Most of our class during week 2 was spent on activities focused on teaching us how to use IRC and wikis–two important tools of the open source world. We started by installing IRC clients on our laptops and meeting up in the #teachingopensource channel on the Freenode server. I haven’t used IRC in over 10 years, and back then, I used mIRC. Since it had been so long, I figured a quick Google search was warranted to see what IRC clients were popular. The general Internet consensus was that XChat was among the best, but unfortunately it is shareware for Windows with only a 30 day free trial. As I was in a rush to get set up and connected, I stopped researching IRC clients at that point and installed KVIRC, a free client that was recommended by a classmate.
[Digression: KVIrc I found to be poorly laid out and had a terrible color scheme–yellow text on a white background for links… Really?? I stuck with KVIrc through the remainder of the class, but afterwards I decided to look for something better. I ended up finding XChat 2, a freeware version of XChat on Windows (because XChat, while being shareware, is still open source). So now I am using XChat 2 on Windows and XChat on my Linux VM and I am happy with both.]
After everyone had joined #teachingopensource, we learned some essential IRC commands, such as /nick and /join, as well as how to message someone directly. We also learned how to register our IRC nicks (I am registered as JonH_WSU in Freenode). Professor Wurst then explained that we would be using IRC to partner up and edit each others wiki profile pages on the Teaching Open Source wiki. There was only one rule: no talking. All communication has to be done through IRC only!
The channel soon became a whirlwind of activity as everyone started chatting at once. Before I learned how to send a message to someone directly, it was hard to keep up with the rapidly scrolling channel and pick out what was being said to me by my partner. However, learning that trick made it much easier to chat with one person out of the entire channel. As a side-note, it was very amusing to be among a classroom of 25 students, completely silent except for constant frantic typing. And every so often, a burst of laughter would erupt out, then back to silence. It was surreal at times.
Editing my partner’s wiki was easy. I had learned a great deal about wiki editing and its markup language from taking Robotics last semester, where we had to maintain individual course wiki pages. Using IRC chat, Facebook, and some general knowledge of my partner James, I had his profile wiki page up and running in no time. He did a pretty good job on my page, too.