Functional Problem Solving (CSC 151 2013F) : Handouts

IRC - Internet Relay Chat

I have started using Internet Relay Chat (IRC) as a place to hold online office hours or just to answer student questions. IRC is a relatively simple, relatively lightweight, public chat program. You can find me in the channel grinnell-cs on the IRC server.

Why am I asking you to use IRC? I have a few reasons:

I've also heard good things about the use of IRC from a valued colleague at another institution, and I want to see if his experiences translate well to Grinnell.

Getting Started with IRC


IRC and Free and Open Source Communities

A large number of FOSS communities use IRC, often in multiple ways. (The two most common ways are scheduled meetings and just being available for questions or discussion.) Why use IRC? My sense is that two main principals dictate its use: IRC is open and and egalitarian.

FOSS folks really seem to believe in working in the open - being willing to reveal the mess behind the scenes in software. They make incomplete work available (which I will admit is hard for someone like me, who is too often a perfectionist in his software). Doing so not only makes it easier for people to see what's happening, it may make it easier for others to join in. And being open makes it possible for anyone to join in.

How is IRC egalitarian? It's simple and low bandwidth, which makes it available to a wider variety of people. You can use IRC on a computer that's more than a decade old, running an old OS. You can use IRC on a smart phone (although I wouldn't recommend it). But the use of text is also egalitarian - if English isn't your native language (or whatever language is being used for the chat), you can copy and paste into a translator, such as Google translate, and usually get a better sense of the conversation.

I'd be interested in hearing your own thoughts on why IRC is or is not a good technology for communicating.

Samuel A. Rebelsky,

Copyright (c) 2007-2013 Janet Davis, Samuel A. Rebelsky, and Jerod Weinman. (Selected materials are copyright by John David Stone or Henry Walker and are used with permission.)

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