IRC office hours/Guidelines
Never run an office hour before? New to IRC? Finding yourself a little lost still? Don't let that stop you! Tell people about your work with some help from this handy guide.
Notes about these guidelines
This document is written mostly as a guide for people who aren't as familiar with IRC, or Wikimedia's IRC culture, to help them better understand how Wikimedians interact on IRC, and in particular, how they interact on the #wikimedia-office channel.
If your community, or the community that is likely to be represented at the IRC office hour, are not very familiar with IRC, or you're absolutely sure that one of these guidelines conflicts with your purpose for holding the office hour, you should probably feel free to ignore the guideline that's in conflict. I would encourage you to seriously consider every single one, though, and have a compelling reason before excepting a guideline.
Before the office hour
- Schedule your meeting in the schedule. Having these things properly scheduled is the only way we can maintain sanity in the channel.
- Double- and triple-check your conversion into UTC. Scheduling incorrectly, especially around daylight savings time-related time changes, can cause a lot of confusion.
- Set proper WHOIS information on your IRC client. If someone can figure out that you're Mark Holmquist from a simple command, it makes things way easier than having to ask "who are you?" every time. If you don't know what this is, your IRC client probably has a setting that says something like "Real Name" when you connect to the network. Don't leave it blank!
- Announce your office hour by sending emails to mailing lists, announcing on Village Pumps and similar fora across the projects, announcing in various IRC channels that are appropriate, etc. etc., until you're satisfied everyone knows about it that needs to, or you no longer have any energy left to continue doing announcements.
- Learn how to use IRC. If you've never connected before, make sure you can, and make sure you know the commands you'll have to use to properly run an office hour.
Starting the office hour
- Start the meeting with meetbot commands (which will appear in its formatted meeting summary). The following is a good set of opening commands:
#startmeeting My awesome meeting
#chair MyTeammate MyOtherTeammate
#topic Thing we'll talk about first
- Make sure the topic still says something about public logging. If it doesn't, copy it and add
| Channel is publicly loggedto it. For example,
/topic Thing we'll talk about first (Meeting topic: My Awesome Meeting) | Channel is publicly logged
- Introduce yourself. Saying who you are and why you're hosting the office hour (as opposed to Joe Schmoe) is helpful for context.
- Don't waste time asking who's in the room for the office hour. Dozens of people lurk in the channel, and lots of people come in and out. Just do your thing and take questions as they come. You don't need to know who's there for that specific meeting.
During the office hour
- Ask questions. People will read through the backscroll and answer as they see fit.
- Monologue. It might seem weird, but think of this as being a presentation where you aren't talking aloud, but talking with your fingers.
- Converse with people during your monologues. People will be able to follow the messages you send to the channel even if you also have side conversations with people in between them.
- Be informal! This is IRC, not a conference keynote speech. Your audience isn't going to mind a few jokes here and there.
- Don't wait for replies. People use IRC asynchronously, and you don't need to wait for them to reply before moving on. Maybe give a minute for people to have a chance to read the question, but if you aren't getting replies, don't worry!
- Don't paste in a lot of text really really quickly. Type at a normal human speed, improvise, interact, and generally seem lifelike, or it will give people a weird vibe. Use a pastebin like https://dpaste.de/, http://pastebin.com, or http://tools.wmflabs.org/paste/ for very long lists or for >3 lines of code.
- Don't mirror others' language. This is a technique frequently used when interviewing, or during other one-on-one high-pressure situations, but on IRC, with an audience that's used to IRC communication, it often comes across as vapid and patronizing.
- Don't welcome people who join the channel. Again, there are a lot of lurkers around, and you pinging them just because they joined a channel is not appreciated.
- Don't stay opped the whole time. If you need to perform an op action, like banning or voicing someone, fine, but don't leave the flag on just because you can, or because you think you might need to do something else later. You can always re-op, and if you stay opped, you're only contributing to the stress level in the channel.
Ending the office hour
- End on time. You can extend if you want (and if there are no scheduled meetings in your way), but it's generally good to keep the office hour constrained to a single time period.
- End the meeting with meetbot.
- Change the topic back to the initial value - running this command:
/topic Wikimedia meetings channel | Please note: Channel is logged and publicly posted (DO NOT REMOVE THIS NOTE) | Logs: http://bots.wmflabs.org/~wm-bot/logs/%23wikimedia-office/will generally will do the trick.
- Stick around in other channels, and send people to those channels, to talk. IRC may be good for one-hour meetings, but it's also great as a way to stay in constant contact with a community that cares about the work you're doing. Find what channels you belong in and share those channels with people who would also like them.
- Move your meeting to the list of completed meetings at the IRC office hours page, with a link to its meeting logs (from meetbot or from wm-bot)
- Don't stray into another meeting's scheduled time!
- Don't ask for feedback about the meeting format. Honestly, people came to IRC to have a relatively informal chat with you; adding bureaucracy on top of the process won't help.
- How to schedule an event (on MediaWiki.org) for instructions and general best practices for organizing successful community meetings and events.