Friends Worldwide

by David Hartsough (2020-01-03)

What is Friends Worldwide?

Friends Worldwide is many things to many people. Primarily, it's a place for friends to chat with each other in groups. Technically speaking, it's a "social network" on Slack.

What is Slack?

Slack is my personal favorite messaging app. Although it's technically built for "business", my gosh is it the coolest chat app ever! If you're really curious about why I love it so much, read on below.

How can I join?

Join here!

Joining is simple. All you need to do is add your email and your name. Then you should pick a good lil' avatar profile picture too.

What kinda chats are in this?

In Slack (the platform), chat "rooms" are called channels. They can be public (open to all Friends) or private (invite only). We have lots of great public channels for e'rybody!

In the front we've got a big ole front yard we call #general. It's one of two channels that everyone is automatically added to as soon as they join Friends Worldwide, so if you're thinking of posting a message in that channel, just remember that everyone will see it (and probably be notified about it if they have their notifications turned on for that channel). The second channel everyone joins by default is called #introductions, which where everybody shakes hands, waves, gives high fives, and says "hey" to newcomers. When someone first joins, we ask them to say a little introduction about themselves in this channel.

Next, out on the porch we've got some fresh tunes coming from the boombox in the #music channel. Then in front room (foyer/lobby thing), we've got some fresh #memes lining the walls. In the living room we've got a quaint #givethanks channel for all your gratitudes! In the back we've got a place for #videos, #business, #space, #travel, and #dreams, among other things. There's even a channel under the acronym #fire, which stands for "Financial Independence Retire Early". And the backyard has #cute-animals! (That's just a sample of what's around. There's infinite potential in this group. The only limit is your imagination.)

Finally, we try to keep a channel for each city where there are Friends. (If there isn't a channel for your city, make one and invite people nearby!)

Who's all in this?

Currently I think there are people from ~5 different states and 2 different countries! (Help us expand around the globe!)

While there are a few major pockets of people from particular places, the connections between everyone are super random! There are certainly several people from Boise, Idaho (because that's where I live and where the company I left is) and some from Illinois (because I also lived there). But I'm stoked to see the group continually expanding, especially just beyond my initial friend groups. (Come join! I'm sure you probably know someone in there besides me.)

(One thing that's cool about this for me is that I know that everyone who is in this group is somehow connected to me; even if I don't know a person in the group personally, I must somehow know the friend who invited them or that friend who invited the other friend [and so on].)

Isn't this time consuming and annoying like group texts?

Trust me, I know what you're thinking. I don't like big group texts and annoying notifications either. But that's exactly why I chose Slack and why I love Slack: it's notifications are completely customizable. You can mute anything you want at any times you want. Fantastic!

What is it for? Why is it?

The short answer is: Friends Worldwide allows several people to chat together in groups (even during work).

A slightly longer answer is:

  • Free group chats
  • Completely open-invitation network
  • Replaces the need for everyone to have a social media profile on one specific platform
  • Bridges the gaps between different people with different online presences by providing a safe space to create a private profile with zero traceable or tracked information
  • Total privacy control
  • The appearance of a "workplace communication platform" that allows people at work to use it without looking like they are on some social media chat app
  • Custom emojis/reactions
  • Threads for conversations that don't notify everyone in the group
  • The perfect, completely customizable notification system

The longer answer requires a little history lesson:

The origins

On August 9th, 2018, I (David Hartsough) created Friends Worldwide. I was about to leave a company that I had been working at for 2 years, but I didn't want to leave behind all the amazing friends I made of my rad coworkers.

Early on during my time working there, my friends and I had found that we could make the company's primary communication system, Slack, into a whirlwind of good times and great conversations. What once was merely intended for quick business communication soon became an outlet for us to have fun (amidst an otherwise stressful job). The beauty of it all was that we could keep talking to each other all throughout the day about anything at all, and no matter who was looking over our shoulders at our computer monitors, all that could been seen was the standard business communication platform. We appeared to be working at all times, even if we were deep in our banter. And best of all, we started forming friendships all across the company: across different teams, different departments, different orgs.

If used "correctly", Slack is a godsend relief for workers who just need a break. (from the soul-sucking stress of mind-numbing middle-managers -- ha! just kidding. that's exaggerated...)

My friends and I had become so used to talking to each other every day over Slack that I knew I was gonna feel major FOMO once I left the company and no longer had access to my account in the company Slack space. So I just created a whole new Slack space for just us! Slack conveniently allows you to easily switch between Slack "spaces" (groups) with a few clicks or a fast hot-key, so my friends could keep both Slack spaces open and active and no "over-the-shoulder" managers would know any different.

Soon, I wasn't the only one who was leaving the company. As more people left, more people wanted to stay connected with all the great friends we made while working together. Friends Worldwide kept the friendships fresh! In the first month we had friends in 3 different states and even in Spain.

Next thing you knew, people at the company started adding their spouses or close friends, so they could keep messaging them at work and include them in on our random banter or event planning. And thus Friends Worldwide spread. It began as a way for old coworkers to keep chatting during the workday, but now it's an open chatting platform for all friends!

Why do you love Slack?

Simply put, I believe it's the best messaging app of all time, because...

  1. It is simple, easy, and elegant.
  2. It has "threads" to keep conversations contained, organized, and unintrusive.
  3. It allows you to customize your notifications (by channel, by thread, by time, by keyword, etc).
  4. It is free and built by good people who aren't trying to create an awful social media platform.
  5. I can make my own custom "emojis" (reaction icons).

If you're still wondering, "Why did you choose Slack? Why not just use some other social media platform?" then... Hah! Just kidding. No one is still wondering that... (If you really are, hit me up and I'll actually talk with you about it.)

Sounds great! Any downsides?

There's one catch... Slack will only display the last 10,000 messages, total. That means that the least recent chats in channels will keep disappearing in the background as conversations continue on. (These messages aren't "gone" in the sense that they're deleted; they're just no longer visible to us.) Usually this means that if a channel is active every day, then messages from 2 days ago will disappear.

Oh crap. Why? What can we do about that?

Friends Worldwide is on the "free tier" of Slack's pricing options. As I mentioned before, Slack is intended for businesses, so it usually expects to make money off businesses that use Slack for company communication. They offer unlimited access to all messages if the Slack space "upgrades" to a paid plan. Sadly, that's costly, and we don't want anyone to pay for this. (It costs $6.67 per person, per month, when billed yearly. Right now that's over $600 a month.)

So! I have a solution for an alternative way of viewing those messages! The only problem is that it requires me to take some time to build a small, separate app for the sole purpose of reading the messages that Slack has since "archived" out of sight. And I frankly haven't started, because it will take a while to do.

(To give you the technical details, I can access the entirety of the message history by asking Slack to export a series of giant JSON files for me. Then, from there I can pull that JSON data down to a web app and render the messages somehow. I'll probably accomplish this with GatsbyJS and host it on some random URL that only Friends will have access to.)

If anyone would like to help me with this project, please let me know. (Send me a Slack message!) I plan on working on it in the next few months.