I’ve noticed that people who used IRC before entering the job market (in university or earlier) are significantly more comfortable with it as a medium, and far more likely to actively participate in it that people who are introduced to it later in life. For whatever reason, IRC doesn’t tend to be a gentle, friendly experience for beginners.
While the availability of many different clients is an advantage, it’s also something of a disadvantage because it fragments the community - I’m not going to be able to help a person with their irssi config/plugins if I use Colloquy or XChat, and so there’s more of a learning curve there. Also there’s a bit of the paradox of choice going on. And when you really get down to it none of the clients are as straightforward and easy-to-use as Slack.
Then you have IRC commands to learn. Not a huge deal, but certainly not obvious to a beginner. And then if you take a look at any given network it seems extremely chaotic - rather than the few dozen channels you may see in a slack, you’re looking at hundreds or thousands of channels. How are you supposed to find the right forum?
I could keep going on about aspects of IRC that are barriers to entry, but I think the point has been made. Sometimes on IRC I conceitedly consider the barrier to entry a feature - though in reality it’s not keeping trolls/assholes out. Slack is just more accessible to the masses, is a polished experience, is consistent across platforms - it has a lot of advantages.
Having said all that… I agree with the author. Slack’s closed-ness sucks for open source projects, at some point I think a lot of people are going to have the rug pulled out from under them. E.g. Slack has a (unofficial?) user limit which some projects have hit.
TLDR; I love Slack, and I love IRC - they each have their place. The IRC experience could and should be better.
And when you really get down to it none of the clients are as straightforward and easy-to-use as Slack.
http://irccloud.com/ is a strong contender for being exactly that.
In my experience, one big issue with Slack is the necessity to keep one tab open for each project (issue which is described in the linked article).
I use the desktop client, so it’s less of an issue. That’s fair, though.
As opposed to keeping a tab open per IRC channel? I don’t get this criticism.
With IRC, I can use the same clients for all channels.
With Slack, I have to keep one browser tab open for each project.
Am I misunderstanding something?
I have a Slack window open connected to two different accounts with multiple channels each. I can swiftly change between them with a few keystrokes.
How do IRC clients handle channels across multiple servers? I have spent a tiny amount of time on IRC recently, and the clients didn’t appear any different today than they were 15 years ago.
Maybe you use the Slack desktop client?
I do. Can your IRC client connect to multiple servers in the same window? I thought they at least required multiple windows for that.
I use IRCCloud currently, and that can certainly support many channels and servers all together in one window (browser tab). It has keystroke navigation between channels as well, sounds similar to what you are describing in Slack. Been a while since I’ve looked at the rest of the IRC client space, but surely others support this too…?
IRCCloud isn’t IRC, it’s a cloud platform just like Slack that happens to integrate IRC. The article was comparing Slack with standard IRC servers.
IRCCloud is not an IRC server, it’s more like an IRC bouncer (ZNC, etc.) with a web client. IRCCloud still connects to regular IRC networks on your behalf, like any IRC client.
It does not require the IRC network to support anything special. It does not require everyone to use IRCCloud. You are still free to connect from any IRC client, since the server is just a regular IRC server (not something maintained by IRCCloud at all).
As it says in an update to the article this discussion is about, IRCCloud “is really cool and solves all of the problems”, so it seems worth considering.
Slack seems like the canonical “weekend project”. There’s no open source replacement? Not IRC of course. But the short list of requirements would be persistence and logging, file sharing, and uh… That’s about it.
There’s no open source replacement?
There are a couple, actually. Mattermost and Zulip come to mind.
I completely agree with the author’s overall point - for FOSS projects, slack is the wrong tool. However, I find the rebuttal to the integration argument slightly misses the point. Slack has a bunch of integrations that require a few clicks, and authorising with the relevant service.
When we switched to slack at work, one of the product team was able to quickly set up integrations with trello etc. and the first we knew about it was when he told us it was a fait accompli. Even as a developer, I can still see the benefit of having to write no code rather than some code. Especially given that it’s not even a fun problem to bikeshed.
But yes, please use something open (preferably IRC) for FOSS projects.
Enable the IRC/XMPP bridge. https://slack.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/201727913-Connecting-to-Slack-over-IRC-and-XMPP
That pretty much eliminates the only criticism here that doesn’t equally apply to GitHub.