Kuro5hin.org: technology and culture, from the trenches
create account | help/FAQ | contact | links | search | IRC | site news
[ Everything | Diaries | Technology | Science | Culture | Politics | Media | News | Internet | Op-Ed | Fiction | Meta | MLP ]
We need your support: buy an ad | premium membership

IRC: Pointless waste or useful tool?

By Jed Smith in Op-Ed
Sun May 09, 2004 at 11:36:26 AM EST
Tags: Internet (all tags)

The New York Times has run an article ["The Internet's Wilder Side", NYT, 5/6/2004] that brings Internet Relay Chat, or IRC, to the public eye once again. The article, published Thursday, emphasized IRC's notorious reputation to a generally uneducated audience.

Articles such as these are a reminder that IRC may be falling apart, succumbing to "elite" software pirates and childish flooders. So who exactly uses IRC today, and where is IRC going?

"IRC should provide a way for people to meet and talk with people around the world without leaving their homes," Ryan Gluesing, who goes by the handle boyeh, tells me. "Instead, it has evolved like the rest of the Internet, now a place full of pornography and illegal file sharing."

The Pirates

While some major networks such as DALnet have taken steps to alleviate illicit file distribution, the downloading of everything from Hollywood movies to electronic copies of today's bestsellers is a staple of the modern IRC network. However, the files are available to all -- queues, or lines, for a popular file might stretch into the hundreds or thousands. The availability and selection has become so well-developed, in fact, that illegal "dumps" (storage houses for illicit software) can reach into the terabytes.

So as the recording industry attacks file-trading software on all fronts, IRC users are secure with their way of life. The brutal firestorm that destroyed Napster and its clones has left IRC relatively untouched -- and the RIAA acknowledges this.

"There are thousands of areas out there, and it's a resource issue," Frank Creighton, senior vice president and director of anti-piracy for the RIAA, told Wired News in 2000. "I have limited resource capability, so we have to focus our efforts on more egregious areas." ["Forget Napster; IRC's the Place", Wired, 3/27/2000]

The Hackers

Close behind file-trading is the hacking community, the elite group of computer junkies with an arsenal of trojans and viruses at their command. A number of trojans, the most notable of a previous era being Subseven and Netbus, can actually connect to IRC to wait for commands from the author. These commands can be harmless ("eject CD tray") or more damaging, to the user ("delete every document from My Documents") or even to another entity altogether ("attack SCO.com"). [Remote control bots in action]

Why IRC? "[IRC] is unmoderated, private, and easy to access," Gluesing says. It is these traits that makes IRC the medium of choice for many virus writers and hackers. Many IRC users also have the ability to disconnect another user by force, making IRC a hostile and dangerous environment, particularly for Internet service providers.

This issue came fully to light last year when a number of servers on the DALnet network were attacked, at times quite ferociously, by a still unknown mastermind ["Attacks Fell an Online Community", Wired, 3/27/2003, "Could Attack on DALnet Spell End for IRC?", Internetnews.com, 1/24/2003]. Two of DALnet's most popular servers, 'twisted' and 'liberty', had to delink due to the amount of traffic their parent network was receiving. Very few ISPs will even consider linking to DALnet now, due to the potential for damage that comes with the community service.

Software to control exploited computers has lowered itself to such a level that even fifteen-year-old kids can build armies of drones to do their bidding.

The Perverts

A simple /list command while on IRC will demonstrate the extensiveness of this group. There are channels for every fetish: #0!!!!bifem-dogsex, #0!!!!!!!ltlgirlsexchat, #0!!!!!white_women_4_black_dick. The taboo is certainly in on IRC, where, shielded behind anonymity, sexual fetishists of every type can come together and discuss common interests.

"IRC is the only place I know of that has more fetishists, pedophiles and perverts than a low budget porn shop," an anonymous user says. It is perhaps the pedophiles that draw the most governmental attention, with growing worldwide concern over the exchange of child pornography.

The Regulars

And, on account of all this deviancy, there remains the group of users loyal to IRC itself. Many a friendship and even marriage has originated from IRC, and it has generated a following that simply uses the network to pass the time with friends.

"I'm here because I've been here for 7 years," Mike, who goes by the handle Stab-West, states. "And I can't bring myself to leave."


With the comparison of IRC to an online ghetto, it is necessary to ask, just what role does IRC play in the online community?

As much as fans of IRC will not admit it, the proportion of deviants to good citizens is not anything to write a sales pitch over; so why do ISPs continue to link to it and people continue to use it?


Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure


o Yeah, d00d! 29%
o Occasionally. 34%
o Only when I'm looking for some software. 2%
o Fuck IRC. 33%

Votes: 87
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o The Internet's Wilder Side
o DALnet
o Forget Napster; IRC's the Place
o Subseven
o Netbus
o Remote control bots in action
o Attacks Fell an Online Community
o Could Attack on DALnet Spell End for IRC?
o Also by Jed Smith

Display: Sort:
IRC: Pointless waste or useful tool? | 82 comments (65 topical, 17 editorial, 0 hidden)
Shhh... (2.40 / 5) (#2)
by QuantumFoam on Fri May 07, 2004 at 10:07:35 PM EST

We don't want to let the Man be aware of IRC. Let RIAA and MPAA prosecute the dumbass 12 year old Kazaa users while the enlightened continue to use IRC.

