Chairing meetings

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Quick Guide

Before the meeting

  • Ideally: send a meeting reminder a day before the meeting to the mailing lists.
  • Ask people to add to the agenda or add items yourself that you feel should be discussed.
  • Read the agenda before the meeting starts :)

During the meeting

We are using Meetbot for running the meetings and creating the meeting minutes. Documentation:

Starting the meeting

 #startmeeting <Title of the wiki page>
 #startmeeting General IRC meeting 2 November 2016

Get a co-chair!

Some commands can only be used by the chairing person, with this command you can get a co-chair to help out. It's also helpful if there is a need to hand over chairing during an already running meeting.

 #chair <Nickname of the user>
 #chair drojf

Set a topic/change the topic

This will change the topic and generate a new heading in the meeting minutes.

 #topic <Topic>
 #topic Introductions

Create meeting minutes

You can find all the meeting logs generated by the meetbot at:

To create a link:

 #link <link> <linktext>
 #link Today's agenda

Infos will show up in the meeting minutes as list items. We also use #info for introductions at the beginning of every meeting.

 #info <text>
 #info Next GBSD is scheduled for ...
 #info Katrin Fischer, BSZ, Germany

You can also add ideas:

 #idea <text>
 #idea Create a Koha recipe book to collect some funds!

Or a bit stronger than an info or idea, in order to log decisions made:

 #agreed <text>
 #agreed We will have icecream for the next meeting!

For adding an action item, use:

 #action <Nickname of the user or text> <action>
 #action jcamins to send an email to the mailing list about collecting more cookie recipes


Running votes is not hard, but it's easier if you know a few things:

  • You need to phrase the vote as a question with a question mark at the end.
  • List the possible otions at the end, separated by comma
 #startvote <Question> <Options, comma separated>
 #startvote What's the best icecream flavour? Vanilla, Chocolate, Strawberry
 #startvote Do you agree with adding the proposed new coding guideline as phrased? Yes, No, Abstain

Once everyone has voted:


You can add the result to the minutes using an #agreed, so it shows up nicely in the meeting minutes.

End the meeting


After the meeting

  • Add links to the meeting minutes at the bottom of the agenda. Example: Next meeting. If you don't keep logs yourself, you can find the links in the IRC chat logs after the meeting.
  • Add new meeting date to the agenda. Example: Minutes
  • Add new meeting page to the wiki. The easiest way is to copy the existing page and update it, but don't forget to change dates and times everywhere!
  • Add the link to the meeting page to IRC Meetings


Summary of commands

Commands for the chair:

#startmeeting - Start a meeting. Whoever starts the meeting is designated the owner (and have permanent chair powers).
#chair - Add somebody to the list of chairs.
#topic - Set a new topic.
#agreed - Document an agreement in the minutes.
#startvote <Question> <Options, comma separated> (example: #startvote Do you agree with XYZ? Yes, No, Abstain)
#endmeeting - End the meeting.

Commands for everyone:

#info - Add an info item to the minutes. People should liberally use this for important things they say, so that they can be logged in the minutes.
#action - Document an action item in the minutes. Include any nicknames in the line, and the item will be assigned to them. (Nicknames are case-sensitive.)
#idea - Add an idea to the minutes.
#help - Add a "Call for Help" to the minutes. Use this command when you need to recruit someone to do a task. (Counter-intuitively, this doesn't provide help on the bot.)
#link - Add a link to the meeting minutes. The link should be the first non-command on the line, other commentary after the link is okay. Links beginning with http:// and a few other protocols are automatically detected.

Newbie's Guide to How I (Brooke) Chair IRC General Meetings

... and How You Can Help Move Things Along.

I always try and start with a welcome. Please do feel free to chime in with #info and your name and perhaps institution. This is how other people will connect your handle to your name if they're different. Depending on how many people are online, I tend to mentally carve out about 5 minutes for this. I will swap the topic when I stop seeing names scroll on by.

