HomePractices Page 5 - Getting Help the Free Software (and Open Source) Way
IRC Channels - Practices
What happens when the effectiveness of your favorite search engine turns against you, when it becomes almost too effective to be useful, giving you so much information that you're not sure where to start?... Well, my overworked friend, you're in luck. Today, I'll be covering the holy grail of information gathering: asking people... In the process, I will also show you some of the better locations to begin your searches and give you a few pointers in getting the most out of your queries.
Finally, we reach what is perhaps the fastest way togatherlive information online: IRC channels. If you've followed the links,you mayhave noticed that many of the pages listed in the Mailing Lists sectionalsomentioned IRC channels.
With that in mind, I found it interesting that, whenwritingthis story, I ran into the following message, posted to the ufra.lists.phpnewsgroup in 1998:
“There are probably quitea fewpeople who use IRC and also PHP. Many do not have time for therelativelyinefficient mechanism it provides. Things tend to end up in useless andunproductive chatter back and forth. And even for the people who canget beyondthat, chances are that if they are on IRCthenthey are on different networks. Undernet is just one ofmany. I,for example, when I am on IRCam always on EFNet, or sometimes onIRCnet. A PHP channel onUndernetdoesn't help me very much.”
While the PHP/IRC correlation might not be accurateanymore,what about the rest of the statement? If this is true, then who intheir rightminds would choose IRC? Can you actually get your tasks done this way?Well,that depends on both your need and how you like to work. The author isrightwhen he points out that things end up in chatter back and forth. But isit allunproductive? It's been my experience that, as far as hard-coreprogramminggoes, chat channels are usually not the best places to go. This is notthe casewith administration and maintenance, which I find, are best benefitedby theuse of these lists.
The writer of this message points out three wellknown IRCservers: IRCnet (irc.ircnet.org),Undernet (irc.undernet.org),and EFNet (irc.efnet.org).If you know anything about IRC, however, then you realize that thesecontainwithin them thousands of individual, active chat channels for you tocarousethrough. In fact, when I fire up my favorite IRC client (X-Chat), I getalisting of 63 chat servers right off the bat, not to mention thechannels to befound within them! So much for quick answers, right?
Well, like in the previous categories, it's simply amatter offinding the right chat servers and channels to tap for information.I'vecompiled a list of servers and channels which I believe you'll finduseful.Like before, if I don't list what you're looking for, then go ahead andsearchthe servers. If you find something that you thing would be of interestto otherreaders, I invite you to post it on the DevShed.com message boards. Bythe way,if you've never used IRC before, or are have questionable skills, checkout theIRC home page at http://www.irc.net,whichjust so happens to be partly sponsored DevShed.
The following is a list of links (in no particularorder) tosome of the biggest servers out there. Remember that if you want tocheck out theirwebsite, you'll need to change the irc.servername.orginto www.servername.org.
On most of these, you can safely type #<subject> (where <subject> is your subject,such as #linux,#cocoon, or #python) and expect to find a channel dedicated to thesubject. Ifyou can't, then go ahead and do a search for the channels on theserver,although a faster way would probably be to search on Google.com for <subject> IRC channel.Chances arethat you'll find the channel you're looking for within the first tenlinks.
As a related side note, while writing this story, Iran intothe list of one-hundred most popular IRC channels, accessible at http://searchirc.com/top100.php.Notone of them had anything to do with development or, surprisinglyenough, OpenSource software. Free software was represented, but only if you countwarez(illegally acquired and distributed commercial software). Note thatFree Software, as in the case of GNU, and free software, as in piratedcommercial programs, or warez, are not by any means the samething. Heck, they're not even in the same ideological park.