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[DISCUSS] Concerns about the Arrow Slack channel


hi all,

I wanted to bring up some concerns I have about the Slack room hosted
at http://apachearrow.slack.com.

Corporate communications have changed a lot in recent years with the
new wave of IRC-like chat systems such as HipChat and Slack. In many
companies, Slack has become a preferred form of communication over
e-mail or other asynchronous messaging tools. This trend is negatively
impacting Apache Arrow in some ways that I will explain.

Initially we created the Arrow Slack channel as a means of secondary
communication, to facilitate real-time discussions and help build the
community. So people, particularly newcomers, are coming to the
project and seeing 4 ways to communicate:

* dev@ Mailing list
* JIRA
* GitHub
* Slack

As a result of broader trends in the world, they are electing to use
Slack as their first, primary channel to interact with the project.
This is bad for many reasons:

* Slack is essentially private. While anyone can join Slack, chats are
not archived in any public place, nor are they searchable through
internet search portals. I do not think it meets the public
communication requirements of Apache projects in general
* We've exceeded the message limit for free Slack channels; upgrading
to a paid Slack plan for Apache Arrow, with 650+ members, would be
very expensive
* Only 3 out of the top 20 Arrow contributors (by # of commits) are
regularly on the Slack channel. I don't use Slack, for example, and I
would rather not be expected to
* We are geo-distributed in many time zones; even if we all used
Slack, synchronous/real-time chat to discuss the project is frequently
impractical

Because of the "real-time" nature of IRC-like systems, people's
discussions and questions get intermingled, so keeping track of
longer-running discussions may be difficult. It's hard to know when
someone's question has been answered or whether people have
sufficiently discussed a particular topic.

Many discussions or questions are by their nature asynchronous, and it
may take 24-72 hours or more for Arrow contributors to make a
thoughtful reply.

As a result of all of this, we are missing opportunities to have
deeper discussions, develop the Arrow roadmap, create new JIRAs to
capture bug reports or feature requests, and other activities of
healthy open source communities. Additionally, the private nature of
Slack is causing organizational knowledge (particularly Q&A / FAQs) to
essentially be lost. Users with questions won't stumble on answers by
searching on Google (as they would with a mailing list or
StackOverflow).

I don't think Slack is necessarily bad for users in a corporate
environment; in many companies it is expected that all people will
have the Slack client open at all times. This isn't the case here,
though.

My strong preference in light of the activity I have been observing on
Slack (which I encourage you to explore yourselves) would be to close
the channel and direct discussions or questions take place on the
mailing list, JIRA, or GitHub (all of which are archived on one or
more ASF mailing lists). Since migrating to Gitbox, we have enabled
GitHub issues on the repository, which has helped lower the barrier
for newcomers, but a large percentage of the time GitHub issues would
be better as JIRA issues or e-mails (which is what the GitHub issue
template says, alas).

Interested to hear the thoughts of others on this.

Thanks,
Wes