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Before I explain why I don’t like Slack anymore I would like to make clear that this estimation is only valid for public slacks. For closed communities with up to appr. 50 people it is one of the best tools that are around.

History

About two or three years ago Sean Campbell from GB created the unofficial OpenUI5 slack. At the beginning I was thrilled cause this was a really easy way for exchanging problems, ideas and other things around UI5. At that time SAP Community was in the process of change. The old SDN wasn’t really very usable anymore. The new community (I think it came a bit later than the Slack) was also not usable at that time.

Slack was and is something in between WhatsApp, email and SAP PI.

When I joined the group we were appr. 30-50 fellows who knew each other in person to a high degree. So it was a perfect platform to stay in contact in an unobtrusive way. The communication with those platforms is easy. You just write short messages without an official form (subject, salutation, signature) and others can answer in realtime. The app integration feature also sounded fantastic. Unfortunately we haven’t really used it widely.

At this point in time it was really fun to be part of this group. We had some fruitful discussions. We were a community with great ideas how to influence SAP resp. their products from outside.

When the group grew we realized that we needed more channels to filter content and discussions. When it grew further we realized that people not only talked about UI5 but also about other topics. So new channels and even new Slacks, e.g. hanacloudplatform, were created. But some people didn’t want to join another Slack and discussion about those non-UI5 topics continued in the UI5 Slack. Then there was a time we introduced moderators. That’s not a bad idea in general but moderators have to moderate. Cause lot’s of us are consultants and don’t have time to always be online this didn’t also really work very well.

My complains

In the meantime the UI5 slack has about 2.500 members and for me it became almost useless. I’m still online from time to time to show that I’m still alive but I have massive problems to follow all the discussions. Cause members often don’t use threads it’s even harder to follow. To a large degree discussions are no discussions any longer but people use it as a support platform where they get helped by experienced consultants in nearly real time.

Besides this “misuse” of the original idea I in the meantime faced the following drawbacks.

  • Slack is a closed community. You have to register for it to get in contact with other members and get information
  • You cannot google for content (cause it’s closed)
  • You cannot send links to certain discussions to your fellows. They first have to register.
  • Even though Slack has introduced threads in the meantime you are not forced to use them. So discussions often happen in the channels main stream.
  • People use nicknames. One should use nicknames in games or platforms where you want to be anonymous. In a business environment I want my fellows to know my real name and I want to know the real name of them.
  • The UI5 Slack was created for OpenUI5. As the name says OpenUI5 should be open, but Slack is closed. Don’t we want to spread the community discussions to the whole world to make OpenUI5 more prominent?

In addition to these drawbacks the free Slack is limited

  • to the number of users (max. 9000) and
  • to the number of topics (max.10.000)

The alternatives

You now may ask which alternatives there are and I have to admit that I don’t have a universal answer. But there are some alternatives that at least I rate better than slack.

spectrum.chat

The first platform I want to mention is spectrum.chat.
Spectrum is a quite new but very promising platform. It’s public, doesn’t have serious limits in the free version and forces users to work thread based.
I recently created an OpenUI5 channel on spectrum to replace Slack. See the reason for this here. Unfortunately only a few people were interested in a change and there are almost no discussions yet. Maybe this blog attracts some more members.

SAP Community

SAP Community is of course THE platform for problem solving in the SAP hemisphere. Like Stackoverflow it has a questions and answers section but also a blog area.

Stackoverflow

We all know Stackoverflow. It’s great for solving problems and there is a small UI5 community there as well  but the first place to discuss problems is SAP Community.

Gitter.im

Gitter.im is a public and open alternative to Slack. I don’t know much details about it but many other communities meet at Gitter.

Others

There are of course a lot of other communication platforms around but I don’t know any of these deeper. Maybe one of the readers has a great recommendation.

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4 Comments

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  1. sean campbell

    I completely agree with you. It has become a victim of its own success and whilst there are very few members contributing still the channels quickly become cluttered with questions and answers, this was never the intention when we started this, as you said we all knew each other to come degree.

    Were we go from here as a community needs to be more open as you say it would be great to have a searchable chat log.

    Strange that you mention Gitter as when I was originally setting up the Slack group that is where I looked, opting to go with slack as thats what we used at bluefin internally and I didnt want numerous apps. I have been absent from Slack for a few months and getting back on there everything seems to have become cluttered, the conversations are hard to follow and keeping track of old information is impossible as any message over 10000 is deleted, this happens alot when you have so many channels.

    Spectrum looks very good, I will join up there and see if we cant tempt a few of the original instigators from OpenUI5 Slack across. I would love to get the community feel back. Some channels like the UI5 lab seem to be getting this right.

    Thanks for the feedback

    (1) 
    1. Helmut Tammen Post author

      Hi guy,
      thanks for your agreement. Would be really great to have you at spectrum site. If we can motivate some more key players from slack to move there it might become the new place for great SAP discussions :-).

      (0) 
  2. Christian Graff

    Hi Helmut,

    I agree with you, too. I’ve seen the slack channel as a kind of exclusive place where one can find help and exchange for bigger / harder problems and to keep informed about next innovations. This is also the reason why I was always strived to do an unobstrusive conversation on slack. In parts it still works (see e.g. ui5 tooling or ui5 lab) and it also is a big advantage to have the webide support close to your side. But I more and more loose the focus, discussions are mixed in the main thread and (imho) some questions are told too fast / wrongheaded and the 10k message limit kills interesting discussions.

    So in summary I’ll give spectrum.chat a chance and join the channel.

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    1. Helmut Tammen Post author

      Hi Christian,

      we already had contact at spectrum.chat. It’s great to have you there.
      Currently we are about 25 people there. That’s not much but these 25 people were and are key members at Slack. So I’m sure that we will have some great discussion over there in the future.

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