Slack is worth it pay for… if you are a business. However, if you’re using Slack for an online community, you should probably just stick with the free version.
That’s partly because most of Slack’s paid features aren’t really necessary if you’re just using it as a group text platform, but also because the paid options quickly get expensive. Plans start at $7.25 per user per month, meaning a community of two dozen people will cost $174 per month, or more than $2,000 per year. That’s probably more than you want to pay for the privilege of chatting with friends (as charming as they are, I’m sure).
Still, some of those paid Slack features are pretty nice, especially if you have access to your archive of old posts. And it’s really possible, if you’re willing to put in a little effort, to get those and a few other extra features without paying. Here’s how:
Get unlimited Slack message history for free
The free version of Slack only allows users to scroll or search for posts from the past 90 days – anything older cannot be found. Those messages haven’t gone away, though — when you start paying, they’ll all appear.
And there is another loophole. Slack allows administrators to export all data, including a full backlog of all messages. Just go to Settings & Management > Workspace Settings in Slack’s menu. The settings will open in your browser – there is a Import/Export Data button in the top right corner. Click on that and you can choose a date range and export all messages. Note that free users cannot export Direct Messages (DMs) or private channels, only public channels. The actual archives come in a ZIP file full of JSON files, which aren’t the easiest thing in the world to read. Yet it is all there.
A free tool called Slack Export viewer can help by converting those files and loading them into your web browser, complete with a Slack-style sidebar for channel browsing. It works – I tested it – but you need to be familiar with the command line to set it up. Another option is: JSON translator, which can convert your ZIP file into an easier-to-read CSV file that you can download and open with Excel or Google Sheets. (CSV files contain data records separated by commas, hence the name.)
If you want a public archive, check out Slack Saver. You can upload the ZIP file you exported from Slack and, when the conversion is complete, share a link to the full archive with your entire community. You have to update it every now and then to include more recent posts, but it works. Keep in mind that with web-based services, you are uploading a complete archive of conversations that people might consider semi-private. Please make sure your community agrees to this before proceeding.
Get Slack Huddles for Free
Slack’s Huddle feature is different from an audio call in that there is no ringer. You can just enable the Huddle for any channel and people can show up if they want to. There’s no video, just audio and screen sharing, making them perfect for quick impromptu conversations.
But Slack’s Huddles aren’t the only tool for the job. You could make a room in get together, which makes virtual parties really fun using pixel avatars that can move in and out of each other. It’s perfect for the kind of drop-in/drop-out conversations that make Huddles so great. You can even link to a meeting room in the topic of your Slack channels.