Using Internet Relay Chat (IRC) to Create Back Channels
IRC is a text-based internet communication standard that allows users to chat online. For complete information on the use of IRC, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IRC.
Some participants may want to utilize IRC to talk to other participants during the day, especially when wireless internet is available. This establishes a back channel where not all participants have visibility into what is being said. While it is difficult and unpopular to discourage use of such tools, they can become a distraction, especially if something funny or noteworthy happens on such a chat channel and random participants laugh or disengage from the group. Such online tools take whoever is using them "out of the moment", fragmenting the group energy and reducing the participation of the tool users. It is recommended to discourage use of IRC, at least during sessions and in other group settings.
In situations where IRC use can not be avoided (e.g., highly technical events), it is advisable to create a "dedicated" IRC channel (e.g., #eventname) on a well-known IRC server, such that access to conversations can be made uniformly available to all participants, and then encourage all participants to use that channel. If compelled to establish an IRC channel, two reliable free sites which enjoy geek credibility are irc.freenode.net and irc.oftc.net.