Saving the IRC

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Saving the IRC

Post by Cheynem » Fri Jan 27, 2017 3:00 pm

The IRC chat room that is #quizbowl is, to put it bluntly, dying. There are three, semi-related reasons for this I think:

-old blood and regulars have moved on
-many active quizbowlers, particularly undergraduates, do not use the room
-this leaves a rather stagnant atmosphere, particularly when the people who DO use the room turn it, intentionally or not, into basically a vacuum chamber for their own, niche interests (I've certainly done this at times to talk about baseball or wrestling, but it seems to happen rather frequently--last weekend, I wandered in briefly only to find a very distasteful political conversation going on that I can't imagine anyone other than the two people involved in cared about)

As events like Festivus prove, people are aware of the IRC and they will use it for specific purposes. But there are two questions I guess I'd like to pose:

1. Is the IRC worth saving or trying to save? Is there something good about an antiquated chat room, whether it be its potential for outreach, its worth in forming community bonds, etc.?

2. If so, then what should be done? I have three ideas

-the selection of topics of discussion for various nights. For example, "question writing" could be discussed a couple times a month, or "how to improve outreach" or what have you.

-more semi-organized events. There's no reason why much smaller-scale versions of Festivus couldn't happen more regularly (and the random packet announcement thread is like that). But you could also do "hey, we're going to read through some random old bad tournament for fun" or "we'll do some guerrilla questions" on a few nights a month.

-better room moderation, particularly if those specific discussion or events are set up. "Prime time" hours would be very strictly moderated and even innocuous things like sports or food chat would be asked to go elsewhere.

Any thoughts on this?
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Re: Saving the IRC

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Fri Jan 27, 2017 3:11 pm

I basically never go on the IRC for the reasons identified - it's pretty much always sports or political talk when I've logged in for things that aren't packet reading. If you don't know things about sports and you don't feel comfortable engaging in political discussion (especially in today's environment) then you're basically SOL. It would help if there were more discussions about other topics!
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Re: Saving the IRC

Post by 1992 in spaceflight » Fri Jan 27, 2017 3:58 pm

I really like the idea of setting up topics and having more organized activities. I feel like those could help improve the IRC channel.
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Re: Saving the IRC

Post by 1.82 » Fri Jan 27, 2017 4:05 pm

I think the primary advantage of IRC is its openness. Facebook chats are nice for people who are already friends with each other, but anyone can come to IRC and be privy to the discussion happening in #quizbowl. There's always a danger with a community like the quizbowl community of insiderism, and I think that the way IRC works is a valuable tool to combat that.

I certainly agree with Mike that there's a lot that can be improved about #quizbowl, but at the same time it's been valuable to me both in terms of getting to know people within the community and in terms of talking about quizbowl. The last few nights I've had serious thoughts about the health of college quizbowl as a whole (I'll post about this at some future point), and I appreciate that I can come into IRC any night and find people who are interested in having that discussion and are willing to hear what I have to say. I think the most valuable thing that can be done is to get more new people (including, as Mike mentions, current undergraduates) into the room so that they can add their voices to the discussion.
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Re: Saving the IRC

Post by The Abydos Helicopter » Fri Jan 27, 2017 6:20 pm

As someone whose first venture (along with a lot of other British quiz bowlers [britbowlers?]) onto the IRC was this year's Festivus,one thing I would note is that for a lot of people, especially newer players, IRC is something before their time which requires somewhat archaic programmes to use and log on to. Could quizbowl move onto a modern form like slack or discord?
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Re: Saving the IRC

Post by CPiGuy » Fri Jan 27, 2017 6:55 pm

As a new quizbowl player who is occasionally active on the IRC, my two cents:

I like the fact that you can talk about anything; I think conversations should be moderated if there are events going on (like organized packet-readings, or even just packet-readings in general), but not all the time.

