IRC is a communication medium, Internet Relay Chat, used commonly by people in open source projects, people working on programming languages, and for social or topic-focused chat rooms. You can download an IRC client to use on your computer to connect to IRC.

Freenode is one popular IRC network that hosts many F/LOSS projects and programming language channels. Relevant channels include:

  • ##feminism The most active channel, with its own website
  • #geekfeminism Not run or moderated by the same people as the blog and wiki, though there are people who hang out in all 3 places.
  • #archlinux-women A project for getting women involved in Arch Linux (a lot of men hang out in the channel too)
  • #debian-women A project for getting women involved in Debian
  • #ubuntu-women A project for getting women involved in Ubuntu

Behavior considerations for IRC users

While IRC is quite useful for many people, it has a history of being a particularly difficult or hostile environment for many women, trans people, people of color, and other people from marginalized groups. For many years, women have often used neutral or male-gendered names (nicks) on IRC to avoid harassment or misogynist judgment of their skills and abilities. This is sometimes experienced as a general hostile environment with "frat guy" style chatter using pejorative and/or sexualized language. But it can also be experienced as direct communication such as harassment in public channel or in private messages (25 times more likely for feminine nicks) that are hateful or are from people who try to hit on anyone in the channel who's perceived as female.

If you experience bad behavior on an IRC channel, try messaging a channel moderator or "op" with the /msg command to explain or point out the bad behavior. Some channels have policies against hate speech or specifically against misogyny. For example, the #perl channel's policy on freenode -- and how to fight misogynist speech -- is explained in this post: Other avenues could go directly to server admins or the server's policies to combat harassment or hate speech. Here is freenode's policy:

Logs: public vs. private vs. unlogged

Some IRC channels are logged publicly, while others are logged privately by the ops or even not logged officially by anyone (though anyone present might still keep their own log).

Public logging

Logs are publicly viewable on the internet by anyone, and generally findable. The log might be maintained by the channel owner(s), or by another party. 


  • Discussion archives may be useful later for reference, e.g. seeing useful answers to historical questions, catching up on past talk, for the reference of ops
  • Can help newcomers orient themselves to channel norms
  • Individuals who want logs could read the official one instead of keeping one themselves
  • Harassers are less likely to harass their targets when their behavior is being logged publicly
  • Prevents ops from being accused of maliciously tampering with private logs


  • Raises barriers to interaction
  • People may feel uncomfortable discussing sensitive issues
  • People with newbie questions (e.g. beginner coding questions) may be uncomfortable asking "stupid" questions in a logged channel
  • People who have experienced internet bullying may be reluctant to speak when their words are going into a public space they don't control 

Private logging

Access controlled logs are kept for the benefit of channel ops. 


  • Useful to have documentation in case of harassment incidents or inappropriate conduct
  • More comfortable to discuss sensitive issues
  • More comfortable to ask newbie questions


  • Non-ops won't have the logs handy to catch up on discussion that they missed (unless they keep logs)
  • Enforcing a no-public-full-logs policy can be difficult

Not officially logged

No official logs are kept, and unofficial logs are not officially linked to. 


  • Easy, since it's the default
  • More comfortable to discuss sensitive issues
  • More comfortable to ask newbie questions
  • Ephemeral - people who are uncomfortable having a permanent record (including any misspeaking, poor choice of phrasing, typos) can be more comfortable, which lowers the barrier to interaction 


  • No tracking of harassment incidents or inappropriate conduct
  • Doesn't actually stop individuals from keeping and publishing their own logs
  • Enforcing a no-public-full-logs policy can be difficult

Partial logging

Public logs are kept of selected channel highlights (such as code decisions or funny moments) 


  • Important bits are kept in an easy to find space for future reference
  • Less wading through regular discussion to find the important things
  • Can help newcomers orient themselves to channel norms
  • Sensitive information can be kept out by simply not publishing it


  • Takes effort to deliberately select and publish the highlights
  • May present an incomplete picture of what the channel is actually like
  • Enforcing a no-public-full-logs policy can be difficult

See also

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