Recording chatroom conversations
THIS WEEK NetSpeak will explores a tool designed to capture chatroom conversations on to a weblog.
One of the heavily used services of the Net, with an addictive element built in, is the chat service that allows netizens across the globe communicate with each other in real-time. Two chatting services are the Instant Messenger and Internet Relay Chat. Though an old Net service IRC seems to be less known to ordinary netizens.
IRC enables netizens to assemble at a common point called a channel or chatroom and discuss a specific topic for which the channel has been created. There are many IRC networks with several participating servers. In an IRC network, you find many channels that deal with varied subjects that include politics, computers and Internet. To participate in a conversation that is being run on a particular network, you have to access one of the servers on the network using an IRC client. So, to get into an IRC chat, you need an IRC client, address of a server on the selected IRC network and the name of the channel (chatroom) that deals with your subject. Visit: http://www.wellmashed.co.uk/.
IRC clients run on platforms such as Windows and Linux. Most of the programs, though having some unique features, work in the same way. The shareware program, mIRC (http://www.mirc.com/), is quite popular among Windows users. When you invoke the program, it will ask you to provide such details as e-mail address, full name and nickname. Here the nickname is quite important as you will be known by this name in the chatroom and this is required to log-in to a channel. Once the client is loaded properly and the required inputs are given, you will get the program's interface.
At this point you are ready to chat or exchange messages with others currently on your favourite channel on an IRC network. Suppose you are a Linux enthusiast and want to chat with people who are well-versed in this OS. As already mentioned, you need to know the IRC server address and the name of the channel that holds the discussion on Linux. For example, the IRC server: milan.it.eu.undernet.org, runs the channel `LINUXHELP,' where you will find many Linux enthusiasts answering/discussing Linux related issues. To join the discussions, log-in to the server by entering the command `/server milan.it.eu.undernet.org' and then join the channel by typing in the command `/join #LINUXHELP.' As a channel name starts with the symbol `#,' make sure that the symbol `#' is prefixed with the channel name `LINUXHELP.' At this point you will see messages from various participants scrolling across the screen. After observing for a while, you can start sending your messages. If you have any doubt on Linux, just send a message, most probably you will get an answer or some pointers.
There are also many free open-source IRC clients. The multi-platform IRC client, Xchat (http://www.xchat.org/) and the feature-packed, HydraIRC (http://www.hydrairc.com/) are two examples.
A serious IRC channel is a potential information source on a specific subject. If you collect/analyse the conversations taking place in a channel, you will get a fair idea about the subject. Hence, it is worth recording such information generated through an IRC channel's community talk and publishing it on the web. Capturing an IRC chat on a web page will enable others interested in the subject but who failed to participate in the chat, to go through the whole discussion whenever they want.
The IRC-Web interface project, `DiaWebLog' (http://www.diaweblog.com/), is a commendable attempt in this regard. As per its site, DiaWebLog is "a blogging system that lets you create a weblog with your friends from a chatroom in real-time.'' With the help of a `chatbot,' you can record/publish the conversation taking place in a chatroom instantaneously on to a weblog so that it can be read later by anyone on the web.
To get a feel of this chatroom based community blogging system, the promoters of the project run a demo blog service, where you can test this concept. The demo web log, `Mesh DiaWebLog' (http://mesh.diaweblog.com/), takes content from the #mesh channel of the Freenode network (http://www.freenode.net/).
To test the service, first log-in to a Freenode server (say, irc.freenode.net) with your IRC client and join the channel #mesh. Now, to create an item (or entry) for the weblog, type the title of the entry as follows: `@ITEM Testing the DiaWeblog commands' (here, `Testing the DiaWeblog commands' is the title of the entry). At this point, the chatbot (with nickname Diaweblog) will create an entry with title, URL etc and display the title with a name, which is a letter, given to the new item by the bot (like `s: Testing the DiaWeblog commands').
Here, the name of the item is the letter `s' and whatever you or anyone in the chatroom type, with this name prefixed, will automatically get posted on the weblog under the item. For example, if someone in the chatroom responds to an idea with the comment: `s, An interesting idea,' this comment will get automatically posted on the web page. An item created by this author can be viewed at: http://mesh.diaweblog.com/item? id=10517
The chatbot supports many commands that let you edit an item or any of its elements. Among the various commands, the POLL command that enables you to conduct quick surveys will amuse you.
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