The world of IRC may be foreign and unusual to newcomers, especially in the modern day and age when modern chat systems deviate greatly from their ancestors. It is very important to know that IRC is a text-based form of communication, and so social norms that are expected during a face-to-face conversation in the real world may not necessarily apply to IRC. As such, there are important things to keep in mind when chatting on IRC:
- Accept silence! Don't be afraid or get uncomfortable when a channel suddenly falls silent. Chatters are humans too, and they need to go and do human things. Many people will probably be busy working. Others may have gone off to eat, or have to use the bathroom, or whatever they have to do to fulfill their bodily needs. If nobody responds to your comments, don't sweat it. Nobody is required to say anything on IRC.
- Let lurkers lurk. A "lurker" on IRC is someone who joins a channel but doesn't say anything in it. This is perfectly fine on IRC, as lurkers generally do no harm. Lurkers are often on an IRC bouncer, which lets them stay connected even when they are offline, or when their computers are off. If you try to talk to a lurker and they don't seem to be responding, carry on. They aren't snubbing you intentionally.
- Don't ask if you may ask, just ask! People may check IRC only intermittently; it would be a waste of time to sit in an IRC channel staring at the screen for hours on end, ready to "pounce" on every help query. As such, if you have a question to ask, just ask it; there is no need to ask if you may ask for help, as that usually delays your response. If someone sees your question and has the answer, they'll answer it.
- Be specific when asking. If you have a problem, describe it. Simply saying "I have a problem with my computer" doesn't really give IRC users much information to help you with your problem, and chances are they'll just ask you to expand on your issue anyway. If you can give specific details about your problem sooner, you'll get your problem fixed sooner.
- Patience is a virtue. As mentioned above, people have lives outside of IRC. IRC does not stand for "Instant Response Chat"; if you ask a question or make a comment, please be patient in waiting for a response, if one is coming. If nobody is answering your question, please do not repeat it over and over again; if nobody is looking at chat, it will not hurry the response. Speaking of repeating things...
- Don't flood. Flooding is when you send many messages to an IRC channel, which causes a "flood" of your messages to appear on other people's screens. If you flood a channel, even with a legitimate question, chances are you may be removed from the channel rather than getting the answer to your question.
And, most importantly of all...
- BE NICE! Nothing puts off IRC users more than rudeness. Be polite and courteous to other users, even if they aren't to you, and remember to assume good faith at all times. If you are trying to help other people, helpees will greatly appreciate your time and patience with them, and if you are asking for help, helpers will be able to help you in a more effective manner, and they won't be grumpy with you at the end of the day. Remember that IRC is a method of communicating, and as such it can be fun! If you're constantly being frustrated with using IRC, consider changing your outlook and opinions, or move on if that's not possible.