Chat groups allow direct "live" communication. To participate, you join a chat group, select a channel or topic, and communicate live with others by typing words on your computer. Other members of your channel immediately see those words on their computers and can respond in the same manner. One popular chat service is called Internet Relay Chat (IRC). This software is available free from several locations on the Internet. Using the chat-client software, you log on to the server, select a channel or topic in which you are interested, and begin chatting. To participate, you need access to a server or computer that supports IRC. This is done using special chat-client software.
Instant messaging, like chat groups, allows one or more people to communicate via direct, "live" communication. Instant messaging, however, provides greater control and flexibility than chat groups. To use instant messaging, you specify a list of friends, or "buddies", and register with an instant messaging server. Whenever you connect to the Internet, you use special software to tell your messaging server that you are online too. It notifies you if any of your buddies are online. At the same time, it notifies your buddies that you are online. You can then send messages back and forth to one another instantly.
Before you submit a contribution to a discussion group, it is recommended that you observe or read the communications from others. This is called lurking. By lurking, you can learn about the culture of a discussion group. For example, you can observe the level and style of the discussions. You may decide that a particular discussion group is not what you were looking forin which case, unsubscribe. If the discussions are appropriate and you wish to participate, try to fit into the prevailing culture. Remember that your contributions will likely be read by hundreds of people.
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