Some of the funniest faux paus made even by experts — plus 10 hacks to make sure your community uses IRC to its best advantage.


Internet Relay Chat (IRC) is a scary tool for those who have never used it. There are all these weird commands that are completely new and aren’t intuitive. Luckily, everyone faces the same struggles when they get started. Yes, folks; even cores, Project Team Leads (PTLs) and your favorite community members have made––and continue to make––IRC mistakes.

So if you’re a new contributor looking for a little courage, or a seasoned contributor looking for a laugh, here are some of those cringe-inducing stories of typing ‘\whois’ during a meeting (broadcasting to the world that you didn’t know who someone was) or thinking you were typing your password into your terminal but typing it into the #openstack-cinder channel instead…oh wait, all of that was me.


Sean McGinnis <smcginnis> – Cinder PTL:
<smcginnis> There’s one time I accidentally copied about 10 lines of a
private conversation with someone and almost pasted it into the cinder channel.
<smcginnis> Luckily my client is smart enough to ask if I really wanted to paste that much.
<smcginnis> It could have been really really embarrassing.
<smcginnis> Otherwise, not really any good stories of things that actually happened.
<smcginnis> Just a lot of typing bash commands into the IRC window by mistake.
<diablo_rojo> What chat client do you use?
<smcginnis> irssi in a screen session
<diablo_rojo> And did you have to specially configure it to save you?
<smcginnis> No, apparently that’s a default. Luckily. 🙂
<smcginnis> Oh, and there was the time I accidentally banned everyone from the Cinder channel. That was fun. :)”

Mark Voelker  <markvoelker> – DefCore & Interop Core:
“I work with lots of different clouds and anytime I switch focus to a terminal I have to figure out which cloud its environment is setup to use. My terminal emulator has the same color scheme as my IRC client, so I’ve probably typed “set | grep OS_” into IRC accidentally about a million times over the years.

Another fun one is that several times over the years I’ve gotten pings on IRC because someone was trying to copy/paste a large section of text from an IRC meeting into an email (usually to continue a conversation that was started during a meeting after we ran out of time). Several times someone has accidentally pasted the text right back into their IRC client instead of their email client, so everyone in the meeting got notified that they’d been mentioned again.”

Lana Brindley <loquacities> – Former Docs PTL:
“What about the one where you’re conducting a private conversation in one window, and watching a group chat in another one, and then drop some deeply personal (or embarrassing!) content in the group chat instead the PM. There was one in particular, I was chatting with a friend in PM about underwear (I think we were sharing links to nice sets or something?), and ended up posting to the public channel something about stripping off your bra as soon as you get home in the evening. There was just complete silence in the group chat for a little while, and then ‘um? was that meant for us?”

Of course, we’ve all done the password one, but the one I do most often is the one-time password token codes. I usually try to follow it up with “and you have 13 seconds …””

Robert Clark <hyakuhei> – Security Doc & Anchor Core:
“#startmeeting in the wrong channel
#startmeeting in the right channel but at the wrong time
#startmeeting in the right channel and at the right time but someone else already started it
I’m basically a pro at meetings.”

Graham Hayes <mugsie> – Former Designate PTL:
“Not realizing there is a space at the beginning of a line, and
typing a ‘/’ command.

I am constantly typing ‘ /win 10’ into channels, or more embarrassingly “ /whois ”.

I have also had some… unfortunate… typos over the years. Changing
one letter of some words can really give a message a completely
different meaning…

Also, I have ‘/j #openstack-meeting’ and then ‘#startmeeting’ while on a
completely different IRC network, and wondered why I was talking to

Lance Bragstad <lbragstad> – Keystone Core:
“The fact that I’m prone to off-by-one errors (particularly when typing spaces) has reconditioned me to no longer use “got it” in chat conversation.”

Emily Hugenbruch <ekhugen> – Women of OpenStack Mentoring Leader:

<ekhugen-> I know a couple times I didn’t really look at the convo happening on the channel and kind of interrupted people

<ekhugen-> like if a couple people are going back and forth, it’s kind of rude to pop in with a new subject (and it often gets lost/ignored)

<diablo_rojo> Did they say anything about it?

