These are unusual times. In a prior post entitled Replacing the Water Cooler, we wrote about the dramatic shift in sharing information for many people. We are a team distributed across the United States, Europe, and Australia. While we have been operating as a distributed organization for several years, the current environment feels very different. We check in with each other more often and have more live video discussions.

In this post, I briefly cover how we make use of chat. As a team spread across three continents, we are heavy users of Slack, Zoom, and GitHub. We adopted ChatOps from the very beginning of Atomist, influenced by my experience while working at GitHub, where the term ChatOps was coined.

It's all about taking action

Getting notifications from the services and systems you care about into chat is the starting point. To really improve how we work, we added support to act on that information in that same shared space where we see and discuss it.

Issue notification in Slack with actions attached

For example, a simple notification of a new issue tells us the essentials — who created it or commented, issue number and title, the issue message or comment, repository, and a link back to the issue on GitHub. To remove the distance between the notification and action, we added support to comment, label, 👍, and close the issue right there in the message. This subtle addition cuts out dozens of trips per day to a browser tab for a simple click or comment.

We learned the power of taking action in a chat channel so that you can discuss the issue at a more granular, real-time level in chat or simply because it's convenient and doesn't shift your focus away from a discussion.

GitHub Notifications

Over time, we grew a complete set of actionable notifications for core GitHub activities — issues, pushes, pull requests, and related actions like tagging and releasing. We recently made those available for anyone to use for free on our platform, provided as a package of automations we call Skills (currently in early access).

We use this same approach to attach actions to chat notifications for other activities we've automated, like this example of an Auto-rebase task that runs to keep branches attached to pull request up-to-date.

Atomist Auto-rebase skill notification when rebasing a pull request

You're welcome to use our GitHub Notifications skill for yourself.  Our new Skills platform is in early access — if you'd like an invitation, you can submit your information here or stay tuned to this blog for examples and upcoming ship details.