When people approach discussions via IRC for the first time, most of the time they get overwhelmed. Being IRC the most common way to hold meetings in OpenStack, practicing written communication on IRC should be suggested to start immediately to all new contributors.
I still remember the first time I went on IRC: I felt like I was in a room where everyone was speaking loudly and I could hear every single person in the room. It wasn’t like being in a loud crowd where all you hear is noise and your brain is perfectly trained/evolved to filter out: I felt like comic book characters may feel when they actually hear and comprehend everything everybody is saying. It was scary. It took me a while to learn how to filter the written noise and follow multiple threads in real time, write an answer to someone while reading a question from someone else.
In the past days I’ve been working closely with people in teams that had no practice of holding conversations on IRC. Especially some of these people had no practice in holding meetings on IRC. I hear often the complaint that written chat meetings are too slow but I believe it’s the opposite: they’re too fast, they require skills and training that may take months of daily practice to master. IRC has strong advantages though, that speed at which discussions can progress with 10-15 people and more is sweet, so sweet that when I am stuck in audio-video conferences, everything seems to be too slow and distractions abund.
To all people new to IRC I suggest to practice and practice and practice some more. It’s really not that hard to join an IRC channel and just spend few minutes a day to read the history and try to make sense of it. It’s a habit: if your job description includes writing a specs for OpenStack then an IRC client should start every time you login in your machine. Even if you think you have nothing to say: get started when you don’t need to say anything, just start to get your brain trained for IRC super-hero powers, like those of telepath Professor X. Learn to filter the background, follow multiple threads if needed, improve your typing speed. The OpenStack wiki page has some basic pointers to get started. If you have suggestions, feel free to edit that page.