What with Twitter, Facebook and Chatter, it’s easy to forget that the Internet has had an open, real-time, messaging and chat infrastructure for over twenty years – Internet Relay Chat, or IRC. You can think of an IRC channel as equivalent to a chatroom on Skype or Yahoo, allowing a large number of users to participate in a real-time discussion on a given topic. A well-populated IRC channel is a great resource, both as a forum for interactive Q & A and as a ‘virtual water cooler’ – a space for folks to simply hang out and talk shop.

Salesforce-irc I’d known of the Salesforce IRC channel (#salesforce in IRC-speak) for some time; I’d briefly checked in a few times in the past, but never made it a habit. Ironically enough, it was Joel Dietz‘s tweet yesterday that prompted me to check it out again, and, wow, what a difference the network effect makes – over a dozen people chatting about all things Salesforce, newbies and old hands alike.

Getting on IRC is easy – there are standalone IRC clients, including Colloquy for the Mac and mIRC for Windows (many more options for Windows discussed at SuperUser), as well as the cross-protocol IM applications such as Adium on the Mac and Pidgin on Windows, Mac and Linux. Many of the IRC networks also have a browser interface, allowing you to dive right in.

Whichever route you take, to get on the Salesforce IRC channel, you’ll need to know the correct IRC network – Freenode (irc.freenode.net) – and channel name – #salesforce. If you want to go the browser route, it’s even easier – just hit http://webchat.freenode.net/?channels=salesforce. Either way, you’ll need to pick a ‘nickname’, which you should register with a password if you want to keep it to yourself. I’m ‘metadaddy‘, same as on Twitter.

So, if you’re looking for a quick answer to a short question (pasting code doesn’t work well in IRC – the Force.com Discussion Boards are best for that), or to just say ‘Hi’ to a bunch of fellow Salesforce geeks, drop by!

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