Steve Domino

@skdomino

The 3 best tools for making “remote” actually work

Image from placestoseeinyourlifetime

At Nanobox we’ve been fully remote for almost a year now, and it’s been great.

If you want to work remote, or already are but don’t feel like it’s effective, let me highlight the 3 tools we use that have helped us build a really great remote culture.

While these aren’t the only tools we use, they are the ones that have the most impact on how successfully we’re able to work remote.

Slack

Image by xkcd

Slack has become so ubiquitous that I’m sure it needs no introduction. But for that one person who hasn’t heard of it (or refuses to use it), I’ll give a quick overview why it’s a great fit for remote work.

Channels

Slack allows you to create multiple channels where topics can be discussed in isolation, and has a great way of creating personal or group direct messages. One thing I do wish, however, is that you could invite someone to an existing conversation without creating an entirely new conversation.

Chat History

Probably my favorite feature of Slack is the chat history. You don’t have to be logged in to be a part of a conversation, you can join at any time. Anyone coming from IRC will immediately know what I’m talking about.

Clients and Integrations

Slack has really well designed apps for various devices to help you stay connected when you’re not at your computer.

It also integrates with a bunch of other services we use like Groove, Pingdom, and even lets you use built in robots (or build your own) to get extra functionality.

Misc.

Slack also has a bunch of tiny little things that are just nice to have:

  • back-tic highlighting
  • code/text snippets
  • really great support for embedded content (images, videos, etc).
  • emoji (:party_parrot:)

A word of warning

…all the pieces and people together so that you can actually get things done.

That statement from Slacks own website is somewhat debatable. With all the pieces and people together… things can get a little noisy. Especially if your team has a lot of channels, or if you’re a member of multiple teams.

Make sure to update your Notification Settings to ensure you’re not distracted by too much conversation.

Discord

I think at some point we had tried close to a dozen different voice clients and each one of them had their own set of issues. Configuring and managing servers, disconnects, terrible voice quality, the list goes on.

While discord touts itself as an all-in-one voice and text chat client for gamers, in my opinion, it is currently the best voice client out there for anything. Period.

Rather than configure and manage your own server, you simply create one via the client and invite people to join.

Similar to Slack you can create and configure “rooms” for specific needs. And the most important thing is the voice quality is outstanding.

If you forced me find one bad thing to say about Discord, it would be that there is no tray indicator when you speak. So you might not know that you have a hot mic until you sneeze and everyone yells at you.

Google Hangouts

We initially tried using Google Hangouts for everything. The video and voice quality was just not great. And for whatever reason they decided to get rid of chat…

The screen sharing however, is great! Whenever we need to pair program, or do code reviews we’ll just hop on there and share screens. Sometimes we’ll even get up to eight people in a screen share at one time, with three different screens being shared for various different meetings.

Just remember…

Make sure when using Google Hangouts to mute your mic and shutoff your camera (the latter not being as critical). If you keep your mic on and you’re using Discord you’ll get some pretty bad feedback/echo.

Go… Live your dream

Hopefully I’ve given you a good place to start if you’re really considering working remote. I’ve been doing it for almost a year now, and I love it.

On a side note, if you use some other tools that have really helped you, or your team, I’d love to hear about them!

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