I also think there should be more organized packet-readings, even if it's just "every [day of the week] at [time] people take turns reading packets/questions they've written/etc".
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Re: Saving the IRC

Post by marianna » Fri Jan 27, 2017 8:20 pm

AOL Email Address Haver wrote:As someone whose first venture (along with a lot of other British quiz bowlers [britbowlers?]) onto the IRC was this year's Festivus,one thing I would note is that for a lot of people, especially newer players, IRC is something before their time which requires somewhat archaic programmes to use and log on to. Could quizbowl move onto a modern form like slack or discord?
Yeah, I think a major barrier is the difficulty of accessing IRC, a protocol that most people these days are unfamiliar with. As a medium, IRC is not very intuitive or newcomer-friendly. I've never been on #quizbowl, but back when I used my high school quizbowl team's channel, it took me quite a while to figure out how even the basics worked.

I'll note that PACE for one has migrated off of IRC onto Slack, whose interface is very visual and friendly.
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Re: Saving the IRC

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Fri Jan 27, 2017 8:55 pm

Back when I hung out in the quizbowl IRC channel every night (like 2009 - 2010), whenever somebody started talking politics everyone else would quickly start a waffles vs pancakes debate. It was more of a way to shame the people politicking than anything else: if people started talking about waffles because of you, it was kind of a polite way of saying shut up.
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Re: Saving the IRC

Post by That DCC guy » Fri Jan 27, 2017 9:29 pm

I would've treated it as their loss. Politics amuse me
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Re: Saving the IRC

Post by Unicolored Jay » Sat Jan 28, 2017 12:11 am

I definitely agree that using a more accessible platform might help in attracting people to such a chat room, and that more Festivus-like events would also be great! The latter was basically the only reason I ever got on the IRC in the past year or so, other than when important events such as national tournaments were going on at the time or when it was used in organizing online tournaments.
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Re: Saving the IRC

Post by RexSueciae » Sat Jan 28, 2017 1:00 am

I much prefer the IRC to Skype when playing questions online. I would like the IRC to stick around for that reason, at least. I'm a bit busy to hang around chatting these days, but if there's a scheduled event I'd probably be able to join.
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Re: Saving the IRC

Post by Peter13 » Sat Jan 28, 2017 3:54 am

As a (newer) person who now only goes into for packet readings now, I will share my story. When I first went into the chat room, I felt there was a sort of openness that I enjoyed, though I did get reprimanded for being a bit silly. I think that it seems that those who have more 'social credit' (i.e. more known to the inner quizbowl community) get more leeway in getting to talk about niche subjects (at least that's what it felt like to me). Also, of the few months that I went there quite frequently, there seemed like quite a few in-jokes and times where I had to slog through a rather annoying and/or uninteresting conversations. Of course, I don't go there very frequently now so it very well could of changed, but over the last year I have quite enjoyed its use as a more 'quizbowl centric chat' with things like Festivus.
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Re: Saving the IRC

Post by Cody » Sat Jan 28, 2017 1:49 pm

I don't understand the concerns about old technology. Mibbit is dead simple to use, and there's no reason 99% of people need to go beyond that. I just don't think that there's that big of a technology crisis here.

There are other options (I use Telegram for other stuff, it's quite good), but I wouldn't consider Slack one of them. Slack, by design, requires people to be invited to a team; teams were never intended to be open to any rando off the quizbowl streets. It's great for work environments or other strictly defined groups, but I've found it rather poor for more vaguely defined communities, which is how the quizbowl IRC functions (and should function - a wide open chat).
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Re: Saving the IRC

Post by UlyssesInvictus » Sat Jan 28, 2017 4:09 pm

Cody wrote:I don't understand the concerns about old technology. Mibbit is dead simple to use, and there's no reason 99% of people need to go beyond that. I just don't think that there's that big of a technology crisis here.

There are other options (I use Telegram for other stuff, it's quite good), but I wouldn't consider Slack one of them. Slack, by design, requires people to be invited to a team; teams were never intended to be open to any rando off the quizbowl streets. It's great for work environments or other strictly defined groups, but I've found it rather poor for more vaguely defined communities, which is how the quizbowl IRC functions (and should function - a wide open chat).
I disagree with the first point, but the second is fair.

