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Phil Simon

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Visualizing My Students’ Slack Messages

A Tableau dataviz that addresses the relationship between days active and messages sent.
Mar | 15 | 2020


Professors new to Slack probably won’t spend much time playing around with its analytics. Still, there’s quite a bit that can you glean from its user data while concurrently respecting user privacy.

I was curious about the relationship between days spent in Slack and number of messages spent. To this end, I exported data on aggregate message from the workspace that I used for my online, seven-week Business Intelligence course last semester. Again, I wasn’t interested in what students were writing to each other—and Slack doesn’t let its users view others’ private direct messages (DMs) by default anyway. As such, I counted a simple one-word “yes” message as a 200-word rant against a slacker teammate (pun intended).

I then threw the data into Tableau and created a simple scatterplot. Here are the results:

Findings and Outliers

In no particular order, here’s what I found:

  • The average student posted 22 messages. That’s about three per week for the seven-week course. 
  • Plenty of students were inactive and uncommunicative.
  • One student was active for 16 days but posted nary a single message in Slack. 
  • One student was active for 11 days and posted a startling 95 messages. That’s more than eight per day. 
  • A small number of students were both very active and communicative.
  • As expected, there’s a positive relationship between days active on Slack and the number of messages sent. (See green reference bar.)

Simon Says: Play with your data.

None of this took all that long. You can still respect user privacy and discover interesting things in your data. I’m curious if other professors will see more interaction in Slack as they put their classes online in light of recent events.


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