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The Rules of IRC

By Jonathan Walther in Internet
Sun Dec 31, 2000 at 10:11:20 PM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

I watch a lot of newbies turn to IRC for Linux/Unix/BSD support, and give up shortly thereafter when they are beset by "assholes".

It is my experience that following a few simple behavioral rules can alleviate almost all unpleasantness on IRC and make your time there productive, or at least enjoyable. These rules were codified in a primitive form on the #LinuxOS homepage many years ago.


I've brushed off and expanded them for the edification of all here. In the future, when you are /kicking an ignorant newbie, maybe you could include the url to these rules in the /kick message.

All these rules are mere facets of this overriding rule: THOU SHALT NOT SPAM. Alternately phrased: "Thou shalt not excessively intrude yourself on someone elses consciousness". IRC isn't to get lengthy explanations of a topic; it is for someone who knows what you want to jog your mind in the correct direction so you can find it for yourself. That, and to hang out with friends.

  1. Don't repeat yourself. We heard you the first time.
  2. Don't ask to ask a question. Just ask the question.
  3. Set autoaway off. We don't care that you've been idle for 5 minutes.
  4. Set autorejoin off. Coming back immediately angers the /kicker and usually leads to a /ban
  5. Do NOT use bold colons, mIRC colors, blinky text, or ANSI codes. They mess up many peoples screens.
  6. Do NOT automessage anyone. You will be lynched.
  7. Put an idiot on /ignore as soon as you discern he is an idiot.
  8. Say nothing to an idiot, or about an idiot in his presence.
  9. Someone who is ignorant but pretends to have knowledge is an idiot.
  10. Phrase a question so it can be answered in as few words as possible.
  11. Don't ask a question you haven't researched first.
  12. Don't try to whine, beg, or guilt trip.
  13. Don't IRC as root. Every IRC client has exploitable holes.
  14. Don't initiate file transfers without the other users consent.

These rules aren't ones that can be enforced by channel ops, nor should they. I hold them out as a set of behaviors anyone can adopt, which I believe will improve their stay on IRC for them, and those around them. Like any rules, they can be bent or broken, but only once you know what you're doing. Rules 7 or 8 in particular are hard for most people to follow. After 3 years of IRCing I finally adopted them and noticed my blood pressure level go wayyyyyy down.

Has anyone (successfully) followed a materially different set of rules for "getting along" on IRC?

PS: #LinuxOS now resides on irc.openprojects.net. Although it is no longer a feature of EFNet, its mission continues unabated.

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How long is it appropriate to /ban a first time offending troll?
o 1 hour 59%
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Votes: 99
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The Rules of IRC | 41 comments (25 topical, 16 editorial, 0 hidden)
Common sense... (3.66 / 6) (#4)
by WeThree on Sat Dec 30, 2000 at 11:45:57 PM EST

Unfortunately... no matter how many times we hash over it on web pages and in text files, its still more or less common sense in my book.

Not saying its not worth writing, or that everyone is going to know it -- just saying if you need something like this, chances are you won't look for it, let alone heed it!

Regards,

-Brian

Right Forum (3.00 / 7) (#6)
by Jonathan Walther on Sat Dec 30, 2000 at 11:47:12 PM EST

A lot of K5ers are IRCers as well. The rules of netiquette while generally applicable have gaps in relation to IRC. These rules fill in those gaps. I suggest you think back to your newbie days, and what it felt like to be kicked and banned from channel after channel for what seemed like to you trivial reasons. Having these tips handy would have made a big difference. Perhaps, having had to go through such pain to learn the rules, you people voting against don't want anyone to have it "easy"? By God, I walked 3 miles to school each day, uphill, THROUGH snow...

(Luke '22:36 '19:13) => ("Sell your coat and buy a gun." . "Occupy until I come.")


i gave my reasons (3.75 / 4) (#20)
by cetan on Sun Dec 31, 2000 at 10:40:33 AM EST

I think it's pretty funny that you can make broad sweeping (and wrong) generalizations like that.

