0.12 is out, yes it’s better than Slack is out with version 0.12 for web and desktop. It is another fine example of an open source Slack (or HipChat) alternative (we’ve covered one Slack alternative before, Zulip). In this latest version they include widgets which are a way of sharing app integrations embedded within a chat room.

Embeddable Widgets For Your Chat Room

Widgets are embedded and pinned to the top of your chat room. This makes them visible at all times to everyone in the chat room. Similar to pinning a particular message.

The widgets included in this release are:

  • YouTube, for sharing an endless playlist of cat videos in a chat room
  • Etherpad, for sharing notes that can be collaborated on
  • Grafana, for sharing graphs of how much traffic is spiking web server CPU
  • Google Docs, for sharing documents

There’s an ability to add custom widgets so I’m hoping someone creates a custom widget for Kolab Now (which is a free/open source alternative to Google Docs).

Only the Most Proper Video Conferencing with Jitsi

The bigger news? has support for proper video conferencing with Jitsi! Jitsi is free/open source video conferencing software that is compatible with WebRTC and is scalable and matches what the big players of video conferencing  (Skype, Zoom) are offering. and Matrix, free/open source alternatives to Slack promises the same thing as Slack except in a nicer, more hackable free/open source package. is a client for the Matrix group chat server. Matrix is the free/open source infrastructure for setting up a Slack/HipChat alternative. There are other clients available for it. Matrix can be viewed as an alternative to XMPP/Jabber and as an upgrade to IRC.

You can support Matrix and free/open source chat/communications infrastructure by donating here through Liberapay (or Patreon or sending cryptocurrency like BitCoin or Ethereum BTC 1LxowEgsquZ3UPZ68wHf8v2MDZw82dVmAE, ETH 0xA5f9a4f9E024F6D727f7afdA9257e22329A97485).


Why Slack is inappropriate for open source communications

Dave Chaney has written a nice blog post detailing why Slack the chat tool is inappropriate for open source projects to use.

The reasons to prefer something other than Slack for open source project communications are:

  • Slack is closed source
  • Slack requires paid memberships, especially when integrations start to be used
  • Communications within Slack stay within Slack, they cannot be linked to the outside world (that’s a walled-garden, anti-open Web attitude, it makes sense in a corporate setting but not for open source projects).
  • Slack favours real-time communication, even while it tries to promote asynchronous communication

His recommendation?

Instead of closed, synchronous, systems I recommend open source projects stick to asynchronous communication tools that leave a publicly linkable, searchable, url.

The tools that fit this requirement best are; mailing list, issue trackers, and forums.

I’ve mentioned Zulip as an alternative before because it does have some great features and besides, it’s licensed under a free/open source license.

On Hacker News, you can see a lively discussion about this topic.

The lead developer of Zulip chimes in with a thought-provoking response to the blog post, suggesting that Slack isn’t the real problem (though it is a contributor):

…even with “asynchronous” media like email, bug trackers, or forums, often people reply basically immediately (within minutes or maybe hours), just like you can in chat, and it might be hours or days before everyone has a chance to see the conversation and respond.

The problem is that the messages have no organizational structure beyond the channel. In Slack and friends, there’s no easy way to see what _actual conversations_ happened while you were away, and it’s really hard for a channel to discuss multiple things, so conversations either die or become hard to read when someone starts talking about something else. Combined, this means you have to (1) read _everything_ in order to know what happened and (2) be continuously online in order to participate effectively. This may not matter if your community is super low-traffic, but if you have hundreds or thousands of messages being sent daily, this effectively excludes everyone who doesn’t have a LOT of time to spend on the chat community.

The solution in Zulip is to have threads for conversations, and it is possible to view discussions outside of Zulip with public URLs so it isn’t a walled-garden of conversation. Highly recommend checking it out.

Zulip, an Open Source Slack competitor

Zulip, an Open Source Slack competitor

Zulip is a free/open source group chat server. It has a web interface and it’s basically a very very very good competitor to Slack (which I’ve advocated for use in multiple companies). Multi-user/group chat makes collaboration easier and it avoids the dreaded 20+ email chains that happen for important company topics.

Continue reading “Zulip, an Open Source Slack competitor”