Slack Tutorial


This document is a brief tutorial on Slack for messaging and video conferencing.

Slack is well-known as a messaging app with a more convenient interface than email for quick messages but Slack also has a built-in facility for video conference calls. Slack messages are not a suitable replacement for formal SMPTE communications such as agendas, minutes, or engineering documents that must be posted on Workspace and discussed via email through OLC, but Slack is an excellent tool for informal communications.

Likewise, the Slack video conferencing facility is not a replacement for GoToMeeting which remains the official tool for conducting SMPTE meetings, but it is easy to start a text conversion on Slack and switch to a video conference with the push of a single button.

That said, Slack can be a good replacement for face-to-face conversations between small groups of people who might not be able to get together in person. For example, Slack can replace “hallway” conversations that would have taken place during face-to-face meetings that have been converted to virtual meetings.


Slack is organized into workspaces. Think of a workspace as a team or organization. SMPTE has a Slack workspace for members of the Standards Community (SC).

This tutorial describes how to get connected with the SMPTE Slack workspace, join channels, post messages, and initiate video conference calls from within Slack.

Getting Started

To get started using Slack: 1. Create a free Slack account (if you do not already have one). Best to use a personal account not associated with your job so that your account is preserved in case you change positions. 2. Contact the chair(s) of the group that you wish to join. For example, to join the private channel for the Software Task Force, email the chair(s) using the link on the OLC main page for that group. Provide your name, Slack ID, and email address – important to distinguish you from other users with similar names or to choose the correct Slack ID if you have multiple accounts on Slack. 3. Currently, SMPTE has a limited number of Slack licenses, so SMPTE members are not automatically added to the SMPTE Slack organization as full members. If you are active on Slack, you can email the SMPTE Slack administrator and ask to join the SMPTE workspace as a full member, but for most users guest access (the default) is sufficient. See the section on Slack Membership below.

Mauricio Roldan is the Slack administrator for SMPTE.

Using Slack

Slack Software

You can use Slack from a web browser but will likely prefer to use the Slack app for the platform(s) of your choice. Slack is available for mobile devices (tablets and iOS/Android smartphones) and desktop computers, including Windows and Macintosh.

Customizing Your Profile

Once your account and membership in the SMPTE workspace are set up, you may want to customize your profile. Click on your name in the upper left corner and edit your profile to change the name displayed for you in Slack messages, add a photo, provide your phone number (optional), and set your time zone.

The panel shown in screenshot #011 indicates that the user is a member of the SMPTE workspace – which in the screenshot is displayed as the active workspace – and allows the user to add workspaces for other organizations that may be using Slack.

Users can change their status to indicate that they are busy and unable respond to messages immediately.

Screenshot #011: Clicked on user name in the upper left corner

Slack Basics

The hash sign (#) denotes a channel, for example “#general” is the public channel for general questions and comments.

NOTE: Best to post messages in the most specific channel for the topic. For example, to ask about VC-5, post to #tc10e-dgvc5 rather than #general.

The at sign (@) denotes a person, for example “@Bruce Devlin” is the Slack username for the SMPTE SVP and “@StdsDir” is the Slack username for the Director of Standards Development. In Slack, you usually only have to type the first few characters of the channel or user name.

The slash character (/) begins a Slack command.

The web-based and app (mobile or desktop) user interfaces are similar.

On the left side of the window near the top, there is a list of categories:

Messages organized into discussion threads across Channels
Messages in which you are mentioned
Messages that you started to write but did not finish
Saved Items

Save messages and files to your to do list

Easy way to search for people with their names and photos
Lists the tools that have been added to this Slack instance
Lists files that you have uploaded to Slack.

Categories are like smart folders, collecting and organizing information across channels.

Select a category to see the information in that category. When you first starting using Slack, most of these categories will be empty but as you post messages and join channels that are active you will see information listed there.

Slack apps provide connections to other services such as Trello, GitHub, Google Drive, Outlook, and GoToMeeting, just to mention a few.

For example, after your Slack and Trello accounts are linked, you can add cards to the Trello board associated with a channel from within Slack using the command:

/trello add Finish the Slack tutorial document

Slack Membership

There are two levels of membership access to the Slack Workspace:

The reason for two levels is that SMPTE currently only has a limited number of licenses for Slack.

Guest access does not count towards the number of licenses issued to SMPTE.

Guest Access

If you joined the SMPTE Slack workspace by requested access to one private channels by contacting the group chair(s) directly, then you may not have full membership access, only guest access. If you are a guest, you will not be able to see any SMPTE channels on the left side panel unless you have been explicitly added to the channel. Guest access should be sufficient for most SMPTE use cases for Slack.

Guests have full access to channels to which the guest has been added by the chair(s) of the corresponding group, but do not see and cannot browse or search for other channels – even if the channels are public.

If a user with guest access tries to browse for channels, they will not see any listed except for the channels to which they have been explicitly granted access by the Slack administrator or the chair(s) of the corresponding groups (see screenshot #012).

Screenshot #012: Channel browsing with guest access

A user with guest access will not see channels for which they have not been granted access even if the user enters the name of a channel in the filter box (see screenshot #014). Note how the left side of the Slack window does not show any channels except for #software to which the user was added before the screen shot was taken.