1. I've been kicked 1 time on IRC
2. I've been banned 0 times on IRC
3. I've been on IRC since 1997

I was a pure newbie in 1997. How did I learn the rules? I shut the hell up and watched every one else get kicked, banned, and k-lined. I didn't act like an imature idiot. I was smart enough to know:

"Treat others on IRC like you expect to be treated in real life"

"don't want anyone to have it 'easy'" is a comment with many faults.

===== cetan www.cetan.com =====
[ Parent ]
This is not in the netiquete (3.57 / 7) (#7)
by strlen on Sat Dec 30, 2000 at 11:52:48 PM EST

Most of these rules I agree with. And when I was a newbie it was hard, I found them out the hard way. It is not covered in the netiquete files. And I also would like to add to avoid using acronyms like "u, ur." and try looking over what you are typing to see if it makes sense. Also, please avoid using "x is gay" and "faggot", and try to exhibit your intelligence on IRC.



--
[T]he strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone. - Henrik Ibsen.
Maybe not for #LinuxOS, but.. (4.20 / 5) (#10)
by AdamJ on Sun Dec 31, 2000 at 12:26:29 AM EST

An important rule in any online community is - Lurk and Learn. On IRC you don't have to lurk very long to get the basic feel for a channel - 10 minutes to an hour should suffice. But getting a feel for the channel and how the occupants are socializing is very important and can prevent early disagreements that can taint your experience in the channel and the regulars/ops opinions of you.

Excellent. (3.60 / 5) (#11)
by simmons75 on Sun Dec 31, 2000 at 12:39:11 AM EST

Another I would add is:

15. Stay on topic. Distro advocacy is not staying on topic.
16. If someone asks a specific question about a specific piece of software, please dont go on ad nauseum as to why the person should not be using the software in a server situation. Not everyone uses Linux in a server role.

As an example of #16, I was trying to find an easy way to grab the audio track out of an MPEG1, and thought to myself, "Isn't there some kind of tee filter for ESD?" Well, I was on OPN anyway, so I hopped into #linpeople to ask if anyone knew of a way. To make a long story short, I had someone go on ad nauseum about how I shouldn't use ESD, that ESD is a security hole, and other "hilarious" stories like people who chmod 0777 /dev/dsp on a network. Guess what, asshole, I'm on a home machine with a dialup Internet connection. :-P I even posed the question "Anyone else know?" The same person simply said, "No, no-one else knows. :-P" Great attitude, since some people get into that room via irc.linux.com.

#15 is due to the number of people I see in said room and others who, when someone has a software question, ask "What distribution?" and if it's Not Debian, launch into an obnoxiously detailed explanation as to why you should be using Debian. (My suspicion is that the truth is something like this: "I use Debian, I only know Debian, don't have to think too hard when using Debian, and don't want to learn about other distributions, so you should use Debian too so I can tell you what to apt-get.")
poot!
So there.

My own contribution: (4.16 / 6) (#12)
by iCEBaLM on Sun Dec 31, 2000 at 01:22:16 AM EST

Do not private message or DCC chat someone you don't know without permission. example: I'm an op in #nvidia on opn, I frequently get people I don't know messaging me tech support questions, ask in the channel damnit, that's what it's there for!

-- iCEBaLM

Re: My own contribution: (5.00 / 1) (#33)
by UrLord on Mon Jan 01, 2001 at 02:21:55 AM EST

As an explanation for tech questions asked in channel is that more people who may have the same question can learn from that user's question. Thats the same reason I hate seeing people asking for help on web forums or email lists and asking for a personal email. If the question is on topic, keep it in the forum so the rest of us get the same information.

We can't change society in a day, we have to change ourselves first from the inside out.
[ Parent ]

IRC (3.60 / 5) (#15)
by extrasolar on Sun Dec 31, 2000 at 02:54:42 AM EST

I do IRC every once in a while. I never really followed any rules except common courtesy and the no caps, no colors thing.

