I’m a lurker over in the Rands Leadership Slack. As Rands is the VP of Product Engineering at Slack, the folks in this workspace know the ins and outs of using Slack.
One of the cool things that they do is curate a newsletter that summarizes interesting discussion, ideas, etc. that occurred over the past month. This seemed like something that would be useful at my work as well, so another engineer and I set out to make our own version. These are the steps we took.
Clearly, you can’t have a newsletter if you don’t have content. As our newsletter was intended to summarize and capture existing content, we didn’t have to generate the content ourselves—we just had to find it.
The most basic way of doing so is to be aware yourself of the posts and threads that might be worth including. For our first issue, we trawled through a few channels that we thought would give us some good content. We compiled a list of interesting topics and used that as a starting point.
Of course, this approach isn’t scalable. We won’t hear about good conversations in channels that we aren’t in. It’ll also become increasingly harder to trawl through old posts. Luckily, we could steal an approach used over in the Rands folks.
We added the Reacji Channeler. This app allows us automatically track posts that people find interesting—whenever someone reacts to a post or comment with our :newsletter: emoji, reacji will copy the post into a channel for us (#zz-newsletter). This allows us to react on interesting threads as we notice them. It also allows us to start training others to react when they see something interesting—allowing us to find content that we wouldn’t have seen otherwise.
Compiling The Content
Once we had the content, we had to put it together into something readable. We didn’t have an overwhelming amount of stuff, so we didn’t need to do much filtering or organization—we included almost all of it.
The main thing we kept in mind here was the sections and feel that we wanted to have. We wanted to have useful sections, such as “Announcements & Updates” or “Food For Thought.” If there was content that didn’t fit into an appropriate section, we had to decide if it was worth finding a way to get it in the newsletter or if it was actually something that just shouldn’t be included.
Again, as we’re not generating the content ourselves, there wasn’t too much to write. Generally, we just had to summarize, paraphrase, or write a “teaser” for the content we were including. We aimed to be convey a bit of positivity and excitement about our content while staying neutral about the topic—we’re not here to push an agenda, just to make sure information is circulating throughout the organization.
With announcements, we’d actually give a short, high-level summary so that readers could understand the point of the announcement. If they needed more details, they could go into the linked thread. For larger or more important announcements, we added a Slack thread widget as well. (You can do this by just pasting the link to the thread on a new line, then deleting your link once Slack creates the widget.) For smaller or less important announcements, we linked to the original post if it had additional details or if there was some discussion.
With discussions or resources, we’d essentially just link to the thread or the resource. Longer discussions would include a few of the ideas that were discussed in the thread, allowing readers to decide if they’ll get any value from reading it.
In general, we minimized explicitly naming people in our summmaries—our focus is on emphasizing good or useful ideas, not the person who said them. (In our workspace, a lot of the names would be the same.) It’s worth praising people when they make good contributions, but that’s not what our newsletter is for. We have other channels for that.
I’m hoping the newsletter will be well-received, but I won’t know until it launches! By the time this post gets published the newsletter will be available—you can check it out here.