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Re: About IRC meetings...

On Wed, 12 Jan 2005 18:17:39 +0000, Helen Faulkner
<helen_ml_faulkner@yahoo.co.uk> wrote:
> OK, I think that point 5 from that link ypu posted
> (http://docs.indymedia.org/view/Global/ImcIRC), is a good idea.  Namely
> to have the moderator change the topic of the channel to reflect the
> current question or sub-topic of the meeting.  Hopefully that would help
> the non-English speakers to follow things too.

Funky to see my document found and posted somewhere, especially
somewhere that I happen to be. :)

I just wanted to point out that when I put that up I had removed some
of the surrounding discussion... i've been (unfortunately, some would
say) been organizing, attending and facilitating IRC meetings for
years. Everything from regular weekly meetings, to ad-hoc emergency
meetings, to work-party meetings, I was trying to distill my
experiences into something useful that people can then learn/draw
from, there is so much more to say about online meetings, and meetings
in general that didn't get put there.

It is important to note that many of these are good ideas, but maybe
not applicable to everyone. These are good practicies if the IRC
meeting is composed of a large number of people, people from different
first-language backgrounds, are new to IRC and might be confused by
the background noise, or people who may not be very fast typers for
whatever reason.

Although it seems like IRC is a medium where anyone can jump in at any
time and everyone can speak, it actually can exclude people who can't
follow what is going on or cannot respond becaue they can't type as
fast  as others. If you have been using IRC for a while you may be
used to the semi-chaotic way it works and can actually follow (and
respond to)  multiple threads at the same time, but if you are new to
the medium (or are under-caffeinated) it can be very hard to keep up.
Its for this reason that trying to keep subjects/topics focused and
moderating the discussion can help mitigate this some. Most
importantly you don't want to exclude people and you also don't want
to bore people, so keep the pace by adjusting things as necessary.
> Point 6 from the link (having a mechanism whereby people raise their
> hands to take it in turns to speak) is an interesting idea.  I am not
> sure whether I think it would work well for our meetings or not, bearing
> in mind how long it took us to do a similar thing in the first meeting
> (ie go around in order for people to introduce themselves).
> I think the "raise your hand" idea might be worth a try, to see how it
> works.  Basically I think there might be some advantages, like getting a
> discussion that is easier to follow, and some disadvantages, like losing
> the "conversation" aspect of the meetings we've had so far.
> Has anyone tried this in an IRC meeting of similar size and how did it
> work?

A couple comments about this one... you said that it killed your
momentum and pace to "go around in order for people to introduce
themselves" and I agree that this may not be the best method because
people may focus their attention elsewhere during this process. It
does help for people to get focused on the meeting to have to
introduce themselves, but people can also get defocused after they
intro themselves and then wait for others to go. Its my opinion that
introductions should be tossed out there, without having to stand in
line. Once this dies down, you can end introductions by suggesting
that those who didn't introduce themselves just spit it out when they
come back. This way you can proceed quickly and everyone is

As the meeting progresses into the separate agenda items, you may wish
to use the "hand raising" idea at different points. Other points you
may find that it causes more problems than solves, be fluid about
using this, don't make it the way the entire meeting is done, if it is
not necessary.

I've found raising hands to work really well in some meetings, but it
is worth noting that you should be fluid about it. Basically the way
we do it is you do an emote command (/me raises hand) which appears

* micah raises hand

then either the moderator, or a separate "stack-keeper" keeps track of
who is next and calls on the next person after the previous person has
indicated that they are done talking (generally it helps if you ask
people to finish what they are saying with something like: /end). If
things are going slow, and nobody is on the stack you could open the
floor for people to brainstorm, or just speak when they feel like it.
If this starts to get chaotic (remember, be sensitive that others may
not be able to follow as well as you) then you can turn things into a
more structured discussion. It helps if the participants know that
they can request that things slow down, or turn towards a more
structured style if they are getting lost.

It is also good to point out that if you do use this method, people
should learn that if they raise their hand, they should start typing
what they are going to say before they are called on, and then when
they are they can simply hit <enter> to send what the wanted to say.
It can kill momentum to call on someone and then have to wait for them
to type. Respecting the person who is calling on people is good, but
if that person happens to go AFK for whatever reason, it is good to
pay attention and take your turn after the person ahead of you has
gone. It doesn't make sense to wait 5 minutes with dead-air for the
person keeping stack to call on you, when you know you are next.

A good moderator can make a meeting flow really well, and still allow
everyone to participate. Also, as electronic communication goes,
always OVER communicate, rather than under communicate.


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