IRC etiquette

See also the list of IRC channels, and the general mentors list for more suggestions of who you might ask.

IRC communication guidelines and etiquette


These are just some guidelines so you get a perspective of IRC culture, communication:

  • Try to ask smart questions, let us try to think for ourselves first and not let some poor, good-intentioned soul to do all the thinking for us. [Pro-tip: Eric S. Raymond's guide referred in the Resources section]
  • Try (as humanly as possible) to be: clear, concrete, specific and complete with your statements/questions. People cannot read your mind.
  • Be patient: do not expect people will devote time for extreme hand-holding. If a URL is pointed, please try things yourself, do your home-work, use Google effectively.
  • Try to maintain a balance of taking vs giving from the community. Do not demand excessive attention.
  • IRC is a DIY environment, not a paid-support forum. If someone responds to you, that is a bonus.
  • Be reminded: respect people's time, always answering IRC questions isn't developers first priority. Someone could be knee deep in gdb/pdb investigating that time-critical bug.
  • When in a community environment, just post the question to the channel, you do not have to ping a specific person just because he/she answered your question before. Nor do you have to ask questions like "Anyone alive on this channel?" "Are you using ABC?" Stay channel topic related!
  • It is an international channel: you may get better responses in certain time-zones, be patient - don't count on instant reactions.

All of the above look dead obvious, but doesn't instantly come to mind when asking questions in a public IRC. And, sure - we also understand we are all human, already overwhelmed and sometimes, we Just Need that answer and not want to follow any heavy instructions. If you're lucky, you might even have the bonus of getting it answered instantly.

Pinging for attention (please avoid a 'naked ping')

If you're not aware of what a 'naked ping' is, please take 3 minutes to read this excellent post.


To save everyone's time, please try to ping with a specific request/question/comment.


<Bob> Alice: Ping,  re:  a certain topic (or a specific question)

Even better: if possible, a fully self-contained question requesting a clear action, so the person you pinged may come back 3 hours later and respond at her/his own pace:

<Bob> Alice: Ping, re: bug#1456234. Don't you think the reporter 
             should retest with that specific version of openstack-nova
             mentioned in comment#4? It fixes the bug.

    [3 HOURS LATER. . .]

<Alice> Bob: Hi, you were right with that bug. I had an incorrect assumption. 
             I just closed the bug, adding a relevant rationale.

(Agreed – not all questions can be that self-contained, but you get the drift.)


In short: please avoid – a-ping-followed-by-permission-to-ask-a-question-followed-by-long-silence. Or any similar variants.

i.e. do not do a naked ping with no request for any information or any question:

<Bob> Alice: Ping

    [LONG SILENCE. . .]

nor this:

<Bob> Alice: Ping
<Alice> Bob: Pong?
<Bob> Alice: Can I talk to you now? I have a technical question to discuss

    [LONG SILENCE. . .]

<Alice> Bob: Sure.    (Inside Alice's head -- 'Sigh, will you already ask the question please?!')

    [Again, in some cases, this interrupt is  followed by a long SILENCE. . . ]

<Bob> Alice: A vague question with not so clear details.

You see what a time drain the above has become which has not led to any meaningful exchange? At this point, I'm sure you can clearly imagine what a test of mental sanity it'll be for Alice to have 10 to 12 pings like that each day. Let's not do that.