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An instantaneous chat platform for the ROS community

I have been thinking about setting up a matrix server if nobody else does it by next week.

After one of the more popular matrix client’s available, riot.im , announced there first 1.0 release, I went ahead and connected OSRF directly to reserve and hold down a namespace on the largest free matrix hosting server. See Riot’s 1.0 announcement here:

We conducted a dry run, creating a matrix community for rosorg to host multiple rooms (like channels) under a cohesive community (like an organization). More info on matrix communities here:

We tested @user mentions, direct messing, archive visibility, VoIP, and integration with the Riot’s web and desktop clients. It all seemed to work quite well; p2p latency was small, and video/audio resolution/frame rate where smooth), including screen sharing and group in-call management. Overall, I was quite pleased.
:star: :star: :star: :star: :star:

Others still had some reservations in that the administration and user moderation setting where not as feature compete as those in Discord’s product, e.g. hearchal delegations of sub-admin privileges. I can’t compare given I’ve not yet used the either admin panels, yet I’m not so sure this would be much of a road block given the level of developer activity and user adoption rates, these features could be integrated:

Last we met, it seemed OSRF was still inclined towards falling back on the old ICR channel on freenode. Given the level of community engagement and user adoption is had over the years, I don’t think IRC would be likely to change its spots soon. Some of the pros/cons for IRC off the top of my head:

  • pros:
    • Open Standard & Protocol
      • Unlike Discord, users can choose from a number of available and possible open source clients to join a network. Discord seem to include some ToS that terminates user accounts of those caught using non-native discord clients software.
      • https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17462138
    • Low barrier to entry
      • Users don’t have to sign up for a potential subscription model free/paid plan options to follow the community, while user authentication is still possible for trusted participation.
  • cons:
    • Few user friendly features
      • IRC was designed for a previous era, where current web tech/crypto was still relatively in its infancy. Sure there are lots TUI integrations and clients, but they make little use of modern designs and UX.
    • Limited visibility
      • Users must be perpetually logged into a channel to receive @pings or ealy catch up on previous discussions. Chasing IRC logs from botbot.me (currently down) is a subpar workaround for usability, and inhibits spontaneously jumping into ongoing discussions just after joining.

To me, matrix seems to solve a lot of those cons while retaining many of the pros, and reminds me much of in the way old email lists have evolved into active discussion forums; in much the same way we’ve grown from mailman to discourse:
http://lists.ros.org/mailman/listinfo/ros-users --> https://discourse.ros.org

It seem like we could just as well evolve from IRC to Matrix, while also not breaking backward compatibility (for those who are still active there), like we did with integrating the discourse topics to mirror back to mailman threads. If desired, we could just as well bridge matrix with IRC (or Discord and whatever else if warranted) via matrix’s bridging integrations:

We did discuss this topic in our most recent ROS 2 TSC meeting. The forthcoming minutes from that meeting have more details, but I would summarize the consensus as a combination of the following:

  • What we do now isn’t perfect but seems to work OK. Perhaps we should focus on being more explicit early and often in communicating about designs for new features. We can do this using existing tools.
  • Let’s not introduce a new chat tool as an official comms channel because nobody needs yet another thing to check.
  • However, there’s value in migrating certain technical / design discussions to a chat system on demand. For that purpose, it’s not clear which is the best choice; for all its failings IRC still gets the job done in many situations.
  • There could be value in doing a regular call, perhaps called “office hours”, in which the core dev team communicates to whomever’s listening about what’s currently going on in the project, and then takes questions from folks. It would not be a forum for collecting TODOs for the core dev team. The Cartographer Open House was offered as a model to follow.

It doesn’t sound like we’ll setup any service, but honestly I think groups in riot.im (matrix) are very frustrating because (AFAICT) you cannot share permissions between channels. In general it’s just not as nice to use as a discord server if you have more than one or two channels, which means you’re more likely to put all conversations in one or a few channels which isn’t ideal. In discord can have many channels in a server and if you grant someone permissions in the server, then it can apply to any number of the channels. In matrix, again AFAIK, you need to add permissions to each channel separately for a user.

Matrix is definitely better than IRC, but in my opinion it’s still inferior to discord, not due to the quality of, or number of features in, the client, but from a conceptual standpoint. I understand why matrix did their design that way, and it may be the best open standard option out there, but there are a lot of benefits to the way discord organizes its concepts.