I think common courtesy is the biggest thing. Unfortunately it seems that sometimes the channel veterans are the first who disobey this. In IRC-land, it seems that the veterans (IOW, they with so much time on their hands to hang out on a channel all the time), are the ones who create the rules. I don't think this is the way it should be.

I understand the problem with colors. Are there any instant communication methods that allow rich text? I am tired of living in a world limited to the ASCII character set. It is a very horrid way of communicating. Just adding simple things like bold, italics, and lists; or perhaps more complex things like mathematics---would be great. Any Jabber people here to comment on this ;-)

Does IRCing as root cause security problems for others? If not, then leave every man for himself, I say. Could someone enlighten me on what exactly these security are and where they come from?

On IRC, I usually try to type in full English. I capitalize my sentences and end with punctuation. I really dislike creating our own language for online mediums. If you can't bother to type in English, then why bother typing at all? And don't create your own acronyms that you expect everyone to know!! Don't be creative with your syntax. Even worse sometimes is people typing with false accents to give themselves a "different" feel. Ayee!!

RE: IRC (4.33 / 3) (#16)
by AdamJ on Sun Dec 31, 2000 at 03:21:45 AM EST

I think common courtesy is the biggest thing. Unfortunately it seems that sometimes the channel veterans are the first who disobey this. In IRC-land, it seems that the veterans (IOW, they with so much time on their hands to hang out on a channel all the time), are the ones who create the rules. I don't think this is the way it should be.

Very true; I've run into this problem myself, from both sides of the fence. It's hard to deal with - especially if the channel is established, and in-fighting amongst the ops can be brutal and damaging to the channel at large, and to friendships.

Just adding simple things like bold, italics, and lists;

*bold*, /italics/, and:
* lists
* of
* stuff

I know they're not perfect, but it works fine for chatting - longer communication that absolutely requires formatting should be committed to file anyways, IMO.

Does IRCing as root cause security problems for others? If not, then leave every man for himself, I say. Could someone enlighten me on what exactly these security are and where they come from?

It's a bit of a stretch, but ticking off the wrong people and having them compromise the system you're on could lead to hassles for other people; downtime, abuse of bandwidth, etc.

On IRC, I usually try to type in full English.

Thank you :-)

[ Parent ]

IRCing as root (none / 0) (#23)
by Jonathan Walther on Sun Dec 31, 2000 at 05:05:27 PM EST

The reason for that rule is not just that you could be exploited, thus becoming the puppet of others. It makes you look not just like a newbie, but a REALLY CLUELESS newbie. Newbies are fine; clueless newbies are not. If you IRC as a regular user, root is much less likely to be compromised. It raises the bar. It is simple defensive covering your ass. Anyone who leaves themselves open will get hurt when they piss someone off. And you will always piss someone off. It can't be avoided, just minimized.

(Luke '22:36 '19:13) => ("Sell your coat and buy a gun." . "Occupy until I come.")


[ Parent ]
Some other conventions and stuff (4.20 / 5) (#17)
by evvk on Sun Dec 31, 2000 at 04:53:48 AM EST

On some channels, bold, italics and reverse are allowed -- they don't tend to mess the screen (anymore) -- if one has to heavily emphasize. (BitchX bold colons/nick completion among many other features of it are evil!) The usual * and _ are preferred, though. Colours are strictly forbidden. In addition to messing screen, they're ugly.

Don't flood. Don't nick flood.

Not spoiling (those few intelligent TV series or movies) unless requested is common good behaviour. Some channels (that are about the series) emphasize this rule.

If you have something to say personally, use /msg and not DCC chat. It's like asking to ask a question and you certainly won't get an answer.

Try not stealing peoples' nicks.

Don't say anything if you have nothing to say. Often dial-up users are to blame here. Don't ask people to start disgussing about something, tell your own views. Don't ask why people are not talking about X because X is in the name of the channel; people may have other interests that suit the channel as well.

