Choosing a developer chat platform

Yeah, I’ve been thinking about a communication channel as well. Here’s a bit of a confession: I used to use IRC a lot more, but in the era of Slack and its open-source equivalents, I’ve found my patience for IRC’s well-known limitations (even when mediated by a bouncer) have severely decreased. I’d be interested to see how far we can bend this Discourse forum for that purpose, or possibly exploring a more chat-oriented alternative (e.g., Slack itself or Matrix or Spectrum).

I never got into IRC myself, I just mentioned it since I saw you (used to?) use it for beets already. I suspect that a Slack-like format will work better than a threaded forum style for a small team. If you don’t mind adopting a new service and there are hosted options that are easy to set up, then anything sounds fine to me! I’m also aware of Gitter but I’ve only really used Mattermost (not really an option for beets though).

I’m on the edge of a few teams that use Discord, which seems quite nice, and people (well, gamers) often have it already. The Slack client is pretty heavy to leave running all the time (my work one is regularly 1GB+ RAM footprint).

Spectrum and Gitter look pretty similar at first glance. Both support signing in via GitHub and seem to be pretty easy to get up and running. Gitter seems to support natural discovery by linking chat rooms to GitHub orgs. Gitter has native clients for all common platforms, but Spectrum is Mac-only. I think to me Gitter is sounding like the best fit so far.

Alright, let’s give that a try! I initialized a public room just to try things out:

That’s too bad about Gitter and their mobile apps! I thought their iOS app was pretty good.

I have never used Discord before, although I use a billion Slack workspaces every day for work stuff and its GitHub integration is awesome. I’m down to give either a try for beets. It seems like one major advantage mentioned in the thread is that Discourse is easier to set up for open signups—but that was in 2018. Looks like a few options have cropped up now, although I have not tried any of them.

Does anyone on this thread happen to have strong opinions about chat apps? It does seem like Gitter may not be the thing, but I’m happy to try anything.

I think one thing to consider in relation to chat/discussion platforms is sticking with open-source tools (i.e. not using Discord or Slack) because I know use of proprietary platforms can put off possible contributors. Other than Gitter I know of Matrix, RocketChat and Mattermost.

If going for open-source options only, Matrix gets my vote. Lots of different client options and has bridge integrations between slack, irc, discord, etc.

Mattermost,, and I think Matrix too (for certain features) require the ability to self-host as well. Something @adrian may or may not be interested in.

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Yep I’ve been running a very small matrix server for a while, just for family and friends. Been working great apart from the encryption UX isn’t quite polished yet, but that isn’t an issue for public chats.
I haven’t used any bridges myself, so I’m not sure how well they work, but I like the idea.

On the other hand, going back to something @adrian said a year ago:

I’d be interested to see how far we can bend this Discourse forum for that purpose

Is another platform needed?

Good question. In the spirit of playing along…

If the goal is just a place to chat about meta-development related things between the “core team” then you could use github teams or an access restricted forum on discourse.

If another goal is to give a place for new or potential contributors to ask questions, they could also just be directed to discourse or the applicable issue or PR.

I have no objections to any particular chat platform, but I do have an objection to being the sysadmin for a self-hosted option. :smiley: I kind of think the natural choices are probably Slack, an open-source option if someone steps up to host, or perhaps a private category on this Discourse, if async seems to suffice to everybody.

Perhaps a poll is in order to decide between those?

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What is your preferred developer communication platform?

  • Slack
  • Discourse private forum

0 voters

  • Note I’m not a big fan of a non-maintainer hosted solution, but will add it if needed.

I will add I think the best use case for a developer chat is just as an informal communication line between the “core-team” (and also contributors). That is the main reason I am preferring slack over a private discourse forum, as I believe it lends itself more to informal chat, coordination, and certain social aspects that allow the team to feel more like a team.

I think any formal or more in-depth discussion regarding development of beets belongs in discourse, and obviously any PR or issue specific related discussion belongs on github.

I also looked into this some more, and found some good reads: 1, 2

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Yeah, I tend to agree—there is a more low-overhead, less formal valence to a chat option that makes this a good choice.

I don’t want to prolong the decision-making, but one other option that has been pointed out to me elsewhere as being popular in open-source communities is Zulip. It has a free hosted option but is open-source and has a few nifty features missing from other systems. I continue not to have a strong feeling about specific services but it seems like this would at least be preferable to Discord. :smiley:

I’m suspicious of closed-source platforms that don’t have archives visible on Google. Would this be a private forum regardless? If so, I don’t have much preference. I like Discord better than Slack.

I’ll have to admit, Zulip looks pretty sweet. Does that mean you’re interested in hosting now? :smiley:

I believe the idea of the chat is to have it open to everyone, but perhaps write access restricted or moderated as far as who/what should go in which chat platform. In a perfect world, there would be a one size fits all solution.

Well, fortunately, Zulip has a free hosted option! We could get started with that and self-host down the line if we really like it.

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As an aside, is it possible that the upcoming github discussions (example) could replace these forums? In that case, maybe moving away from discourse for this chat would be the right idea…