The first time I used chat was probably more than a decade ago, but quite frankly I don’t think I’ve ever been in an IRC channel. This assignment was enjoyable, and I wish I was 16 again (with no life), and had time to just mess around with this medium. I really could waste a lot of time playing with this.
I was completely up front with everybody I met online. “Hello, I’m firemeboy and I’ve never been on IRC before today.”
This statement was sometimes ignored, but often I was welcomed to the channel and many were very willing to answer questions. I decided rather than to just try to pretend I was an expert at everything, I would let them know up front I was a bit lost. This way if I committed a faux pa, they would know it was because of stupidity instead of spite. I was just a moron, and not mean. Thick and not thoughtless…
The first several channels I went to were quite dead. The one I was most excited about was #geocache. I don’t know if it still exists, but nobody was there the times I visited.
I found some channels that had quite a few people, but still no action. I asked my friend who was sitting next to me (face-to-face help, is that cheating?). He replied, “They are probably just swapping files or something on the side.”
“Swapping files?” I asked, “like pictures they’ve taken themselves, or music that they have created and recorded themselves, and thus own the copyright? or the latest CD from Wired that is under a CC license? All legal stuff, right?”
He gave me a weird look and said, “Yeah, sure.”
Looks like even is Kazaa is shut down, file swapping will always be around. You can get your Burt Bacharach albums online whenever you need.
I finally found one interesting channel called #chataholics. There was a very interesting person named Mungo (I think that was his name) who kept asking trivia questions. He appeared to be keeping score, and he would time to see how long it took people to answer. He was also a stickler for spelling. When he asked who wrote Childhood’s End, I quickly wrote Arthur C. Clarke, but he didn’t give me the points because I put a period after C.
I’m thick, but it didn’t take me too long to realize what was going on.
“Is Mungo a bot?” I asked finally.
“Yeah” came the reply. Remember, this stupid of a question surprised nobody because I had already professed I was new to IRC.
“Does he do this all the time?” I asked again.
I shut up and went back to answering the questions. I think I ended up with about 14 right. I’m now in the top 100 players of all time. I suspect there isn’t much competition.
There was a bit of chatting going on in this room, but it was a bit tricky with Mundo always asking questions, giving hints, and delivering the score.
Another room, #chatterz I believe, did not have a bot going, but they were more active. This was more like the chat rooms I’ve been in. People asking about other people, reporting where they live, joking back and forth. But there was not the level of identity I observed in LambdaMoo, but it wasn’t a group of strangers by any means.
While many of the channels were empty, I observed a broad range of topics. One could go and talk about a number of highly specialized topics.
Over the weekend I got a contract from my publisher. Once I sign it looks like it will be official. I had a few questions about the contract, but many of the questions were branching in nature. If the answer to one question was positive, then I had a follow-up. If it was negative, I had a follow-up for that question too. But when I e-mailed my editor, I had to try and second guess. “If so and so, then is this the case? Or if not, will this be the way it’s done?”
IRC gives the user to interact and working things out in real time that cannot be done easily in a medium such as USENET. I have quite a few geocaching questions that I have never bothered to post on a bulletin board because it would take too much time to flesh out all the information I need. In a chat room, this could be done within a matter of minutes.