Channel Guidelines

IRC is a low-bandwidth method of communication, in comparison with physical presence. Many of the cues of physical communication, tone of voice, facial expression, hand movements, etc., are missing in IRC, since only text is transmitted back and forth. Speakers in physical proximity with each other communicate quite a bit of emotional context via this extra bandwidth. This context enables them to avoid misjudging the intent of their conversational partners. It also functions as an unconscious negative feedback mechanism to reduce the incidence of emotional "firestorms" which tend to disrupt the efficient flow of conversation. Human beings look for this feedback, and indeed they may have evolved to require it. In the low-bandwidth world of IRC, they must instead rely on emotional feedback from the text they receive.

This process is subject to exaggeration. Small amounts of emotion become magnified in the perception of the observer. So, it is very important to keep channels calm. An informal conceptual measurement of the emotional content of a channel is its "channel temperature."

Think of a person's emotional state as kinetic energy. Enthusiasm, happiness, anger, frustration all add to the energy level. The more emotion is experienced, the "hotter" the participant. The average emotional state of a channel is its temperature. Emotions in IRC become exaggerated and conveying them directly increases channel temperature. Pent-up frustration, in particular, is often released as a series of inappropriate, "high energy" outbursts. An important objective of the freenode channel guidelines is to avoid "feedback loops" in channel interactions by reducing channel temperature.

The guidelines which follow are designed with the benefit of years of experience with IRC, beginning during the 1993-1994 period when the design limitations of IRC began to become clear due to the increasing scale of IRC networks. Adopting the guidelines will help improve the overall quality of your channel, and of the discussions that can take place in it. We intentionally avoid drawing a distinction between channel operators and users. Everyone is a user, regardless of their privilege level, and each user has the ability to influence the usability of the channel.