And, of course, no 31337 t41k, lots of exclamation marks etc. (!!!!11! ?!??). Except in a limited amount in parody sense, of course, and even then not as your first few message as new on the channel.



Just in case... (4.00 / 1) (#36)
by amokscience on Mon Jan 01, 2001 at 03:35:05 PM EST

I haven't seen this posted yet and this is probably too obvious for most of us but _disable_ your caps lock ;)

[ Parent ]
It's in there (4.00 / 1) (#37)
by Jonathan Walther on Mon Jan 01, 2001 at 08:53:47 PM EST

It's already covered by the netiquette document. I didn't mean my little article to be seen as superseding it. Just filling in the gaps, ma'am.

(Luke '22:36 '19:13) => ("Sell your coat and buy a gun." . "Occupy until I come.")


[ Parent ]
Be very, VERY careful with /exec -o (4.25 / 4) (#18)
by pwhysall on Sun Dec 31, 2000 at 05:41:23 AM EST

This is a neato way of getting banned.

/exec -o ps -aux, for example, will flood the channel if your client doesn't have flood protection. Then you'll be kicked, and the channel will mock you.
--
Peter
K5 Editors
I'm going to wager that the story keeps getting dumped because it is a steaming pile of badly formatted fool-meme.
CheeseBurgerBrown

This article available at simple url (3.00 / 1) (#24)
by Jonathan Walther on Sun Dec 31, 2000 at 05:19:21 PM EST

http://reactor-core.org/irc-rules points to this article, and will for the forseeable future, if anyone wants to refer newbies on IRC to it.

(Luke '22:36 '19:13) => ("Sell your coat and buy a gun." . "Occupy until I come.")


Re: This article available at simple url (4.66 / 3) (#32)
by Malicose on Mon Jan 01, 2001 at 02:15:03 AM EST

Why bother when http://www.kuro5hin.org/?op=displaystory;sid=2000/12/30/232315/30 rolls right off the tongue?

[ Parent ]
How about rules for channel regulars? (2.33 / 3) (#29)
by kumquat on Sun Dec 31, 2000 at 09:09:49 PM EST

My absolute number one complaint is joining a channel that advertises help, usually in the channel name like #ComeHereForXDisplayHelp, and finding, if you're lucky, 2 dozen logged in users who have set "away". If you're unlucky, and this seems a lot more common, you find 2 dozen logged in users who have not set "away" even though they are currently at the mall buying underwear and won't be anywhere near their computers for the next 6 days. HELLO! It's a freaking help channel! If you're not around to either ask or answer questions, for god's sake log the hell off so I don't waste my time asking questions to an empty channel!

And don't even get me started on people who use help channels for idle chat...

re: How about rules for channel regulars? (1.00 / 4) (#30)
by Drone X on Sun Dec 31, 2000 at 10:22:22 PM EST

I tend to disagree. I'm a regular at #java and there are a lot of people there who're coding while they're sitting idle in the channel. If we got a few spare minutes then we look at what was said recently and then decide if we answer. It's not feasable to set "away" since most of us are in a flux of being present and being too busy coding. Also, not all questions are worth responding to. For example: if you put an URL to a FAQ in the channel's topic then you'd espect people to read it, if that FAQ points to the JavaDocs and TheJavaTutorial.com then you espect people to check those out, it starts getting annoying if you need to point those two sites out for every newbie entering the channel. And don't get me started on the people who don't seem to grasp the difference between JavaScript and Java (also in the FAQ BTW)... A last remark, sitting idle on a channel and following conversations can be a good way of learning stuff that you missed before (i.e. trivial things like the fact that a StringBuffer is *much faster* than appending strings wit the + operator is something you don't find in most books).

Monkey sense
[ Parent ]

re: How about rules for channel regulars? (4.25 / 4) (#31)
by Drone X on Sun Dec 31, 2000 at 10:22:39 PM EST

I tend to disagree.