I'm fairly tech knowledgable; I had no idea Mibbit was a thing the first time I needed to use the IRC. When I got there, I had no idea whether I was supposed to make an account with my email, download a client, or what. I didn't know the difference between a channel and a server. I didn't even know I had to put a hash on the channel name when connecting. I still don't know how to do the majority of simple things in IRC, like setting messages, changing nicknames, etc. Mibbit is definitely not intuitive. It makes total sense after you put a little work into it, but Slack makes total sense almost immediately, as do Discord. It helps that Slack is actively updated for beginners, and the IRC is... :/

But yeah, does Slack have open joining? I've only ever done invitation-based usages, which would defeat the purpose of being able to have any newcomer just join when they feel like it.

Edit: Oh, and Mibbit isn't in the first page of hits for any of "irc," "chat irc", "log onto irc." I learned about Mibbit only through a friend; but again, that doesn't help someone just saw a mention of the IRC on the forums, and would like to quietly join themselves.

Edit 2: Looks like there are plenty of ways to set up public slack channels. It takes work on the part of whoever's setting up, but as long as it's easy to join for newcomers.
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Re: Saving the IRC

Post by 1.82 » Sat Jan 28, 2017 4:22 pm

Since this apparently is an extremely onerous process, here is a direct link to the #quizbowl IRC channel. Choose a username and press "Go" and there's literally nothing else you have to do.
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Re: Saving the IRC

Post by UlyssesInvictus » Sat Jan 28, 2017 4:30 pm

Our Lady Peace wrote:Since this apparently is an extremely onerous process, here is a direct link to the #quizbowl IRC channel. Choose a username and press "Go" and there's literally nothing else you have to do.
Thanks for the link! I've never known that you could direct link to channels within the client like this, so this is very useful.

However, I still think there's a point to be made for modernizing an element of quizbowl that's literally decades old. I admit that "it works fine" is pretty much all you need to stick with something, but that doesn't still mean it couldn't be improved, right?

I guess I should explain that all I'm trying to do is get into the mindset of someone who's joining QB for the first time, and wouldn't see this thread, but would just be doing things like googling "chat IRC." I'm by no means a Slack diehard, but it certainly helps that more people are already familiar with Slack than IRC, right?
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Re: Saving the IRC

Post by Victor Prieto » Sat Jan 28, 2017 8:52 pm

Our Lady Peace wrote:I think the primary advantage of IRC is its openness. Facebook chats are nice for people who are already friends with each other, but anyone can come to IRC and be privy to the discussion happening in #quizbowl. There's always a danger with a community like the quizbowl community of insiderism, and I think that the way IRC works is a valuable tool to combat that.

I certainly agree with Mike that there's a lot that can be improved about #quizbowl, but at the same time it's been valuable to me both in terms of getting to know people within the community and in terms of talking about quizbowl. The last few nights I've had serious thoughts about the health of college quizbowl as a whole (I'll post about this at some future point), and I appreciate that I can come into IRC any night and find people who are interested in having that discussion and are willing to hear what I have to say. I think the most valuable thing that can be done is to get more new people (including, as Mike mentions, current undergraduates) into the room so that they can add their voices to the discussion.
This point about openness and building connections with others in the community is extremely valid, and I agree with it entirely.

I've been a regular in the IRC since 2013, and used to find it very useful. I stopped showing up two months ago for three reasons, all of which are roughly weighted equally. The first is specific to me, but I suspect the other two are the main reasons why other people avoid the IRC (and other people have already touched on them in this thread).

First, my second year of graduate school hit me like a ton of bricks, and I had to make the decision to cut stuff out of my life. The quizbowl IRC just wasn't the pleasant escape that it previously presented.

Second, the amount of discussions actually related to quizbowl has been on a slow decline. I always viewed the IRC as a way to interact with the quizbowl community that was much less formal than the forums. In 2014, you could join the IRC for a couple hours in the evening and probably see some discussion of a forums post or a packet reading. In the last year (excluding announced packet readings), I've seen no more than five spontaneous packet readings, and quizbowl-related topics cover, like, 10% of total discussion time. I mean, it's not like talking about social stuff is a bad thing, the balance has just been tipping in one direction for a long time now.

