Internet Gurus Guide to Internet Relay Chat: Tips and tricks

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Starting Your Own Channel

If you have nothing better to do, you can start your own IRC channel. Just make up a name and issue a /join command. IRC creates the channel automagically when you try to join it. In mIRC, click the Channels folder button on the toolbar (the fifth from the left), type the name of the new channel in the box, and click Join. A window appears for the new channel. You can use the /topic command to display a topic line to other IRCers:

/topic #cephalopods Squid, cuttlefish, and their cousins

Then you wait, perhaps for a long, long time, until someone else joins your channel and begins talking. If you're the first person on a channel, you're considered to be the channel's operator, which gives you the greatly overrated privilege of kicking off your channel any people you don't like. When you lose interest, you leave your channel in the same way as you leave any other channel, by typing /leave or by closing its window.

Tip: IRC channels and IRC servers both have operators, people with particular authority to give some kinds of commands. The first person on a channel is considered the channel's operator, and the operator can anoint other users as operators. In the list of nicknames in a channel, operators' nicknames are preceded by an at-sign (@). The main command you get to use as a channel operator is /kick, which kicks someone off your channel, at least for the three seconds until he rejoins it. Kicking someone off is a thrill, but a rather small one, sort of like discovering that you have won 75 cents in the lottery. People usually get kicked off channels for being rude or obstructive or by sending so many garbage messages that they make the channel unusable. Server operators manage entire servers and can kick unruly users entirely off a server -- permanently. Don't let that happen to you; be a ruly user, please.

It's a Jungle Out There

Warning! The Internet is pretty anarchic, and IRC is one of the more extreme parts of the anarchy. In particular, all you really know about the people you're chatting with is their nicknames and who they purport to be. Unfortunately, some IRC users have a sick sense of humor and delight in offering other chatters "helpful speed-up files" that in fact delete your files or let these folks crack into your account. Also, many users have a completely different persona in IRC than they do in real life: These users alter details of their age, interests, lifestyle, gender -- you name it. In some cases, the make-believe is fun; in others, it's just strange. Chat all you want -- just keep in mind that not all your IRC friends may be who or what they claim to be.
Warning! If someone on IRC tells you to type a command, don't do it. No, no, no! Nefarious people may suggest that you type commands which can make it possible for other people to use your Internet account, scramble your disk, or otherwise diminish your quality of online life. (No, we're not going to tell you the commands!)

Also, IRC is no place for kids, unless you're right there looking over his or her shoulder. In our experience, IRC has the highest porn-to-nonporn ratio on the entire Internet.

Tip: Remember that IRC is a form of virtual reality and that some people find it addicting. Students have been known to miss entire semesters of classes because they spent every minute on IRC. Remember that IRC can be fun but that it's no substitute for real life.

For lots of good IRC background, take a look at the IRC Primer, at Yahoo has good information too: Start at the Yahoo home page ( and click Computers and Internet, then Internet, then Chats and Forums, and then Internet Relay Chat (IRC).

Also check out this Internet Relay Chat Web site, maintained by Cliff "Edge" Wagner:

Thanks to all the good folks in #irchelp, #newbies, and other channels for suggestions for this chapter.

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