- Barack Obama: Because it will work this time. Honest!

They already know, don't they? [nt] (none / 3) (#3)
by Jed Smith on Fri May 07, 2004 at 10:08:43 PM EST

K5 is dead. Steve Ballmer made the most insightful comment on a story. -- jw32767
[ Parent ]
Yes, but it has a low priority for them. [n/t] (none / 3) (#6)
by QuantumFoam on Fri May 07, 2004 at 10:49:39 PM EST

- Barack Obama: Because it will work this time. Honest!
[ Parent ]

Though many may scoff... (3.00 / 10) (#9)
by nollidj on Fri May 07, 2004 at 10:53:58 PM EST

IRC seems to me to be an important place for the OSS community to meet and discuss. While this function may be divorced from the larger networks, as irc.debian.org or irc.freenode.net need not be a part of them, open to all comers, and house warez or porn traders, it is important because it allows a lot of people to collaborate in software projects and receive technical support from the community.

In spite of what people have said about (for example) #debian on irc.debian.org, when I was a Debian neophyte and unable to find my Linux legs, other people sitting about in IRC were able to help me solve my problems. I then tried to return the favor after I learned more and from time to time can be seen in #gentoo to answer questions (and still to pose some of my own).


Very True (3.00 / 5) (#15)
by LittleZephyr on Fri May 07, 2004 at 11:29:13 PM EST

I hang about on irc.mozilla.org and it is where I got my first introduction into support and becoming an effective helper and bug reporter.

Really, this is what IRC is best at. The "Get together and chat" networks are pretty much null and void of anything worthwhile because they really don't have any purpose. When people DO get together for a purpose (like developing an OSS app), good things come about (liike meaningful interaction with other human beings, for example).
(\♥/) What if instead of posting that comment,
(0.-) you had actually taken a knife and stabbed
("_") me in the eye? You murderer. ~ Rusty

[ Parent ]

in the nick of time (none / 2) (#56)
by JonDowland on Sun May 09, 2004 at 06:02:53 PM EST

Until freenode appeared, I was more or less convinced that irc was dying. Now there are a number of similar services offered which provide an invaluable support service to users of OSS software; as well as social networking for developers. I have also found these places to be good for general chit-chat.

[ Parent ]
Waste for everyone but net.geeks. (2.00 / 9) (#11)
by Kasreyn on Fri May 07, 2004 at 10:57:01 PM EST

As in, the only people who can use IRC without getting winnuked/virus bombed/pwnz0rde~ by some 15 year old with no life.

I gave up on IRC years ago. Everyone I talk to uses at least one of the IM programs and I'm not interested in keeping up with the latest ways to stop mIRC kiddiez from attacking me, just so I can talk to random strangers who think they're smarter than me.

But I'm sure it's great fun for all the rest of you.


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
IAWTP (2.50 / 4) (#13)
by Jed Smith on Fri May 07, 2004 at 11:17:07 PM EST

The only reason I stay is to assist with DALnet, because it needs all the help it can get, and discuss C++ and other technical issues in various channels. I'm considering moving to Freenode, however.
K5 is dead. Steve Ballmer made the most insightful comment on a story. -- jw32767
[ Parent ]
IMs are not very compatible with group discussion (3.00 / 5) (#14)
by Dr Phil on Fri May 07, 2004 at 11:26:42 PM EST

Sure there are methods with most clients, but it's never as easy as just having an IRC client open. IMs are more like mobile phones, you send someone a message, ask them what you want to ask, talk about whatever. IRC is more like hanging out with friends, the conversations are public, anyone around is free to watch, join in when they feel like it, etc. Like I said, most IMs have a similar facility, but it's always much screwier with having to rejoin all the "chats", or invites to them (when applicable), having them spawn all these desktop windows, and having to deal with the IM connectivity backend. IRC is the most convenient type of come-and-go always-active group discussion.

*** ATTENTION *** Rusty has disabled my account for anti-Jewish views. What a fucking hypocrite.
[ Parent ]
what about im script kiddies? (none / 1) (#46)
by Fuzzwah on Sat May 08, 2004 at 10:58:19 PM EST

The way of avoiding mirc script kiddies is still the same as it ever was; don't use mirc.

I even use a similar approach and don't use any 1st party im apps.

The best a human can do is to pick a delusion that helps him get through the day. - God's Debris
[ Parent ]

Yes. (nt) (1.25 / 8) (#17)
by mcc on Sat May 08, 2004 at 12:20:14 AM EST

Aside from that, the absurd meta-wankery of k5er-quoting sigs probably takes the cake. Especially when the quote itself is about k5. -- tsubame
The big networks have been declining for a while (2.60 / 5) (#20)
by grahamsz on Sat May 08, 2004 at 01:59:29 AM EST

I used to use EFNet, then one day i was on the IRCNet side of the split. Now i've sinced moved to the USA and i'm k-lined from every ircnet server on the planet.. forcing me to tunnel back to the UK and onto demon's server.

