What Really IRCs Me: Slack

Find out how to reconnect to Slack over IRC using a Bitlbee libpurple
plugin.

I’m an IRC kind of guy. I appreciate the simplicity of pure text chat,
emoticons instead of emojis, and the vast array of IRC clients and servers to
choose from, including the option to host your own. All of my interactive
communication happens over IRC either through native IRC channels (like
#linuxjournal on Freenode) or using a local instance of Bitlbee to act as an
IRC gateway to other chat protocols. Because my IRC client supports
connecting to multiple networks at the same time, I’ve been able to manage
all of my personal chat, group chat and work chat from a single window that
I can connect to from any of my computers.

Before I upgraded to IRC, my very first chat experience was in the late 1990s
on a web-based Java chat applet, and although I hold some nostalgia for web-based
chat because I met my wife on that network, chatting via a web browser just
seems like a slow and painful way to send text across the internet. Also,
shortly after we met, the maintainers of that network decided to shut down the
whole thing, and since it was a proprietary network with proprietary
servers and clients, when they shut it down, all those chat rooms and groups
were lost.

What’s old is new again. Instead of Java, we have JavaScript, and kids these
days like to treat their web browsers like Emacs, and so every application has
to run as a web app. This leads to the latest trend in chat: Slack. I say the
latest trend, because it wasn’t very long ago that Hipchat was hip, and before
that, even Yammer had a brief day in the sun. In the past, a software project
might set up a channel on one of the many public or private IRC servers, but
nowadays, everyone seems to want to consolidate their projects under Slack’s
infrastructure. This means if you joined a company or a software
project that started during the past few years, more likely than not, you’ll
need to use Slack.

I’m part of a few Slack networks, and up until recently, I honestly didn’t
think all that much about Slack, because unlike some other proprietary chat
networks, Slack had the sense to offer IRC and XMPP gateways. This meant that
you weren’t required to use its heavy web app, but instead, you could use
whatever client you preferred yet still connect to Slack networks. Sure, my
text-based IRC client didn’t show animated Giphy images or the 20
party-parrot gifs in a row, but to me, that was a feature. Unfortunately, Slack could
no longer justify the engineering effort to backport web chat features to IRC
and XMPP, so the company announced it was shutting down its IRC and XMPP
gateways.

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