Our CS 401 Software Development class was canceled on Monday, 11 February 2013 due to ongoing snow removal and cleanup on campus from the Nemo blizzard. (Worcester received 28.5 inches of snow in just about 24 hours.) This is a problem for a class that meets only on Mondays, especially with the next Monday being a holiday.
As soon as the campus closing was announced on Sunday afternoon, I emailed the students to announce that we would replace class the next day with an IRC (Internet Relay Chat) meeting. (Actually, that’s a lie. The first thing I did was panic, then I screamed, then I ranted to my family about the injustice of cancelling my Monday-only class. Then I thought about holding class on IRC…) Here is the message I sent the students on our class listserv:
Campus is closed tomorrow, so we will not have class. We will not have class next week either due to the President’s Day holiday.
This is going to seriously mess up our schedule. I’ll think about how we can carry on in the two weeks.
Let’s try to hold an IRC chat tomorrow during class time (2:00pm-4:30pm). I’ll send out instructions on installing (optional) and using an IRC client later tonight. I have instructions already written up, I just have to find them, possibly update them, and send them out.
Holding class on IRC would be a little bit of a challenge since the students had not used IRC yet, so this would have to serve as both an IRC familiarization exercise and a useful meeting. I sent them the following message to prepare them:
We are going to meet today on IRC (Internet Relay Chat) at 2:00pm.
You should read through this in advance so that you are prepared. Especially if you are going to install an IRC client – you will need time to set it up. I suggest trying this out at least 1/2 hour in advance to make sure you get the connection working. I’ll stay on IRC all day so you can try out chatting.
You have two choices for connecting to the IRC server:
- Install an IRC client. There are many available, you may want to try a few to see which you like the best. Some are standalone applications, and some are browser plugins (like Chatzilla for Firefox.) I’ve heard that mIRC is the most popular for Windows, I use Colloquy on the Mac.
Here are some of the most important settings you will need. How you set these will depend on your client. You will want to install your client and do the setup in advance of our meeting, so you aren’t late.
- Server: irc.freenode.net
- If you can set a port, you may want to use 7000 since it can be used for an SSL connection.
- Nickname: Choose your own*
- Channel: ##WSU-CS401
- Use the webchat page on freenode: https://webchat.freenode.net
- Nickname: Choose your own*
- Channels: ##WSU-CS401
- Complete the reCAPTCHA
* You may want to register your nickname, so that no one else can use it. That way we can all get used to looking for a specific nickname for you. See the instructions: http://freenode.net/faq.shtml#registering
- An IRC Tutorial by IRChelp.org. I suggest reading the first two sections.
- Fedora’s How to communicate using IRC
- Freenode’s guidelines on IRC etiquette
- Chatzilla Firefox addon for IRC
The most important commands which chatting:
- /SERVER new-server-hostname
- /NICK new-nickname
- /JOIN #channelname
- /ME does something
This command is used for saying that you are doing something like:
/ME is looking for that information in my email
- If you want to address your comments to everybody, just type your comment and hit return.
- If you want to address your comments to a specific person, type their nickname followed by a colon, then your message. E.g.
kwurst: I have the answer to your question
I had created a course-specific channel on freenode last spring, so we could use that channel, but to hold a useful meeting, felt that it would be vital to have a MeetBot running to take minutes. I could have used used the #teachingopensource channel, which has zodbot installed, but then the minutes would be saved on Fedora’s website, rather than ours. So I decided to install Supybot with the MeetBot plugin on our own server here.
I managed to get MeetBot installed (mostly – gives me an error message for every meeting command I give, but then does it anyway) and we had a very successful meeting for a class of IRC newbies: http://cs.worcester.edu/kwurst/wsu-cs401/2013/wsu-cs401.2013-02-11-21.13.html