IRC - the big bad monster

IRC - Internet Relay Chat
This article is meant for complete IRC newbies.
Alternatively, visit: www.irchelp.org

What is it?
IRC, although quite old, is still a very popular way of online text communication - especially in the free software world.
It is mainly designed for group communication, but works just as well for one-to-one chit-chat as any other IM protocol popular nowadays.

Quick image guides
Image guide to X-Chat (and possibly other clients, too)

You can join the #hedgewars IRC-channel by clicking on the Live Chat "tab" on the top right of this page.

After you join, you will be presented by a screen like this.
The people marked by the '@' signs in front of their nicks are the operators of the channel and all of them are developers of Hedgewars. There are also some devs that aren't operators though Smile
If you would like help regarding the game, state your question and wait for an answer. You'll notice someone is speaking to you when they begin their line with your nick. Their nick will be highlighted on that line, and you'll hear an audible beep. Do not ask for game help though, there are tutorials for that.
You might want to talk to someone in private. You can do this by either typing /msg <nick> <message>] or by clicking on their nick in the nicklist, then pressing "Query". This is going to open a new window and then you can talk to that person in a private, one-to-one chat.
Other users can also start talking to you privately. You'll be notified of this by a new tab appearing in the top bar and an audible bell. You'll hear this notification sound every time someone sends you a private message.
You can close the chat session by either closing your browser (or browser tab) or by typing /quit into the text bar. It is recommended that you first type /quit, then close your browser, beacuse this way you can specify a quit message, and avoid confusion when you abruptly stop speaking.

How it works

IRC networks consist of one or more linked servers. Some of the most important networks are Quakenet (gamers' favorite network), Freenode (home of many opensource projects, including Hedgewars!) and IRCnet among many others (see http://irc.netsplit.de/networks/top100.php for a somewhat complete list). Users can connect to these servers and form channels. Members of the channel will receive every message sent to that channel. Alternatively, you can send private messages to other users.


"Okay, where do I start?"

First off, you'll need an IRC client. There are dozens of clients for every platform, but I'm only going to list a few ones which are free software here.

  • Hexchat—A simple fully free IRC client, works in Windows, GNU/Linux, Mac OS X and other Unix-like systems. You're probably best off with this as your first client. Hexchat is originally based on X-Chat which is not fully free (shareware license on Windows)
  • IceChat—A somewhat less popular client. Windows-only, free. Also scriptable, themes etc.
  • Colloquy—IRC client for Mac OS X and iOS with “the look and feel of a Mac application”
  • Pidgin or Miranda are actually instant messangers, but you can also use them for IRC if you wish
  • ChatZilla—A Firefox addon. It's so easy to use it should be forbidden. Wink Smiley Strongly recommended for newbies.
  • Mibbit—Mibbit is a web client. Although some networks do not allow it (due to abuse), I think it should be mentioned, as it is exceptionally easy to use. Also many networks have their own web client (freenode's client here)
  • Web-chat on Hedgewars homepage—This is actually freenode's webchat embedded

You might want to try the web chat first, and advance to something better later on. I recommend Chatzilla, as it is really straightforward and easy to use.
You can find more clients at http://www.irchelp.org/irchelp/clients.


"Uh-oh, I installed client X, but I don't know what to do next"

You just installed your first IRC client. That's good. Explaining every client here would be silly, but generally, you should be presented by a textbox. If this is the case, do as following:

/server irc.freenode.net
... your client begins connecting ...
... if you see a bunch of lines flowing, then stopping, continue ...
/nick <desired nickname> (eg. /nick bob)
/join #hedgewars

Very well! You just connected to your first IRC network and joined the #hedgewars channel. You should probably see a nick list and the topic appearing in your client somewhere.
If this did not work, seek help in the documentation of your client, or try the webchat, as that's pretty straightforward.


Next steps

Now that you've joined the channel, there's a couple of things that require explanation.

Basic commands

  • /join <channel name> [key] - joins you into the desired channel (the channel might require a key (think of it like a password) to join, type this after the channel name). standard channel names begin with a hash ('#') sign.
  • /leave <channel name> [message] - leaves you on desired channel, with an optional leave message (not the same as /quit!).
  • /part <channel name> [message] - see /leave
  • /nick <nick> - changes your visible nick
  • /msg <nick> <message> - sends a private message to
  • /quit [message] - depending on client, this either quits you entireley from the client, or disconnect you from the network you send it to. Optional quit message available, much like /leave//part

Permissions

Channel-Operators, "op" - denoted by an @ sign before their nicknames - can edit channel settings and kick or even ban people that misbehave.
In #hedgewars usually only Hedgewars-Developers are channel-operators.

