Sometimes, new people /join #ubuntu-offtopic. They do! Some of them are directed from #ubuntu because they are chatting away on subjects that don’t belong to a support channel. Sometimes malicious friends tell them that #ubuntu-offtopic is lots of fun and thus trick them to /join as a practical joke. Most of the time, I suspect it’s just a simple typo in the /join command, or perhaps an elusive Pidgin bug.
Sadly, most people never read the channel topic upon /joining, which is very sad and leads to a lot of confusion. Then again, some people are so devoted that they even check the topic on #ubuntu-offtopic. Go figure! Naturally, those who are not familiar with the channel culture and do read the topic, will be very confused. For the past few months (since April at least), the #ubuntu-offtopic topic has contained the greeting, “Welcome to the new, more optimized #ubuntu-offtopic!” which has caused some nervous giggles and a lot of questions. Since #ubuntu-offtopic regulars never answer a question (at least seriously), I decided to try and take a stab at this mystery.
(Disclaimer: please do not take this as a promise of public parsing of any other parts of the topic at this or any future article. I can try for my standard, very high, consultation fee, but the gratis public service only covers this one freebie.)
Some people speculate that the “optimization” of #ubuntu-offtopic is a friendly jab at the famously efficient build process of Gentoo binaries. Others claim that it refers to the quality of conversation on the channel, very thoroughly stripped of sanity, detached of any real phenomena, and lack of requirements to coherent language. Some say it’s just a random thought added to the topic by an unstable operator on a Monday. All of these are very plausible and educated guesses.
However, my extensive empirical studies have lead me to conclude that the optimized nature of #ubuntu-offtopic refers to this ambitious vision developed by
Sadly, we have not really seen this optimization effort bear fruit. Channel regulars keep blabbering pretty much as inefficiently as before, and new users almost never take the time to investigate the optimization algorithm. Instead, they are content with just having a short laugh at the topic and join the discussion about LOLcats, comparative flashlight brightness, popular music and the evils of proprietary software.
The failure of a majority of users to adopt this very efficient mode of conversation might be due to reluctance to search for suitable XKCD strips to express their point of view, and the extra work required on the receiving side of communication for checking the corresponding strip. Granted, this presents a fairly steep learning curve in the beginning, but anyone can see how highly effective our offtopic chatter would be after all the comics are memorized. Think about the reduced workload and bandwidth savings on freenode’s servers if idle chatter is conducted using the rww/mc44/xkcd protocol! These savings could be redirected for the benefit of support and development channels, and everybody wins. As a side effect, one of the greatest winners would be Randall and the XKCD web site. Think about the increase in page views!
I say, laziness is no excuse for inefficiency!