Thu 9 Oct 2014 5:37AM

Should OpenFarm try out Slack for real-time discussion?

R Ryan Public Seen by 197

Slack is a replacement to IRC for real-time chat. It has different chat rooms for splitting out topics (ie. development, general discussion, deployment, crop info, etc). It has some great advanced features too for hooking in services (ie. live deploy info/errors, twitter mentions, etc), super easy file uploads for discussing mock-ups, etc.

I think it would help us feel more cohesive as a remote team across time-zones and help those on the outside feel more included in the discussion; one downside is that new members have to be explicitly added ($7/mo service has guest abilities), but I imagine we can make this process very welcoming and generally this is a tool for the working team.

Should we try it out?


Ryan Thu 9 Oct 2014 5:38AM


Poll Created Thu 9 Oct 2014 5:41AM

Should we use Slack? Closed Sun 12 Oct 2014 5:07AM

by Ryan Wed 26 Apr 2017 10:34AM

We will give Slack a shot for real-time communication with larger community decisions being made on Loomio (hopefully with some Slack integration too!)

See above!


Results Option % of points Voters
Agree 75.0% 3 RA DU R
Abstain 0.0% 0  
Disagree 25.0% 1 RC
Block 0.0% 0  

4 of 39 people have voted (10%)


Thu 9 Oct 2014 5:42AM

I think Slack is a wonderful tool and will help us all work together more efficiently.


Rick Carlino
Fri 10 Oct 2014 12:13PM

See previous comment.


Rory Aronson
Fri 10 Oct 2014 9:38PM

Happy to try it out


[deactivated account] Thu 9 Oct 2014 10:10AM

I would personally prefer something that is opensource and we can host on our own servers, but does a similar thing, but Slack is pretty awesome, and it's definitely good for staying in touch with people across timezones if your whole team is on board.

I don't think we need the paid for version, I think we can create some nifty commands to publish meeting results, etc onto slack.

It's a shame about not having guests.

Maybe one of us should build a roll-your-own slack ;)


Rick Carlino Fri 10 Oct 2014 12:12PM

I use Slack at my day job and can say it's a great product, but I'm giving the thumbs down to this one.

I think using a different chat tool isn't going to change the adoption rate. The reality is that the only chat tool we've been able to consistently use for the past 18 months is G+. That seems to be the one that everyone wants to use. Getting a slack account will just be one more tab I need to keep open.

"Retroshare" (http://retroshare.sourceforge.net/) is an open source, peer-to-peer, decentralized, team management suite that I have been interested in in the past for those wanting to go the open source route.

My 2 cents is we just keep using G+ / Gdocs as our team management solution and give people a link to an IRC webchat page when we need to have large group discussions.


Ryan Fri 10 Oct 2014 5:59PM

We have a lot of platforms to talk on, but I strongly believe this could be the go-to one for anything not large enough to warrant a full Loomio/GitHub discussion. While G+ is what we default to, I don't think that means it's what's best.

Personally, I know I can reach out to you or Simon on G+, but I don't readily have Andru's or Rich's contact info, nor do I feel able to reach out on a whim. It took me awhile to finally reach out and connect with Ghislaine, but once I did I got the sense it was easier for her to conversationally ask questions and catch up where before there wasn't as approachable a place for her to do that. When I have questions I often feel like I'm probably bothering someone, and that I don't want to ask just one person, or just who's on IRC, and it doesn't make sense to make a whole Loomio/GitHub discussion.

I think it's easy for those relatively on the outside of the core to feel out of the loop. Currently, when I log onto IRC I see a blank wall and generally one other person online that makes me feel like nothing has been going on, and when I sometimes feel able to ask a question, I almost never see a response either because no one responds, no one sees it, or more likely I close the tab or app before anything happens. A history of what's discussed in a format like Slack makes it easy to catch up and be ready to go.

Slack can bring us persistence of chat, reducing catch up time and answering repeated questions, and provides a more friendly place than IRC for everyone to connect. At the end of the day I'm trying to read Loomio discussions and GitHub issues, but I can't help but feel like there's discussion going on elsewhere that I'm not a part of, despite trying. I think Slack is one of the best tools to fix all of the above and provide us a lot of extra niceties like deploy info, errors, easy GitHub issue creation, etc. Why did you team switch to Slack at work?


