Naked Pings

Back in November 2009, ajax sent an email on IRC etiquette to Red Hat’s company-wide mailing list. I’ve had to refer several people to it over the years, so I asked ajax for permission to publish it. He agreed. Here it is in all its glory.

From: Adam Jackson
To: memo-list
Subject: On “ping” etiquitte
Date: Tue, 17 Nov 2009 12:21:30 -0500

IRC has developed a “ping” convention for getting someone’s attention. It works because most clients will highlight channels in which your name has been mentioned, so something like

ajax: ping

will make that channel show up pink instead of white for me [1].

I wish to correct, or at least amend, this behaviour. The naked ping should be Considered Harmful, for at least two reasons. The first is that it conveys no information. The recipient of your ping, like you, is a Busy Person. They may be in the middle of something requiring intricate thought, and should not be interrupted for anything less than fire, flood, or six figures of revenue. Worse, _you_ may forget why you pinged someone; when, four hours later, your victim gets back to IRC and responds to you, _you_ will be disrupted in turn trying to remember what was on your mind in the first place.

The second, more subtle reason proceeds from the first. A ping with no data is essentially a command. It’s passive-aggressive; it implies that the recipient’s time is less valuable than yours. [2] The pingee will respond in one (or both) of two ways. Either they will experience increased stress due to increased unpredictable demands on their time, or they will simply ignore naked pings.

The fundamental issue here is a misunderstanding of the medium. IRC is not a telephone. It’s volatile storage. The whole reason the ping works is because the client remembers seeing the ping, and can save it in your history buffer so you can see who was talking to you and why.

The naked ping removes this context.

Please. Save your time. Save my time. Make all of our lives more efficient and less stressful. Ping with data. At a minimum:

ajax: ping re bz 534027

See the difference? Now you’ve turned slow, lockstep, PIO-like interaction into smooth pipelineable DMA. It’s good for your hardware, and it’s good for you.

[1] – irssi 4 life.

[2] – Their time may well be less valuable than yours. That’s not the
point.

- ajax

2 Responses to “Naked Pings”

  1. diegoe says:

    Why did you kept this greatness away from humanity for so long? I’ll never naked ping anyone again.

    Excuse me, I’ll go pay for my past sins now.

  2. James says:

    Brilliant. This is of course, an awesome, and correct write-up.
    My only objection is that when I get a “naked ping”, it’s fun to reply with a “naked pong”.
    I’d miss doing that. :P

    Cheers,
    James