The ways of the channel
Now that you know how to get yourself on a channel, we need to cover some of the conventions of channels. There are a lot of unwritten rules of behavior on IRC's channels. Let's talk about what you might see when you join a channel for the very first time in your life. The first thing is the name of each channel on the top in the channel window. Each channel you join gets it's own window, as does the main server window. The name may or may NOT reflect what is going to be discussed. The best example of this is #gaySA which is NOT a SEX channel, rather more of a chat channel with a lesbigay interest. Coming onto the channel saying things like who wants to F%*K will not garner you any princess points and is more likely going to get you kicked or banned from re-entering.
Next thing is to see all the people on the channel. Some clients allow you to see who all is on the channel when you join. Basically, it's a list of nicks for the people on there, some with ops (that little @ before their name) and others without. More will be discussed on ops later. If you don't get a list, you can generally use the /who command to see who's on the channel. For instance,
will show you all the people on #gaySA (assuming you are on that channel). You can use the /who command to look on channels you aren't on, however, it will only show people who aren't "invisible". More on that in the section on customizing your IRC.
After that, you will notice the topic. Once again, this may or may not reflect what is actually being discussed. The topic is basically the billboard for the channel. Some people put up personal notes like "I miss my love". Others put up stuff like "check out my web page: http://check.this.out.co.za" And from time to time there even are topics for discussion, like "What do you think of papayas in bed on a hot summers night?". Basically I'm saying be amused or otherwise by the topic, but don't take it as the gospel of what is being discussed on a channel, or you risk looking like a newbie,even if you are one, that's NOT a good thing to look like.
Now you're going on the channel not knowing what the topic of discussion really is. First rule, DON'T ask "What's the topic?" unless you WANT the channel to know that you're a Newbie. Keep in mind that MANY people who have been around IRC don't have patience with new people, so would rather kick them then help them.
The best way to get into a conversation is to either start talking to people, asking simple questions is a nice way to get started -- i.e. how are ya?, or to watch the conversation, and if you have something to say which you think will benefit the conversation, politely interject. But be warned, if you are wrong, you could risk being looked down upon.
This takes a little bit of watching, in order to get the feel for the conversation going on. The latter of those two ways can only really be applied to a group conversation, as some people might take offense to a third person jumping into a conversation between two people.
The next set of conventions deals with channel operator status, or what is more affectionately referred to as "ops". On some channels, ops are the center of attention. Some channels have ops as something of a status symbol. This is not the right way to view ops. Ops is a priviledge.
It is given to people who either join the channel first by the server, or people are opped by existing ops, those with the little hat --> @ Ops should be people who are experienced IRC'ers and know all the commands. Sadly this is not often the case. My advice to the new IRCer? Don't worry about the ops for a while. It can be almost more of a hassle then it's worth, and the kicking and banning and stuff don't do much to encourage conversation.
Kicking and Banning
Kicking is when you are forced off a channel by a channel operator. So, if you suddenly find yourself off a channel, you can assume you have just been kicked off that channel.
Banning is a step further then this. That is when you are not able to get back on the channel because one of the ops banned you from the channel. Those commands are listed with the information on ops. If ya want to know more about ops and some of the commands that ops can do, click here.
Now, another thing you'll notice are the things on the channel such as +nt or +si or things like that. These are the channel modes. You can see more on modes in your client, and what they all mean.
This should sum up how to talk on a channel. Just keep in mind that if you are a newbie, there are chances the people will be snotty and stuck up to you. Just try not to ask too many dumb questions, read the manuals, or at least these tuturials, and then ask what you couldn't figure out from there). IRC is quite fun, if you know how to take things. You might run into some hostile ops who will kick you off the channel faster then they will talk to you.
Another thing you might notice is some hostility among people on the channel. You shouldn't take it too seriously all the time. Some people do it just to play around with friends. Sometimes people do it in something akin to a show of affection. For more on that, check out the page on #GaySA.
That should do it for behavior on channels. You can read about talking to other people now.