Participating in a Zulip chat
This guide explains how to use Zulip as a chat member, which is the usual role for students and other people who have no chat admin permissions. Questions, problems, requests? Contact us at My Teaching Support
1. Streams and Topics
In Zulip, discussions are organized in streams, which are further divided into topics. In Zulip's main view, you will find the left sidebar, as illustrated below, where you can you narrow down the messages that are displayed.
Sidebar of Zulip with highlights of the ways to follow conversations.
You can select:
All messages to see everything that is being posted per stream.
Recent topics to see which topics have new information.
Different streams and topics to narrow down to a specific stream or topic.
Recent topics is good to manage a large flow of information as you can easily see what’s new, click on the relevant information and leave the rest for later. All messages is better when you want to catch up and make sure you don’t miss anything. Viewing single topics and streams is good for catching up on something you don’t remember.
Of course, everyone has their own ways of working so you should experiment with what works best and which views are most useful for you.
1.1. Message Pane
In the middle of your screen, you have the Message Pane, where the messages are shown.
1.2. Selecting visible topics
Not all streams are visible in the sidebar by default.
Click the gear icon next to Streams in the main navigation sidebar in order to see all available streams and select which ones you want to participate in. It is good to occasionally check this menu in case new streams are added.
2. Using Zulip efficiently
2.1. How to ask a question
Seems obvious, doesn’t it? However, in Zulip you get the best and quickest answers by helping to keep things organized too. These recommendations are mainly for Q&A-forum type chats.
When you have a question, always search history to see if it has already been asked first.
If it has been asked, click on the topic name. You will narrow your view to see that entire conversation.
If your question isn’t answered yet, but is a follow up to an existing topic, click on a message in that topic. Then, when you ask, it will go to that same topic as a follow-up, and anyone else can narrow to see the whole history.
Unlike other chats, your message will not get lost, and people will both see that it is new and can see the history of that thread.
Your course's instructor can say what the threshold for “new topic” is. Maybe they would have one topic per question pre-created or something similar.
If you don’t find anything relevant to follow up on, make a new topic.
Select the stream you want to post to.
Click “New topic”.
Enter the topic name down below: a few words, like an email subject. For example,
week 1 question 3,
integrals of complex functions,
Enter your message and send.
It is possible to split or join topics by going to “edit message”, so you don't have to worry about miscategorizing. By being organized, you keep the chat flow agile and make sure nothing important will pass unnoticed.
2.2. Other hints
You can format your messages using Zulip markdown.
Are you annoyed by having to enter a topic every time you send a message? Remember, when replying you don’t need to. But otherwise, it’s a trade-off: keep it organized or be less searchable. Most of users are clear that keeping organized is worth the searchability. But don’t worry too much: if you happen to get things wrong, others can re-organize topics afterwards.
“Mute a stream” (or topic) is useful when you want to stay subscribed but not be notified of messages by default. You can still find it if you click through the sidebar.
You can also request notifications for everything in a certain stream. This could be good for announcement streams, or your particular projects.
The desktop and mobile apps can support multiple organizations.
There are reasonable applications for most desktop and mobile operating systems. These don’t send your data to any other services.
The mobile applications work, but may not be the best for following a large number of courses simultaneously as switching between organizations on mobile might be inconvenient.