IRC and wiki introduction exercise

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IRC is a text chat program. It is used by the vast majority of open source projects as their forum for real-time communication. This is where meetings are held, but also a social place where people idle and hang out while they are working, similar to the casual banter that goes on in an office or a lab or cafeteria. One of the primary differences between IRC and messaging programs most people new to open source are familiar with is that IRC conversation is in group chatrooms by default, whereas AIM, ICQ, Jabber, etc. tend to do individual conversations by default.

A wiki is a publicly editable webpage. You may be familiar with wiki-based sites such as What most people don't know is that wikis are extremely simple to set up, so individuals, open source projects, and other sorts of groups use them for notes, project webpages, and general collaboration/documentation infrastructure.

A wiki userpage is like a profile page for an individual user of a wiki. These can be extremely elaborate or highly minimalist; most are somewhere in between (if you have more time, explore some others here). People decide what they want to show and share on their userpages; it typically acts as a "homepage" for them for their work and introducing themselves to potential collaborators who may not yet know them.


Your goal for this exercise is to have a wiki user page of your own. Use the wiki specified by your instructors. Your page must be completed by the end of class, and it can say anything (tasteful) you like; think of this as a professional homepage for your open source activities.

There are two additional constraints that you are under for this.

  • The first constraint is that you may not edit your own wiki user page. This implies that someone else needs to edit it for you. That person can be anybody, in the classroom or remote.
  • The second constraint is that you are only allowed to communicate electronically during this exercise. You may not speak in person, write on pieces of paper, show somebody else your screen, use hand gestures, etc. Essentially, pretend that you are in a room by yourself with your computer, and communicate and collaborate with your partner that way. This constraint extends to finding your partner - you need to find a way to match up with someone else for this (we suggest IRC ) and coordinate between yourselves online.

The only exception to the second constraint is that you may communicate with your instructors in-person, particularly to ask about tool usage and communication strategies. Please do not use this exception to secretly communicate with your partner. The point of this exercise is to give you an experience in distributed collaboration; we are particularly interested in what sorts of coping strategies you find, evolve, and negotiate on your own while working on this. We expect this exercise to be confusing and occasionally frustrating, so your instructors will be walking around throughout the exercise to help you turn that confusion into insight, because exploring new ways of doing things should be slightly frightening, but ultimately a fantastic adventure where you'll end up being surprised at how much you learn.


  • An IRC log of the conversation
  • Individual wiki user pages

Examples of usage

For an IRC log of attendees of an actual POSSE completing this exercise, see POSSE Doha transcript.

For sample wiki user pages that have been created during this exercise (also from Doha), see: