Reconsider Slack for HF?

I know these things tend to spiral into long, unproductive, subjective threads, but I would, humbly, like to propose Matrix instead of Slack for the Haskell Foundation.

The biggest downside of Matrix is the preeminence of the Web/Electron client. But of course Slack has that same problem.

Over in Nix land we had a long and contentious debate (actually it happened by fiat and then was post-hoc ratified but uhhhh ignore that). I think the results are pretty good.

  • I like IRC integration — especially important for Haskell where we still have official IRC channels, and a legacy of IRC being the last time chat was “unified” in the Haskell community.
  • I like having all the projects I contribute to being in one place. Matrix Spaces allows a slack-like / discord-server curation of channels without the walls of a tenancy silo. That’s curation without having to keep track of the user map between projects (like Discord, unlike Slack).

I think either the HF or official mirrors of #ghc #haskell IRC channels would be good places to start trying this out. Conversely, I don’t think asking the discord servers to try out Matrix is a good place to start, because the extend ones (to my knowledge) intend to be communities within the community, not official or quasi-official channels.


To be honest, the activity in HF Slack is pretty low, so it could just use this very instance of Discourse and do not multiply entities.


Hehe fair point. Officially retiring the slack would also meet the goal of having 1 fewer things I feel like I ought to check. But maybe also Slack is just bad for this and if it was something like people would use it more.

Since I am already using Matrix for other things, I can selfishly say “well sure, I am already checking it, so let’s try it out and see if the amount of chat picks up”. But if a quorum (whatever that looks like) of people are interested in there being more chat than today, already using Matrix, or otherwise interested run seeing an official Haskell (Foundation) Matrix space, maybe such an experiment would still make sense.


I think it was set up to give more of a company-ish feeling and more familiar to industry-users, which is one of the primary interest groups?

I’m not a big fan, but I can see why that might be part of the image.

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For what it’s worth, I am also not a fan of relying Slack in an open-source community. While my experiences with Matrix have been mixed, I agree that it’s better than Slack.


I assume you are being a bit tongue in cheek, but yes I don’t think the HF needs to use tools “inappropriate for open source” (to paraphrase @bgamari) to “pander to corporate vibes” or anything. Maybe because of who was involved early in it was a sort of reflexive choice, but so far no one has stepped up saying it should continue to be the way it is, so I remaining optimistic we can stop using it :).

I think the HF is currently in the process of selecting a new CEO, so I’d personally wait and see what opinions and ideas that person brings to the table. It’s probably a better idea to redefine communication channels once that has settled?

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I’m with @hasufell here. I hope to have an announcement about the new ED in just a few days, but the change to our chat platform is unforced and may as well wait.

For what it’s worth, my recollection is that we tried a number of tools, and Slack was where people showed up. I distinctly do not think there was a move toward Slack because of its “corporate vibe”.


Yeah I don’t mean to force a decision at all. Waiting for the new ED sounds perfectly fine. Just trying to get the idea out there so it is “queued up” to be dealt with.

I agree that it is appropriate for the dust to settle on the new ED before making a change.

That said, I will share my point of view. Firstly, I strongly to prefer us to use open source platforms. Secondly, to my recollection we started on Zulip and then some people who were heavily involved in the HF at that time expressed a strong preference for Slack, so we moved to Slack (despite my advocating for an open source platform). Some of those people are still around and using the Slack, some are not.


As much as I much prefer Free and Open Source technology, and as much I as like Matrix, it lacks a key feature that is very handy to help with the quality of the conversation: notifications via emails. This helps tremendously with people who are not riveted to their phone or PC, and even those who are might find it pleasant to give contents shared via the official HF’s channels a special sort of visibility.

Also, I am not convinced the contents posted to Matrix have good searchability or visiblility.

For these reasons, I think Mattermost might be a better alternative than Matrix. Then the channels would like something like this:

  • these forums for everything that does not require live conversations
  • Mattermost for work groups and for everything for which these forums don’t work well.

I have never tried it, but I have an e-mail notification setting on element for android and element desktop. The FAQ also says:

How do I set up email notifications?

You can set Element up to email you when you have missed some activity (new messages, new invites…). You can do this in the Notification section of your Settings and turn on the toggle labelled as ‘Enable email notifications’.

My view is I oppose using commercial services (especially unpaid ones) when there is strong possibility of vendor-lock. Sometimes it can’t be helped, but overall it can create dangerous situations. However, I don’t think there is substantial vendor lock in chat clients. If one raises fees or embarks on some unfortunate monetization tactics, the cost to switch is not too arduous. Which is to say that I really don’t mind slack, and don’t worry too much about it being proprietary, in the scheme of things.

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Well, the argument can be turned upside down: there is no reason to use Slack when you can use Mattermost instead since only the latter is FOSS, so that you avoid from the get-go the risk of a forced migration if Slack starts doing weird things.

Thanks, I will test this, however I think it just pushes the problem further (people have to use Android or iOS to get email notifications).

Another reason I much prefer Mattermost / Slack over Matrix is that you can easily create subchannels / rooms, assign tasks, create groups, etc. For anything that remotely resembles work this is much, much better than Matrix / IRC. And I do think that collaboration and onboarding would greatly benefit from the clarity that Mattermost / Slack bring to the table.

At the end of the day I think all we need is a FOSS “accelerated Discourse”, and that’s exactly what Mattermost is.

I mentioned android because it was all I had access to at the moment, but I see now that it is also present on desktop. I believe these notifications are actually sent from the server hosting your matrix identity, so then it wouldn’t require your phone or computer to be turned on all the time.

The recent “spaces” feature of matrix mentioned in the original post also makes it easy to organize multiple subrooms and teams.

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Okay now that I have turned on the feature from my phone I see it enabled on the desktop app. I didn’t see it there before, though.

But that does not change the fact that it will be much easier to transition from Slack to Mattermost than to Matrix, be it only because of the similarity between the first two, as they share many “work-flow” related features absent from Matrix.

Really Matrix / IRC might compete with instant messaging services like Telegram or Discord but at best they limp behind Slack / Mattermost for any non-trivial form of collaboration.

On option no one has mentioned is discord. It works nicely for a lot of communities. The rust community is largely on discord.

Unlike slack where you need to pay for message history, you don’t need to do that on discord.

HF Slack is not open for anyone, right?

Nope. its wide open. Contacting the Haskell Foundation