Some thoughts on Alex Nedelcu’s post about the Scala community moving from Gitter to Discord.
While Discord may not be the best choice, Gitter doesn’t cut it. It is primitive, lacking, and plain absurd. Unless you are on Gitter 24/7, it is hardly usable as a chat application. AFAIK there is no mobile app. Like Discord, Gitter too requires you to log in to take part in the discussions.
Gitter is definitely ideal for bootstrapping your community. When the community grows, citizens expect sophistication. They are not wrong, which is when you move out of Gitter. There are many such instances to support the case; although I don’t know if that is the case for Scala and Typelevel communities. Perhaps, a Gitter client with features in vogue might be helpful.
Here are some reasons I think Discord (or any such platform) is surviving, rather flourishing:
- Less friction, unlike Matrix / Element, which might be easy if you are into that kind of thing.
- Features (e.g., threads) that are relatable to an average user (of a chat platform) because high probability they use Slack or the sort already (at work or elsewhere)
- Users are already using Discord for other communities (esp. other than programming)
- Multiplatform application support. AFAIK, Gitter does not have a mobile app.
Chat is not intended only to be real-time/synchronous; at least not all the time. Chat is a mechanism to persist and continue conversations, although not archaic like email. It is real-time only if the parties conversing are online. Considering it real-time only limits its purpose and application.
That said, chats are like running stream of information and discussions. The information is not ephemeral but prone to be hot only for the moment. This is true for any chat platform.
While Gitter can be indexed by search engines is definitely good, how many of those searches will answer particular questions is not definitive. Stackoverflow has a higher chance for such cases.
Unless we persist a certain discussion and its outcome as part of the documentation, it is not going to be accessible for future users, irrespective of whether the chat platform supports links to discussions.
What surprises me with the Scala community on Discord is that they do not want to use threads. They say that interleaved discussions are not confusing. But threads are. At least, that is what I remember them saying. Essentially, they do not prefer threads and do not consider them necessary for a community of ongoing, ever-growing discussions. I found it difficult to jump across messages and replies to chain a conversation.
I agree with the concern of Discord being a closed platform; its privacy practices, and concerns around it. I wish there were something other than Discord that everyone approved.
In any case, the focus is Scala, and is the one that my heart goes out for. Discord or other tools come and go.
I have huge respect for Alex as a person and his contributions to the Scala ecosystem. So, this post is not against anything he said in his post. But just a capture of what struck my mind when I saw Gitter, Discord etc. with regards to Scala. ↩︎
Call it subjective. Just usable is not user-friendly. ↩︎