All entries for Wednesday 26 March 2008

March 26, 2008

openSUSE IRC – call for participation

The #suse channel on the freenode IRC (Internet Relay Chat) network is one of the places users can go to get support with openSUSE. The channel has suffered a little over recent months from the loss of some regular participants. Since the opening of the openSUSE project many of the channel regulars have become involved in other areas of the openSUSE project, leaving less time for user support on IRC.

While the regular participants may have decreased, the throughput of users seeking help shows no sign of abating. There is a danger that with fewer people helping in the channel, users will either not get help or be put off by the attitude of a few in the channel.

There are regular complaints from a few about the state of the #suse IRC channel, often as an excuse for not participating. This does somewhat irritate me as it is one of the easiest things to fix yourself. Simply join the channel and participate, even a single person does make a big difference to the whole channel. Complaining helps nobody, and only serves to discourage those who are helping

So please join us in #suse. Help, be helped, and have a lot of fun! If you are using openSUSE You can probably just click here to join the channel .

Reasons for being in #suse

  • Improve end user support

#suse is one of the places users may look for help. It is linked on http://help.opensuse.org, from the desktop, and the openSUSE IRC clients default to joining the channel. IRC, being interactive, gives the opportunity to arrive at a problem diagnosis much more quickly than possible with a mailing list. It also has the disadvantage that no-one may be available or able to answer your question. It supplements the other support fora such as mailing lists & web forums.

  • Improve channel atmosphere

#suse, along with the mailing lists and forums, is one of the parts of the community that new users will come into contact with. Their experience here may dictate whether they continue using the distribution or not, or whether they participate in the project or not. If users do not get their problems solved they may be forced to look elsewhere. If users have a bad experience in the channel, they may be discouraged and look for another community. It is therefore critical that we provide the best possible experience for users in the channel. This is not a policy problem (we have rules and guidelines), but a people problem. The people in the channel define its atmosphere and quality.

  • Learn new things about openSUSE

Even if you think you are a suse expert, you will likely be surprised at the things you will learn by simply watching other people helping in the channel. This will then help you to help others in the future.

  • Get your questions answered

Nobody is an expert in all areas, in addition to helping others you can have your own questions answered as well.

  • Get to know other openSUSE users.

IRC provides interactive chat. With IRC it is possible to socialise and live the suse motto “Have a lot of fun” much more than is possible with other media such as mailing lists.

  • Learn what the user painpoints are.

If you are involved in the openSUSE project, being in #suse gives a special insight into the most common problems users experience. It helps make the problems that need to be addressed in the future clear.

Possible reasons for not joining #suse

  • I don’t like the channel atmosphere / I’ve heard it’s unfriendly

An IRC channel is simply a venue. The atmosphere of the channel is defined by those who are in it and active at any given time. Since there is rarely more than a handful of people active at any time, if you are speaking in the channel then you are pretty much defining the atmosphere. Improving the channel friendliness is simply a matter of joining and occasionally talking. If you encounter someone in the channel being antisocial or in violation of one of the channel rules, then contact one of the ops [/msg susehelp ops], who can then take appropriate action.

  • The channel is too busy. I don’t have time to spend in #suse

Just being in the channel does not obligate you to talk, help, or even read it. Most of those in the channel will be doing other things, occasionally glancing at the channel. If they happen to see something they can help with they will. If there are enough people doing this then it translates into quite good support coverage, and not much of a timesink.

  • I don’t know enough to help others

This is rarely true. Not all questions are of equal difficulty. At least half of user questions are frequently asked questions which can usually be resolved by supplying a bot factoid or URL. As they are frequently asked you will see others answering these questions after spending a little time in the channel, you can then immediately start helping answer these questions in the future by repeating the solution. Of the more difficult questions, there is a scale of difficulty. If you have used openSUSE for any length of time you will probably be surprised how many questions you will be able to answer.


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