I'm a regular at #java and there are a lot of people there who're coding while they're sitting idle in the channel. If we got a few spare minutes then we look at what was said recently and then decide if we answer.

It's not feasable to set "away" since most of us are in a flux of being present and being too busy coding.

Also, not all questions are worth responding to. For example: if you put an URL to a FAQ in the channel's topic then you'd espect people to read it, if that FAQ points to the JavaDocs and TheJavaTutorial.com then you espect people to check those out, it starts getting annoying if you need to point those two sites out for every newbie entering the channel. And don't get me started on the people who don't seem to grasp the difference between JavaScript and Java (also in the FAQ BTW)...

A last remark, sitting idle on a channel and following conversations can be a good way of learning stuff that you missed before (i.e. trivial things like the fact that a StringBuffer is *much faster* than appending strings wit the + operator is something you don't find in most books).

Monkey sense
[ Parent ]

I don't mean I can't wait 5 minutes (none / 0) (#34)
by kumquat on Mon Jan 01, 2001 at 03:15:45 AM EST

I'm talking about hour + waits with nothing but crickets. This defeats the whole point of InstantRC.

And I completely disagree with your attitude about not letting others know you're not paying close attention. Try this when you're coding:
/nick DroneX-busy

Why is that simple, polite gesture too much to ask on channels that are help related?

[ Parent ]

sitting idle in IRC (3.00 / 1) (#35)
by Drone X on Mon Jan 01, 2001 at 10:43:05 AM EST

I'm talking about hour + waits with nothing but crickets. This defeats the whole point of InstantRC.

A technical detail: IRC stands for Internet Relay Chat, not for some InstantRC thing.

But that's beside the point, I too have experienced such things, mostly at channels dedicated to a specific piece of software, even when that channel is the "official" channel on the "official" network.

But I was in fact more talking about people who join a question, ask a question and leave angry in 5 to 10 minutes if they don't get an answer within that time frame. Really annoying, especially if they keep coming back.

/nick DroneX-busy

Unfortunately not all IRC servers support nicknames longer than 9 (IIRC) characters, the network I'm at sure doesn't. Another solution, being those away messages is also *very annoying* as they seem to be repeated every 5 minutes or so (especially when using an 313337 script), if not repeating.. well, then there's not much use for it, is there?


Monkey sense
[ Parent ]

the rule of the lurker (5.00 / 3) (#39)
by unstable on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 09:40:23 AM EST

Lurk first talk later....

otherwise.. sit on the channel for a while and find out how things work. who the people to talk to are, and what is appropriate and what is not....

this rule can be applied to alot of things online and in RL





Reverend Unstable
all praise the almighty Bob
and be filled with slack

*AOL* (none / 0) (#40)
by Farq Q. Fenderson on Thu Jan 04, 2001 at 01:55:56 PM EST

Aye, I can remember spending months reading through a certain weblog before posting comments. When in doubt, lurk.

farq will not be coming back
[ Parent ]
Stress 11. BIGTIME stress 11! (none / 0) (#41)
by greydmiyu on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 07:06:41 PM EST

I cannot stress #11 enough. Do not ask a question that you have not researched. As much as it may have branded be a prick when I was a chanop on a linux channel for well over a year I had a very simple policy. I did not answer a question if it was answered either by a simple 1-2 word yahoo search or a man -k search. In fact, many times I would confirm that what they were asking was answerable by either of those methods.

Another /BIG/ rule is do not /ever/ expect an answer. "You're here to help me" will get you helped right out of the channel. We're there because we want to.

Don't expect a negative answer.
"If you don't know, why not say so?" Because 50+ people all saying no to 1-2 questions a minute would make the channel pretty useless, now wouldn't it?



-- Grey d'Miyu, not just another pretty color.
The Rules of IRC | 41 comments (25 topical, 16 editorial, 0 hidden)
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