Basics of IRC

This is taken from the Huffle Orientation lesson on IRC, written by Prof. Cosmo B. Mott.

So, what is IRC?

IRC stands for Internet Relay Chat, and it's simply a form of text chatting. But, rather than the sort of one-on-one or small group situations you get with many IM platforms, IRC gives you entire networks and channels in which to chat with all sorts of people, though you can talk privately to people, too.

Now, the ways to connect to IRC are almost limitless; there are dozens, if not hundreds of programs dedicated, at least in part, to connecting you to an IRC server, but let's start off with CGI:IRC, because it's the most simple and available.

You can access CGI:IRC (or simply CGI, from here on out) via the main HOL page; additionally, you can go to and connect there (if the main HOL page goes down or something). Simply put your HOL name (first or first and last, without spaces; just make it recognizable) in as your nickname and the chan(nel) as #hol — with the symbol before it — if you want to hang with lots of people, or #hufflepuff — again, with the symbol — if you want just a few people who are rather quiet. Then click the button and go chat.

If you're already familiar with IRC networks, just sign on to and go from there.

Don't forget to read HOL's Chatroom Information and Rules before going in; it's helpful to know what to expect.

Basics for Beginners

Once you're connected, you can just chat and have fun. But, there are a few commands that are good to know. First, sometimes you'll see something like "* Nickname finds this story funny." This is an action. If you want to perform an action, type /me action — where action can be any number of words and punctuation.

Now, suppose you're in one channel and you want to go to another. You can simply /join #channelname. So, if you're in #hufflepuff and want to see what's going on in #hol, just type /join #hol and bam, you're in both channels.

Sometimes, you want to change the nick you're using. Like, if you've signed in with your HOL ID and now want to use your HOL name. To change nicks, simply type /nick newnick — newnick being your new... nick.

If you want to speak privately with someone, you can do so in a peer-to-peer chat, commonly called p2p. In CGI, you can double-click on the person's nick to open a new p2p with them; alternately, you can type /query Nick and open one that way.

If you find yourself on IRC a lot and think it's something you'll want to keep up with, you may want to register your nick. Registering your nick, while not necessary, can help prevent people from pretending to be you. In fact, you may have already encountered this, if you tried to use a nick that was already registered; when that happens, NickServ will change your nick to Guest123 or some other string of numbers. Regardless, if you're a frequent IRCer, registering your nick with NickServ is a good thing to do.

To do that, while signed in as the nick you want to register, go to the status window and type /msg nickserv register password email — replacing password with your desired password and email with your email address. It's important you use a real email address because, to complete the registration, you have to send a specific code to NickServ, a code you can only get via email. So, once you've registered your nick, check your email for a message from with the subject "Blitzed Nick Registration" It should read something like this:

Hi! Someone (you, hopefully) has just completed the first step of registering 'YourNick' as a new nickname on the Blitzed IRC Network. To complete the process, you need to return to Blitzed, change to your chosen nick, and give the following command:

/msg NickServ REGISTER AUTH stringofnumbersandlettersfor40characters

After that point, your nick should be fully registered to you. You may want to look into the nick settings which allow you to hide details such as your E-mail address from other users:

/msg NickServ HELP SET HIDE

We'll reserve your nickname for 24 hours from the date of this E-mail. If you don't complete the AUTH process before then, you will need to begin again from the start, and the nickname will be available for other people to register also.

If you have received this E-mail in error, and know nothing about what is going on, please report the matter to

Thank you for using the Blitzed IRC Network.

Once you've got your nick registered, you'll want to identify it every time you use it; this will let people know that you are indeed the owner of said nick. To do that, go to the status window (usually on the left, where it gives you information about the server) and type /msg NickServ identify password — where password is your password for that nick.

You don't have to go to the status window for this sort of thing — you can be in any window and do it; however, it's been known to happen that a person forgets to type the slash before the command. If you do that in a channel, the message gets sent out to the whole channel, which compromises your password, so it's safest to do it in the status window, where no one else can see.

There are, of course, tons of other things you can do, but these are the basic basics. To learn about a few more basics, read Blitzed's New User Guide.

NOTE: Currently the Blitzed New User Guide is down. If you'd like to learn a few more basics, why not contact Prof. Cosmo B. Mott? I here she's always happy to assist in the ways of IRC.


Now, if you've used CGI for any extended amounts of time, you may find that it can be a bit slow to respond and that the conversation sometimes moves faster than CGI. There are two other web-based options that should give you a better result that CGI.

Outside of CGI, the most popular web-based client around HOL is Mibbit. Just be sure to select Blitzed as your server, and put in your nick and channel like normal.

irc2go has a Java-based site that works well. Here, you can specify a "realname" — I suggest putting in your HOL name — in addition to a nickname. Watch out, though, with the chat room input, and don't include # in front of the channel name; it's assumed in the script and will add an extra one into the channel name and take you to the wrong channel!

Another option is wsIRC; be sure to choose Blitzed from the server list.

Web-based IRC is good when you're on the go, but for regular use, and particularly if you want to become something of a power IRCer, you're going to want a dedicated client.

Fortunately, there are a ton of IRC clients to choose from; unfortunately, this means that HOLers might not be able to help you with your specific program. But no matter; you use what's most comfortable for you.

For Windows users, mIRC, though shareware, is the most popular choice, particularly with those who wish to cheer or run Quidditch bots. If you decide to use mIRC, you'll have lots of people who can help you. But, if you don't plan on those things, you can use any number of other programs. For instance, the web browser Opera has a built-in IRC client, there's a Firefox extention that gives you the Chatzilla client, and there's a great free, stand-alone client called KVIrc. Or, if you use an IM program that connect to several IM platforms at once — something like Trillian, Miranda IM, Pidgin, and so forth — you'll find that you can connect to the Blitzed network ( and to the HOL channels just fine that way. The main thing is to choose the program that works best for you.

If you're a Mac user, the choices are a bit more limited, but by no means bleak. Colloquy, X-chat, and Snak are the most popular programs around HOL, but there are other programs available. KVIrc is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux; from my experience with it, it's comparable to mIRC. If you have any questions, please ask.

Further information about clients can be found in the chatroom section of the HOL Handbook, IRC clients for Mac, and Wikipedia's Comparison of IRC clients.


Of course, when you're online, you have to be aware of safety concerns for both your computer and yourself.

Practice safe computing by scanning downloads for viruses. Be sure to download program installation files from the official sites where possible. Be careful accepting file transfers on IRC. Don't give out your password. Identify in the status window rather than in a channel.

Don't give out your full (real) name (HOL names, though, please do give your full HOL name when asked for it). Keep your location as region-based or broader, i.e., California, northern Italy, Scotland, etc. Remember, you're not obliged to give out your age. If you're asked about it, you can give your age (eg., 17), you can give an age range (teenager), or you can say you'd rather not say.

IRC is just like any many other places on the 'net: if you use it smartly and with proper care, you shouldn't have any trouble.

Updated August 18, 2013.