The devolution of web design, and frustration with chat software…

First and foremost, happy new year to everyone. Here’s to hoping that 2016 isn’t as bad as 2015…I mean, let’s be real – for 2015, Dave Barry didn’t even have to try.

That being said, it’s time for a rant.

I’m looking to get some form of chat/collaboration software up and running for a church where I do some tech work. There’s a relatively new trend in web design that’s quite annoying: the single scrollable site. Now, a part of the problem is that no one actually puts any content on sites like this, it’s just some shiny graphics and a vague sentence or two. Now, when I land on one of these hipster pages, it tends to inform me that it’s not the product I’m looking for.

As most of you know, I’m a bit old school, so data lives on my servers, period…except for e-mail in this one particular case, because when Microsoft offers free hosted Exchange for nonprofits, there’s no conceivable way to argue that. Here’s the list of products I’ve looked into so far…

Skype for Business: quirky, its integration features aren’t what they should be, desktop installs aren’t as streamlined as they could be, having issues with the mobile app.
Trillian for Business: won’t give me a price on their website for the self-hosted version.
Convo: won’t give me a price on their website for the self-hosted version.
HipChat: wants $1,800/year for 25 users, for software that lives on my server…but $600 for the version that they host? How is it triple the price to *not* deal with the infrastructure?
Unison: won’t give me a price on their website for the self-hosted version.
Campfire: ‘meh’ product, no self-hosted option.
Glip: No self-hosted option.
Brosix: Not the prettiest UI and no self-hosted option, but at $1.70/user/month, if we’re stuck going for a cloud-based option, they’re in the running.
OpenFire: Requires third party mobile app; XMPP-only protocol would require a lot of work to secure properly, browser-based UI hasn’t been updated since 2008.
MatterMost: Promising, but relatively lengthy install process and mobile apps are still pending.
Rocket.Chat: This was the one that I was really, REALLY hoping would do the job – it’s free (love the price!), self-hosted (love the control!), runs on Linux (love the freedom!), and took about half an hour to spin up – incidentally, it was the first time I’d ever used a Docker container. However, I ran into two problems: first, the mobile apps wouldn’t work properly. Second, user accounts are backwards: anyone can go to the login page and create an account, and the admin user can’t create users or groups. I need the opposite – to be able to create users, and only users I create can log in. So, that got put on ice until they get all that stuff worked out.

I also configured Yammer, until I realized it was just a private Facebook with no real-time chat capabilities. Same for eXo.


And this, friends, is how I spend my New Year’s Day…because this is the cost of being old school.

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