You may be thinking -- why do I need to bother with
IRC? What does chat have to offer that newsgroups, mailing lists, and
web pages don't? The answer is in that 80s word -- "networking." Live
chat allows you to interact real-time with other individuals interested
in the same thing you are. You can attend classes via chat, work together
with other students on projects, brainstorm a research solution, seek
answers for any genealogical question, find other researchers who are
working on your line, learn of new sites, new software, and new resources
for research. Chat allows you to tap into the great online community
of genealogists in a way that's different from mailing lists -- it's
a much more personal, one-on-one experience.
Traditionally, people either love or hate chats. IRC
has gotten a bad name from the many cases of abuse (individuals targeting
children and women, for instance) but there is very seldom abuse in
the genealogy chats. Just as in any online situation, you must safeguard
your privacy, but as a rule, genealogy chats are informative, interesting,
entertaining, and very safe.
If you are still not sold on the idea, view one or
two of the IIGS chat logs. You can find the IIGS chat archives at ftp://www.iigs.org/pub/iigs/archives/IRC/logs/.
For example, you can view a log of the Ontario-Quebec chat at ftp://www.iigs.org/pub/iigs/archives/IRC/logs/ontario-quebec/98mar19.txt
or a log of the BeNeLux chat at ftp://www.iigs.org/pub/iigs/archives/IRC/logs/benelux/98mar22.txt.
There are a variety of chat types available to you,
depending on your taste. Some chats are extremely social, others are
more formal with information being the goal of the chat. Some chats
have guest speakers, others feature topic themes. I recommend chat newbies
try a few of the chat rooms out to find the ones that they feel comfortable
with -- if social "what's your surname" genealogy chat rooms aren't
your style, try one of the themed or guest chats.