Come join the Julia Zulip chat!

Hey everyone, just wanted to advertise the Julia Zulip chat server. I think it’s great but there’s a chicken and egg problem where it’s hard to convince people to use it because there’s currently few active users.

Zulip is an open source alternative to Slack which has

  • Better Markdown support
  • Julia Syntax highlighting
  • Unlimited message history for us and other open source communities
  • Beautiful built in LaTeX support for displaying math
  • An approach to conversation threads that may be initially a bit different from how Slack handles it, but I think much better once you use it a bit
  • Really responsive and helpful developers. If you have a problem or complaint with Zulip you can open an issue on their Git repo and expect a quick response! This really contrasted with my experience with Slack at various times, especially when Slack started screwing with text formatting.

I’d really appreciate if people came and at least tried it out. I think it’s a really compelling alternative to Slack, especially because we blow through our alotted 10,000 message limit 7.6 times a month now, and that pace is only increasing (up 5% from last month!).

Here’s a little screenshot showing some nice features in Zulip:

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For those on mobile, the URL to enter into the Zulip mobile app is:

julialang.zulipchat.com

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Zulip’s interface is a little different from Slack’s.

Zulip has ‘Streams’ which are a direct analogue to Slack’s Channels, but the biggest difference that takes some getting used to is that all messages within a Stream have a topic. Topics should be thought of as like the subject line in a Discourse post, this makes it so that all conversations in Zulip are implicitly in a thread.

When you view a Stream in Zulip it’ll default to showing you all the different topics in that stream interweaved with each-other which can be a good way to get an birds-eye view of what’s going on, but if you’re actually going to read something, you should generally click on the conversation topic and then it’ll filter your view down to just that topic.

These two resources are really helpful: https://zulipchat.com/help/getting-started-with-zulip, https://zulipchat.com/help/reading-strategies

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Oh right, I should point out that another difference from Slack is that the mobile app is not very good or polished (in my opinion) which is unfortunate, however the silver lining is that the actual website itself is perfectly usable on a mobile web browser, unlike Slack!

I’d encourage mobile users to try out both the app and the website and see which works better for you. I found the website great on my phone.

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Honestly, I’ve been trying out the mobile app on both iPhone and iPad, and it’s not bad! The “home” tab that shows you all of your unreads is pretty nice.

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Disclaimer: I’m mostly just bumping this thread to increase the number of people who see this and join julialang.zulipchat.com/.

Update on the Julia Zulipchat

Follwing the previous push to get people to join, we saw a nice spike in Zulip usership, some percentage of which was sticky. You can see some stats here: https://julialang.zulipchat.com/stats. A lot of us are splitting our attention between Zulip and Slack for now because Slack is where so many essential community members are, but a few members of the Makie community have moved over, so we’re seeing a lot of great activity in the Makie stream.

There are strong network dynamics at play here, where it’s hard to have conversations somewhere if there’s not already conversations happening there. I expect it’ll be a while we know if this Zulip community can sustain itself without a top down, official effort from important julia members to move to Zulip. Without such an effort, the best hope I see is occasionally pinging people and reminding them that the Zulip exists and hoping we can build a big enough community in a bottom up way.

I think the main argument for why we should be using Zulip is that even if people prefer Slack (which many don’t), the Slack is just straight up unsustainable. In the last month, 83,736 messages have been posted in Slack, which is 6% higher than last month. Slack only allows us to see the 10,000 most recent messages which means that all our Slack message history is being lost over 8 times a month.

Language adoption and community engagement are not going to shrink anytime soon and even if people are okay with losing the message history 8 times a month, what about when it’s 10 or 15 times a month? Are people really going to be okay with not being able to see posts from two prior?

I think the only workable solution here is to move the community somewhere where we have control over the message history and can choose how long to keep messages. Zulip is the only service that I’m aware of that ticks this box without having other deal-breaker problems (such as lack of threads in Riot.IM or only being able to be part of one workspace with MatterMost( or was it RocketChat? I don’t remember. )).

Please at least try the Zulip chat, and if you don’t like it, tell us what you don’t like! The maintainers on Github are very responsive and we’ve already opened a number of github issues and are working towards fixing some common gripes.

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Here’s my biggest problem with Zulip: the interface is extremely sluggish, on both my mobile where I do most reading, but also in my laptop browser. Scrolling is a pain as it jumps down in discrete steps. The interface sometimes gets stale and I have to refresh the page for buttons to work. Fully loading the page for it to become interactive takes more than 30 seconds. So far, it’s a massively unpleasant experience to use it, even though they have some great features and ideas.

Hm, that’s not good, but that also has not at all been my experience. I’ve generally found the website to be more responsive than Slack. I’m not sure I have any suggestions. I’ve used Zulip on an iOS, MacOS and Manjaro Linux and it was somewhat uniform. What OS are you on?