Next week is TPAC in Fukuoka, Japan. This is an annual conference for all working groups in the W3C to meet face-to-face. Naturally, there is a desire to have a record of what is said in these meetings. This is done by people in the meeting taking turns to scribe. Even if you have attended several such meetings, it can be challenging to be the scribe. Stress and dismay unfolds when you struggle to remember people’s IRC nicks while simultaneously listening to (and typing!) the spoken words at the same time. Don’t fret, we’re here to help!

<astearns> we will need more volunteers for scribing

Each group or meeting at TPAC has a dedicated IRC room that is used for taking minutes. See IRC at W3C.


There are several bots that help with this:

For an example of raw IRC log which uses these bots, see this CSS WG meeting at last year’s TPAC, and the prettified minutes of that meeting.


Some useful commands:


This tells Zakim that you’re present, for the prettified minutes.

Separately, it’s nice to let other attendees know your name, and couple your IRC nick with your name. Just type your name, and optionally which company you represent, in a separate message.

Simon Pieters (Bocoup)

Update: Avoid adding anything after present+ (unless you add someone else as present). Avoid spaces and commas in the name, as that will add multiple names as present.

present+ other_person

Tip: Usually at the start of a meeting, there’s an around the room introductions. Raise your hand and ask that all participants write their own name into IRC with present+. Write each participant’s IRC nick into a spreadsheet, noting their location in the room. Have this spreadsheet open side-by-side with the IRC window when taking minutes. Make the spreadsheet public and share it in the IRC channel (for others to also benefit or add themselves). See example.

Zakim manages a speaker queue. You can add yourself with just “q+” or “q+ to say [some notes here]” to remind yourself what you wanted to talk about:

q+ to say [something]

When it’s your turn, anyone can remove you from the queue with:

ack zcorpan

Scribing Syntax

When you take over scribing, use this command:

scribenick: zcorpan

Type the IRC nick of the person talking, followed by a colon, and then what they say. Continuation can be done either by retyping their name or with ... to repeat the most recent speaker. Tab completion in the IRC client can be especially useful for this, so it helps to actively invite everyone to join IRC to make your job easier. 🙂

fantasai: basically the request from authors is to get rid of the margin at the very top and bottom of an element
... so top before the first element, and bottom of the last element

If you make a typo or a mistake, or just didn’t quite catch everything that was said, it can be fixed-up (by anyone on IRC) using s/// syntax (or equivalently s$$$, etc., which can be useful when fixing URLs):

s/that/that, it makes sense to spec the right behavior and we would support that/

When there’s a change in topic, use:

Topic: [name of topic]

This segments the minutes, and also becomes a header in the prettified minutes.

If there’s a GitHub issue for the topic, use this after the TOPIC line:

github: [URL of a GitHub issue]

The github command makes github-bot add a comment containing the minutes from the most recent Topic line to the next one to that issue. (Anyone can add the github line. The most recent one under a given topic wins.)

If the group comes to an agreement on an issue, this should be noted with:

RESOLVED: Add the margin-trim property with values [ none | in-flow | all ] to css-box-3

These lines are extracted by various minutes-processing scripts (including github-bot), and also make it clear to anyone reading the logs that there is a formal recorded consensus on this thing.

/me comments are excluded from the generated minutes, so can be used for things you don’t want to clutter the minutes with. (But note that the raw IRC log is usually also made public.)

/me on the way, be there soon!

There are some commands that most groups don’t use anymore, like ISSUE and ACTION. Don’t worry about these.

That’s mostly it! There are some commands for inviting the bots, starting a meeting, generating minutes, and so on, but usually the chair will take care of that.

Scribing Protocols

Scribing is a collective task: the scribe does most of the work, but others are supposed to help by correcting the record, helping to remember names (by noting or correcting them in IRC), ensuring resolutions are clearly worded, and speaking clearly and slowly enough for you to keep up. Scribing helps us understand what we decided and why we decided it, increases openness and transparency in our discussions by creating a record others can read and comment on, and also helps dial-in participants and non-native English speakers track a live discussion.

As a scribe, you can at any time ask for time to catch up (just say “wait!” or so), ask people to talk more slowly or use a microphone, etc. If they are not stopping the discussion and you need a pause to catch up, be more emphatic: it is your prerogative to pause the discussion and request silence when needed to catch up, and all the participants, including the chairs, are supposed to work with you on this.

If you want to participate in a discussion while being a scribe, you can ask for someone else to take over scribing, either explicitly at specific points, or by designating a scribe’s scribe for the session.

If you’re struggling to remember someone’s name or IRC nick, just put some question marks in the record: other people in the room can fill it in with s/???/name/. You can track different people with different numbers of question marks so they can more easily untangle the record. If you have a chance to interject, of course, feel free to ask their name. When scribing in a room of mostly unfamiliar people, you can also request up front that people state their name or IRC nick before speaking so that you don’t have to memorize the introduction of 20 new people at once. (They’ll often forget, but when they remember it helps.)

The most important role of the scribe is to clearly and unambiguously record the RESOLVED lines when there is a group resolution. You can ask for help wording this line. You can also ask that the chairs formally resolve something before changing topics, which is a useful nudge to the chairs if the discussion seems to reach a conclusion and moved on, but they haven’t made it clear that there was a formal resolution for you to record. (Chairs, particularly less experienced ones, often forget to declare a resolution once it seems like everyone vaguely agrees, and then all you end up with is notes on a discussion with a vague conclusion instead of a clear agreement. Don’t let that happen.)

Tip: Getting volunteers to scribe is often a problem. Ask for people to sign up to scribe up front, and put their names on the whiteboard. (This is the responsibility of the chair, but you can give them a hint, e.g., in a private message in IRC.)

Wrap up

We hope these tips are helpful for folks attending TPAC. Scribing is a great way to contribute, plus it helps you pay attention! Good luck! 🙂