A year or two back I was on the receiving end of a channel takeover that involved a sustained 200Mbit/s of ICMP traffic. Fortunately it originated from two rooted machines at my university so my connection held up fine. I have no doubt that irc will live on in the form of small community servers, but the l33t kiddies have scared most major ISPs off.

On the other hand i've got a fair few friends and a little bit of real life action ;) from my days on irc - so it's not all bad.
Sell your digital photos - I've made enough to buy a taco today

Please go on (none / 1) (#50)
by am3nhot3p on Sun May 09, 2004 at 01:49:16 PM EST

This sounds quite interesting, but doesn't make a lot of sense to someone who wasn't there.

Could you explain a bit more?  For example:

  • what was the EFNet/IRCNet split?
  • why are you k-lined?
  • what is k-lining, anyway?

[ Parent ]
K-Line = Kill line (none / 1) (#54)
by Rk on Sun May 09, 2004 at 05:46:22 PM EST

It's a line added to the server config file with an IP/hostname mask, such as *!*@*.aol.com. If your hostname or IP matches any of the masks defined in the config file, you are disconnected ("killed") from the server automatically upon joining. Or at least, that's how I remember it, I haven't used IRC for years...

[ Parent ]
Efnet/IRCNet split (none / 2) (#74)
by dougmc on Mon May 10, 2004 at 04:38:25 PM EST

Once there was IRC. Just one net worth mentioning, though people may have played with making their own.

This network did not have a name -- it didn't need one. It was just IRC.

Then some people had an argument about a specific server called eris. And the IRC network split into two halfs, the side with eris and the side without. The side with eris (Anet?) died out, and the other net remained.

Other networks started popping up, starting with Undernet. So now we've got Undernet, and another network that really doesn't have a name. So people start calling it Eris-free net, or just Efnet.

[ Parent ]

EFNet/IRCNet split (none / 2) (#75)
by dougmc on Mon May 10, 2004 at 04:42:49 PM EST

Hit POST before I was done :)

So now we've got Efnet and Undernet. And other networks started appearing as well.

Some other people on Efnet have a disagreement, this time about irc.stealth.net (if I remember correctly.) So there's another split, with the people splitting off calling themselves IRCNet. The IRCNet people claim to be the first network because they include (and still do) the first IRC server, over in Finland.

And there you have it. This page gives some dates for these things.

[ Parent ]

Stop bitching (none / 3) (#21)
by strlen on Sat May 08, 2004 at 02:57:10 AM EST

If you don't like IRC, you're more than welcome to type "ps -a|grep BitchX|xargs kill -9" into your terminal.

I've been on IRC (EFnet) for more than 7 years now, why did I start? Moving to a new country, being a computer geek and lacking any social skills whatsoever leaves you with very few real life friends. Why do I continue using it? Because I've gotten a job from it once and met many people who I became friends in real life on it and picked up many hobbies from it. For the kiddies (what you call "hackers") and the perverts and w@rez d00ds there's always the /ignore command.

As I said, no one forces you to use it. And the less attention NYT idiots bring to it, the better.

[T]he strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone. - Henrik Ibsen.

Errata: the command line, forgot awk (none / 1) (#22)
by strlen on Sat May 08, 2004 at 03:04:13 AM EST

Should be "ps -a|grep BitchX|awk '{print $1}'|xargs kill -9".

[T]he strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone. - Henrik Ibsen.
[ Parent ]
or: (none / 1) (#24)
by DJ Google on Sat May 08, 2004 at 04:01:55 AM EST

you could install this cool POSIX tool called 'zap' and do zap -y BitchX

Join me on irc.slashnet.org #Kuro5hin.org - the official Kuro5hin IRC channel.
[ Parent ]

Yeah.. (none / 1) (#25)
by strlen on Sat May 08, 2004 at 04:10:14 AM EST

Or just use killall on a FreeBSD/Linux/OpenBSD system, but I wanted to be inclusive to users on machines which they neither have root access too, nor that would have "killall/zap" etc.. (killall on Solaris may lead to some rather unpleasant surprises, for instance).

[T]he strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone. - Henrik Ibsen.
[ Parent ]
Killall on Solaris (none / 2) (#26)
by Coryoth on Sat May 08, 2004 at 04:45:46 AM EST

I still recall my first encounter with killall on Solaris.  Ijust needed to kill of some processes by name, and when tab completion gave me killall I thought "great, it is on here".  Hitting enter gave me a nice warning about the lack of root privileges and a failure to execute properly.

"Root privileges required for killall?" I thought, "Perhaps I ought to read the man page..."

Which quickly resulted in "Oh, I see.  Right then.  As in kill ALL." and I never touched it again.


[ Parent ]

Killall on Irix is similar. (none / 0) (#47)
by Kal on Sun May 09, 2004 at 12:43:19 AM EST

Running it without arguments or, in a coworker's case, with the standard -ZZZZZ to get a usage statement causes it to kill everything it can. I found it very amusing that he was loged in as root at the time.

