Why tech groups can use Slack for free but open source projects and businesses of any size shouldn’t

The main problem I saw was the 10,000 message limit for free users. That may not seem like a big deal but it can be. For example, one group that uses it is Launch School, a great software development school with a huge focus on mastery. I got into some really great discussions with a particular user (and a group of users) but after about two weeks all those discussions were completely wiped out due to the 10,000 message limit.

This might seem like more of an issue for larger groups but even small groups run into this issue. I also do sub-contracting for a company that uses Slack, and there is a only single digit number of users. We’ve run into the limit and now we’re losing institutional knowledge every time a new post is made.

This last example is partly my fault as I’m the one that encouraged use of and even setup Slack for that company in the first place. I read articles at that time, about 4 years ago when Slack was pretty new, that open source projects should stay away from Slack due to this limit as they saw this issue right away when they tried to use it.

I figured that a small company with a handful of users would be fine with 10,000 messages. I was wrong. 10,000 messages isn’t even enough for one user. It’s a number that sounds big, but it’s not, not if it is used every day.

For the Slack groups that are more of a virtual tech community, the ephemeral nature of this Slack could be considered a feature rather than a bug. Like a virtual water cooler it may just be place to hang out rather than something that needs to be preserved.

So this is why tech groups can get away with using Slack for free. It is just a place to hang out, chat, network and maybe learn something. However, if you are building something like an open source project or are a business it doesn’t make sense to throw away institutional knowledge with every new message past 10,000.

Ok, so what should businesses or open source projects use instead? Discord is a pretty good drop-in replacement. I have seen some forward-thinking tech groups use it but most of them seem to shy away because Discord is for gamers. I don’t know why it is for gamers. It seems to work fine for non-gamers. I have never used it for gaming or gaming discussion and I probably never will.

I’m not the first person to figure this out. It seems open source projects have as well, so much so that some major ones such as Redux and GraphQL are using it. Discord even supports and endorses this usage as they have a whole page dedicated to listing out other projects and how open source projects are using Discord here.

It works just as well as Slack but it is so much better because every message over 10,000 on Discord doesn’t delete your 10,000 oldest message. Yes, I am aware that Slack doesn’t actually delete the messages and you can get access to all of the messages in your history if you start paying for it. But all the groups that I see using Slack for free are never going to pay for it and so those messages are effectively deleted from the user’s point of view.

Lastly, I should note that Discord does share one common glaring issue with Slack. It is closed-source so there is always the possibility of the whole thing going down and taking all of your data with it. I think users concerned with this sort of thing wouldn’t have been using Slack in the first place though. However, there are some nice-looking open source alternatives to Discord that I haven’t used but I’ve seen good things about.

The usual downside of open source chat programs is that they are generally self-hosted which means it is a server you need maintain creating more work for you. Slack users are usually looking for something requiring a bit less maintenance.

Here are good three options I found which are hosted AND open-source:

Rocket.chat seems good because it open source but also looks to have a nice hosted option that is a lot cheaper that Slack. It also has a lot of stars on Github and looks like it have been very actively developed over the last three years. It’s also developed on top of the Meteor platform which I’m a fan of.

Riot.im is the other open source chat program that looks interesting as it made using Matrix which is “an open network for secure, decentralized communication.” So it not just open source but using an open, decentralized protocol, cool. Also, they say it is free with not limits on features, group size or usage for public and private rooms. But they also say that paid plans are coming soon so I don’t know if the free without limits will last forever. A good project to keep an eye on.

Spectrum.chat is the last one, it is web only so it is bit more like a forum that looks like Slack but it has free unlimited open channels. Private channels are also only $10/month. The per channel pricing (for private channels) makes a lot more sense for tech communities than Slack’s per user.

Finally, one good option for free businesses and open source projects that really want to stick with Slack:

SlackArchive.io is an interesting solution to the original 10,000 message limit problem. It appears to have stopped working recently as it was run by one guy and didn’t have a sustainable business model:

The good news is that has been open sourced now as the creator of SlackArchive.io promised. Bad news means that you will probably need to host it yourself. However, if you really want to stick with Slack this may be a good solution.

Israel, This Is Not Who We Are

Orthodoxy should be respected, but we cannot allow the politics of a radical minority to alienate millions of Jews worldwide.

.. Last month, a Conservative rabbi was detained for the alleged crime of performing a non-Orthodox wedding ceremony in Israel. In several municipalities, attempts were made to disrupt secular life by closing convenience stores on the Sabbath.

These events are creating the impression that the democratic and egalitarian dimensions of the Jewish democratic state are being tested.

.. For 4,000 years, the Jewish people were seen as the world’s moral compass.

.. The Zionist movement has been unwaveringly democratic from its very start. Writ large upon its flag were liberty, equality and human rights for all. It was also one of the very first national movements to guarantee full equality and voting rights for women.

.. Its Declaration of Independence guarantees “complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex,” as well as a guarantee of freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture.

..now, when Israel’s government appears to be tarnishing the sacred value of equality, many supporters feel it is turning its back on Jewish heritage, the Zionist ethos and the Israeli spirit

.. In Israel, it will

  • heighten the sense of polarization and discord. Abroad,
  • Israel may find itself associated with a broken values system and questionable friends.

As a result, future leaders of the West may become hostile or indifferent to the Jewish state.

.. For over 200 years, modern Judaism has aligned itself with enlightenment. The Jews of the new era have fused our national pride and religious affiliation with a dedication to human progress, worldly culture and morality.

.. when members of Israel’s current government unintentionally undermine the covenant between Judaism and enlightenment, they crush the core of contemporary Jewish existence.

