Slack killed IRC? (sort of)

Interesting piece channeling some early internet nostalgia, Picking Up The Slack:
Internet Relay Chat beat Slack to real-time chat by decades and helped define much of our early online culture, yet way more people use Slack. Why is that?
. The article caught my attention because I use Slack at work, and have for a couple of years. In contrast, I probably check in to IRC once every few years now (I actually just installed an IRC client on my computer, it’s been so long).

And yet back during the summers between school years in college, I’d spend a fair amount of time haunting several IRC channels, mostly on UNDERNET. You met some weird people, some nice people, and some unpleasant people. Generally, my utilization of IRC was heavily cyclical, just like my reading and posting in USENET groups. If I had better thing to do, I’d go do them.

Perhaps one of the strangest things about IRC and USENET is a few people from those days actually ended up finding me on the web, with the rise of the paleoblogosphere. At least one long-time commenter knows me from a USENET group back in the late 1990s, while the RSS aggregator that pushes my total content feed was written by an anarcho-libertarian programmer and philosopher who I actually met first when he was a teen nerd in the Deep South.

That old internet culture is disappearing and becoming legend, just like the “homebrew computer” era of the 1970s was for my generation.


5 thoughts on “Slack killed IRC? (sort of)

  1. There have been a number of instant-message clients I’ve used at various workplaces (currently it’s HipChat), but Slack has never been one of them. Some former co-workers of mine set up an IRC server allowing in outside chatter so I could keep in touch with them during the workday, but it didn’t strike me as a good idea to do that when I’m supposed to be working.

  2. Don’t forget AIM (AOL Instant Messenger). When my kids were in high school (circa 2000) it was the center of their social lives. I think ubiquitous cell phones with SMS killed it. They had to use AIM on a desktop connected to the internet through a modem. The only such computer in our house was in the family room. Privacy was impossible.

  3. Are there any good non-workplace based slack channels for talking about Bio/tech? I’m in the genomics slack but it’s pretty dead and most other biotech channels I’ve found are just full of Arabic language spam.

  4. Off topic: Eurogenes has a pretty interesting plot of Beakers v. modern Europeans. Neither he nor his commenters have come out and said it, but I think the implication is to support the German-Celtic relationship and to posit Beakers as their forebears; while locating the Bronze Age forebears of the Slavs in modern day Germany. All his dozens of beakers plot within the modern day French/German/Irish; almost all his Bronze Age Germany points are within the range of modern day slavs; Baltic Bronze Age points are at one end of the plot with modern Balts between them and Yamnaya.

    I wish he’d added Iberians or Italians.

  5. I’m one of the folks who remember you from way back when, though I hardly count as an active poster here, due to the fact that there isn’t much I can contribute to most of the discussions here since I left active academia ten years ago and haven’t really followed my field much since then. I’ve been more focused on music and literature in that time.

    S’funny. I really miss the old days of the internet. It was technologically frustrating and limited in a lot of ways, but it seemed that the signal to noise ratio was far far better than it currently is, and even the nutty annoying trolls had a certain unique charm to them that could be entertaining to watch in action. The warming lens of nostalgia, perhaps.

    I’ve followed the career trajectories of most of the people who I knew at the time, including some a good deal younger than I am. All of them have done better than me professionally speaking, but that’s not a very high bar, really, as I work as a security guard. Being willing to geographically relocate and an ability to socially network is *key* to those in non-technical fields, as well either having the right social background, or the ability to mask social background as need be. Ironically enough, I think geography and in-group signaling skills have become *more* important in what’s supposed to be the Internet utopia where such things were supposed to matter less than in the past.

    C’est la vie. If I wasn’t so worried about possibly losing my job, I could share tons of really interesting stories of what working as a blue collar guard dog and door jockey on the fringes of the Ivory Tower is like.


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