Wikimedia uses Zulip for its Outreach programs to connect students and mentors. Zulip is a free and open source chat group application.
How to join Wikimedia Zulip
Wikimedia uses the Zulip instance at http://wikimedia.zulipchat.com. You can sign up for Zulip with your email address, Google or GitHub credentials.
How messages in Zulip are organized
Conversations in Zulip are organized into streams. Streams are subdivided into topics.
Streams are similar to chatrooms and mailing lists: They determine who receives a message. Each conversation thread in a stream is a topic: This is similar to the subject line of an email (though topics are usually shorter, e.g. "logo design", not "feedback on the new logo design?"); it organizes messages into topic threads.
Users can discuss a topic in a more focused and structured way, and users can search their messages and get started on particular topic faster.
Chat workflows in Zulip
Some users who have not used Zulip before may some difficulties to understand chat workflows in Zulip. Here is some explanation and tips:
- When starting a new conversation, remember to start a new topic.
- Don't worry about interrupting, each conversation has its own space ("topic").
- If you see a conversation where the last message was sent a few hours (or days!) ago, feel free to reply anyway. It'll be easy for everyone to see your reply in context, regardless of anything else that has happened on the stream in the meantime.
- Feel free to @-mention a person when you want that person to see your topic. The @-mentioned people will get a notification in their Zulip account.
- When you refer to a specific Wikimedia Phabricator task in Zulip, simply write its number (like
Txxxxxx) instead of its full link (URL).
Documentation how to use Zulip in general is available at https://zulipchat.com/help/.
Communication tips and guidelines
- Do your research first: When you decide to work on a task, you are expected to do some basic research yourself first: Look at the code, try to get some understanding what it is supposed to do, read related documentation, try to find the probable place(s) where you need to make code changes. For a general overview, please read the Basics to know.
- In a Phabricator task, see the project tags in the side bar to find out which code repository a task is about.
- Ask and discuss in the best place:
- In Phabricator tasks, discuss only specific questions about the topic of that very Phabricator task. General technical questions (e.g. how to set up a development environment or problems with Gerrit) are off-topic in Phabricator tasks.
- For general technical questions, ask the broader Wikimedia community and use generic channels like IRC chat or mailing lists. (If you take part in an outreach program, then you can also use Zulip's technical-support stream.)
- If you take part in an outreach program, then Zulip is for discussing questions about the outreach programs themselves.
- Ask good questions: "Can you give me more info?", "Please guide me", "Please tell me how to start" are not good comments to start with: The more specific your questions are, the more likely somebody can answer them quickly. If you have no idea at all how to fix the bug, maybe that bug is not (yet) for you – consider finding an easier one first.
- Provide context: When asking, explain what you want to achieve, and what you have tried and found out already, so others can help at the right level. Be specific – for example, copy and paste your commands and their output (if not too long) instead of paraphrasing in your own words. This avoids misunderstandings. Use specific titles and subject lines ("Proposal draft" or "Need help" is not specific).
- Use inclusive language: Don't assume anyone's gender identity ("guys", "madam", "sir"). Use the name of the person instead.
- Ask in public: Do not send private messages if your conversation topic is not secret. Private messages do not help others.
- Be patient when seeking input and comments, especially during weekends and holidays.
- On IRC, don't ask to ask, just ask: most questions can be answered by other community members too if you ask on an IRC channel. If nobody answers, please try again at a different time; don't just give up.
- Do not ask people immediately for code review in a separate message. People receive Gerrit and Phabricator notifications.
- Keep conversations readable: When you reply in Zulip, in Phabricator tasks, or on mailing lists, please avoid unneeded quoting of a complete previous comment. Provide sufficient context and keep threads readable.
- Follow the code of conduct for Wikimedia technical spaces.
- When you plan to work on a Phabricator task:
- No need to ask for permission: Usually there is no reason to ask if you can work on something or if somebody could assign a task to you. There is no authority who assigns tasks or who needs to be asked first.
- You do not need to announce your plans before you start working on a task but it would be welcome. At the latest when you are close to proposing a patch for a task, it is good to announce that you are working on it, so that others don't duplicate work: If nobody else is already assigned, set yourself as task assignee by using the Add Action… → Assign/Claim dropdown.
- Tasks with existing patches:
- If a task already has a recent patch in Gerrit, choose a different task to work on instead – avoid duplicating work.
- If an existing patch in Gerrit has not been merged and has not seen any changes for a long time, you could also improve that existing patch, based on the feedback in Gerrit and in the task.
- When your plans or interests change: If you don't work on a task anymore, please remove yourself as the assignee of the task, so others know that they can work on the task and don't expect you to still work on it.
By communicating clearly and early you get attention, feedback and help from community members.
Why we encourage the use of Zulip
IRC chat is currently a communication tool for many projects, and it can be quite appropriate for many of them. But it is not a mobile friendly tool, and not ideal for adhoc but timely mentoring. For Google Summer of Code, Outreachy, and GSoD, we want to offer participants and mentors technology in order to maximize their outcomes and reduce the failure rate. A good mobile app is mandatory for mentors to be available for the participant in a timely fashion.
For further information, this topic had been discussed in phab:T150732.