I’m Ukrainian, so English isn’t my native language. I started learning it in the 5th grade, but like many other students, I didn’t spend too much effort on it. Sure, it’s lingua franca and all that, but honestly, I didn’t care. Not even after I failed an exam in the 10th grade.
Around the same time, I began exploring the world of Linux. You already see where this is going, right? Of course, I joined a Linux-related channel on Freenode. Actually, it was more like a gathering place for a ragtag crew, but hey, it had Linux in the topic and my Linux-related questions got answered, so it’s a Linux channel in my book.
I was a bit of a menace, pestering everyone else to point out my errors, but one of the guys there, pnbeast, did me one better: he engaged me in long, wandering conversations about anything and everything. We hit it off: I was curious, and he was an interesting person and a great interlocutor. I’m not sure what he got out of those chats, other than an occasional chuckle, but I got the jackpot: a habit of actually using English. pnbeast bridged the gap between the classroom and the real world for me, and once I got going, I just never stopped.
Two years later, I finished school with a B in English. Not bad for someone who was struggling to get passing marks until then, eh? Today, easily half of my communication happens in English.
There was also this other guy, Raging_Hog. (I didn’t appreciate the nickname until much, much later.) I don’t think we chatted all that much, but he too had a profound impact on me. I was writing scripts for my IRC client and sharing them via pastebins. Probably annoyed by my spam, Raging_Hog told me about Git and GitHub, so I could post a single link and quietly update it later.
Anyone who’s using Newsboat today is slightly indebted to Raging_Hog.
Perhaps I would’ve gotten serious about English some other way. Maybe I’d hear about GitHub a few years later, at the university. It’s possible that without Freenode, I’d end up finding some friends locally. Who knows. The facts are: Freenode did exist, and all those people were on the network, and I met them, and they affected me, and I went on to accomplish things.
Thanks, pnbeast. Thanks, Raging_Hog. Thanks, Sulis and Punko and everybody else. And thank you, Freenode.
(There’s an ongoing drama around Freenode; I don’t have a good summary to link to. The upshot is, I’m no longer on there, so if you spot Minoru on Freenode, that’s an impostor. Check the About page for where else you can find me.)
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