In an effort to make Open Source more welcoming, I like to look for difficulties people have when entering the field. Often the newcomers don’t feel like part of the group, don’t know people, don’t know where to start, don’t feel confident enough in their skills or our cultural values to risk the engagement.
Sometimes, though, the problem is in the tools themselves. IRC (Internet Relay Chat) is one of those tools. It isn’t the perfect chat system, but it is the one that took root in Free Software and in Open Source. Most major projects use IRC, and it’s around these channels that some of our sense of belonging develops.
I’ve suggested IRC to newcomers before, and I think the text-based format, the hoops you have to jump through on first use, and the jargon are off-putting.
Despite making it clear that IRC can be very useful, I have rarely seen newcomers willingly take it up. I think they don’t realize how much of a difference it can make to have realtime discussions with knowledgeable peers. That benefit would be apparent if they got over the first-use hurdle, though, and I hope this video accomplishes that – IRC, though creaky, is one of the main places that Open Source happens.
You should use it. Here’s how (choose HD and fullscreen for best viewing):
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
Once you start using IRC, you might also want these tips on etiquette from Mahdi Yusuf.