Our team recently moved over to Atlassian HipChat. I felt it appropriate to register a few frustrations with using the product so that others who are evaluating it can have the full picture.
Now – before I begin – I must preface this by saying that HipChat has many great features. I think the main feature driving our company to use it is primarily the support for a larger number of users in a single room. Previously teams would use Skype, which not only has a hard limit of 300 people but also suffers severe performance degradation on large rooms like that.
Granted supporting more then 300 people per room may not be a normal requirement, but in larger companies it is quite common to have status rooms, cross team communication channels, and general operations channels where the majority of users are simple spectators and not participants.
So here we go – my list of the top 5 biggest frustrations with using HipChat (so far).
1. No Group Video Chat.
For more details on this one see this article i wrote up entitled: Does HipChat support Group Video Chat.
So far this has been my biggest pain point. In a nutshell our team is half remote, some work out of San Diego, San Francisco, Chicago, Minnesota. Video Chat is a must. Group Video chat as well is very critical to ensure success of spec reviews, design meetings and so forth. We wanted this product to move us off of Skype, so not having support really hurts us.
Instead we now have to maintain two different products. HipChat to communicate with the company, and then another tool to do our group Video based chats.
2. I can’t edit my comments…
This might not seem like a deal breaker initially… but this has become a pain. I am a HORRIBLE typest… typist… typer… at spelling! Plus I work in operations, so a lot of times I am typing fast, etc. If you misspell something it is embarrassing. In addition, if you copy IP addresses, code snippets or other stuff into the chat and then need to make an edit you may be out of luck.
I am not sure why this is not supported – but I presume this has something to do with the architecture of the product. For example, it could be possible that once you hit enter, the message is committed to the server made unchangeable. I.E. it is a transactional based system versus an event driven system.
3. Can’t set room specific notifications.
If there is support for this – I have not yet found it. As an software engineer that is heavily involved in operations, I sit as a fly on the wall in many different chats across the company. The ability to choose on a per chat level whether or not I should be notified of new messages and so forth is very helpful.
4. Can only have 1 admin in a room.
Last I checked a HipChat room could only support one admin. If your team is small then there is probably no issue with this. However if you manage a large team then this can quickly become annoying. The last thing you want to do with your time is manage a changing chat room and the various requests associated with that.
5. Only admins can invite others in private rooms.
I think this one comes from a difference in what a private room means. For example, a private room to me, means that one cannot automatically join the conversation. It does not mean that members of the room have no rights.
In this case you are the team lead and as such you are marked as the admin for a room. You are out sick and there is a small crisis taking place in the chat room. The other teams members want to add someone to the chat who can help with the issue. However they are unable to since they do not have authorization. The team ends up creating a secondary chat so everyone can participate.
My intent is not to bash HipChat. My company moved over to it and thus i must as well. We had issues with Skype that hipChat will resolve… but new issues are now surfacing as the result of new tech.
Item 1 above is a deal breaker. Until group video chat gets resolved I will not like HipChat and not recommend it to others. Once they have support for Group Video chat – then my opinion will change.
Items 2-3 are a major pain in the arse – and easily ones that will cause me to bad mouth HipChat in the future. I hope they changes these or at least add them as options.
Items 4-5 are annoying but can be addressed as the product matures. Atlassian can add these in as “settings” so that users can customize rooms as they see fit. I personally hope they do.
Let me know below what parts of HipChat frustrate you the most so that others can benefit from your insights.