I am thinking of making one of my projects open source and I am thinking which communication channel to use. Mailing lists are great, but less on interactivity, IRC is high on interactivity, but generally intimidating to newbies and Gitter.im in non-intimidating, interactive and good looking, but it's privately owned and I'm not sure about it's policy regarding charges (It wasn't free until recently IIRC).

What should I opt for and why?

Edit (adding some more specifics):

  • It's a small project in C and C++, hosted on Github.
  • In future, if it picks up, I might be able to find upto 10 regular contributors.
  • I think the project would be useful to university students - they might be able to use it as an add-on to their own projects or they can even help in further development.
  • The communication channel would help in both support and further development
  • 1
    This is really a matter of personal opinion.
    – Philipp
    Commented Jul 2, 2015 at 7:45
  • Why do people think that this is about software recommendation? This is one of the rare community-themed questions that everyone seems to seek as a counterweight for the overwhelming licensing topics. Commented Jul 2, 2015 at 10:58
  • @MichaelSchumacher there is a good question somewhere in here, but as it is now, it's definitely opinion based. this needs to be narrowed down. Perhaps make clear what exactly is important to you and add more details about the project.
    – overactor
    Commented Jul 2, 2015 at 11:09
  • 1
    I can - but I will first have to update myself on the policies regarding editing of questions and answers on this site - I have never done this before. Commented Jul 2, 2015 at 12:07
  • 1
    @Ranveer you can try to improve the question by making more obvious what you want to know about the channels (do they work for a project? don't they work at all? and why?), what you expect your target audience to be (this will be hard if you do not have a specific project in mind - I assume you have asked this for a hypothetical project?) and what your concerns are (relying on closed services? relying on third-party-controlled services?) Commented Jul 2, 2015 at 12:53

2 Answers 2


You should try to use and offer the communication channels where your target audience - user and developers - resides. This might be the same channels, different ones, or there may be a certain overlap.

You do not want to force any of them to use one particular channel, especially if they don't like it. But you do not want to force yourself to use an channel that you are not comfortable with, either.

For example:

Within the GIMP project, we have two main mailing lists, one for development topics, one for user topics. There is also two IRC channels, one for mostly development topics, one for user topics. We also monitor Reddit and G+ and Twitter to some extent, but this is an effort done by individuals.

I can't tell anything about whether we are active on Facebook - I have an account there, tried to use it, but couldn't because there was too much data I perceived as noise, and that was without following anyone.

Web forums are done by third parties, without too much involvement from anyone of the core group. This turns out to be a problem sometimes - if I ever want to learn something I never knew about GIMP, or an esoteric reasoning for some GIMP behavior, I read those forums. But the amount of unverified and speculative information there also prevents me from subscribing - I'd probably be banned within hours for being "too negative" for all the "no, this is not quite correct" replies. This is a complaint that happened to someone from the inner circle when doing just that.

So, lesson learned there: if you want to have a forum for your application, you run it and you make the rules.

I am the admin for one of the forums, and I leave users there pretty free reign (I stop discussion when they get into ad hominem space, though). But recently, I found myself having a lot less time to check up on the posts - and found the same speculative creep starting there.

Lesson learned: if you run one communications channel, make sure that you keep control of it.

Overall, my personal favorites are mail and IRC. I know that these feel antiquated to many users now, but I do not see myself using anything else comfortably.

  • BTW, please tear this question apart by comments - I am trying to give a non-opinion-based answer to an question that is arguably opinion-based, and I know that this answer is not there yet - but any sort of direction will help me, the answer and the site scope. Commented Jul 2, 2015 at 12:47
  • I looked for something to critique in this answer, and really couldn't find anything. The only thing that could maybe be expanded is "how much" you should chase your audience, but it's not really necessary. Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 23:09

This is primary a personal decision. I would see this more in the software recommendation section.

Anyway, on newer projects I would suggest to use modern communications. One way can still be IRC or Mailinglists, but anyway I don't use them often. Even if I'm active in an project. They always had something from the 80th's fro me.

If you use Github, you can document communications in the wiki (after they happened). If not or if you like to have a more private version for your open source project, you can use gitlab for example.

For shorter communications like chats you can use Slack.

  • 1
    if you answer primarily opinion-based questions (usually you should not), at least try to explain your rationale behind your recommencations with verifiable facts and not just personal preference and subjective impressions.
    – Philipp
    Commented Jul 2, 2015 at 8:09
  • I marked it as opinion based too. And suggested a migration to software recommendation. ;-) Just wanted to give him an answer instead of let him staying in the rain like someone who don't think before he's following any rule he gets. ;-) He has my answer. He can use it for his consideration. I don't care about the downvotes, as I'm here to help people not to gain some reputation. :-)
    – Ionic
    Commented Jul 2, 2015 at 8:12
  • We're mostly here right now to shape the site scope, though. Commented Jul 2, 2015 at 14:49

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