$half-shot.uk 'Stuck in the past' edition

Chatting in a Blender

Chatting in a Blender general Will Thu 3rd Nov 2016

Chatting in a Blender

No, this isn't about the 3D modelling package

So Microsoft announced their new teams Platform and Slack responded with their own little piece. I want to talk about chat platforms and why almost all of them are crap, but first lets dig into what we have here.

Microsoft and Slack are trying to create team collaboration tools which are essentially pretty chat clients which support teams and groups and fancy things like bots, formatting and all the stuff you'd probably ever need. But that's not important, what I want to talk about is the communication itself. Slack currently makes it easy to 'talk' to it. You can write bots and bridges with ease. Skimming through Microsoft's APIs, it does support some form of connectivity with services in the form of webhooks, but it's one way and a far cry from what Slack allows developers to do. So to sum up, Microsoft appear to be a more closed option that seems to primary be riding on it's Office 365 platform; I can't comment on that since I've never used it, nor know anybody who does. The problem is I can see Microsoft Teams getting popular because it's slack but from a """trusted""" face which I'm sure will pull in any developer who doesn't want or care to do research.

But that is all context for the rant. The problem is these developers have all forgotten how the world works. People don't use one chat service, they use several. Because new ones pop up all the time and people switch around every so often to try something new. I know for a fact my bf is using at least 4 platforms to talk to people alone, from one device which is crazy.

*People here being your coworkers, your parents, your classmates etc

It's pure insanity to me that we have allowed this to happen at all. I have friends on Facebook Messenger, Twitter, Hangouts, Steam, Riot, IRC, Mumble and Discord and I don't think browsers are even efficient enough to keep all those running during my day to day activities on my little laptop. That's the blender, the fact that most of these conversations overlap and so we end up with a mess of applications and a mess of chat logs that are a pain to keep track of. And yet, every month it seems like another platform turns up to split up the populous of the internet further.

And the problem isn't that these services exist. I wouldn't be arrogant enough to suggest that Riot, which is the platform I have a community hand in and my ideal platform, is the answer to everyone's problems. There isn't a one size fits all client, and I'm not even sure the Matrix protocol (of which Riot relies upon) is quite fit for all those purposes either. But I do request that platforms remain open, with an API for others to plug into so that we can all continue to use what we like best without being split apart. By being closed, you are suggesting that you are the client. Which is a stupid claim to make considering that humans do not like being made into square pegs and shoved through things which may or may not be circular. I don't also buy the argument that different tools fit different purposes. Sure, we can have clients that specialise in some area, but I don't think the underlying protocol should be different. After all, HTTP was never intended to have the scope it does today but it does it fairly well, because it's modular. And I'm asking even less than that.

As much as I'd love for everyone to adopt the Matrix protocol, I realise just how much work that is. I do just ask that people expose some APIs for us community peoples to do the bridging so I can keep talking to my family through Hangouts and talk to my gaming friends on Steam without having to leave the comfort of my own preference, Riot.