[Distutils] Switch PyPA from IRC to Gitter or similar

Jason R. Coombs jaraco at jaraco.com
Fri Jun 10 09:22:12 EDT 2016

In #pypa-dev, I raised the possibility of moving our PyPA support channels from IRC to another hosted solution that enables persistence. Although IRC has served us well, there are systems now with clear feature advantages, which are crucial to my continuous participation:

- always-on experience; even if one’s device is suspended or otherwise offline.
- mobile support — the in-cloud experience is essential for low power and intermittently connected devices.
- push notifications allow a project leader to remain largely inactive in a channel, but attention raised promptly when users make a relevant mention.
- continuous, integrated logging for catching up on the conversation.

Both Gitter and Slack offer the experience I’m after, with Gitter feeling like a better fit for open-source projects (or groups of them).

I’ve tried using IRCCloud, and it provides a similar, suitable experience on the same IRC infrastructure, with one big difference. While Gitter and Slack offer the above features for free, IRCCloud requires a $5/user/month subscription (otherwise, connections are dropped after two hours). I did reach out to them to see if they could offer some professional consideration for contributors, but I haven’t heard from them. Furthermore, IRCCloud requires an additional account on top of the account required for Freenode.

In addition to the critical features above, Gitter and Slack offer other advantages:

- For Gitter, single-sign on using the same Github account for authentication and authorization means no extra accounts. Slack requires one new account.
- An elegant web-based interface as a first-class feature, a lower barrier of entry for users.
- Zero-install or config.
- Integration with source code and other systems.

It’s because of the limitations of these systems that I find myself rarely in IRC, only joining when I have a specific issue, even though I’d like to be permanently present.

Donald has offered to run an IRC bouncer for me, but such a bouncer is only a half-solution, not providing the push notifications, mobile apps (IRC apps exist, but just get disconnected, and often fail to connect on mobile provider networks), or integrated logging.

I note that both Gitter and Slack offer IRC interfaces, so those users who prefer their IRC workflow can continue to use that if they so choose.

I know there are other alternatives, like self-hosted solutions, but I’d like to avoid adding the burden of administering such a system. If someone wanted to take on that role, I’d be open to that alternative.

I’d like to propose we move #pypa-dev to /pypa/dev and #pypa to /pypa/support in gitter.

Personally, the downsides to moving to Gitter (other than enacting the move itself) seem negligible. What do you think? What downsides am I missing?

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