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I've been asked to "ping someone on IRC", but I'm not sure what it means.

First, do I need to know the IRC server and channel to ping someone? Is "pinging" so sort of private conversation?

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up vote 11 down vote accepted

The person probably meant that you should start a conversation with someone. You need to know the network (or at least one server of the network) and someone's nick name to do that. Once you have connected to the server (network) where someone has been sighted, you can send them a message with:

/msg nickname hello, I was told to ping you. 

Not everyone enjoys private conversations on IRC, so it's considered good etiquette to ask the person if it's ok to send them a PM (personal message). You would have to know at least one channel where the person hangs out to do that.

Apart from that you could always /whois nickname to get their host and ping that, although given the context I doubt that's what they meant.

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ok so I need to know a server and channel that person could be connected to then? I can't just connect to the server and start a private conversation out of a channel? – Matthieu Napoli Dec 9 '12 at 15:11
You don't need to be on the same channel (or any channel) to send someone a private message. Almost all clients support the /msg command. All you need, is to be connected to one of the servers of the network where "nickname" is known to be connected. – Ярослав Рахматуллин Dec 9 '12 at 15:14
OK thank you, then the server must probably be – Matthieu Napoli Dec 9 '12 at 15:16
freenode is a network, you can connect to one of the servers using – Ярослав Рахматуллин Dec 9 '12 at 15:18

Well, there's multiple definitions of ping.

/ping <username> will send a 'ping' to a user (or more precisely a ctcp ping command), which whole used for testing latency, is one way to let a user know something is up.

More informally, many users also go ping <username> in order to trigger off nickname highlighting (which is set in many clients) to cause the client to note that the nickname has been mentioned

Its also used in the same context as "drop me a line" or "call me maybe?"

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To complete Ярослав Рахматуллин's answer, sometimes you will see people sending ping theUsernameYouWereSupposedToPing sent as a message in the room where theUsernameYouWereSupposedToPing is logged into.

The same way as you can ping computers, you can "ping" humans: Mentioning his username will probably trigger a notification of some sort in the client used by said user, thus, in a way, "pinging" that user and invite him to notice you back when he is / if he is available. Usually with a "pong YourUsername".

But both "ping" and "pong" between humans aren't conventions, just something you might stumble upon and is a rather common practice in some channels.

That's, per se, what I'd do and would definitely understand and respond to.

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