IRC is an amazing source of people. Some not very motivated, some very motivated. Some work at Apple, some at Google or Yahoo or Microsoft. Some have no jobs, some own their own companies. IRC is a very diverse place, with diverse topics ranging from apache’s #httpd to #ruby to #svn to #macdev to #macruby to #ubuntu and #macosx and #windows and #bb4win and #freebasic and #bash and #pylons and even #cooking (seriously).
But it can be a mean place, a nasty place. It (mostly) all depends on you and your attitude. If you go in expecting nothing but freebies, as if you were inserting coins to get a quick answer, you will not get far. However, that’s not to say you can’t get answers.
See, people on IRC are usually there because they want to sharpen their skills. Just like you, they want to learn. Especially the very helpful people. They usually just want to keep their skills up to date and make sure they constantly maintain a deep understanding of their tools.
Ask the right questions and you get amazing answers. Ask a question that’s easily found with 5 minutes and a search engine, and someone will undoubtedly create a website with an abbreviation something like (and keep in mind this is pure conjecture) LMGTFY.
If you want to really become an expert at a tool, make thorough use of credible guides, and to supplement that (not replace it) join IRC and ask your question. However, don’t forget to follow the fundamental rules on asking well-formed questions.
However, don’t just read any tutorial or guide on the net. Learn what document/reference is credible and which is not. Want to know a great way to learn which are credible and which are not? If you aren’t sure if a document is relevant/outdated/credible/etc, first, apply all your common sense; throw everything you got at it. If you’re still unsure, ask in IRC! See? IRC is the swiss army knife of intelligence.
But the best tip of all that I can give relating learning via IRC is this: build relationships; remember who people are, and what they have taught you. These aren’t just AI bots, they’re people just like you who want to learn and to build relationships with other amazing people.
Update: Someone brought it to my attention that a lot of IRC is “blah blah lulz” which is very true and very sad. Those channels and those people waste a lot of time on IRC, it’s their social life.
The trick is knowing which channels and which people to avoid. For example, I’m told that #macosx and #iphonedev and #macdev are mostly noise and boring cliquey chitchat. (I don’t visit those much so I don’t know.)
But then there are places like #giantrobot which are multi-faceted and topicless and diverse, and which contain people who really value their time and aren’t going to waste a ton of it on IRC.
Also, IRC is a lot slower paced than many people think. Most of us either have a proxy on a remote server which is always connected to the channel, or we run something like
irssi on a remote server which we
ssh into via
screen. This is so even after we close our laptops for a few hours or days, when we open it up again, we can see everything we missed (particularly, when someone private-messaged us or said something to us).
This usually means someone will pop in and say hi, and leave because nobody responds for 7 hours. That happens because they look at IRC as short-term communication, when often, we only pop in a few times a day (including when we need help on a topic). I recommend getting a remote shell with irssi or something and logging in whenever you want to pop into a channel to say hi or ask a question.
One last thing: always type /topic first when joining a channel and obey their rules (even the stupid ones)! If you don’t, you might quickly get banned for life, which means you were probably just shut out of a very helpful and intelligent community. Not a good idea.
The end, for real this time.
My name is Steven Degutis, and I've been writing software professionally for a decade. During that time, I've written many apps and websites, quite a few technical articles, and kept up-to-date with the rapidly evolving software industry.
If you have software needs for web, mobile, or desktop, and are looking for a seasoned software professional, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a phone call.
- Self-employed – present
- Clean Coders – 5 years
- 8th Light – 2 years
- Big Nerd Ranch – 1 year
- Self-employed - 1 year
- Web: full-stack
- iOS (UIKit)
- macOS (Cocoa)
- REST APIs
- AWS / EC2 / ELB
- HTML5 / CSS
Over the past decade, I've written a total of 172 technical articles on various programming languages, frameworks, best practices, and my own projects, as I kept up-to-date and active in the software industry.
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- 2017 — "Clean code" isn't actually clean
- 2017 — Passion in your field is overrated
- 2017 — What I learned in 5 days of writing an experimental website
- 2014 — Age of the Polyglot
- 2013 — How to Program
- 2013 — Ignore the Naysayers
- 2013 — Writing Clearly
- 2012 — Reinvent the wheel
- 2010 — Good usability
- 2009 — Twitter is the wrong tool
- 2009 — We're all pretty bad at driving
- 2008 — Why I Code
|August||NDD: Narrative Driven Development|
|August||The truth about TDD|
|August||Macroframeworks vs Microframeworks|
|March||Notes on Haskell Extensions|
|February||Second thoughts on front-end tools|
|February||First thoughts on front-end tools|
|February||Some thoughts on GUIs|
|February||First thoughts on OCaml|
|February||First thoughts on Haskell|
|August||Age of the Polyglot|
|August||The history of Mjolnir|
|August||Quitting the GUI wars|
|June||Lua: my new favorite extension language|
|January||My programming life-goals|
|January||Lingua Latina, Pars I|
|January||Allocating an AST on the stack|
|April||Ruby Accessors Considered Pernicious|
|March||Reinvent the wheel|
Here are some of the projects I'm most proud of. They were created using a variety of technologies, running on several different platforms and OSes. They're all finished products, and many of them are open source.
I made Docks in 2009 for users who wanted to swap out icons in their Dock with a single click. Its unique functionality and design aesthetic attracted the attention of Apple, Engadget, MacWorld, and led to an acquisition of my start-up by Big Nerd Ranch.
This toy was made in a weekend to entertain my 1 year old daughter. It lets you create bubbles with your fingers, which then simulate physics by bumping into each other and falling.
When I couldn't find an app in the App Store that let me make very simple lists extremely quickly, I made one myself. I use it almost every day to organize and track my activities.
I created this app to increase my productivity by letting me move windows around in macOS using keyboard shortcuts. It grew into a community-driven highly extensible app, using Lua for its plugin system.
Implementing this elite social network gave me experience integrating both Apple Pay and credit card payments (via Stripe.com) seamlessly into web apps, for a frictionless and pain-free payment experience.
This isn't just any chatroom. In this web app, you can see what everyone is typing while they type it. I made this in order to scratch my itch for making real-time apps and games, and learned how to use WebSockets in the process.
This was written in 2009, before the time of Slack, when IRC was the main way for programmers to get short-term assistance from each other. Its purpose was to be a beautiful app with an emphasis on simplicity and usability over technical power.
This is an app I actually use every single day. It lets you move windows with global keyboard shortcuts. Since it uses Vim-like key bindings, it should feel pretty natural to any programmer. There's no configuration needed; it Just Works™.
As an evolution of Phoenix, Hydra was my first attempt at embedding a full Lua virtual machine into an Objective-C app, to make a lightweight and efficient window manager that focused on speed, low memory usage, low CPU usage, and overall being gentle on laptop batteries.
These may be tiny, but they're interesting technical feats.
|Lua4Swift||Swift framework for embedding Lua with a native Swift API.|
|choose||Command line fuzzy-matching tool for macOS that uses a GUI|
|music||Command line music daemon for macOS that only speaks JSON|
|hecto||Command line text editor with an embedded Lua plugin system|
|ZephSharp||Window manager for Windows using Clojure for scripting|
|management||Minimalist EC2 configuration & deployment tool in Ruby.|
|go.assert||Assertion helper package for writing tests in Go.|
|go.shattr||Go library for printing shell-attributed strings to stdout.|
|OCDSpec2||Objective-C based testing framework with Xcode integration.|