[ Parent ]
Kill -9 ? (none / 0) (#58)
by Phillip Asheo on Sun May 09, 2004 at 06:37:27 PM EST

Why not try kill -TERM ? its more polite. If that fails THEN try kill -9

"Never say what you can grunt. Never grunt what you can wink. Never wink what you can nod, never nod what you can shrug, and don't shrug when it ain't necessary"
-Earl Long
[ Parent ]

HAHAHAHA (2.66 / 9) (#23)
by the77x42 on Sat May 08, 2004 at 03:40:20 AM EST

Yes, IRC is used mainly for warez now.
Yes, Usenet is used mainly for warez now.
Yes, Undernet is used mainly for warez now.
Yes, Kazaa is used mainly for warez now.
Yes, DirectConnect is used mainly for warez now.
Yes, Bittorrent is used mainly for warez now.
Yes, FTP is used mainly for warez now.
Yes, Hotline is used mainly for warez now.
Yes, Carracho is used mainly for warez now.
Yes, everything is used mainly for warez now.

We won! Let's get rid of the internet and end all crime! Damn Al Gore!

"We're not here to educate. We're here to point and laugh." - creature
"You have some pretty stupid ideas." - indubitable ‮

s/warez/trooling/ [nt] (none / 3) (#29)
by James A C Joyce on Sat May 08, 2004 at 08:24:18 AM EST

I bought this account on eBay
[ Parent ]

my experiences with IRC (2.50 / 6) (#27)
by ant0n on Sat May 08, 2004 at 06:15:59 AM EST

IRC is completely unusable for having a discussion with somebody. The original idea behind IRC was, as I get it, that you can have a chat and discuss topics that interest you with people around the world; something like a worldwide round table. I like this idea, but the thing is that people on IRC just type too damn slow. When I tried IRC out several times, most other people on the channel needed 40 seconds or so at least to react. This leads to the annoying effect that when you type in a question or statement, a few seconds later somebody reacts to a statement you made a minute before. Also, most people on IRC make their statements very short and simple; I think because typing is so tiresome for them.
Imagine you had a real face-to-face-conversation with somebody IRC-style: he would reply to you only after thinking about your statement for half a minute, and never build a sentence with more than five words. Wouldn't that suck?

-- Does the shortest thing the tallest pyramid's support supports support anything green?
Patrick H. Winston, Artificial Intelligence
That not really cuts straight to the point (none / 1) (#66)
by Highlander on Mon May 10, 2004 at 04:22:42 AM EST

Having a discussion with someone is not the biggest problem, the problem is getting their attention. Once you have someones full attention everything is fine.

People don't think about your statement for a minute: People will often do several things at once, they might be helping someone with a tech question on a different channel. You may not like that, but that is the prize you have to pay to talk to a real person in (near) real time. You could use a forum if you dislike the waiting.

What I don't get is these channels where people are logged in, but everyone is idle, no one replies. You only get replies from channels where more than 100 users are logged in.

Another thing that gets me is people who log in to IRC and keep asking: "Can someone help me ? Please ?". Nobody can answer that question because the question is "Help with WHAT?".
Give details of what you want.

Moderation in moderation is a good thing.
[ Parent ]

IRC is good (2.50 / 4) (#31)
by moeffju on Sat May 08, 2004 at 08:32:01 AM EST

As much as fans of IRC will not admit it, the proportion of deviants to good citizens is not anything to write a sales pitch over; so why do ISPs continue to link to it and people continue to use it?

Or maybe, just maybe, they are just a lot more vocal and make for better headlines?
Imagine the front page '250 people have peaceful chat in IRC! (cont. page 3)', if you can?
IRC does not have more 'deviants' than most other media, and aside from that, IRC is probably one of the least secure channels. The advent of IRC-ssl may change this, but in general everyone can /WHO a channel and subpoena all ISPs. DCC is a lot easier to track than some widespread peer-to-peer network which encodes stuff (Freenet anyone?).

It's also useful... (none / 2) (#32)
by The Honorable Elijah Muhammad on Sat May 08, 2004 at 10:56:50 AM EST

... for isps who want to balance out traffic for peering agreements.

localroger is a tool.
In memory of the You Sad Bastard thread. A part of our heritage.
Depends upon the number of chaters (2.50 / 4) (#33)
by svampa on Sat May 08, 2004 at 12:09:46 PM EST

A channel, with a dozen of members chating, works. People is polite nad they know who's is everybody, at least in a virtual manner.

But if you enter in a chanel quite known, with a 100 members hiting the system, nobody can read, lammers try everithing, stupid, sex hiungers adolescents come in and out saying nosense.

But IRC may still be used to make small and nice comunities of what ever you want. I'm not sure if for any thing else.

Very much depends on the channel (none / 1) (#70)
by piranha jpl on Mon May 10, 2004 at 12:31:36 PM EST

There are 135 people in my favorite channel. It is very easy to keep up with the rate of conversation. There are the occasional idiots-of-the-day, but the regulars can and know to see through that crap. Most losers are encouraged to leave or shut up—for better or worse. And I like it that way.

Some much larger channels, like #debian on Freenode, manage to keep surprisingly high signal-to-noise ratios.