Ryan Fri 10 Oct 2014 8:17PM

Just serendipitously found this video from XOXO Festival. Bandcamp runs as a virtual company without an office and their co-founder makes a little mention in the video how they switched from IRC to Slack :)


Rory Aronson Fri 10 Oct 2014 9:38PM

I have not used slack before but some other Shuttleworth Foundation projects use it and love it. The one time I did use IRC, "netsplits" happened - basically ruined the meeting, and then I didn't realize that if I closed the window and came back a few hours later, there is no saved history :( Plus, IRC is pretty decrepit and rather user unfriendly IMHO.

I think it makes sense to use for real-time communication among the team, and I'd like to try it out.


Rory Aronson Sat 11 Oct 2014 2:08AM

I setup an account to try it out. It's really nice to use! I think it's better than Hangouts because others can see what is happening/catch up. It will certainly be for the core team only because one needs to be invited, but I think it will help us. I've sent out invites, feel free to pop in and try it out. We can evaluate if we want to continue with it in a few days?


[deactivated account] Sat 11 Oct 2014 2:30AM

An other open source tool that looks like it might have potential in the near future is heartbeat

It's based of of syncthing


Rory Aronson Sun 12 Oct 2014 3:55PM

For the record, we are currently trying out Slack for core contributor group communication. Loomio will still be used often for larger discussions with the community but was proving difficult to use for the core group for real-time communication, file sharing, organization, etc.

The Slack group is at http://openfarm.slack.com but one needs to be invited. Please send an email to me at rory@openfarm.cc with your name and email address so I can send you an invite! Everyone is welcome :)


Raymond Dallara Tue 15 Sep 2015 8:02AM

And how about if you had a simple task manager in Slack?


[deactivated account] Wed 16 Sep 2015 3:36PM

@raymonddallara Could you explain what you mean?

We've been using slack for about 11 months now - register at http://slack.openfarm.cc. Feel free to hop in there if you'd like to chat with one of us.


Helen Kane Thu 17 Sep 2015 12:39AM

Hey I was reading "Understanding the Open Source Developement Model" by the Linux foundation, and I found a section that might be helpful in this debate:

One of the major contributing factors to the success of the open source development model is its transparency, and ability to accommodate distributed collaboration among project teams.This is accomplished using communication methods that are accessible to all within the project community for strategic decision making, architecture discussions, and code reviews.

Mailing lists are one of the most commonly used communication channels because they are self-documenting, transparent, and typically anyone involved in the project can participate.

This includes end users, who may be monitoring the lists to understand future features as they evolve or to provide practical feedback. In addition to project mailing lists, many distributed teams use IRC for live discussion and meetings.

Because of its text-only nature, IRC is useful for design meetings and user support, especially when English is not the primary spoken language of all participants.


Rory Aronson Thu 17 Sep 2015 12:45AM

Hey thanks for the link Helen, and for chiming in here :)

We do have an IRC channel: #openfarm on freenode, though not too many people use it. It is linked up to our primary communication space though: Slack, which has been working well for us. Simon set up this cool thing where anyone can join our Slack group by going to this link: http://slack.openfarm.cc ( http://slack.openfarm.cc ). And of course, GitHub is a public space but its mostly used for software/technical discussions, whereas Slack is good for that plus business model, design, outreach, etc communications.


Andru Vallance Thu 17 Sep 2015 7:38AM

Just chiming in with a thought: the only time I get emails from Slack is when I get pinged by username or by @channel, and that's usually when I remember to check in on the Slack, by which time there's sometimes a bit too much detailed discussion to catch up on.The section of the text you posted regarding mail-lists chimes true, Helen.
On the one hand, I find mailing lists pretty clunky but, on the other, there are several projects I'm only occasionally involved with that I nonetheless feel very well connected to because I get the daily digests of discussions in my inbox. I usually scan the subject lines and just read those that interest me, but it certainly helps me keep up with what's going on, and from time to time there are things I jump in on which I would have otherwise missed.
On the other hand, they're clunky and can be confusing, but they certainly seem to satisfy a use case for those contributors on the fringe which Slack does not.

TLDR: Slack is a great tool for a core team to discuss, no doubt. But I think it might be letting us down in keeping fringe contributors (like me) up to date..


[deactivated account] Thu 17 Sep 2015 5:02PM

We could create something like a discus forum? Though doesn't Loomio serve the same role as a mailing list? Especially with the daily / weekly digest of topics? Loomio has kind of died down, and it's about as open as mailing lists, and a bit more navigable.

