Hack 12 Find Relevant Channels and Servers

If you're new to IRC, one of the biggest problems is working out which network to use. Find a perfect match with one of the search engines for IRC channels.

If you haven't got a clue which IRC network to use, picking a random one is not always the best idea. You may find that the one you choose doesn't cater to your interests. A surefire method of picking the right network is to use an IRC search engine.

One popular IRC search engine can be found at http://irc.netsplit.de/channels. This is maintained by Andreas Gelhausen and uses a collection of IRC bots to connect to hundreds of IRC networks and collect data.

3.2.1 Finding Help on IRC

Let's assume that you are new to IRC and need some help, so you enter "irc for beginners" into the search box and click on the Search button. This will search through all of the IRC networks it knows about, looking for channels with topics that match your search terms. The results are shown in Figure 3-1.

Figure 3-1. Using the IRC search engine

The search results are presented as a list of all channels that have topics containing the words you searched for. Each row shows the name of the channel, the name of the network, the time the data was collected, the number of users in the channel, and the topic of the channel. From these results, you can decide which channel you want to join.

If you have an IRC client installed, you can click on the "irc://" link beneath the channel name to automatically connect to that server and join that channel.

3.2.2 Other Interesting Statistics

You can also use the IRC search engine at http://irc.netsplit.de/channels to view statistics about networks and servers. Figure 3-2 shows the growth of the freenode IRC network over the past five years.

Figure 3-2. Plotting the growth of the freenode IRC network

This graph shows the number of users and channels over time. Why not see how your favorite IRC network has grown?

Alex North