There’s this whole method of communication that I wasn’t aware of before joining Ascend. The infamous IRC- Internet Relay Chat. It’s a place where the folks that are in the internet world- contributing, building, rebuilding, reimagining- hang out. SOME of them are on it at all times.

Now this may be hard for some of you to believe, but there are some folks that dont know anything about such methods of communication. They don’t know the rules of the Chat world, they don’t know the etiquette, they don’t even know where to find this wonder.

This might make me lose credibility, or gain it, but I was one of those people. One of our first days in Ascend, we got the skinny on what’s expected in the IRC and we were released into it’s endless rooms of people connecting.

The IRC is vital for the progression of Mozilla and many other online communities. Naturally, my presence would be essential in my desire to contribute to the cause.

This week, I found a bug that I want to tackle and requested it be assigned to me. Simple one line request on the page describing the bug in Bugzilla. The mentor of the bug replied in less than 24 hours and asked if I had started work on it while also suggesting I “ping” him if I had any questions.

This was magical for me. It was a green light in a dark place. Today, I sent this bug mentor a PM-private message. Ping is a term used in the IRC world. I’ve been learning so many terms, that in my mind it meant that I should send him a message. The error in my action was that Ping is a request for direct contact, not yet consented. Once the person on the other screen receives that request they can respond with Pong as means of agreeing to be personally contacted. I broke one of the biggest codes in the IRC world. Moral code, that is.

In a state of panic, I began to imagine the terrible outcomes that may come from that moral slip. -I can be flagged as a creeper. -What if no one wants to work with me because they think I don’t respect boundaries? -What if they think I don’t know how to follow rules and don’t want to assign me any future bugs? My action plan to remedy the situation was to draft an email explaining the difference between Ping and PM and acknowledge where I made an error and apologize while promising to never make that error again. Since I have already contacted the mentor today, I will hold off on sending a second attempt for communication till tomorrow.

I also have to acknowledge that this mentor can be anywhere in the world right now, and although my direct contact may be frowned upon, he may be in a time zone that sleeps while I am awake. The magic of the IRC and the movement is that it is not constrained by time and space. We are all hoping to move forward together.