Getting your organization started with Zulip

This comprehensive guide explains in detail everything that the administrator of a new Zulip organization needs to know to get off to a great start with Zulip.

Configure your Zulip organization

Review and potentially tweak the organization settings to match your organization’s needs.

  • Set a policy for who can join the organization. If you’re setting up Zulip for your company, you can restrict new users to those from your company’s email domain. You can also allow new users to join without being explicitly invited.

  • Add an organization icon and description for Zulip to customize your login/registration pages as well as how your organization appears in the desktop and mobile apps.

Create streams

Most communication in Zulip happens in streams, and the streams you create can help encourage types of conversations you’d like to see happen in your organization. Streams are similar to chat rooms, email lists, or channels in IRC or Slack, in that they determine who receives a message. A few important notes:

  • For small teams, it's often good to start with a small number of streams, and let the number of streams grow organically.
  • You can use any character in stream names, including spaces and characters from non-Latin alphabets.
  • You can set the default streams new organization members are subscribed to when they join.

The most important thing to do when naming your streams is to help instill and support the culture you want to have in your organization.

  • If your team is small, you can start with the default streams and iterate from there.
  • For larger organizations, it can be helpful to have a consistent, documented naming scheme. For example, help forums might have names like help/git, help/javascript, etc., so that they appear together in the left sidebar. Slack’s article on channel naming has a lengthy version of this advice.
  • Add clear descriptions to your streams.

These articles contain great ideas for streams you might want to create in your organization:

Understanding topics

Zulip’s topics are life-changing, but it can take a bit of time for everyone to learn how to use them effectively. Expect there to be a few rough edges at the beginning as people learn how to use topics effectively.

  • Topics play the role of the subject line in an email. They allow for long-running conversations, and make sure the discussion about the new logo design isn’t interrupted by lunch plans or scheduling for the offsite.
  • Though the analogy to email subject lines is strong, topics in Zulip should be short, e.g. “logo” or “logo design”, not “Thoughts about the new logo design”.
  • Topics really shine for asynchronous communication.
  • When starting a new conversation, use a new topic, just like you would when starting an email thread.
  • In the left sidebar, Zulip will by default show the 5 most recent topics in a stream as well as any topics with unread messages. You don't need to do anything to "archive" old topics -- they will naturally disappear from recent topics when other topics replace them as the most recent.

Familiarize yourself with Zulip’s featureset

As the administrator of your Zulip organization, you'll be the initial expert teaching other users how to use Zulip. It's valuable for you to familiarize with Zulip’s featureset so you can point other users to what they're looking for.

  • Check out the keyboard shortcuts, message formatting, and search operators, available via the gear menu in the upper right of the app.
  • Check out the settings, organization settings, and this documentation site to browse user and administration options.
  • If you can't figure out how to do something important, ask about the feature. It might already exist, and if not, we love hearing about what features people want!

Invite users and onboard your community

  • If you wish to delete messages before starting onboarding, hover over a message and click on the 'message actions' menu on the far right, then select 'delete message'.
  • Use the “#zulip” stream to share tips on how to use Zulip effectively.
  • If you have an existing chat tool, make sure everyone knows that the team is switching, and why. The team should commit to use Zulip exclusively for at least a week to make an effective trial; stragglers will result in everyone having a bad experience.
  • Help your users get used to following topics and creating new ones when they start a new conversation. It usually takes a few conversations to get used to topics, but once they do, they’ll never want to go back! Using Zulip’s topic editing features to correct mistakes can help minimize confusion.

If your organization is large, Slack's guide for how to effectively roll out a new chat solution at a large company in stages is great advice.

Set up integrations

Zulip integrates directly with dozens of products, including all major version control and issue tracking tools, and indirectly with hundreds more through Hubot, Zapier, and IFTTT. Set up notifications for the products you use! A few recommendations:

  • A product’s logo is a great choice of avatar for an integration with that product.
  • For internal tools, find a cute icon for the avatar!
  • Pay attention to how your integrations are configured. If increasing activity means an integration becomes spammy, consider moving it to its own stream or configuring it to only send notifications for a subset of events.

Bonus things to setup

Managing your Zulip community

Here are some tips for improving the organization of your Zulip community over time:

  • If users are confused about which stream to use for what, consider renaming streams to make the usage more obvious, and/or adding descriptions to the streams.
  • If a stream has too much happening on it, especially very different things (for example, both short, important announcements and long, low-importance discussions), consider splitting it. You can do this easily by copying the membership of the existing stream when creating a new stream.
  • Periodically think about creating new streams for culture you want to foster in your organization. For example, the Zulip development community has a “learning” stream where people post links to great resources they found, and the Recurse Center community has a “Victory” stream for celebrating success.
  • Periodically garbage-collect streams that are no longer useful. Don’t worry — if you delete a stream, the old stream history is still searchable, and old links will still work.
  • If you’re running your own Zulip server, keep it up to date!