The Slack app

We will be using Slack as our primary means of electronic communication in the MDS program. We will invite you to our Slack workspace when the program starts.

Channels

Our Slack workspace, UBC-MDS, contains many channels for conversation. We will enrol you in the channels for the 25 MDS courses, as well as #data-science-careers, #git-general, #python-general and #r-general. You should be automatically enrolled in the #general and #random channels when you join Slack.

These channels are all public. You can create private channels as well. For example, each year the students typically create a private channel for students only. At some point we will also invite you to the UBC MDS Alumni Slack workspace, which is completely disconnected from the main UBC MDS Slack workspace you use as a student.

Direct Messages

A direct message thread is different from a private channel. To open a direct message, go to “Direct Messages” on the left-hand sidebar and click on the little + sign. Then, type in the names of the people who should be part of the direct message thread.

Usernames

Unlike other messaging platforms you might be used to, the namespace of usernames is specific to an individual Slack workspace. In other words, if your name is Jamie it’s perfectly fine to have your username be @jamie even though there are certainly a lot of Jamies out there in the world and you might have no hope to get jamie@gmail.com or a CWL of jamie, etc. As long as you are the only jamie in UBC-MDS, you’re good. It’s generally easier to figure out who’s who if we all keep our usernames simple. If you’ve already created a complicated username, you can change it at any time; see instructions here.

Formatting

Slack has a lot of nice features for formatting text, links, etc. For MDS, one important feature is for formatting code within Slack. To do this, we use the single backtick (`) and triple backtick (```), for inline code and code blocks respectively. As it turns out, these conventions are the same in Markdown! Here is a some inline code and here is a code block:

First line
Second line
etc.

Browser vs. desktop app

Slack can be accessed via the web interface or via the desktop app. You are free to decide which one you prefer. We do suggest that you consider the desktop version, however, since we will be using Slack so much in the program. There is also a mobile app for your phone, if you want to be extra connected.

Notifications

We don’t want to wake you up with our Slack annoucements! You can edit your notification settings by clicking on the “UBC-MDS” at the upper-left and selecting “Preferences”. From here you can decide how invasive you want Slack to be. One useful feature is the Do Not Disturb period, which by default is from 10 PM to 8 AM. If you have different hours you may want to adjust this accordingly.

Sometimes we will use @students when we make announcements that we want all students to receive. This has the same effect as directly mentioning everyone in the students user group and will make it more likely for you to receive a notification. However, once again, we don’t want to wake you up to read these announcements immediately! We just want you receive them reasonably soon. Please set your notification preferences accordingly.

Reactions

On the subject of notifications, one nice feature of Slack is the reactions. Anyone can react to a message by anyone else, for example with a thumbs up emoji. This is different from sending a message containing that emoji in that it doesn’t trigger notifications. This is hugely helpful. For example, if someone tells you something and you just want to say “OK” or “thanks”, try a reaction instead of a new message, since you don’t really need to notify the person of your response – they will see it next time they are on Slack. Reactions are also useful when a large number of people need to respond affirmatively to something. For example if I ask “who is available to study Thursday night?” and then 30 people respond with “me!” – well, that triggers a lot of notifications. Instead, if someone reacts with a check mark then others can simply click the check mark to add to the reaction. This way everyone can see who is available without any notifications being triggered.

Edits and deletion

If you want to change something you wrote in Slack, you can always edit the message afterwards. You can also delete messages, for example if you wrote something by accident.

Privacy

Slack is not hosted on Canadian servers, and thus we recommend keeping the discussions and private messages on Slack to those related to course content, organization, etc. For personal and sensitive issues, communication between MDS students and instructional staff should be carried out using UBC email.