In the process of rethinking onboarding at 18F, Andrew Maier and I have been thinking a lot about documentation.

Our coworkers are very, very good at documenting the things they learn in Slack, our chat program, because it’s part of their daily workflow. But this information isn’t necessarily documented elsewhere, like our internal handbook.

This meant that information in our handbook was sometimes outdated, compared to what was being shared in Slack. This made it difficult for new employees to find the most up-to-date information.

So I tried an experiment: I asked my 18F coworkers to tag messages that every new 18F employee should know with the :evergreen_tree: emoji.

Melody Kramer explaining how to tag messages on Slack

This allowed me to search Slack using this command: “has::evergreen_tree:” to surface all of the tips and tricks my coworkers thought were important.

My coworker Micah Saul then wrote a little command line utility to make it even easier to search for a certain emoji within Slack.

This allows our entire team to document information for future hires without requiring employees to do yet another documentation task.

So far, it’s been very successful. We’ve received over 100 messages tagged with the :evergreen_tree:, and have cataloged that information into the Handbook our new hires receive.

We next plan to further extend functionality by eventually linking Micah’s emoji finder to GitHub issues, so that new messages are automatically queued in a repo for inclusion in the handbook.