Connect with the Community (Activity)

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Connect with the Community


Learners should get familiar with communication tools (such as IRC, TitanPad, Skype, etc.) that are commonly used by FOSS communities.

After successfully completing this activity, the learner should be able to:
  • Be familiar with different communication tools (such as iRC, TitanPad, Skype etc.) that are freely available for everyone.
  • Explore interactions and find out how different FOSS communities (HFOSS in particular) use these tools to communicate among their members.
Process Skills


If your class is embedded with an open source project, you should:

  1. Join the comms channels for your project,
  2. Discussed codes of conduct with your community liaison,
  3. Discuss how to handle CoC violations when your students are involved.

For general info on how open source projects use IRC, mailing lists and the like, there's a nice [video] on "how to communicate with your community" that Brian Proffitt at Red Hat has created that may be worth watching.



This is the longest and most important part of this activity.

IRC, which stands for Internet Relay Chat, is an essential tool used by open source software developers. It allows members of the community, or those interested in becoming involved in the community, to communicate 24/7, regardless of their geographic location. IRC is much like Instant Messaging with a group. Bear in mind that ‘talking’ is not always a requirement. You will learn a great deal by ‘listening’, especially in the beginning.

  • Everybody should then
    • Connect to the server via the command: /server
    • Join our own (newly created) channel via the command: /join #chooseYourOwnChannel
  • HOMEWORK 1: join and observe an existing channel discussion
    • Connect to the freenode server via the command: /server
    • Join the foss2serve channel via the command: /join #sourceforge
    • Monitor, then write and return a 1-page paper on the discussion you discover in here for at least a couple of hours:
      • Pay attention to the interactions that occur between community members.
      • Ignore the technical terms you don't understand.
      • Accept that the content may be beyond your understanding at this point
      • Observe:
        • How do people interact in this context?
        • What is the pattern of communication you just observed?
        • Can you make any other observations?

PART 2: Titanpad

Titanpad allows authors to simultaneously edit a text document, and see all of the participants' edits in real-time, with the ability to display each author's text in their own color. There is also a chat box in the sidebar to allow meta communication.

In this part of the activity you will need to:

  • use a web browser to connect to:
  • let’s chat:
    • do you have any comments you would like to share here about what you just observed in the iRC channel?
    • every student should write at least one line!

PART 3: Alternatives

Propose some alternatives ways team can collaborate such as: mailing lists, blogs, twitter, facebook, google+, skype, wiki, iRC, community sites, blogs, twitter, youtube, slideshare, vimeo, etc. which ones do you think are most effective and why? In-class discussion.

PART 4: Discussions

  • Describe the difference between synchronous and asynchronous communication.
  • Compare the HCI issues in individual interaction with group interaction.
  • Discuss several issues of social concern raised by collaborative software.
  • Discuss the HCI issues in software that embodies human intention.



  • #openstack
  • #openstack-101
  • #openstack-doc
  • #wikipedia
  • ##java
    • only registered nicks are allowed!!! You must create a registered nick on iRC.
  • ##C++
  • ##c++-basic
  • #sagemath
  • #ubuntu
  • ##linuxmint


A paper with students' findings, or a blog post.



Depending on the project that you've chosen, it may be worthwhile to spend some time talking with students about the sort of interactions they might see -- and the lens to view it through. If you are working with a project that is historically not very diverse, you may want to pay particular attention to women and other underrepresented groups and their experience in open source.

Finally, it may be that some channels are quiet and there is little activity. Providing some alternative channels such as OpenHatch could introduce the culture in a fairly neutral way.

Variants and Adaptations

Modified version of activity used by Chris Murphy in his FOSS Course, UPenn, Murphy.

Area & Unit(s)

HCI/Collaboration and Communication

  • Asynchronous group communication, e.g., e-mail, forums, social networks
  • Synchronous group communication, e.g., chat rooms, conferencing, online games
  • Social media, social computing, and social network analysis
  • Online collaboration, 'smart' spaces, and social coordination aspects of workflow technologies
  • Online communities


Estimated Time
to Complete

50-120 minutes

Environment /

IRC client, email client, browser and web access


Razvan A. Mezei


50 Ways to be a FOSSer


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

CC license.png

Suggestions for the Open Source Project

Be prepared for the additional influx of students -- and although they are in lurk mode, there’s a possibility that someone will goof and send something to the list.

Also, if you have a code of conduct, you need to know what your “enforcement” routes are, should an issue occur.

Personal tools
Learning Resources
HFOSS Projects