With my company we now have fully moved out of Slack and into Rocket.Chat. We’re hosting our own Rocket.Chat instance on a server in an Amsterdam data center.

We had been using Slack since 2016, and used it both for ourselves, and with some network partners we work with. Inviting in (government) clients we never did, because we couldn’t guarantee the location of the data shared. At some point we passed the free tier’s limits, meaning we’d have to upgrade to a paid plan to have access to our full history of messages.

Rocket.chat is an open source alternative that is offered as a service, but also can be self-hosted. We opted for a Rocket.chat specific package with OwnCube. It’s an Austrian company, but our Rocket.chat instance is hosted in the Netherlands.

Slack offers a very well working export function for all your data. Rocket.chat can easily import Slack archives, including user accounts, channels and everything else.

With the move complete, we now have full control over our own data and access to our entire history. The cost of hosting (11.50 / month) is less than Slack would already charge for 2 users when paid annually (12.50 / month). The difference being we have 14 users. That works out as over 85% costs saving. Adding users, such as clients during a project, doesn’t mean higher costs now either, while it will always be a better deal than Slack as long as there’s more than 1 person in the company.

We did keep the name ‘slack’ as the subdomain on which our self-hosted instance resides, to ease the transition somewhat. All of us switched to the Rocket.chat desktop and mobile apps (Elmine from Storymines helping with navigating the installs and activating the accounts for those who wanted some assistance).

Visually, and in terms of user experience human experience, it’s much the same as Slack. The only exception being the creation of bots, which requires some server side wrangling I haven’t looked into yet.

The move to Rocket.chat is part of a path to more company-wide information hygiene (e.g. we now make sure all of us use decent password managers with the data hosted on EU servers, and the next step is running our own cloud e.g. for collaborative editing with clients and partners), and more information security.

BredaPhoto

I like the notion of cards, that @visakanv describes, and threading them into a bigger whole.

What would be ideal, I think, is if all information could be represented as “cards”, and all cards could be easily threaded. Every book, every blogpost, every video, even songs, etc – all could be represented as “threaded cards”. Some cards more valuable than others.

In a way, a lot of what I’ve been trying to do with my personal knowledge management, notetaking, etc is to assemble an interesting, coherent, useful thread of thread of threads, of everything I care about. A personal web of data, with interesting trails and paths I can share with others.

I have a huge, sprawling junkyard mess of Workflowy notes, Evernote cards, Google keep cards, Notes, blogposts, etc etc ad infinitum. Buried in there are entire books worth of interesting + useful information. But it suffers from bad or non-existent threading, constrained by memory.

I too have a mountain’s worth of snippets, pieces, half sentences. And I have a much lower stack of postings and extended notes. Interesting stuff doesn’t get shared, because I envision a more extensive, a more ‘complete’ write-up that then more often than not never happens. The appeal to PKM above is key here for me. The world isn’t just cards, I agree with Neil, who pointed me to the posting above, fragmentation isn’t everything. Because synthesis and curation are important. However, having that synthesis in a fully different channel than the ‘cards’ from which it is built, or rather not having the cards in the same place, so that both don’t exist in the same web of meaning seems less logical. It’s also a source of hesitance, a threshold to posting.

BredaPhoto

Synthesis and curation presume smaller pieces, like cards. Everything starts out as miscellaneous, until patterns stand out, as small pieces get loosely joined.
I don’t know why Visakanv talks of threading only in the context of Twitter. Almost like he’s reinventing tags (tags are a key organising instrument for me). To me threading sounds a bit like a trail of breadcrumbs, to show from which elements something was created. Or cooking, where the cards are the list of ingredients, resulting in a dish, and dishes resulting in a dinner or a buffet.

More ‘cards’, snippets, I find a useful take on how to post in this space (both the blog part and the wiki part), and also bring more from other channels/tools in here.

BredaPhoto

(I took the photos during Breda Photo Festival, of Antony Cairns IBM CTY1 project, which is photos printed on IBM punch cards and held together with pins.)

For over a year, or more like over 2, I’ve been thinking about and creating small bits of a ‘friendly’ guide through my daily work flow. I used to have all kinds of check lists, and processes, and throw them in front of myself like an angry teacher: here do this. Of course being that strict with myself doesn’t get me anywhere. So a few years ago I’ve relaxed that stance and that feels and is much better. Since then I’ve been looking for a friendly way to nudge myself at certain points during the day. Like a personal assistant giving me gentle reminders. My notes, feeds, lists, documentation etc. are all parts of an outboard brain. But that outboard brain currently only responds if I ask it something. I want to more often have that outboard brain approach me, nudge me, and ask me things. Things that ‘past me’ thought were good and useful to ask ‘future me’. Things like asking me every now and then to write down what was important about my day. Or greeting me when I open my laptop in the morning, taking me through the items I previously thought I should do today. Keeping me informed about my previously formulated goals. All kinds of reminders really, but not calendar or task related.

One of the barriers in doing this has been technology choice. Do I use Applescript, or terminal commands? Do I glue together tools like Things, Tinderbox and Evernote even more? I find I hesitated doing that, simply because it makes me more dependent on specific tools, or specific operating systems and hardware. I feel a need for it to be much more agnostic, as well as be ‘boring technology’. That way it has chance of being replicable in a different setting, of me being able to migrate it someplace else.

So in the past days I came to the conclusion I need to use old and tested technology: Html, php and mysql. It is easy to run on my machine as a web server, and will be easy to run on any other. It can talk to various things already on my laptop (such as my mysql based e-mail archive). It is technology I am relatively well versed in, so it will be easier for me to create the functionality that I want. It carries echoes of when I wrote and created the first intranet for my then employer, which was able to communicate with back-office systems (in Perl and Visual Basic). It also carries echoes of when I ran a wiki on my laptop as a personal note taking and intranet tool. Although I also want to make something more ‘shiny’ I think that is a pitfall, as it distracts me from achieving something through the fun of exploring a new (to me) technology choice.