Tuesday, August 6, 2013

An Open-Source Alternative To HipChat

#firstworldproblems

Assuming you are a nerd: how do you ask your colleagues what they want to eat day in day out at 11 o'clock? You send them an instant message, of course! However, this becomes quite cumbersome as your team grows.

That's exactly the problem we (or maybe it was just me, after all) had at indoo.rs when I joined them in April. I was looking for a solution for this immensely important problem and - after a few failed attempts to get everybody into a browser-based group-chat - I came to the conclusion that there is no chat that meets all our requirements:
- everybody wanted to use his favorite XMPP-client
- some of us were using Google Talk (which doesn't support group-chats)

Not only for hipsters

The first requirement ruled out pretty much everything that is out there: HipChat? Uses their own protocol / clients. Kandan? Nope, browser-based-only. So what was I supposed to do? Write my own XMPP-based group-chat, of course!

I took advantage of the dead-simple XMPP-API included in Google's AppEngine and was able to get a first version working in just a few hours. It's really simple for now, but I think it's perfectly extensible for every use case. The only thing it is really missing is access-control: at the moment everybody can join your group-chat as long as he knows the JID (Jabber-ID). Security by obscurity at its best!

Anyway, let's stop talking, start chatting: I've deployed a demo-instance of HipsterChat. In order to try it, add [email protected] as a buddy to your favorite XMPP-client and start spamming. Protip: type "/help" or "--help" for help.

If you like it, check out the source at github.com/TomTasche/hipsterchat.