Online meetings how to

Note: For technical help on using IRC, there's a good topic called "IRC - what is it, how to use it" - at: IrcHowTo

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Best practices for online meetings:

I wanted to share a few tips on IRC meetings that may help a bit. I've been doing IRC meetings for several years now (since 1999!), and there are some little things that help a lot for keeping a meeting going and organized, this is a quick read, but there are some important things that I've learned over years of doing this that are "best practices" for online meetings. Try to read this before the meeting, it'll only take a minute:

  1. Logging - Before the meeting begins, someone needs to log the meeting, IRC clients can do this for you. Ideally this should be someone who knows how to log, has a reliable internet connection and will be on IRC throughout the whole meeting, and someone who can commit and follow through with posting that log afterwards. The best is if you can provide a summary at the top of the meeting, and then the raw log. There are some nice html log parsers out there that make IRC logs look nicer when posted on the web, but thats for later.
  2. Facilitator - Someone should be picked as the facilitator. This person should keep track of whose turn it is to speak, the current agenda item, and should keep an eye towards the pacing of the meeting.
  3. Keep the meeting moving - the pacing of IRC meetings is important, if it becomes too slow, then people start to drift away to their email, the web, or to other things. People need to be engaged in the meeting, and there should not be long pauses if possible.
  4. Resist multitasking - Its super easy, while sitting at home in your underwear on the computer to do 6 things at once. Resist. If everyone in an IRC meeting is browsing the web, responding to email, then the pacing of the meeting will be ruined. Stay focused for the meeting duration, it can make or break a meeting. If things are getting slow in the meeting for whatever reason, push things along, don't switch to another window.
  5. Stay on /topic - the facilitator should use the /topic command to change the topic of the channel to what the current agenda item that is being discussed is. Everyone should stay on that topic, until you move on. Just like in an in-person meeting, try to keep the comments and questions that aren't related to the topic at hand back until that topic comes up. If there is something you want to say that isn't going to be addressed because the agenda doesn't have your topic on it, bring it up at the end for topics for the next agenda.
  6. Raise your hand - There are two different types of meeting discussion on IRC: free-for-all, and structured discussion. A free-for-all is people just talking whenever they feel like it. This can work with some subjects, and if the pacing and timing is done right it can make for a good discussion. However, it can quicklydevolve into multiple conversations at one time. If it starts becoming too fractured, then it might be good to reign things in and have a structured discussion. To do this, everyone raises their hand to speak, and the facilitator keeps a "stack" of who wants to speak and then calls on the next person on the stack to speak. When that person is speaking, everyone respects the speaker and doesn't interrupt, and respects the stack and raises their hand if they want to speak, instead of interrupting and cutting people off in-line to speak. To raise your hand simply type /me raises hand, the facilitator will see that you raised your hand and then call on you when it is your turn.
  7. Type ahead - If you are having a structured discussion, and you've raised your hand, and it isn't your time to speak, go ahead and start typing, but just don't hit until you are callled on. You can often type 8 or so lines of text before you can't type anymore. When the facilitator calls on you, just hit return and it will all be sent at once. This aids in keeping the pacing going because if you have something to say and the facilitator calls on you and then everyone must wait for you to type, then people's minds start to wander. Alternatively, type everything you want to say in a text editor, and then copy and paste it when it is your time.
  8. Time keeper - someone should pay attention to time and the "vibe" of the group. If you set specific times for specific topics of the agenda, the time keeper should announce when time is getting short and if the discussion seems healthy ask if people want to give some extra time to the topic. Also, after about an hour and a half people online tend to get a little exhausted and start to wander, check in and see how people are doing. (Internet Relay Chat: if it doesn't work, try instead, although your IP address will be viewable by others) If you want a specific question answered or just want to see what's being talked about try these chatrooms:

  • #indymedia - general discussion about imc and alternative politics in general
  • #tech - for tech related help (people don't always respond immediately!)

Don't know what this is all about? There is a general help page about irc on the web, also some more specific Indymedia related pages linked from the WebHome of this 'Help' web.

-- RovinNZ - 25 Sep 2002
-- MicahA - 10 Aug 2004
-- GarconDuMonde - 22 Aug 2005
-- AlejandroMartinJ - 02 Jun 2006
Topic revision: r6 - 02 Jun 2006, AlejandroMartinJ
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