- J.P. Larocque
- Life's not fair, but the root password helps. -- BOFH

[ Parent ]

tell me something we don't know (1.00 / 6) (#34)
by auraslip on Sat May 08, 2004 at 12:30:23 PM EST

ditto (none / 3) (#35)
by redrum on Sat May 08, 2004 at 12:51:07 PM EST

[ Parent ]
"IRC: Pointless Waste Of Useful Food." (none / 1) (#37)
by Russell Dovey on Sat May 08, 2004 at 02:43:24 PM EST

Images of IRC servers made entirely from cheese were not far behind. It certainly would explain a lot.

"Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light." - Spike Milligan

Still (none / 0) (#81)
by tupholme on Mon May 17, 2004 at 04:18:54 PM EST

The last time I went on to IRC a few years ago they were posting about cheese, and the channel was nothing to do with food.

[ Parent ]
asl? (1.20 / 5) (#38)
by Russell Dovey on Sat May 08, 2004 at 02:51:43 PM EST

oh great, newbies.
Like you're not a newbie.
like, why? like, dude, like, grow up, like, chill.

"Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light." - Spike Milligan

How to get around these problems (3.00 / 9) (#39)
by bc on Sat May 08, 2004 at 03:32:09 PM EST

Back in '99 I was sick of the increasing stupidity of #politics on dalnet. I thought, "I really need somewhere new, somewhere more intelligent, a channel of untamed wit. Somewhere for people like me!"

That was when I had my idea.

I wrote a bot. The bot was tooled with various heuristics to allow it to guestimate the rough intelligence level of any channel, given sufficient time idling there, coldly logging and totaling and calculating variables like average functional vocabulary/line, length of lines, correctness of grammar and spelling, and many more.

I fed it a huge list of servers, and let it loose, hosted on a high bandwidth collocated box.

It took fourteen months of logging and calculation, across 39,000 channels on 36 networks, but soon I had a candidate list of the most intelligent channels on the whole of IRC.

I investigated that list, and excluded those channels that were newswire services full of bots spewing reports from traditional media (they scored surprisingly highly). The #1 human channel was one #jism on irc.slashnet.org. I joined, and I was set!

Other stats: the original IRC network, IRCNet, is perhaps the most intelligent network overall, beating out its various progeny, such as efnet (which scored very lowly).

My point is, intelligent and controversial discourse does still exist on IRC. You just have to look for it.

Really look.

♥, bc.

Interesting. (none / 1) (#42)
by trane on Sat May 08, 2004 at 07:09:37 PM EST

Tell me more! Code for the bot? More detailed stats?

[ Parent ]
What makes you think that bc owes you anything? (none / 2) (#57)
by Phillip Asheo on Sun May 09, 2004 at 06:22:54 PM EST

Can you explain to me why bc would want to give up his carefully developed intellectual property so anyone could use it ? bc's bot package contains several sophisticated AI algorithms, I understand at least two patents are in the pipeline. I doubt if you will be getting your hands on bc's source any time soon.

"Never say what you can grunt. Never grunt what you can wink. Never wink what you can nod, never nod what you can shrug, and don't shrug when it ain't necessary"
-Earl Long
[ Parent ]

Indeed, Phillip (none / 1) (#60)
by bc on Sun May 09, 2004 at 06:59:49 PM EST

You should not be too down on OSS licenses, however. I have investigated them and I think the shared source licence may well provide just the right mix of freedoms and restrictions that will most benefit the end users of my software.

I'm doing some refactoring just now, so watch this space.

♥, bc.
[ Parent ]

OK (none / 1) (#65)
by trane on Mon May 10, 2004 at 12:18:19 AM EST

I just started working on some chatterbot shit, thought i could learn something, but carry on.

[ Parent ]
Please share! (none / 0) (#51)
by faecal on Sun May 09, 2004 at 03:14:16 PM EST

It'd be great to see the results from this research.

[ Parent ]
Some more random statistics (3.00 / 4) (#53)
by bc on Sun May 09, 2004 at 04:08:10 PM EST

#kuro5hin placed just inside the bottom 20% of channels.

#slashdot was about 10 percentage points above it.

Channels matching *windows* were 5% above channels matching *linux*.

Channels matching *britain* were 3% above those matching *usa*, which were 7% above those matching *canada*.

IRCnet beat underneat beat dalnet beat efnet.

According to the Fleisch-Kincaid grade level tests, 70% of IRC channels score beneath grade level 3 for their writing skills.

♥, bc.
[ Parent ]

tooled with various heuristics (none / 0) (#73)
by dougmc on Mon May 10, 2004 at 04:33:23 PM EST

The bot was tooled with various heuristics to allow it to guestimate the rough intelligence level of any channel
You'll need to be a lot more specific about these heuristics. How does one assign an intelligent level to a given conversation?

Longer words = higher IQ? Typical bad words = lower IQ?

[ Parent ]

bots and the like (none / 2) (#40)
by vqp on Sat May 08, 2004 at 05:18:53 PM EST

I liked to go to trivia channels, start a bot and gather all the questions (usually it takes 2 weeks to gather 70% of them).