Again, kind of a moot point as there doesn’t seem to be interest in changing anything in this space officially.

Freenode runs a bridge. I just tried it out with another channel I manage on Freenode, and it works flawlessly. From a matrix.org (riot.im) account, join this room and the bridge will just do its thing:

#freenode_#ros:matrix.org

They call them “communities” for anyone doing a search.

Communities appear to be a relatively new feature. They do the job, but they kinda suck from a management perspective and from a UI perspective. It’s hard to find the place to add rooms to a community in the UI, rooms are added to communities rather than communities containing rooms, etc. They’ve made the room the top-level entity rather than the community and this has had significant flow-on effects for the management of things.

Looks like riot already has plans for addressing this:

I’m not entirely sure. One of the linked blogs still talks about communities having a mix of community rooms and global rooms, which implies they are not going to change the hierarchy, and in turn that we will not necessarily get easy-to-manage permissions for a bunch of rooms.

That’s exactly the difference I was talking about, you just put it much better than me :slight_smile:

Question: what speaks against Discord?

It has a proprietary protocol and client, though they do use some open source libraries to produce it according to their website (https://discordapp.com/open-source).

The only other thing I can think of is that they have a sizable investment from TenCent which is a China based company that has taken a lot of flak for being involved in censorship within China, see recent uproar about it w.r.t. investment in reddit.com: https://techcrunch.com/2019/02/12/tencent-reddit-nononono/

On the other hand, many companies have investment from them and they do not have a controlling investment in discord either, and there is no censorship for discord as far as I know, but is presumably possible.

Those are the only reasons I can think of not to use discord.

A discord server is available at -> http://rosdiscord.com

Maybe I’m a bit late in this conversation, but here is a suggestion of a tool that was made exactly for that purpose of instant messaging over an open-source projet, with the ability of saving and accessing useful conversations:

I discovered it when ApolloGraphql chose to move away from Slack in the favor of Spectrum, after considering “tools like Discourse, Discord, Gitter, etc…” :

In a nutshell, it is

“a nice blend between realtime communication and threaded forum like discussion”

with some advantages:

  • free and open-source
  • has long-lived channel history (as opposed to Slack)
  • accessible to search engines crawlers: you can find Spectrum discussions from a Google search
  • it also means that you don’t need to have an account, as opposed to Discord or Slack
  • easily searchable: if the discussion you’re interested in already took place, you’ll find it

Here is Apollo’s Spectrum chat if you want to see how it is: Apollo’s Spectrum

Recent, related discussions in the Rust community:

To add to the discussion that @wjwwood points out, here is a link to the genesis topic form Rust Internals that gives some more background. I linked to a particular comment regarding accessibility issues with Discord, as for others in the community with disabilities (also discussed in the reddit thread above) this has been a long standing barrier with Discord.

Hi all, this thread seems to have a lot of suggestions and discussion but from what I can tell it doesn’t seem to reach a decision. Is there an official chat platform for ROS? If so I’d like to start a navigation2 channel.

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The current consensus seems to remain IRC

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OK, a couple questions:

  • What servers / channels are being used?
  • Is there a recommended web based IRC client?

#ros on Freenode is the place - I don’t think there’s been enough chatter to warrant multiple channels to date.

http://wiki.ros.org/Get%20Involved#IRC

The Freenode web client works well
I am personally using Riot web client to connect, it’s also got mobile clients which is nice (note: channel name through Riot is #freenode_#ros:matrix.org) - thanks @ruffsl for the suggestion, it works really well

Also I connected successfully on the first try using HexChat native client on Linux - which is much more than I can say for most IRC clients I have tried

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IRC (#ros on freenode) is still the default, as @emersonknapp said. The TSC discussed it and it seems that nothing will be changed:

Though there are several unofficial ones now, including a discord server, I believe it was posted above.

Unfortunately IRC is kind of a dead end now (in my opinion) since the bot we used to have which posted the chat history online is now defunct. So if your client isn’t online 24/7 your likely to miss parts of the conversation.

Ironically discourse was in read-only mode when I was trying to reply and could only use our internal slack ask why :stuck_out_tongue:

logging an irc channel should be a solvable problem.