Developers Need IRC

If you’re a developer who doesn’t use IRC, you’re not being as productive as you could be. I was thinking about this when I read a blog post on how IRC can be a nice low-interruption news source. It can be handy for that, but the real value in IRC is other developers.

The best network to hang out on is Freenode, which has a channel for any decent-sized software. When you have an issue with your language, library, or editor, there’s a channel around to help you out. They do vary in quality — for instance, #django is far more helpful than #rubyonrails, but they’re generally all pretty good.

(I’m assuming you’re using an open source tool-chain. If you’re using a proprietary compiler/interpreter and editor, they’ll answer esoteric support questions most any hour of the day or night, right?)

More useful than code support is a posse. I ended up with one by lucky accident and I’m very glad to have it. A half-dozen or so other developers, maybe gathered from previous jobs or collaboration on open source projects. Preferably nobody you currently work with, so you can vent about your job when you’re feeling quitty. It’s valuable to have colleagues who can put things in perspective for you. Or to swap programming articles and cat pictures with.

That explanation is a bit half-baked, but trust me that you need to hang out on IRC with some other devs. In my experience, days vary quite a bit. Some days are dead quiet, or near to it; a conversation may have a pause of a few hours between responses. Or when we’re all distracted and slacking, there’ll be lots of discussion of code and work issues, mostly based on whatever interesting blog posts we’ve seen lately. It’s rewarding to have folks you can trust and talk to.