Internet Relay Chat (IRC) is easy with just a few commands. Don’t let it scare you. You wouldn’t give up using the telephone because of a bad call, would you? Talking about the right topic in the right channel gives unparalleled, direct access to some of the most involved people within an open source project.

The URL for loading what is displayed here as an iframe is //|?#ubuntu-us-ca

Since we do not have critical mass for #dvlug yet I recommend people start in #ubuntu-us-ca first or #berkeleylug during the second and fourth Sundays when they hold their meetings.

The Freenode FAQ includes IRC commands which begin with a forward slash “/”:

  • /topic types the channel topic
  • /who and /whois to find out more about other people in the channel
  • /join #[channel] to join another channel
  • /part to depart from a channel
  • /msg to send a private message to a person or robot (bot)
    • provide the help command for interactive help such as
    • /msg chanserv help for information about channels
    • nickserv is a bot for information about channels

The Wikipedia description of IRC gives a good overview. While the text of this document is written from a very particular point of view the advice in How to Ask Questions of a technical nature is quite good.

Downloadable IRC client for Mac, Windows & Linux: try

For beginners, I recommend the best place to start talking in IRC is the IRC channel.

If you have questions, please ask, do not ask to ask. Surprisingly for a real time communication method, some conversations on IRC can span many hours informally and even across different channels. People do work on other things while talking on IRC so have some patience. Different channels can also follow different rules. A channel with over a thousand people in it consistently over many months with many time zones represented (like #ubuntu or #freenode on will feel very different from a small team channel like #ubuntu-us-ca or even smaller like (in descending order) #berkeleylug or #dvlug. With practice you will better understand how best to use IRC.

Operators of channels and volunteer staff of freenode practice their catalyst skills. If you would like to discuss freenode with the operators of the network these guidelines have been established for using #freenode.

Advanced IRC client: try using tmux or screen. This enables attaching and detaching while allowing the client to stay connected.

While you may have used IRC previously, like a telephone, the usefulness depends on how you use it and who else is using it. IRC relates to other messaging technologies in interesting ways. Simple chat messages using older software predated IRC but have recently been taken to new levels with SMS and messaging apps. Status updates a la Facebook are a popular form of communication now. Twitter evolved as a microblog, streaming SMS messages to and from the web. Many open source, technical communities and increasingly companies use IRC or something like it on a daily basis. It’s fairly plain and “easy to use” clients have not kept up with some people’s standards. IRC also functions in public by default. There is also little context tying discussions into other systems though URLs are handy for this if you don’t mind a copy and paste.