Much OSGeo related communication happens in IRC (Internet Relay Chat), an instant messaging protocol. Lots of general information on IRC is available in Wikipedia.
IRC requires IRC client software. There are a wide variety of clients available. The ChatZilla client is available for Firefox users on all platforms.
IRC uses a TCP/IP port which is often blocked in environments with strictly managed internet access. In these environments it is still possible to use http based clients such as:
The primary OSGeo channel is #osgeo on the irc.freenode.net network. Generally speaking you would connect to irc.freenode.net and then issue the "/join #osgeo" command or possibly follow the irc://irc.freenode.net/#osgeo URL.
Other channels of interest:
- #mapserver - MapServer and some MapServer based frameworks
- #gdal - GDAL/OGR Project (and PROJ.4, FWTools)
- #qgis - Quantum GIS
- #grass - GRASS GIS
- #geotools - GeoTools (also to some extent GeoServer, uDig)
- #foss4g2008 - conference organization
- #fdo - FDO
- #mapguide - MapGuide Open Source (and Enterprise)
- Don't ask to ask, just go ahead and ask your question.
- Don't paste large chunks of text into IRC channels. If you want to present a code or configuration file snippet to others to look at use a "pasting service" like http://rafb.net/paste to host the snippet, and then paste the url to it into the IRC channel.
- If you want the attention of a particular person, include their nick in the message and they will generally be alerted (flashed, bell rung, etc).
- Give folks a while to respond. They are usually multi-tasking and might not look at IRC for a while.
- If an active conversation is going on, wait for a lull to raise a different topic (a minute of inactivity for instance)