Unbeknownst to people that are not me, I keep a copy of the agenda up in another window so that I can refer to it throughout the meeting. The best way of getting your stuff heard is to mark up the agenda for that General IRC meeting. Since I check it here and there, even if you add stuff during the course of the meeting, it's okay. I'd prefer that you whisper me to point this out. If it's small, I can generally wedge it into Miscellaneous. We want your ideas!

In theory, I'm meant to function as a glorified traffic cop. Robert's Rules is very specific on who ought to talk when, but it's also quite cumbersome for the average attendee and rather unnecessary most of the time. In general, we reach agreements by simple majority vote, but some chairers hold two or more rounds of voting to try to develop a stronger consensus. I'll step on people that try and talk over one another because following the train of thought and the thread of conversation gets difficult quickly. If you want to speak but need up to a minute to type out a complicated thought, please say at least "!" before typing and we should wait before changing topic (some call this "bobbing").

Ideally I'd like to trim things down to about an hour a month. As things get close to Conference or we near an Election, this goes out the window. It's more important to get a good slate of folks to fill roles than it is to be snappy. It helps if you review the last few months' meeting minutes so that you're up to speed on the issues. If you don't know what's going on, you can always whisper me.

The current versions and their respective RMs are generally given the lion's share of any given meeting. We're here to make things smoother.

The more difficult, involved, and charged a given topic is, the more likely it is that it will take up a nice slice of time. It also increases the chance that I'll invoke speaking time limits. As of the time I'm writing this, I've not yet, because I've felt that the things we've discussed are important enough not to invoke limits. If I find that something gets ridiculously repetitive, or if we're in rabid agreement, I'll ask if participants have anything new to add. You should always feel welcome to use the person's handle and ++ (this will up their karma) or just +1 to agree.

I feel as though a lot of the things we discuss in the general meeting would benefit from discussion on the listserv. I hate having minutia take up large swaths of meeting time. Is it really worth 200 man hours to talk about code spacing when a link to a proposal and a vote would do the trick? Preparing ahead of the meeting by knowing the issues and writing a few brief notes on what you want to bring up will really help streamline meetings.

When you wrestle with a fundamental Community change, it's easier on everyone to send the proposal to the listserv. A lot of the people involved in the project are also readily available on IRC. Gather folks' comments, rework what you have outside of the meeting, and then come to the next General IRC Meeting with something solid in hand. If we don't know what we want and we have to hash through it in real time, it can be a bear.

If you feel as though I am cutting things too short, please do feel free to say "Hey, this is important, I'd like more time with the Community to hash things out." Keep in mind that the other folks online are quite probably up at odd hours and have limited patience.

When I call for a vote, I phrase what I think the matter before me is and ask folks to either agree or disagree. Informal votes are usually done by saying +1 (for) or -1 (against) in the channel. Bot-run votes are recorded by something like "#vote Yes". Since I can't see your hand, I generally stop voting a couple minutes after I phrase the question or when I see numbers stop scrolling in front of me. If you find that you need more time than what I allow, please whisper this or say it in main channel, and I'll slow things down a bit. If you don't like the way I phrase something, either amend what I said, or wrangle me into entirely striking what I said and adopting your version. Anyone in the meeting can call for a vote, so if you have an example of something to phrase, please put it in the agenda so that folks know what you want to address. When I phrase a matter, I try not to use a double negative so that folks know what they're voting for. There are a myriad of first languages at hand, and no facial expressions to guide me, so please do say something if you don't understand the question. When voting is concluded, I try and remember to signify this and what happened with a #agreed.

Meetbot commands are used throughout the meeting.

The time and date of the next meeting are set at the end of the previous meeting. I try and avoid proposing days I think will be problematic. We've worked out a rotation for the time of day, so that everyone gets a meeting at a nice time of day for them at some point. If you don't like what I proposed, feel free to vote it down and then propose something else.

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