I’ve been fortunate/privileged/lucky/happy in my work to have that room to follow my curiosity. I might say that a lot of my activity seems to have unstated goals, in determinate objectives, and often outcomeless outcomes.

That I dig.


In my wandering work for the Creative Commons project, I skyped a few weeks ago with Emma Irwin to learn more about her efforts using online collaboration tools with Mozilla. We were talking about Slack, and numbers of people and she recommended a community there for the Open Data Community. I was intrigued by the link she provided:

Slack splash page for Open Data Community

Slack splash page for Open Data Community

It gives the number of people in the community and a way to request an invitation. This is in contrast, so say it’s Slack URL:


The typical front door to a Slack is… well sign in. And if you want an invitation? to get in? Well, they tell you to ask “your Team Administrator”. Who dat?

So I go back to https://opendatacommunity.slack.com/ and way way down at the bottom, in tiny text with a link, is written “powered by slackin”. This in turn is some available code

A little server that enables public access to a Slack server. Like Freenode, but on Slack.

It provides

  • A landing page you can point users to fill in their emails and receive an invite (https://slack.yourdomain.com)
  • An <iframe> badge to embed on any website that shows connected users in realtime with socket.io.
  • A SVG badge that works well from static mediums (like GitHub README pages)

It seems liked a little add-on worth exploring. Ironically, maybe because I did a session this morning, I experimented first with the Virtually Connecting Slack, maybe because in their Slack, I saw messages about people requesting invites.

Back on the ReadMe page for slackin, under How to Use, are a bunch of buttons to various servers, as well as command line install such. I had seen another site using one of these that was hosted on Heroku — which is one of those web services that runs little containerized web server services (I write that like I know what I am talking about; I get the principle).

I’ll click almost anything. It turns out Heroku was pretty easy. I made a free “sandbox” account, went back to the slackin site and clicked the Install on Heroku button. It was that easy, it generates a URL where the slackin thing runs.

A test slackin for Virtual Connecting

A test slackin for Virtual Connecting

Slick, it even shows how many people are online in the Slack. You will notice I did not put in a link; I am not sure we will use it for Virtually Connecting, and more likely I will nuke the Heroku app soon.

To set it up, you have to generate a Slacki API token. I tumbled around before finding a place to create test/development API tokens. Note that to use the slackin thing, your account in Slack needs to have the privileges to invite others to join it.


I am not sure if I would need another kind of token, but heck, this one worked.

But here is what I found out on testing- this thing will give out invitations to your slack to anyone who requests them via its form, there is no approving, nor is there anything that notifies you or your slack that an invitation was sent out. So its really for making a slack that is open to anyone to join?

This is not what Virtually Connecting wants– in fact, as I found out after the fact, they have a full form to help take and vet people’s requests to join it’s Slack.

But there’s still a way. One of the settings in slackin is that you can define what channels a new user is allowed in. So you could create a “welcome room” channel, with maybe even a greeting bot, for anyone that signs up via this thing.

The other thing I found out in testing is, because I created it authenticating with my slack account, the invitation comes from me:


So if I was to use this for real, I would likely create a special account in Slack to use as the “inviter” , maybe generic email address like info@xxxxxx.xxxx — the slackin docs cover this:

You need to create a dedicated @slackin-inviter user (or similar), mark that user an admin, and use a token from that dedicated admin user.

So this is not something likely we would use for Virtually Connecting. But its likely I can find a use for another Slack Community that wants to have a welcome sign out in front.

And I got some basic experience in setting something up in Heroku.

Even when there is no quantifiable outcomes in experimenting… there are outcomes.

Top / Featured Image: I went to my own flickr photos searching on “welcome” and could have used many of them. I seem to have a lot of conference welcomes, but signs too. This flickr photo worked, well for me– https://flickr.com/photos/cogdog/6492333495 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

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An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


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