Third, the actual topics that are discussed are not interesting enough for me to show up anymore. It seems like the only things talked about nowadays are politics or sports. If I wanted to fill my time with those things, I'd go join a sports or politics channel. The main purpose of #quizbowl should be talking quizbowl, not talking politics or sports with quizbowl people. There were actual side channels created specifically for that purpose, but the people who discussed those things didn't care enough to move discussions to a different room. Again, the balance thing comes into play here.
Mike Cheyne wrote:this leaves a rather stagnant atmosphere, particularly when the people who DO use the room turn it, intentionally or not, into basically a vacuum chamber for their own, niche interests (I've certainly done this at times to talk about baseball or wrestling, but it seems to happen rather frequently--last weekend, I wandered in briefly only to find a very distasteful political conversation going on that I can't imagine anyone other than the two people involved in cared about)
Nobody wants this. If you are involved in this, you are actively driving new people away from what could be an actually positive environment, like I found it when I joined in 2013. Please stop.
Cody wrote:I don't understand the concerns about old technology. Mibbit is dead simple to use, and there's no reason 99% of people need to go beyond that. I just don't think that there's that big of a technology crisis here.
I found the IRC not difficult to use when I initially discovered the IRC. If people are having trouble, just sticky a post in collegiate discussion with this text:
Our Lady Peace wrote:Since this apparently is an extremely onerous process, here is a direct link to the #quizbowl IRC channel. Choose a username and press "Go" and there's literally nothing else you have to do.
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Re: Saving the IRC

Post by Rococo A Go Go » Sun Jan 29, 2017 2:32 am

I became a semi-regular IRC user in 2014, but I haven't spent much time in the IRC in the last few months. I used to try to log on for at least a couple hours each day, but now I just don't find it worth my time. I don't know if this is a change in my personal feelings towards quizbowl or if the channel is legitimately less worthwhile than it was 2 or 3 years ago. Maybe both of those things are true.

When I first joined it seemed like you could spend 8 hours in the IRC and witness 3 good quizbowl discussions, a political debate, a discussion of an academic topic, an hour of people randomly saying the names of baseball players, a packet of quizbowl questions, and food/alcohol chat. In some ways this is part of the problem with the IRC (lack of focus) but I think it's part of the appeal too: you can come and talk about things with quizbowl people that you might not on HSQB or wherever, but typically quizbowl people are well informed with diverse backgrounds so it's informative to even talk about something like food with people from this community.

I don't have a clue how to create that kind of environment, and I'm not at all qualified to identify what kind of environment is ideal. I hope the community finds a way to figure out what is ideal and how to make something resembling that.
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Re: Saving the IRC

Post by Santa Claus » Sun Jan 29, 2017 11:42 am

So, I took a couple minutes and I made a Discord channel for quizbowl. For those interested at looking at a room with literally no people other than me in it right now, here's a link to the Discord: https://discord.gg/T4nYsCq. Please let me know if there are things I can change.
EDIT: I changed the link to go to the welcome page, so that a hypothetical new person could see the instructions before being thrown into the water.

There are a few issues with using Discord. The nature of Discord is such that one requires a direct link to any given channel (by means of an instant invite) to have access to it, so though this is certainly a more modern incarnation of IRC, it wouldn't necessarily be easy to find, in the way that one could theoretically go to the IRC by just visiting the channel #quizbowl. However, I doubt many people are trolling (the fishing term, not the internet one) the IRC looking for discussion by visiting random channels, so I think it's fair to assume people would get routed there through the forums. Invites can be created to last indefinitely (much as the link that Naveed posted will always send one to the IRC), so I guess that if widespread adoption became desirable or if we wanted to promote this as an alternative to the IRC we could make a stickied post somewhere or include a link somewhere on the site.

Setting nicknames (a requirement to ensure we can identify people) is something that's slightly more complicated than literally choosing the nickname you want as you enter the server, as it is hidden in a menu and thus might be hard to do for newer people. If we wanted we could require a mod or admin to be online to grant them permissions once they set a username, but I think a policy more like we have on both the forums and the IRC currently would be better, where individuals are asked to do things if they haven't already. Besides, I've set up a welcome room for people to enter that will have instructions on that sort of thing, so hopefully people can figure it out.