Screenshot #014: Channel browser searching for the #general channel

Full Membership

To see all public channels on the left side of the Slack window, the user must have full membership. Since full membership uses one of the limited number of Slack licenses issued to SMPTE, full membership is typically only granted to SMPTE members who are very active on Slack.

The remainder of this section only applies to full members.

If you do not see the public channels like #general, click on the plus sign to the right of the “Channels” heading on the left side to browse for channels to add to the list. This does not change your access or membership in channels, it just controls what channels are displayed.

You can join public channels without asking by selecting the plus sign to the right of the channels heading on the left and browsing for channels that are interesting to you.

Full members and guests cannot browse for private channels.

The Slack window of a user with full membership is shown in screenshot #022 below. The user sees all public channels and all private channels to which the user has been granted access by a group chair.

Screenshot #022: Full member clicked on channels

As shown in screenshot #023 below, the list of channels shown in the channel browser can be filtered by entering all or part of a channel name.

Screenshot #023: Full member filtering list of channels displayed

Slack Channels

Along the left side of the Slack user interface, there is a column of pre-defined channels prefixed with a hash sign (#) for pubic channels or a lock icon for private channels. If you are a full-access member of the SMPTE Slack workspace, you already have access to the public channels. To join a private channel, email the channel administrator (typically the chair of the group) or email the SMPTE Slack administrator.

When you first run Slack, you may see only a few (or even no) channels on the left side of the Slack window. Many channels are private, meaning that you have to ask to join the channel. This is typical for SMPTE groups (TC, WG, DG, AHG, and SG) as groups usually limit their membership to group members and guests. Not all groups have Slack channels. And public channels may not be displayed by default until the user is granted full membership in the Slack workspace by the SMPTE Slack administrator.

For more information, consult the Slack user manual on joining channels.

As shown in the table below, Slack private channels correspond to the hierarchy of groups in the SMPTE Standards Community (SC). When you join a group through OLC, if the chair(s) do not add you to the Slack channel for the group automatically, contact the chair(s) to be added to the corresponding channel in Slack (or encourage the group to setup a channel if it does not already have one).

A few of the channels available in Slack:

Channel Access Description
general Public Used for messages that are not intended for a specific group
st Private For members of the Standards Committee (ST)
software Private For members of the Software Task Force
tc10e-dgvc5 Private VC-5 Mezzanine Compress DG in TC-10E
tc10e-dgvc6 Private VC-6 Picture Compression DG in TC-10E
askafellow Public Ask a SMPTE Fellow for an answer to your question
test_tc Public Used for testing messages to technical committees

Pubic Channels

Public channels are prefixed with a hash sign (#) and can be seen by full members. Guest must ask the SMPTE administrator for access to public channels.

Private Channels

Private channels are prefixed with a lock icon.

Users cannot browse for private channels in Slack even if the user is a full member. To join, the user must be invited by one of the members of the private channel, typically the group chair(s). This is usually not a problem and mimics the procedures for other tools such as Trello.

Using Channels

Click on the channel name to see and post messages in that channel.

Direct Messages

Below the permanent channels, there is a plus sign that can be used to create a Direct Message – an ad hoc channel for communicating with an arbitrary group of people. Click on the plus sign and add users with whom you wish to communicate. You can search for people by name and add them to the Direct Message. This is a good way to initiate a conversation between an arbitrary group of people.

One of the great features of Slack is that users do not have to be looking at Slack to see a direct message. The entire conversation thread is preserved, so the next time the user visits Slack, they will see the conversation and can comment as desired. Channels and direct messages with new posts are highlighted in the list on the left side of the Slack window.

Text Messages

To post a message, just type the message in the box at the bottom of the channel or direct message. There is a row of formatting icons below the text entry box. Files can be attached to a message using the paper clip icon on the far right or by dragging and dropping the file onto the message box.

EXAMPLE: Show someone what is happening on your computer by attaching a screen shot.

NOTE: Slack is not a substitute for uploading formal documents to Workspace.

Formal documents such as agendas, minutes, engineering documents, and ballots shall continue to be handled through OLC. In particular, formal email communications shall originate as a discussion in OLC or as a by-product of uploading a document to workspace. Replies to formal emails shall be done via OLC by responding to the message using the “Reply to Sender” or “Reply to Group” buttons in the body of the email.

Video Calls

While in a channel or direct message, a video conference call with the same participants can be started with the push of a single button.

Click on the telephone icon on the upper right of the window. A video conference call will be initiated immediately among the channel participants. It is just that easy: one button to start a call. Nothing more needs to be done. Do not have to enter any information about the participants. The members of the direct message will be called by Slack on your behalf to start the video conversation.

Slack user manual and video tutorial on video conferencing.

Workspace Features

The SMPTE Slack workspace is currently using the standard plan with the following features:

See this page for more information about the standard plan.


Slack can fill the gap in the virtual meetings, such as the meetings planned for Portland, by enabling informal conversations between subsets of meeting participants, including video conference calls if desired. Slack provides for “hallway” conversations that would otherwise not occur between meeting participants that are not co-located.