Communicating with the irc Community

For most of my professional career, I worked in the international arena. I’m not sure why I have always enjoyed that so much – perhaps as a result of having lived overseas for a portion of my life. There are, as a result, a lot of things that I take for granted in dealing with others, and I’ve recently become more aware that others often don’t think or don’t realize there is a bit of an art to dealing with folks from other cultures, countries, backgrounds and who speak other languages. On irc, there are so many different people, languages, cultures, it’s important to realize the need to do things a bit differently than we normally would, even though many of the traditional issues that arise when you’re face-to-face don’t exist.

The most obvious example is, even though the vast majority of us communicate on irc in English, a good number speak a different native language. This can cause all sorts of interesting (and sometimes humorous) miscommunications. Regardless of your native language, below is listed a few things that might help you to communicate more clearly with others.

To avoid causing miscommunication:

  • try speaking in full, clear, concise sentences. Due to the nature of irc and the speed with which some time, it’s often tempting to write quickly, abbreviating, using acronyms and partial sentences. However, this can be, and is often, confusing to a non-native speaker.
  • realize that “geek speak” is confusing enough for less technical native speakers and can be impossible to decipher for non-native speakers (even if they are technically inclined)
  • remember that not all irc clients use the same commands. This is especially important if providing assistance to another user. For example, some clients will accept “/cs” for “/msg chanserv”; some will not.

To avoid misunderstanding others:

  • if you don’t understand another person, ask them to state what they said in another way. Often if they repeat themselves with different words, formatting, etc., you can decipher what they want/need/said.
  • assume the best possible meaning. Sometimes someone will say something, that might seem harsh or offensive – realize that it may be that the person simply doesn’t know the words (or syntax) to state what he/she means.
  • look at the context. By looking at the channel you are in, or the topic that was discussed when the other person started speaking, you might be able to glean what the person intended.

Finally, there are a lot of resources on freenode – many people are more than willing to translate when necessary. Ask what language the person speaks, and then try to find another who speaks the language. If all else fails, come to #freenode and ask for help or message a staffer (“/stats p” lists all staffers on duty).

The fact is, irc is a fantastic way to get to know other people and to learn more about other cultures – and at a great price! I challenge and encourage each of you to up your level of communication.

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