I'm also not sure how individuals without accounts will interact with the Discord (I'll check momentarily and update you guys), but I think it works the same way that IRC does, where without a dedicated client you just manually rejoin as a regular user and have to set a nickname again. However, since accounts are a thing, you can just have a persistent nickname in the chat, which is nice.
UPDATE: You have to make an account, but it's very straight-forward, requiring only an email. And then you can have a discord account forever! :)

Discord has built-in voice chat functionality, but I got rid of the default channel since I assume most people aren't necessarily going to want to talk. However, that does mean that if there's a packet reading session or something people can just make a voice channel, have others join it, and read to them. Same goes for making text channels for reading packets (or other things w/e).

In general the new interface might be hard to get used to, but I think it's fairly intuitive (and with a primarily visual GUI).

On a more important note, mods and admins would be required if we were to make this a real thing. I created the permissions and what not for all the roles already (which can be tweaked by admins) with the intent that admins could do permanent things like ban and change settings of the channel, while mods were more for policing channels by muting people and stuff (also I just realized a problem with this is that if someone wanted to make a private room for a reading or something they'd need an admin, which isn't really _that_ big a deal since most packet readings are in the main chat of the IRC anyways). As the creator of the channel, I actually have permissions over everything which is... unideal since I doubt that I have the trust of the literal whole of the quizbowl community, but until this becomes an established thing I'll hold on to that. Once (and if) we get a sizable group of admins/mods going on I can transfer ownership to someone else.

EDIT: Oh yeah also there are avatars so have fun with that

EDIT: There are a lot of benefits to Discord too. I talked about some of them, but really I think it's just a quality interface with a lot of really useful modular features. Rooms can just be created to branch off from the main one, so we can finally have private discussion rooms or serious chats or whatever, and the voice chats means that packet reading could potentially become a lot more convenient (there's no video, so Hangouts or Skype would still be required for those, but I can personally attest to the utility of Discord voice chat, given that that was what it was made for).
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Re: Saving the IRC

Post by UlyssesInvictus » Sun Jan 29, 2017 12:17 pm

Hopping on the last bullet point, I think branching off private rooms/channels is a great way to deal with insular topics/playtesting/a number of things mentioned.
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Re: Saving the IRC

Post by Cody » Sun Jan 29, 2017 1:54 pm

UlyssesInvictus wrote:Hopping on the last bullet point, I think branching off private rooms/channels is a great way to deal with insular topics/playtesting/a number of things mentioned.
This can and does happen with IRC. Nothing new is being offered here.
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Re: Saving the IRC

Post by UlyssesInvictus » Sun Jan 29, 2017 2:36 pm

Cody wrote:
UlyssesInvictus wrote:Hopping on the last bullet point, I think branching off private rooms/channels is a great way to deal with insular topics/playtesting/a number of things mentioned.
This can and does happen with IRC. Nothing new is being offered here.
That's true! I guess I meant that it would be a more intuitive way of indexing the current channels available that are branched off of the main qb channel. I'm sorry to keep bringing up Slack even though Kevin already made the Discord (I hardly use voice chat, since I can only stand insinuations about my mother's intimate activities so many times), but what channels exist and are active is much more obvious/automatic than in the IRC I believe, since in the IRC someone would have to manually update what's going on/being created where continually. Is that last point accurate?
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Re: Saving the IRC

Post by Santa Claus » Sun Jan 29, 2017 3:29 pm

UlyssesInvictus wrote:even though Kevin already made the Discord (I hardly use voice chat, since I can only stand insinuations about my mother's intimate activities so many times)
The way the Discord is currently set up, the idea is that it'll be a text-based experience much like IRC is now; the voice chat is opt-in (I think?) and mainly for miscellaneous activities that would actual require voice like reading packets.
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Re: Saving the IRC

Post by UlyssesInvictus » Sun Jan 29, 2017 8:15 pm

Oh yeah, sorry, I was just jokingly explaining why I don't use Discord already :P
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Re: Saving the IRC

Post by Sam » Sun Jan 29, 2017 8:42 pm

Discord could be an improvement for online tournaments or other things where you would want an integrated voice chat, but I'm not sure the barrier to entry for these new platforms is so low that there will be a massive influx of new people. The issues described above won't go away with different software.