Then I use to play god, giving the right answers with random comments. When I got tired, I was developing a heuristic speech engine, with typos included, aimed to pass the Turing test. It was funny only for a couple of weeks.

I wonder if there is an IM with bot capability and multiuser enabled. To cheat this way in yahoo! games would be nice too.

happiness = d(Reality - Expectations) / dt

aim: smarterchild [nt] (none / 0) (#59)
by emmons on Sun May 09, 2004 at 06:45:55 PM EST

In the beginning the universe was created. This has made a lot of people angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.
-Douglas Adams

[ Parent ]
I Think the NY Times is a Useful Tool (2.50 / 4) (#41)
by thelizman on Sat May 08, 2004 at 06:13:09 PM EST

...emphasis on "tool".

"Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
-1: Media Whore (1.54 / 11) (#49)
by skyknight on Sun May 09, 2004 at 06:51:04 AM EST

You referred to crackers as hackers. Please re-educate yourself as to proper use of this word.

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
A word is defined by it's usage (none / 0) (#72)
by hovil on Mon May 10, 2004 at 04:05:59 PM EST

It's too late to change. People will forevermore call what you deem to be crackers, hackers.

Get over it!

[ Parent ]

Sure... (none / 0) (#76)
by skyknight on Mon May 10, 2004 at 04:47:30 PM EST

but I refuse to be polite about it.

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
IRC is dead. (none / 3) (#52)
by MessiahWWKD on Sun May 09, 2004 at 03:37:30 PM EST

Let's face it. IRC is dead. However, in its place is a new generation of chatting communities: AOL Chat, Yahoo! Chat, and MSN Chat. There are deviants on AOL and Yahoo!, but even those two don't have the insane amount of them as IRC does (MSN Chat doesn't have them as it is a premium service, so if you really want intelligent conversation, it's worth the money!).
Sent from my iPad
Regular (none / 1) (#55)
by MadJo on Sun May 09, 2004 at 05:47:06 PM EST

I'm a regular visitor of IRC channels. And I must say, nothing described above has happened in my experience (of oh about 5 years now)... it of course depends on which channels you chat. IRC is not dead, you just have to find a good chatbox.

Broken (none / 1) (#61)
by ShrimpX on Sun May 09, 2004 at 07:09:45 PM EST

IRC is becoming more and more popular as a local communication tool for various organizations... Universities and nerdish companies have their own IRC networks nowadays, for work purposes.

Most of the IRC-ing I do is on these kinds of networks, but I also frequent other worthwhile channels on main networks, like #haskell on freenode.

But this article is crap to begin with. The Web is crippled by spam, porn, illegal software, crackers and perverts. So wtf kind of role does the Web play in our community?

IRC: The Ham Radio of the Internet (2.80 / 5) (#62)
by LairBob on Sun May 09, 2004 at 08:17:11 PM EST

(Before anyone gets all hot and bothered, at least I didn't call it the "CB Radio of the Internet", right?)

Seriously, though--there's a lot of parallels. In all practical reality, it's really already an archaic and ineffective mode of communication, but there's a core group of folks who found real benefit from it "back in the day", and have a hard time abandoning the model. Have you ever listened on on a ham radio frequency or a CB radio channel? It sounds a lot like people reading a transcript of an IRC channel. ("Hey, did you ever buy that antacid medicine you said you were gonna try?" "My mom just came home." "Has anyone seen the new Spiderman trailer?" "I gotta go eat." "No, I never did." "Never did what, Sammy?")

As someone who's applied himself in trying to use it more than once--and who uses person-to-person IM 18 hours a day for work and on a personal basis--I just find that the broad IRC model has got some real problems, like:

  • It's parallel in all the wrong ways: Everyone's sitting and typing at the same time, with no idea of what other folks are or aren't doing at their keyboards.
  • It's serial in all the wrong ways: All that parallel thought gets shoved into a linear queue, with no real reflection of any kind of clustering or spaces in the conversation. (_Yes_, you can set your client to timestamp comments, but that's still not a clearly intelligible approach.)
  • It's immediate in all the wrong ways: Instead of deriving some advantage from being "immediate" like "real-time", it's more immediate like "no mediation between my thoughts and the outside world." People tend to just sit there dumping random thoughts, rather than really applying some kind of advanced "group-think" to a single concrete issue.

For those who are still die-hard advocates of IRC, I'm not trying to say that your experiences are invalid. (And please don't tell me to "just stay away from IRC, then". I already do.) I'm just trying to say that I think you're in a very tiny minority of folks who are trying to use it for legitimate purposes.

In the end, I think the main issue is that there are just a lot of better communication tools. I think the structured/thread bulletin board model, like K5, are enormously better suited for extended, intelligent analysis, and I think that "focused" IM--a very small number of people who initiate conversations when they need to have them--is much better suited for quick "ad hoc" discussion that still stays on topic.

you're trying to talk on too big channels (3.00 / 4) (#67)
by blight on Mon May 10, 2004 at 07:21:35 AM EST

Really, if you're seeing conversations like that, you are on channels that have grown too big and are full of people who don't really care if people understand who they're responding to.

My own use of IRC is such that I'm on several smaller channels that consist of 3-20 people. The people on these channels usually prefix their lines with the nick of the person they're talking to if there is a chance that it's unclear.

