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.
/topictypes the channel topic
/whoisto find out more about other people in the channel
/join #[channel]to join another channel
/partto depart from a channel
/msgto send a private message to a person or robot (bot)
- provide the help command for interactive help such as
/msg chanserv helpfor 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 pidgin.im
For beginners and for times other than our meeting times I think the best place to start talking in IRC is the Ubuntu-California.org IRC Channel #ubuntu-us-ca. 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 freenode.net) will feel very different from a small team channel like #ubuntu-us-ca or even smaller like #berkeleylug. 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 irssi.org using tmux or screen. This enables attaching and detaching while allowing the client to stay connected.