I like Mike's idea about hosting discussions. It's possible there would be some spillover effects as people who use the service for the meetings also stay on for general chitchat, and that would be a welcome development. I found the IRC to be a good place to interact with people I'm not necessarily great friends with but with whom I have shared interests and I think others would similarly benefit. Even if there aren't spillovers, though, the discussions themselves could be worthwhile endeavors.
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Location: State College, PA

Re: Saving the IRC

Post by Everything in the Whole Wide World » Mon Jan 30, 2017 3:53 am

I've used the IRC regularly for about four years now. My memory has the place circa 2013-2015 being a very vibrant place with plenty of quizbowl related discussion among folks with this unifying interest that spilled over into other cool conversations about non-quizbowl things all the time. I like the idea of the IRC as a social group based on the activity- most of the conversation should be about the common ground of quizbowl which we all can participate in, but a sprinkling of other flavors makes it interesting. I've learned lots of interesting stuff about food, travel, sports, and the arts from my time there (I will offer that politics, considering its inherent onerousness these days, probably should be eliminated from the main IRC). However, as time has gone on, the amount of quizbowl discussion has really dried up. I have found the problem to be that what was once a more open discussion area, with voices and opinions you didn't hear much on the forums, has been taken over by a few dominant voices, who have the same stale views about quizbowl issues. Conversations about quizbowl in the IRC have become like broken records, where we just repeat the same thing every few months. It's a chicken and egg problem- did this happen because a lot of people left for xyz reasons, or did this drive those people off?- but it definitely feels drier in there. I would love for scheduled discussions of topics designed to open up a free, conversational discussion with new folks who have fresh ideas about quizbowl or experiences to bring to the same old talks about writing or outreach.

As to the technology argument, the IRC clients are as straightforward as can be, and the idea it's too arcane baffles me. It might not be pretty but it literally just takes opening up a link and typing. I've used a side channel for business with everyone from high schoolers to 60 year old coaches and no one has ever had a problem figuring out how to use it.
Ben Herman
Henderson High School (2007-2011) [West Chester, PA]
University of Delaware (2011-2015)
Penn State University (2015-Present)
Co-Founder and Contributor, Greater Pennsylvania Quizbowl Resource

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Ike
Yuna
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Re: Saving the IRC

Post by Ike » Thu Feb 02, 2017 1:18 am

I have found the problem to be that what was once a more open discussion area, with voices and opinions you didn't hear much on the forums, has been taken over by a few dominant voices, who have the same stale views about quizbowl issues. Conversations about quizbowl in the IRC have become like broken records, where we just repeat the same thing every few months.
I don't go onto the IRC except for a few occasions, and during my active collegiate years, I went on for maybe a total of 10-12 times. I personally think part of the problem is that--to put it bluntly--Matt Weiner was a colossal asshole, and it was off-putting! I do spend some amount of my social life in group chats, and they're fun, as long as you don't have anyone being that irritating.

Part of my problem with this thread is that we are equivocating here, and trying to skirt around the core issue:
frequently--last weekend, I wandered in briefly only to find a very distasteful political conversation going on that I can't imagine anyone other than the two people involved in cared about
Nobody wants this. If you are involved in this, you are actively driving new people away from what could be an actually positive environment, like I found it when I joined in 2013. Please stop.
I have found the problem to be that what was once a more open discussion area, with voices and opinions you didn't hear much on the forums, has been taken over by a few dominant voices, who have the same stale views about quizbowl issues.
I can't speak to the specifics of these incidents that I have quoted above, but I'm willing to guess it's something of the form of "Matt Weiner is a dick." I imagine that that reason, more than any other reason, is driving people away from the IRC. Protip: Just kick the fucker out! In all of the group chats I'm in, we switch between a discussion of QB and non-QB topics in a fluid and comfortable manner, and there really isn't a need for "specified topics" to solve what in actuality, is a really simple problem. Perhaps it's hard to just kick people out of #quizbowl, but if we're migrating away from IRC, I recommend not letting in people who are obviously so toxic they are going to drive away "normal quizbowlers" from a channel into said channel!
Ike
UIUC 13

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