Usually, though, there are 2-3 people engaged in any given conversation. The people on the channels I frequent tend to shut up if they don't have anything useful to say.

I have seen a total of one disturbance during the last two years. One spammer joined one of the channels I'm usually on. I kickbanned him before he had time to spew more than 10 lines of shit. No-one said anything about the occurrence after that.

IRC does have support for private conversation between 2 people without a channel. If you need bigger, just create invite-only channel and invite the people you want to talk with.

That's how I've seen some channels get started. Old channel gets too full and the core group migrates to a new channel taking the intelligent conversation with them.

I've also seen channels where people who don't talk or "bring down the level" tend to get kicked out.

Anyway, my point is that IRC isn't designed for random gatherings. It's designed for stable groups of people who can stay on topic.

[ Parent ]

Point taken, but still... (none / 1) (#68)
by LairBob on Mon May 10, 2004 at 09:09:09 AM EST

I'm not trying to say that people can't use it the way that you're describing--just that the large majority don't.

To my eye, the way you use IRC is pretty hard to distinguish from IM. Granted, there are some differences in the mechanics of the experience, but a for the majority of folks, most of those are not to IRC's advantage. I wouldn't argue that IRC should be abandoned or abolished--I'm glad you find it useful. I just don't think the vast majority of folks share that experience, and I don't think the medium does much to ensure or even encourage that they do.

[ Parent ]
Since when was IRC dead?? (none / 3) (#63)
by alexei on Sun May 09, 2004 at 09:03:19 PM EST

In the gaming community (q3, counterstrike, ut), IRC is the best and most widely used communication tool to chat and arrange clans, scrims, and matches. Without IRC the gaming community would be crippled. Servers like Quakenet, Gamesurge, and Enterthegame are almost completely gaming channels (apart from ETG, which has a good load of fansubbed anime--non-licensed in the USA, so it's all considered kosher; absolutely no pirate anime/movies/manga are allowed there).
IRC is still very useful and alive.

However, when it comes to downloading pirated software, IRC is completely useless. Waiting in queues to download things is a complete waste of time and energy. It's honestly not worth it at all.

Plus, if DALnet died--good riddance. It's a disgrace to IRC, home to almost all the sex chats, idiot teens, and perverted old men. The day I idle on DALnet will be the day I die.

To be frank, IRC is a much easier tool to talk to friends and keep acquaintances. There is a dedicated channel that I visit frequently where all my mates, from my home town where I went to High School, go to. It's much easier than setting up chats in AIM/MSN, where everyone has to be in one place at one time. Instead, there are people who I know going in and out of the channel when they can afford the time to go there.

I think that's an unfair assessment... (none / 3) (#69)
by phaseburn on Mon May 10, 2004 at 11:12:23 AM EST

I whole-heartedly agree.

Being on IRC for 7+ years regularly, and 10+ years semi-regularly, I can fully say that IRC is not dead. Check out netsplit.de if you don't believe me. With in the top 5 networks alone, there's nearly 500,000 users. So we're not a million strong, I've yet to see those numbers go anywhere except "up" on a yearly average.

So now that we've established that IRC isn't going anywhere, lets take a look at what's there.

First and foremost, let me state that I'm an IRCop and network admin for GameSurge. As such, my opinions of other networks are a bit biased, because I don't have access to the behind-the-scenes information that I have on my home network.

On GameSurge, we take ALL of the "problems" listed above VERY seriously. We don't allow channels to be registered for anything except gaming related reasons, and we don't allow the creation of channels that violate our acceptable user policy, which includes no trading of copyrighted materials, hacking, botnets, etc. We also shut down channels that are in violation of the AUP.

Then there's networks like Freenode, which are designed specifically for the open source projects, the technically minded, and the network wizards. While I idle in #linux on GameSurge, I can't deny that Freenode is one of the best resources for open source development, programming, linux help, etc, around, and is perhaps second only to the likes of some very popular forums sites and/or mailing lists.

Then there's your Undernet, EFnet, Dalnet, and what not, that have no real MO, other than to provide a place to chat. Like any big city there's several smaller areas: your main street, your industrial sector, your residential area, suburbia, and these align themselfs perfectly with the types of chats going on. Your warez and porn that are listed above fit in with the back ally section that every major city has, and it's just a small part of it - I don't know of a single city/network that is DEFINED by it. We don't have a Ghettoville California, any more than there's a large Warez-only IRC network - both would be shut down relativly fast, once the feds got wind of it.

That's just how I see IRC. I use it specifically for 2 things: communicate with friends, and get 2nd opinions for projects I do at work/help from various communities as needed. So if anybody wants to call me a 15 year old packet kiddie, a warez monkey, or a horse-lover for being on IRC, that's their misinformed opinion. Just because you live in a city where somebody is selling crack on the street doesn't make you a drug dealer. IRC has provided me with such a warm community and group of friends that I value my time there very much, and look foward to every day spent.

Just my 2 cents.

[ Parent ]

bash.org (2.40 / 5) (#64)
by polyglot on Sun May 09, 2004 at 11:38:51 PM EST

I cannot believe I have not yet seen a link to www.bash.org.


