Is Slack good for the community?

I stumbled upon a post from the Dgraph community which argues that Slack was actually harming their community:

From my perspective I tend to agree, because a lot of valuable knowledge is shared on Slack that is hard to search. Also, the medium of a forum is better suited to knowledge-sharing than char is. What do you think?


I hate web forums, I really do (despite my relatively high-level of participation here). I like mailing lists (and, no, Discourse does not work properly as an email list, IMO), and I like real-time chat.

I agree that the lack of searchable history on Slack is a problem – that’s why most channels are mirrored to the slack-archive stream in the Clojurians Zulip (which is free and fully searchable – and can be navigated entirely via the keyboard!) and also to the ClojureVerse log archives (not directly searchable as far as I can see?).

Many alternatives have been floated over the years – and they’re nearly all linked from the right-hand column of the Clojure subreddit – several of them have developed small but active Clojure communities, with the emphasis on small. Slack has, despite its many flaws, attracted the largest, most active community we’ve ever had for Clojure – so you can’t say it is “harming” the community in any meaningful way, as far as I’m concerned.

There have always been people who dislike Slack, some very intensely, and some are very vocal about it. They’re welcome to start and/or use any of the other community channels out there for Clojure. If anything starts to gain traction in a substantial manner, I’m sure folks would flock to it from Slack. So far, nothing has appeared that the majority of the community prefers over Slack. Go figure!

I’m one. Real time chat has been a pet hate of mine at least since the IRC heyday, and Slack in particular triggers painful workplace memories (second only to a pager …).

Yet having checked into Clojurians fairly often over the last couple of months, I’d be very hard-pressed to argue it’s bad for the community - on the contrary, there seems to be a level of civilised and useful discourse there not often seen.

It’s possible (and worthwhile) to disentangle personal tastes from this kind of judgement.

I guess it depends on your criterias.

Its probably not great for creating a searchable index of questions and answers. And that in turn might mean it’s bad for getting beginners on-board, which might hurt community growth.

But, for me it’s been great. I get to get immediate access to knowledgeable people that can answer my questions and work in real-time with me to solve my problems.

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I believe that most of the merit for Clojurians slack being so successful is the great job of the admin team maintaining everything so well organized and civilized. I have joined other slack channels from other programming languages communities and it quickly became a mess.

I am one of the people that don’t like chats. In the past I already searched by ‘everything person X said about Y’ and read it to find good ideas about problems/situations that I possibly would never face myself.

For me the quote from the dgraph post is very much true: Users tend to go to the same platforms where the experts 6 hang out.

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Simply use google site search would do, e.g. “ clojurescript core.async promise”

Right. I just meant there wasn’t a built-in search feature as far as I could see (and I thought there used to be, in an earlier version of the log web site).

Thank you. We’ve tried to ensure we have a global team so at least one member is “on deck” at all times to deal with spam, abuse, and so on. We also try to ensure everyone abides by the Code of Conduct there and we DM folks when we see a discussion escalating so that we can often nip things in the bud.

Slack provides the admin team with some great tools – which we use as a measure when looking at other platforms, and so far most of those have been found wanting, in one way or another.

But we also totally understand that there are people who prefer a more anarchic, less “managed” online community :slight_smile:

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There might have been a search box in the past, but pretty sure it just sent you to google. We could bring that back, happy to merge a PR if someone has some free cycles for that.

We do make an effort to be easily crawlable, and we pay attention to messages we get through google’s webmaster tools. For instance we recently added a sitemap, make sure we have proper <link rel=canonical ...> etc, so that hopefully results will come up when you’re simply googling a random problem.

I am grateful for and admire the amount of effort you have put into this community over the years. Your comment highlights what the amount of users on the Clujurians Slack also shows: That this community is well-served by a live chat system for the questions that do not necessarily go into building a knowledge base, or for the people who prefer the live chat medium.

I realise now that my post might have seemed inflammatory given the recent rise of “X considered harmful”. This was never my intention. I simply wanted to hear the thoughts of others on the subject, and failed to add proper reasoning to my own thoughts on the matter. Let me rectify that.

For me, live chat has always been problematic for any group of more than a couple people. There are two reasons for this. One is the (perhaps perceived) requirement to always be “on”. This results in a significant amount of stress for me, because I then never stop checking my phone/Slack/other and my mind keeps thinking about that instead of being in the present. This hurts not just me but my family and friends as well. The other reason is derived from that. There is a necessary element of control in being able to decide when I participate in discussion, and obviously live chat is not good at that, which is also why that is my least preferred medium.

So to rank the three mediums of live chat, forum and e-mail in my order of preference:

  1. Forum
  2. E-mail / mailing list
  3. Live chat

The reason why I put forum above e-mail is that mailing lists always seem like it should be more low-volume, and the threading can be harder to follow. But otherwise they are pretty close.

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I definitely hear you on the “always on” aspect of live chat, such as Slack. I know quite a few folks that just don’t like that. I tend to be “available” on Slack from about 9 am Pacific often to 11 pm Pacific because I’m always at either my desktop (work) or laptop (watching TV with my partner) – and I like the “social” aspect of live chat online. In fact, I get a little disappointed when there’s no one else online to chat to in the evenings :slight_smile:

This is why I think it’s great that Clojure has managed to foster so many viable communities, from the original IRC channels and Google mailing lists to Slack, Zulip, ClojureVerse, Reddit, and so on. Something for every taste and style.

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