Getting help from IRC

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Most major Linux distributions will have a user-supported channel on the IRC network FreeNode (formerly OpenProjects). In order to connect to an IRC network you will need an IRC Client.

Here are some of the channels for some of the more major distributions (in alphabetical order):

There are also Linux channels grouped by things other than distributions:

  • General linux - #Linuxhelp , #linux
  • Programming/scripting - #Bash , #C, #perl
  • Nationalities - (spanish), (norwegian),, etc.

Note that most channels only allow English, with the exception of the language specific channels which might not allow English at all.

For help getting started with IRC, see Using IRC.

Increasing your chances of getting help

The success rate of which you get help on IRC varies greatly, and depends on a number of things. Here are some tips, roughly sorted in order of importance:

  1. Try google first. Search both Web and Groups. 80% of the questions people ask can be found immediately by google, and people might treat you unkindly, to say the least, if you didn't even make an effort to find out for yourself.
  2. Make it convenient for people to help. Saying "Can anyone help me?" turns people off, because they know they'll spend several minutes asking pointless followups like "With what?" and "What about it?". Instead, ask specific questions like "How can I give my ethernet card a specific address when I boot, instead of using DHCP, in Gentoo 1.4?" which will allow people to answer in a single line.
  3. Be patient. If you have less than an hour to spare, don't bother. Stay on a channel for atleast half an hour after you ask something, even if no one seems to be talking. Never repeat a question twice in under three minutes, and never repeating anything that hasn't scrolled well off the screen yet. If you in addition rephrase your question each time you ask, people won't grow tired of you.
  4. Don't say it's urgent (even if it is) or that you're in a hurry (which you shouldn't be, see above). People might choose to ignore you out of spite or to teach you a lesson about how they take the time to help you, but you don't take the time to be helped.
  5. Ask before you send private messages to people. And once you get permission, don't assume the other person is only talking to you. Don't say "you there?" after half a minute of inactivity, wait atleast five minutes before assuming he's dead.
  6. Don't expect people to teach you things. Help on IRC is like help from a college professor; unless your questions are very specific, you'll just get a reference to things to read. And do read what you're suggested; if people don't imply otherwise, they're sure your answer is in there.
  7. Be sure to thank whoever helps you. If you can, also stay on the channel for a while after you've gotten your answers. "Wham-bam-thank you ma'am" makes people wonder if helping others is worth it. And who knows, maybe someone will ask a question you can answer?
  8. If you do something stupid, and people spell it out to you in big colorful terms, don't take it personally. If you indicate that you've learnt from your mistakes, they're likely to finish up sooner.
  9. If someone offers to help you if you'll meet them alone in a deserted park late at night, be sure to bring your computer and appropriate cables.

See also