February 11, 2019

Clojurians Slack Alternatives

Daniel Compton has continued his excellent trend of writing an analysis of the State of Clojure survey comments and one of the comments in his Community section stood out for me:

"I suggest moving off of slack to a more accessible chat system. Losing history is a bad thing. Check out discord or matrix or gitter or mattermark or any other number of tools made for this purpose."

The Clojurians Slack [sign up here] started as a small experiment about four years ago and has been far more successful than anyone could have imagined, with around 15K members signed up and around 1,700 members considered "active" on a weekly basis (which means it would cost almost $9K per month to run this as a paid service!).

A perennial complaint about Slack's free plan is that it limits the accessible message history to just the most recent 10K messages. In a busy Slack like Clojurians that limit is hit after three or four days, heavily limiting the ability to refer back to conversations or to use the massive amount of "knowledge" shared there for reference -- exactly as noted in the comment above.

Why that comment inspired me to write this post is that most of the suggested communities already exist, and have been around for quite some time. Two of them are linked from the right hand column of the Clojure sub-Reddit but here's the list directly:

  • Discord
  • Gitter -- there are several Clojure rooms on Gitter, most of them are linked to open source projects on GitHub
  • Matrix/Riot
  • Mattermost -- I'm not sure if anyone has set up a Clojure community on Mattermost but several people have advocated for it

The "original" online Clojure community still exists and is still active on IRC (freenode), of course, and there's also Braid (written in Clojure/ClojureScript!).

I was a bit surprised that the commenter did not mention Clojurians on Zulip because that community, started back in early November 2018, already has five hundred members and seems, to me, like the most capable alternative to Slack. It's open source, hosted for free to open source communities, and "has a significantly larger and more active development community than other modern open source group chat solutions like Mattermost, Rocket.Chat, and matrix.org." Read their Why Zulip? page for more information about the service and how it compares (specifically to Slack).

One-way bridging between select Slack channels and Zulip streams has been in place for a while and currently about fifty of the most popular channels on Slack are available to read in Zulip streams, along with many other active streams in Zulip. This means you can try Zulip without missing out on Slack conversations -- some people prefer Zulip's UI just for reading Slack messages!

Clojurians on Slack isn't going away -- a lot of people love the UI and don't consider the message history limit to be a big deal -- and if you're already using Slack for work, then it makes perfect sense to also use that for your Clojure community fix (since you only need one chat client open). The Slack community isn't "official" in any way, and you're all welcome to try other chat clients, but if you feel strongly about open source and unlimited search history, check out Clojurians on Zulip and if you like it, promote it and encourage other Clojurians to join you there.

Me? I'm one of the long-time admins/moderators of Clojurians on Slack, but I've also tried each and every one of the alternatives that various community members have set up over the last four years. Clojurians on Zulip is the one I've found myself most active in and the only alternative chat client that I always have open at this point!

Tags: clojure community