For several years I’ve known about IRC, and wanted to start using it. And for years now I’ve also been hearing from people who use it constantly, and have shown me me how useful it can be to solve problems, to get immediate answers, to find and get in touch with other members of the communities we belong to, etc.

But although at different points I was able to use IRC, I found it very difficult to get to a point where you can use IRC effectively.

By this I mean having some persistent log of the conversation that took place while I had been away (after all, I do have to sleep at some point), and a way to see whether anyone had replied to whatever message I had posted before I left. Without this, really using IRC is all but impossible.

Eventually I understood that the way to do it is to use your client to connect to some proxy which will stay connected even when you log off. But that for me only made things harder. Now I needed to find a client and set up a proxy I could use!

The sheer number of possible combinations, and the lack of clarity on what made a good setup, froze me completely.

Enter Convos

Much later, while browsing the web, I came across Convos, and it immediately felt like I had found the solution to all my problems.

Convos is a web server that solves all of the above problems in one go: you tell it what servers and channels to connect to, and it stays connected and keeps a log on each. It also comes with a browser-based interface you can use to send and receive messages on those rooms.

It does require you to have somewhere to host it. I considered setting up a home server on a Raspberry PI I have lying around, but I thought this would be a good chance to try out something new.

A couple of minutes later, and after reading through the convos documentation, I had a personal instance running on a Digital Ocean droplet at a monthly cost of about 3 pounds per months.

Of course, the first channel I joined was #convos, and was lucky enough to get there just as they were putting the finishing touches on what recently became version 1.0.

Powered by Perl and Mojolicious

There are other things I like about Convos.

It’s written using Mojolicious, a very powerful real-time web framework written in Perl I’ve had the chance to use for work a couple of times. It’s fast, light-weight, and a pleasure to work with (which means I might even send in a contribution or two!).

Reaping rewards

Convos finally got me to use IRC in a way that I feel comfortable and makes sense, and since starting maybe a month ago I’ve already got a good handful of anecdotes of things that I wouldn’t have been able to do without it.

I’ve also made some improvements to the setup I originally had on Digital Ocean, but I think I’ll save those notes for a separate post.