"There is no God and Dirac is his prophet"
     -- Wolfgang Pauli

I guess i'll plug my site too .. QDB.us (none / 0) (#82)
by DigDug on Wed May 19, 2004 at 11:06:16 AM EST


Yavista - if you haven't found a nice homepage yet.

[ Parent ]

It is still a valuable tool. (none / 1) (#71)
by dmalloc on Mon May 10, 2004 at 12:43:57 PM EST

I come from the developer community. Mayn know irc.freenode.net, because a lot of large open source projects happen to have IRC channels there. Our project is one of them and with developers in Japan, Europe, USA, Canada it is still an invaluable tool to meet up and discuss some things quickly, in real time. To me Instant Messanging systems are a bother, some do not work from teh command line, others simply have ugly interfaces there. Yes, I know about the deficits of IRC, I wrote code for some IRCD, while I would preffer people to use something like SILC, the amount of clients and the ease of use simply makes them preffer IRC: Most, like me, have spent nearly a decade on IRC and it is indeed hard to break your own habbits.

irc://freenode/ (none / 0) (#77)
by xs euriah on Mon May 10, 2004 at 04:55:32 PM EST







#There is much to say for IRC as a development resource, and any hysterics from the press are being maneuvered at a higher level than the print alone.

pervs and pirates (none / 0) (#78)
by davros4269 on Tue May 11, 2004 at 11:02:19 AM EST

2 points. First:

"IRC is the only place I know of that has more fetishists, pedophiles and perverts than a low budget porn shop," an anonymous user says. It is perhaps the pedophiles that draw the most governmental attention, with growing worldwide concern over the exchange of child pornography.

Ok, I realize all three, fetishists, perverts and pedophiles are 'sex' related, but I dislike how you lumped them together. Pedophilia is illegal in a bad way and is in a class all by itself.

"perves and fetishists" are to be found anywhere on the Internet, there is nothing special about IRC in that regard. You seemed to imply that folks talking sex in this manner is somehow a bad thing? Just avoid those channels. IMO, sex talk isn't what's wrong with discussion on IRC, see below.

As for pirates - using IRC for large file transfer is torture for anyone that has tried. It's the slowest and most unreliable way, and in my experience the only reason why folks resort to this method is either because they belong to a circle of like-minded people who enjoy chatting about what they pirate as much as the pirating itself (like Playstation games, for example), or because they are unaware of other options out there - I'm not making a good/bad judgment here, I'm just suggesting that IRC is NOT ideal for file transfer. Even with the new-ish IRC search sites out there, transfer rates are low, people are unreliable and tend to log off in the middle of a transfer, there is no consistency between IRC channels, etc. Other technologies have surpassed these problems.

Personally, the culture of many channels turns me off - regardless in my experience what the topic is supposed to be. I once made the mistake of going into a channel representing my local geographic area. It was full of entrenched politics, inside jokes, and scores and scores of folks who said nothing - they just hit their macro feature and sent pre-typed text to each other, line after line after line after line...too stupid ;)

As for open source discussion, I tend to keep to mailing lists and web forums.

Will you squirm when you are pecked? Quack.

Amazingly useful (none / 0) (#79)
by niku on Tue May 11, 2004 at 07:50:38 PM EST

After building a little karma by helping other people, technical channels are an amazing resource for technical assistance. Take today for instance: I had a new freebsd install going, and for some reason it was not detecting my bcm5700 ethernet card. I googled, and poked through newsgroups, but didn't come up with anything, so I popped on over to #freebsd on irc.freenode.net and within two minutes, I had four of five people helping to think of various possible things to check, and options to try. With their assistance, and a process of elimination which went much quicker than if I had to to it all by myself, I got my card up and working.

In this same vein, I'm a member of the Unix Users Association of Southern California and a half dosen or so similar groups. They take a little longer than irc, but server the same basic purpose: a bunch of technically competent people all using the theory that eventually they will have a problem, so they spend fifteen-twenty minutes or so every day answering questions; In return, when they need help, people are glad to help them.

    It works.

Nicholas Bernstein, Technologist, artist, etc.
great for remote working (none / 0) (#80)
by kerp on Wed May 12, 2004 at 06:19:33 PM EST

i work from home, with a number of other colleagues from around the world.  we use irc as a virtual office - useful to know when people are reachable and great for broadcast messages - especially along the lines of

"im just taking down the tape robot for a test"

its not great for proper communication, but its a nice replacement for not being able to shout something across the office.  

IRC: Pointless waste or useful tool? | 82 comments (65 topical, 17 editorial, 0 hidden)
Display: Sort:


All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. The Rest 2000 - Present Kuro5hin.org Inc.
See our legalese page for copyright policies. Please also read our Privacy Policy.
Kuro5hin.org is powered by Free Software, including Apache, Perl, and Linux, The Scoop Engine that runs this site is freely available, under the terms of the GPL.
Need some help? Email help@kuro5hin.org.
My heart's the long stairs.

Powered by Scoop create account | help/FAQ | mission | links | search | IRC | YOU choose the stories!