My issue with mailing lists is that they have a technical threshold that might intimidate people - have a look at this research article: http://people.csail.mit.edu/axz/mailinglists.html.

I wonder if there's a way to sensibly and automatically create a Slack newsletter. I've seen some slack channels that do this manually (I think), and send something out once a week. But I've been in charge of manually keeping track of things discussed in a chat room and it's no fun.

I totally understand both your concerns though Andru and Helen.

Some stray thoughts that encourage participation - a Facebook page. I don't use Facebook, so I have no idea, but as that article points out people like interacting with them. Maybe regularly post to Twitter or Facebook from our Slack channels? I realize those are also closed source platforms and tools, but if that's where our audience is hanging out...


Helen Kane Thu 17 Sep 2015 8:57PM

That's a great link simon, and it does bring up a lot of good points. Maybe to appease everyone you guys could set up a group to gather pertinent information from the Slack convos and post them in a weekly update to the mailing list.

That way, we wouldn't have to use mailing lists full time, because of their inherent downfalls, but we can use their good sides (keeping outsiders in the know). :)


[deactivated account] Sat 19 Sep 2015 9:52PM

In that case, does it make more sense to send out more regular emails to people subscribed to the email instead of setting up a mailing list (and having another venue for conversation)?

Though at the moment sending out emails costs us money (I think, @roryaronson?)


Rory Aronson Sat 19 Sep 2015 10:25PM

Yes, but a pretty small amount of money. I think it's worth the cost to help bring more people aboard/keep em informed and involved


Ryan Sun 20 Sep 2015 6:15AM

Emerges from the woodwork

From my understanding I think a simple monthly mailing list would do the trick. An old list serv not so much! modem sounds


Andru Vallance Sun 20 Sep 2015 8:40AM

If we have the resources to put towards a weekly/monthly newsletter that would probably be a huge help to fringe contributors. Hoodie (http://hood.ie ( http://hood.ie )) do a great job of this, doing a regular email roundup of project news, open issues which need attention, relevant community info, etc - I can forward on a copy of the latest to someone if we're interested in copying a successful format from a similarly small dev community.

I guess OpenFarm is still small enough that a core member knows what's going on, but I think CouchDB is worth a mention for their weekly community email where they send out an initial email each week to ask for newsworthy contributions from the community which a community organizer then compiles into the weekly news.


Andru Vallance Sun 20 Sep 2015 8:48AM

On the subject of cost of sending, it might be a good idea to try and set up a special contributors list so we're not paying to spam everyone who's registered interest with emails which might not be relevant to a large section of the list. I don't know what email service we use presently, but I'm guessing the size of the community interested in contributing to OpenFarm should be within MailChimp's free plan?


Rory Aronson Sun 20 Sep 2015 7:21PM

Yea we currently use Mailchimp. We have a list with 'everyone' on it (all Kickstarter backers, and everyone else who opts-in on member signup) I can make another list like you suggest. Or, we could just send out to everyone. I think its cool to keep the whole community engaged. You never know who might be signed up and not realize that we could use their help. Or people who have friends looking for a project to work on.

The emails can include 'stuff for everyone'. This week's new features/bugs, what we need help with, interesting news for the community, announcement of new blog posts, standout community members, etc. We can have simple calls to action for anyone who wants to learn more or get involved. (Links to github, slack, loomio, and the blog)

I was planning on throwing an email together soon to announce the member badge system anyways, so I can take a stab at making it a more well rounded email. Andru, can you forward me an example hoodie and couchDB email?


[deactivated account] Mon 21 Sep 2015 3:20PM

Rory, we currently have an email list for people interested in contributing - there's an optional sign up for that on the sign up flow. We can add an additional form at some other point though.

Do we have enough activity on a weekly basis to justify a weekly e-mail? What about bi-weekly?


Rory Aronson Mon 21 Sep 2015 4:41PM

Cool, I had forgotten about that. Yea maybe weekly is too much for now, though it's a goal we can work towards :)


Ryan Tue 22 Sep 2015 12:20AM

I saw MailChimp do a great thing recently (for their UX design list) where they basically said, "still like getting these emails? Click here to keep getting them. We're trying to be good email stewards." Could opt-in the whole list like that for the more minute and technical updates.


Rory Aronson Tue 22 Sep 2015 12:24AM

Yea I think we still want a list with 'everyone' on it. Though we can totally ask that list if they also want to subscribe to our 'team list'