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Connecting Skype to IRC

By @abs

A Skype-to-IRC connection may sound like a fish and milk snack, but hear me out.

Many technical and support teams choose Skype as their mission control center—because Skype is everywhere and everyone has an account. It's also very easy to use.

Many projects (open-source, that is) and companies use IRC as a drop-in destination for technical questions and discussions. Often, IRC is the only place to get help from actual experts. IRC is also notoriously not easy to use.

(As an aside, I realize that many IRC folks appreciate the barrier to entry as a way to weed out the unworthy. I would argue that, in the long run, such digital xenophobia works against progress in general and IRC in particular.)

Let's look at Stripe as an example. Stripe is a fairly complex product—it's an API with an infinite number of possible applications. If you're architecting a billing system on top of Stripe and have some high-level questions, getting help through support@stripe.com will be slow and ineffective. The reality is, the people best-equipped to guide you hang out on the #stripe Freenode channel, and many of them don't even work at Stripe. Matt Arkin is a great example.

Here's my view of #stripe from Skype:

img

Aside from not having to use a second client, if you already live in Skype, there are other benefits to connecting IRC to Skype.

Get your team involved

If you work with a group of people on Skype and you want them to follow a discussion on IRC just to keep up to date with a particular technology, a Sameroom Tube provides a dead-simple way to get this done: all members of your Skype group will see all messages posted in the connected IRC channel.

If you don't want your Skype team to accidentally post messages to IRC, you can make your Tube one-way by adjusting Relay settings in posting options.

Skim discussion to learn new things

What you take for granted with Skype—ability to let your laptop go to sleep while you're at lunch, then come back and have Skype show you what happened while you were away, is not so easy with IRC.

To be able to go catch up on history in an IRC channel, you have, roughly, the following options:

  • Run a bouncer
  • Run IRC in tmux or screen on a remote server
  • Use IRCCloud
  • Never turn off your computer

Connecting IRC to Stripe offers a much more sensible option (from a mere mortal's perspective, that is): you can skim the historical chat record in a Skype group.

Search for answers

A useful side effect of accumulating IRC channel history in Skype is that you can search for answers.

Let's see if there's anything ACH-related:

ach

Skype search is far from amazing, but it's much, much better than nothing at all.

Ask questions!

You can, of course, ask questions, directly from Skype. It goes without saying that pains should be taken not to abuse the privilege.

Let's see if we can find out whether Stripe will let us add a customer's address and VAT number to Stripe receipts.

(Messages in red rectangles come from me. Response is in green rectangle.)

img

Not the most beautiful solution, but it works.

By the way, I covered the receipt question in great details in a recent post about SaaS Receipt Management.

Limitations

You can see in the screenshot above that all messages in Skype appear as coming from me. Sameroom uses a [prefix] to denote actual authors. Especially if you plan on posting via Skype, Sameroom recommends creating the Tubes connecting Skype to IRC from a separate "bot" Skype account. (A good place to create one is https://web.skype.com.)

Another limitation is that if multiple unrelated teams connect to the same IRC channel, Sameroom will pick one account for posting.

Instructions

To try this yourself, make sure you've got a Skype group ready, a registered IRC nick on a supported network, and an IRC channel in mind. Then, follow these steps:

If your IRC channel has the +s (silent) flag enabled, you can explicitly type in the name of your channel here:

img

If you'd like to fine-tune the Tube by making it one-way, for example, you can do this by configuring posting options.

Summary

Connecting Skype to IRC is awesome :)

By the way, you can use Slack instead of Skype, or Fleep (this is what I do).

Other posts, recipes, and announcements:

same-o-matic

Need to connect a Freenode channel to a room in HipChat? Or want to give customers a simple way to connect to a channel in your Slack team?

Sameroom does that!
Learn more

 Subscribe via RSS