Request for experiences with Zulip

As discussed in this previous thread, the moderation team is investigating Zulip as an alternative to Slack for the Elm community. If you’ve used Zulip, especially in a larger team, we’d like to hear about your experience. The most helpful things would look like this:

  • I tried Zulip in such-and-such a context, and found these things helpful but these unhelpful.
  • I have participated in an open source project that uses Zulip, and this is how it helped or hindered discussion around the project.

I’m especially interested in ways you’ve noticed conversations flow—is “topics for everything” a big barrier to entry to discussion? Do you feel OK jumping into conversation? Have you felt pressure to respond, or been able to get help in the ways you needed when you’ve used Zulip?

I’ve already talked to several Recursers and it seems nice! But more feedback would still be helpful, especially from folks at RC. :smile:

side note: the mod team and community have previously have discussed several other alternatives to Slack, like Discord or IRC. We may still consider those later, depending on how this turns out, but I’d like to keep our conversation focused on Zulip in particular for now.


We used a zulip instance, for the google summer of code summit (I think 2017). As zulip (and various other chat services) were part of gsoc that year.
I did not use it much and was kinda overwhelmed at the start, but I did only use the mobile app back then. Which probably caused that problem.

I used Zephyr, which I believe was the model for Zulip. (I liked Zephyr so much it’s also the basis for a project I’m working on.) Zephyr’s use evolved over time. In particular, there was a “help” area that initially did not have topics; it was extremely useful even in that form, and got written up in

Over time, topics were added, and that was actually extraordinarily helpful. In particular, it let people mute topics that they weren’t interested in, and focus on topics where they had needs or answers to offer. It takes a bit of getting used to but I do highly recommend it.

An important aspect is the dynamism of the topics. If someone brought up pthreads, you’d have a pthread topic for awhile, but then when the conversation was done, it wouldn’t persist. I assume Zulip does that, to prevent the sidebar from gaining infinite clutter? If so, I’d be a thumbs-up on Zulip over Slack for Elm.


Thinking more: I don’t believe topics presented a barrier to entry for using help on Zephyr. There was a lot of community and usage pattern evolution over time. Here’s guidance from one informal document that’s consistent with my experience. ( Note: “instance” == “topic” in Zephyr terms)

pick an “instance” to describe the category of your question. This will allow
people to follow the conversation about your question. The instance
should ideally be short and easy to type; “unix” is better than
“text-manipulation-commands,” even though the latter is more specific.
Specificity is good too, of course; “linux” is better than “computers”
for a Linux installation problem. All that said, nobody is likely to
complain about your choice of instance, so don’t worry about it too
much. If you are answering a question, use the same instance as the
question was asked on.


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