Using IRC as a Communications Tool

Internet Chat Relay (IRC) is a group communications tool which is used by various groups including computing professionals.  I joined a few channels on the Freenode IRC server including the Ubuntu channel.  While on I was following a conversation around actions of running a shell script from a GUI.  A group of users on the channel were helping this one person with their understanding of shell scripts.  Then as the conversation ended you could see a person who was responding to the original user have an issue of their own.  The purpose of a system for people to share their knowledge is great but IRC is the wrong platform.

I found it difficult to follow the conversation happening on the channel.  First issue was I only was able to access the part of the conversation happening after I accessed the channel.  This made it difficult at first to understand what a user meant in the first statement I saw of “right-click?”.  The second issue was all of the system messages coming through every time a user joined or left the channel.  At one point so many people were joining or leaving that my entire screen was just systems messages.

As someone who has used Slack, I find a few key features from Slack which would be helpful in this situation.  One key feature is viewing previous messages which happen even when offline.  This would help people joining in the middle of a conversation to jump in.  Another major feature of Slack in threaded messages.  Threaded messages would allow for users to reply directly to someone message in the channel.  This would be helpful in everyone participating in a conversation to see all comments than scrolling through every message in the channel.  The third feature from Slack which would be helpful is user status.  Slack keeps a list of users joined to the channel and let you know if the user is online or offline in the list.  This would cut down on all of the system messages within the discussion.

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