<ekhugen-> I don’t think so, I just remember being kind of bummed and it took me awhile to get the courage to ask again

<ekhugen-> and then like lightbulb moment for me “don’t interject, they’ll ignore you”

<diablo_rojo> Well I am glad you worked up the courage to persevere 🙂

<ekhugen-> and one last one, I didn’t know about using pastebin, and I dumped like a full tempest log into IRC, people hate that

<diablo_rojo> Ha ha yeah is wonderful for avoiding that type of thing.

<ekhugen-> yeah, I think someone was like “uh, we use for that so it doesn’t clog up the channel”

Clint Byrum <SpamapS>- Core in Architecture Working Group & Shade:
“I used to work at a place that had an internal IRC server (that *I*
setup no less). One particularly dark day I alt-tabbed to the wrong
page and instead of pasting into a web form, I pasted into our general
IRC channel that had everyone in it….what was I pasting? The entire
contents of my resume.

The silver lining? My manager saw this, figured out what was up, and
gave me a raise to try and keep me from quitting.”


Top 10 Hacks for Making IRC Work or You and Your Community

Much like your favorite childhood video game, IRC will require a mistake or two if you are going to increase your IRC skills. Below we highlight 10 ways you can start playing with IRC to practice more mistakes. Have fun!

10) “StalkWords” = Search for your local IRCs “StalkWords” list so you can have a bot searching for keywords being mentioned.

9) /WhoIs = See someone frequently chatting in IRC whom you’d like to know more about? This command will allow you acquire further information on key players.

8) /Invite = one of the best things you can do when a conversation is taking place is to have the right people in the IRC room. If you know of someone who should be part of the conversation, don’t be afraid to kindly invite them to the channel with this command.

7) /cs set #channel url [address] OR [email@address] = Once you invite someone to a channel make sure they know to what they are being invited. Change the topic of the channel including linking a URL to it (perhaps a recent blog post). You can also add an email of a key community member who is frequently on the channel.

6) “IRC Bots”! = Because IRC is a programmable open network of data, you can add numerous bots to help you do everything from monitor natural language with botnets, and bots who provide suggestions for who is writing code like you! Search for: “IRC + Bots” to discover a whole new world of basic AI!

Spoiler: the top 5 IRC tips below are all about the additional features which OpenStack meeting rooms have built in as bots. See this page on how #OpenStack-Meeting bots work to help you work with your community:

5) #startMeeting + #endMeeting = When it is time to start the meeting with your team, fire off this command and the #OpenStack-meeting bots will start to record the meeting and provide you with commands to automatically track the meeting. Best of all these bots spit out a log (aka eavesdrop) of the meeting for people to read anon.

4) #info = Add an INFO item to the minutes, aka an FYI. As IRC meetings happen in real time, half the world is usually asleep when the meeting is taking place. Since #OpenStack-meeting rooms are recorded and logged, this command is a great way to highlight information which people can read after the meeting is over. Another good command to highlight information during meetings is the “/action me” bot which is a good way to remind yourself of actions arising for you and others during a meeting.

3) #link = Add a link to the minutes. The URL must be the first thing on the line, separated by a space from the rest of the line, and it will be properly hyperlinked making it easier for others to click on the link for opening in browser. It is also then highlighted in the meeting notes.

2) #startVote = One of the best ways to keep meeting interactive and engaging is to ask questions of your community and have them make a vote on decisions. The vote bot will do this for you, as example: “#startvote Should we vote now? Yes, No, Maybe”

1) #undo = Remove the last item from the meeting minutes. Only applies to commands which appear in the final output (chairs only). A great tool for undoing the above commands when you make a mistake!

Last but not least, remember the community is very forgiving and understand when mistakes happen. Perhaps the easiest remark of all is “doh!” with a quick apology––comedy in the community is the best part of IRC!

Kendall Nelson is an upstream developer advocate at the OpenStack Foundation. You can find her on IRC during CDT work hours, where her nickname is diablo_rojo often in the #openstack-cinder and #openstack-women channels.

OpenStack’s community wrangler David Flanders IRC nic: dfflanders contributed to this post.