.. Already today, the main challenge facing the Jewish diaspora is a deep — and deepening — generational divide. All over the world, and especially in North America, Jewish millennials are raising doubts that their parents and grandparents never raised. The commitment to Israel and Jewish institutions is not unconditional.

.. If present trends persist, young Jews might not acquiesce to an affiliation with a nation that discriminates against

  • non-Orthodox Jews,
  • non-Jewish minorities and the
  • L.G.B.T. community.

They may not

  • fight the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement, they may not
  • support Israel in Washington and they may not
  • provide it with the strategic rear guard that Israel so needs.

.. Let us not forget: A vast majority of the world’s Jews do not identify as Orthodox. They are traditional, secular, Conservative, Reform or completely unaffiliated. Orthodoxy should be respected, but we cannot allow the politics of a radical minority to alienate millions of Jews worldwide.

.. This is not who we are, and this is not who we wish to be. This is not the face we want to show our children, grandchildren and the family of nations.

‘The Russians Have Succeeded Beyond Their Wildest Expectations’

Former intelligence chief James Clapper says President Trump is dead wrong about Russian interference in America’s elections. And they’re going to get away with it again, he warns.

.. “I mean, the Russians succeeded, I believe, beyond their wildest expectations. Their first objective in the election was to sow discontent, discord and disruption in our political life, and they have succeeded to a fare-thee-well. They have accelerated, amplified the polarization and the divisiveness in this country, and they’ve undermined our democratic system. They wanted to create doubt in the minds of the public about our government and about our system, and they succeeded to a fare-thee-well.”

“They’ve been emboldened,” he added, “and they will continue to do this.”

.. Trump’s rhetoric is “downright scary and disturbing,” Clapper agonized in an extraordinary monologue on live TV in August, amid Trump’s “fire and fury” threats toward North Korea. He questioned Trump’s “fitness for office” and openly worried about his control over the nuclear launch codes. In our conversation, Clapper didn’t back off one word of it, slamming Trump’s lies, “distortions and untruths.”

.. And he is certainly no liberal partisan: just ask Democrats like Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, who excoriated Clapper for what appeared to be misleading a Senate committee about the intelligence community’s surveillance of private U.S. citizens, information later revealed by Edward Snowden’s disclosures. (His testimony was “a big mistake,” Clapper now says, but not “a lie.”

..  a tough-minded former Air Force lieutenant general who once said, “I never met a collection capability I didn’t like.”

.. “It’s a very painful thing for me to be seen as a critic of this president,” he told me, “but I have those concerns.”

.. what he did when then-President-elect Trump first started attacking the intelligence community’s Russia findings. He didn’t publicly blast Trump—he called him on the phone.

.. more significant Russian arms-control violations of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty. “If you look at what Russia is trying to do to undermine us, and the modernization of their strategic nuclear forces—and they only have one adversary in mind when they do that

.. appearing to lecture Americans on why only that small percentage of citizens who have served in the military could understand the nature of their sacrifice.

.. He took particular issue with White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ comment that Kelly’s word about the congresswoman should not be second-guessed because he had been a four-star general, a remark Clapper called “absurd.”

.. worried about the Trump era as the new age of militarized government, not only with Kelly as chief of staff but also a sitting lieutenant general, H.R. McMaster, as national security adviser, and a former general, James Mattis, as defense secretary. Clapper said that while he has “a visceral aversion” to generals “filling these political, civilian positions,” he’s nonetheless “glad they’re there.”

.. he fears that “some of this intemperate, bellicose rhetoric” between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un could lead to a “cataclysmic” war.

The risk, he said, came primarily from Kim miscalculating as a result of Trump’s heated words.

.. “Kim Jong Un doesn’t have any advisers that are going to give him objective counsel. He’s surrounded by medal-bedecked sycophants, who dutifully follow him around like puppy dogs with their notebooks open, ascribing his every utterance, and pushing back against the great leader is not a way to get ahead,” Clapper said. “And so I do wonder what Kim Jong Un’s ignition point is, when some insult that’s been hurled at him by the president will just ignite him.”

.. The 25th Amendment that people bring up is a very, very high bar for removal, and appropriately so. And if that were to happen—and let’s just say for the sake of discussion there were an impeachment, even less likely a conviction—all that would serve to do is heighten the polarization and the divisiveness, because the base will never accept that, and that would just feed the conspiracy theories.”

Another Republican Call to Arms, but Who Will Answer?

In a stunning one-two assault, Mr. Corker of Tennessee, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Mr. Flake took on the president in terms rarely, if ever, heard from members of a sitting president’s party.

Mr. Corker, who has been feuding with the man he once contemplated serving as vice president, accused Mr. Trump of serial lying and debasing the office.

“We must never regard as normal the regular and casual undermining of our democratic norms and ideals, we must never meekly accept the daily sundering of our country,” Mr. Flake said.

.. But Mr. Corker, Mr. Flake and Mr. McCain remain the outliers.

.. Mr. McConnell left his lunch with Mr. Trump and members of the caucus to emphasize the issues that bind congressional Republicans to Mr. Trump and play down the divisions underscored by Mr. Flake and Mr. Corker.

.. They have been willing to look past some actions and pronouncements by Mr. Trump that they consider beneath a president in hopes of pushing into law some of their long-sought goals, the most important of which are tax cuts. And with no substantial legislative achievements so far, the party is all in on a tax overhaul, recognizing that failure to deliver one will be a political disaster. That necessity ties them tightly to Mr. Trump, at least for now.