Chat service for the TA community - volunteers wanted



Our slack channel has been a big success, with almost a thousand participants and a lot of great discussions.

Unfortunately it has one glaring problem – there’s a lot of great information there which scrolls off into oblivion. We can save important conversations today using the \discourse post command, which is very useful – but not as useful as being able to search for a conversation from a week ago.

So, it’d be a good idea to see if we can find a slack alternative that has the immediacy and mobile-friendly UI of slack, but doesn’t charge a per-month-per-user fee for archiving.

There are several free or almost-free alternatives that are worth considering. Here are some of the alternatives that have been suggested:

  • Zulip – used by the Python community, and free to open source groups. We’ll need to figure out if we qualify
  • Mattermost – very similar to Slack, but can be self hosted. We should be able to do this for about $20/mo using our existing hosting setups
  • Rocket Chat Another slack-like that can be self hosted.
  • Discord – free, not clear how long their archives extend or how long they’ll be able to stay free. Lots of people already have the client.
  • – another self-hostable one, with encryption

There almost certainly others too.

It would be great for the community if we could get some volunteers to check these out and report back with pros / cons and practical advice to help us choose between them. We’d want to get a sense of…

  1. If we’d have to self-host or not. A free cloud service would be ideal, but might not exist.
  2. Can we get free or low-cost hosting as a nonprofit?
  3. What’s are the self-hosting requirements? And is the admin something we can handle?
  4. Hows the UX and UI, and are there good mobile clients

So – who wants to help out?


I think discord is the best among them.


FWIW now seems to point at the github repo for a slack archiving tool. We could try to set up a server running that to keep our history alive, though we’d still need to pay for storage and hosting of that.


Another one, this time based on blockchain: Keybase



We had an in-house Rocket Chat server which was pretty close to the Slack experience. Setup is pretty easy as we used the Docker image. Windows client is pretty polished and stable. You could host it on AWS or similar cloud based service.
The only thing to look into would be backing up the MongoDB database it relies on.


Does anybody have a linux or OS server with a fixed IP we could use to try a test of Mattermost?


I don’t have that, but why not use a cheap cloud instance?


We currently pay for our web hosting using donations, so we don’t have much spare cash for a cloud server. We’re actually finishing up the process of incorporation so we can be – potentially at least – tax deductible. But right now, no spare bucks :slight_smile:


Makes sense! I’ll let you know if I can come up with anything.


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