iOS app. When running on a Mac and an iPad connected with a cable, it allows you to treat the iPad as a target display.

Dual monitor setups have rarely appealed to me because of the nature of my job. I'm only at my desk about 50% of the time, so why get used to the extra monitor if I could only have it some of the time? And once I received my Retina MacBook Pro for work, what external display would live up to the gorgeous screen attached to my laptop?

But I always have my iPad with me (a first generation iPad Air); it travels in my computer bag right beside the laptop. So not only can I use a dual display at my desk, but I can take it home with me, or to any place I might be working for more than an hour. Sure, it's a small screen for a second display, but it's a Retina display like my laptop, so even at small sizes, the text is sharp enough to be readable. I'm already finding it to be incredible useful. The desktop app is free, and the iOS app is an easily worth-it $7.99. Highly recommended - unless you're already hooked on some 24" beast.

Assorted Free Character Names for Your Next Action Blockbuster

In no particular order, in an ordered list:

  1. Oak Beefthorne
  2. Maxwell Fang
  3. Scud Prolapse
  4. Ramstein Ramrod
  5. Bud Cort
  6. Durmstrang Spinewrangler
  7. Dug Bärenjäger
  8. Herc Smaash
  9. Peterpeter Pumpkeneeder
  10. Tad Badly