Some IRC channels are moderated - there only operators and people who were given "voice" ( + sign before their nicknames) can send messages to the channel. Most channels don't use this feature though or grant "voice" without need for status or fun reasons.

Most clients put @ and + users at the top of the userlist.

When somebody is granted op-rights or voice by existing ops through setting the user mode to "+o" or "+v" respectively.
Asking for getting operator status is a generally bad idea. Don't do it.

Note: There also exist server operators (the so called 'IRCOps'), they have overall control over the network. They can kick (K-Line) or ban people (G/Z/GZ-Line) from the entire server/network.
Your chances of meeting an IRCOp are quite sparse.

Netiquette

Oh, and if we're at permissions and whatnot. This is probably one of the most important points of this article. Netiquette. You should abide this, or you'll most likely face a kick and/or possibly a ban. I'll try to cover the most important things about how to behave on an IRC channel, but common sense should be exercised. I hope that it's needless to say, that you should never speak in all uppercase letters, put an unreasonable amount of punctuation at the end of a sentence and the likes. Also, typing a word then pressing enter isn't acceptable either in most cases. Try to think of something meaningful before speaking.

Since IRC is meant for group communication, chances are that not everyone is sitting 24/7 at their keyboards waiting for you to talk. Many people just idle in the channels most of the time. If no one responds, it doesn't mean that you're being ignored, maybe just no one's there to see what you just said. If you ask something, don't expect an answer right away. Depending on channel activity, you might have to wait hours or maybe even days to get a response.

To turn this around, you'll notice people are talking to you when they begin their lines with your nick. Most IRC client will highlight this for you, so you can see it. (Tip: try typing in the nick of a channel member, and pressing the TAB key. Your client should autocomplete their nick for you, if not, get a different client Smile)

Try not to be hostile towards others. Everyone has opinions, and these sometimes differ. Instead of flaming, try to understand and respect their opinions. Speaking trash and talking badly of others won't get you anywhere. If someone's being a baddy, tell an operator (you know, the @ guys) and they'll take care of them.
This should cover you for the most part, but remember, treat others the way you want them to treat you.

Chatting

Please note that Freenode's #hedgewars channel is mostly a developer channel. Don't get scared if you see something that you don't understand. Also, this channel isn't meant for organizing games. You're better off with the client or the forums for that. If you have a problem or question regarding Hedgewars, ask your question (and no, don't "ask to ask", eg. avoid "does anyone else do X? or does anyone else have X?") and wait for an answer patiently, you might or might not get an answer soon. This depends on who's around at the time. If you don't get an answer within the first 5 minutes, don't worry, and do. Not. Leave. You're not being ignored, we promise you. And no need to repeat it, either. We'll get it even if you ask it just once.

Terminology

Abbreviations are frequently used in IRC and other chats.
Below is a list of some commonly used ones.

  • afk - away from keyboard
  • brb - be right back
  • pm - private message ("I sent you a private message, check it!")
  • bb(l) - be back (later)
  • im(h)o - in my (honest/humble) opinion
  • (o)ic - (oh) i see
  • afaik - as far as I know
  • asap - as soon as possible
  • g2g - got to go
  • wtf - what the f***
  • omg - oh my god
  • ur - your
  • lol/ro(t)fl/lmao - laugh out loud/rolling on the floor and laughing/laughing my ass off
  • btw - by the way
  • (I)RL - (in) real life
  • j/k - joking
  • np - no problem
  • iirc - if I remember correctly
  • wrt - with regards to (some topic or thing)

Related to IRC:

  • op/+o - channel operator, a person that can kick/ban users
  • IRCOp - server administator, has the ability to ban users from the entire IRC-network
  • netsplit - one ore more IRC-servers lost connection to the network. This can result in people being removed from channels until the server(s) reconnected.

For a more comprehensive list, see this dictionary.

More IRC help
This guide should have you helped to get started. If you still have questions, visit www.irchelp.org.

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