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DX hackfest, day 3

Today we had a discussion about communication tools. A few years ago, a couple of guys needed to have online video chats with someone else. Ekiga was suggested to them as Skype or Hangout alternative, but they really weren’t satisfied with it. This prompted two questions.

The first one is whether we should accept to compromise on our freedom for pragmatic reasons. My answer to this is (and has been for a long time) that everyone should be free to make the compromises they want, but they should be aware of the meaning of those. In fact I already declined job offers because they required me to do a Skype interview or a similar compromise I was not willing to make. An argument that was given is that if you refuse to use a piece of non free software to interact with other people, then you’re effectively forcing them to use something too. Comparison was then made with religious beliefs or diets, and at that point it became clear that no party could be made to change their mind about the topic.

The second one was whether there was a satisfying alternative today. WebRTC is there now, but some time ago it wasn’t available. I’ve succesfully had meetings on a few platforms, but Jitsi Meet seems to be the only one that will run without having to install a single piece of non free software.

Slack is another communication platform that’s also getting traction. It could be seen as a successor to IRC. It is non free, so we investigated free alternatives, namely Mattermost and Rocket. There are some interesting features, but the paint is still wet and I don’t think a switch would make sense at that point. I was also disappointed to see that both require creating an account and that no federation was planned.