Which chat/communications software/medium?

A few XKCDs are relevant here. (https://xkcd.com/1782/ , https://xkcd.com/1254/ , https://www.xkcd.com/1810/)

Currently the main chat is happening on Telegram. People have raised some concerns/issues:

  • Only one owner, this is difficult to transfer and results in a single point of failure that can only be recovered if you’re able to prove to telegram you own it (like messaging them from twitter and e-mail, and instagram associated with the name/branding of the channel, yes we had to do this for leeds hackspace)

  • Chat log is difficult to navigate through, especially if you’ve missed messages, and you’re using only the desktop or the mobile clients.

  • It doesn’t really integrate with anything else, there are bots and you can dedicate a room to this integration, though other chat tools have more natural integration such as Hipchat and Slack.

  • Creating new rooms can end up cluttering your experience of using telegram, especially if you’re already in a number of rooms already.

Though other chat mediums also have their flaws.

IRC natively doesn’t do any form of chat logging unless you setup a bouncer, and know how to setup a bouncer, and its clients vary in usability or introduce a cost (IRCCloud).

Slack requires that you invite people to use it, though this has simple enough workarounds. It is mostly free, unless if you want to be able to access your chat history (and this can affect private messages). Though there are other workarounds for that (chat can be dumped via its API and saved if necessary) but it has easy integration with github, other bots and is generally well supported. There’s also the possibility of getting it for free for not-for-profits, though the gateway for that in the UK at least is proving you’re a charity.

Hipchat is similar to Slack, except for the API workaround as far as I know and it can be harder to invite people to it.

People have mentioned Matrix, and riot.im, and some don’t particularly trust riot.im’s terms of use (https://riot.im/tac) as it appears to record everything identifiable about you (from location to personal details) and it’ll share this with anyone it deems fit. I’m informed there are other clients available and we can run our own server(s).

There’s a lot to be said for sticking with what is currently being used, chat is difficult to follow regardless, and any form of online social media can give the feeling of ‘erk I’m missing something important’ or ‘do we have to explain all of this again?’ - I think the pragmatic solution to those two problems are patience, process, documenting and accepting that managing decisions are still part of acting on things, though that might be a different topic entirely.

So if you have a preference for a different chat medium, or have a solution for binding them all, or want to gripe. Please do so.

At Nottingham we use slack - your summary of that tool is on point.

However, when we were setting it up we considered mattermost (https://about.mattermost.com/) which bills itself as an open source alternative to slack. It looked very good, but at the time didn’t have any mobile clients - that seems to have changed.

It is a self hosted solution, but apparently has natural integrations and a full, searchable, chat history.


We had this discussion. We (for values of we that consisted the group at the time) made a collective decision, refults are documented here - https://github.com/UKHackspaceFoundation/foundation/blob/master/README.md

Is there a specific reason for redesigning this bikeshed?


Point by point through the Telegram issues - since this is the platform we’re currently using. Too long? Just read the last paragraph - it’s the only thing I’ve not said elsewhere.

I spent some time last night setting up a method of creating groups which are managed by a “bot” and which can have a group of admins running them. This works but needs some debugging that I am not really prepared to do if we’re subsequently going to move to a different chat platform. At the moment this is set up on my server but could easily be moved to UKHSF hardware.

Not sure where this one came from, the backlog has a robust search feature and I don’t think I’ve seen anyone complain about it recently. There are frequently complaints about how much we talk though Ô.o

This is another one I’m a tad flummoxed by: what do you want/need it to integrate with? It’s possible to integrate most things via bots and we have one or two experienced bot developers in our group.

I recommend using the “pin” function to lock the rooms/conversations you’re most interested in at the top of your “pile”.

Telegram has lots of things that are wrong with it. Not being able to pass group ownership to someone else being one of the major ones but it’s simple to use, and has a low barrier to entry for both non-technical users and from the pov of being able to simply publish a chat link and let people join.


  • IRC, which would historically have been my platform of choice, works badly on mobile, chat logs are complex to set up (and I’m a technical user) or have a cost associated with them (saas). If we’re to attract membership from less technical groups then we need to keep the barrier to entry as low as possible.
  • Slack - honest moment, I really dislike slack however I appreciate that others don’t feel the same way about it. It’s a pain to get the non-free features but not impossible should we want to go down this route. Jonty and Russ can be very persuasive.

There is an option we haven’t considered in this discussion, and I’m not sure it would be the right decision for the group given that many of us deal better with real time chat than forums but… We could ditch the chat altogether and only hold discussions here. Moving the conversation into a single location would have advantages for consistency and openness, although it would also likely alienate many of the core group in the telegram chat.

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One thing I forgot to add to merits of moving to discourse only is that the nature of a forum/mailing list is such that encourages people to think before replying thus potentially reducing incidents of knee jerk reactions to issues.

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Hm, this is an option I hadnt considered too much either - and this raises another, different solution. As mentioned by @NotQuiteHere, having everything in a single location is a good thing - hence why we got this DIscourse in the first place. However, what are we treating as the ‘source of truth’ - if we are treating Discourse as the source of truth, as we should, then the chat argument becomes much less prominent - yes we will still want to have realtime communications, but it doenst necessarily have to be with everyone, and when we need to make a decision then it should be on the Discourse.

This also means that the argument of what and where boils down to: where are the people you want to discuss this question with on, and where can we find you if we want to ask you something. Chat groups dont have to be permanent, and as long as any pertinent notes from the discussions end up on Discourse we can just close that temporary group when we are finished. This way, it can be Telegram, Hangouts, Slack, Riot, Matrix, IRC, just make sure that the room you are discussing things in is linked to, or has a ‘contact X, Y or Z to be added to the discussion’.

This also is a good fallout of this, there have been too many moments recently where people are not completely thinking through what they are typing due to us being on a realtime interface, with people we dont necessarily know, and people are getting offended or put out by it - which can, and has caused people to just stop collaborating with us.

So yes, consider this actually my vote that we have Discourse as the ‘only’ thing, and make the real time discussions thing arbitrary. This means that it will also cover when we have face to face meetings, as all we need to do is take good notes of what was discussed and what the outcome was / what decisions need to be taken.

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While I really value the use of a realtime chat (and I love the people in it), I have to say I think it would be best to just centralise on Discourse for HSF stuff.

That said, there’s nothing to stop there being an open chat channel for UK hackspaces - there’s been #hackspace on freenode IRC for a long time, but IRC has many downsides.

Yes, I realise I’ve just said “let’s not have a chatroom, but perhaps we can have a chatroom”.

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Hah! If people want to join the telegram chat it’s here: https://t.me/UKHackspaceFoundation

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So, i’l take it that we have basically come to a consensus of:

Chat in the Telegram Group (as primary chat room) or anywhere else that works, but the Discourse forum is the central location for decisions and discussions to be documented and voted on

If anyone has any dissagreements, or amendments to that, go for it, or if they want to flesh it out and put it somewhere in an FAQ for stuff when we actually get one sorted, that would be great.