Meetings, Minutes, and Mootbot

Back in March 2009, I started hanging out in the #ubuntu-meeting channel on Freenode to see first hand how IRC meetings in the Ubuntu Community are conducted. I noticed there were specific actions/commands that were being used in the meetings; I wanted why and what they were, so I asked :-).

I found out the #ubuntu-meeting Channel on Freenode uses mootbot. This great little bot that makes keeping track of action items and gathering meeting minutes/notes really easy. The Scribes Team which was founded by Jeremy Austin-Bardo (ausimage) in February 2007, has a great HowTo on the wiki that let's the user know just how easy it it to use this bot. This tool makes chairing an IRC meeting in the Ubuntu Community such a breeze I wanted to track, the Mootbot developer, Chris Oattes (Seeker'), down, tell him thanks, and find out a little more about how Mootbot came into being.
Here's what he had to say:

Amber Graner: What made you think of a tool such as Mootbot? What was your motivation?

Chris Oattes: There was a meeting organized in #ubuntu-uk, and no one turned up to chair it. I was stupid enough to ask who was going to chair it, and got volunteered. The meeting lasted for about 2 hours, and I'm sure you can imagine how long the log was, and the amount of time it took to summarize the meeting. After being thoroughly fed up with manually summarizing it, I decided that writing a bot to help automate it would be a great idea.

AG: From the time it began as an idea how long did take to become the tool we use today and what were the steps? When did it become and "official" Ubuntu bot? How hard was it to get it adapted for use in the Ubuntu IRC channels?

CO: I probably did most of the coding in free time over the course of 2-3 weeks, and it hasn't changed much since that original version in (I think) January 2007. A few other people have helped clean up the code, and there have been a few bugfixes / new features added, but it is still largely the same. I had had some experience writing eggdrop bots in the past, so it was the obvious platform for me to use to write it, and there weren't really many steps in the development. I sat down and wrote it, and when it was mostly done it appeared in #ubuntu-uk. Ubuntu Scribes started around the same time, and through word of mouth, more and more people started inquiring about it and it just ended up in more and more channels.

I'm not sure that it is actually an official bot right now. It started off mainly in LoCO channels, where it is up to the operators there which bots are allowed in, and then people started requesting it in #ubuntu-meeting. There has been talk of making it an official bot and giving it a cloak, but I think it is useful enough to be tolerated in main channels without actually being official.

AG: How many Channels use Mootbot? How many more would you like to see use it?

CO: Rather embarrassingly, the bot is offline right now, so I can't tell you exactly how many channel it usually sits in, but it has had to have the standard freenode channel limit extended. There are currently some issues with the server Mootbot is being hosted on, but I am working on solving it as quickly as work and life will allow. However, it's in more than 20 channels as I had ask Freenode for permission to extend the channel number.

AG: How did you think of the name "Mootbot"?

CO: The name came from a #ubuntu-uk member called LoudMouthMan when I was stuck for a name. I believe moot is an old English word for "meeting".

AG: Would you like to see all the LoCo teams/channels use it? What about the non-English speaking channels? Are there plans to have a Mootbot in other Languages?

CO: I currently have no plans to translate mootbot to other langugages, mainly because I'm not fluent in anything other than English. I am just happy that it is still being found useful; if more teams wish to use it, I would be more than happy for them to do so. I would need to work out a nice way of getting mootbot to support multiple languages first. I believe there may have been a request or two from locos that don't have English as a first language.

AG: I personally love mootbot and tell everyone about it. Since the NC LoCo team started using Mootbot I know it has saved hours of time when summarizing the meetings. Thank you for giving the Ubuntu Community such an awesome tool.

CO: :D thanks, its great to see that people are still finding it useful.

Chris, thank you so much for taking time to answer my questions and share a little more about Mootbot. I hope more LoCo Teams and Ubuntu Projects will consider using Mootbot for their IRC meetings and that they find it as efficient and helpful as I have. If you want more information on Mootbot or you would like to have Mootbot added to your Ubuntu IRC Channel visit the #ubuntu-scribes channel on Freenode.

For more info on how you can participate in and contribute to Ubuntu, visit:


Follow along as Ubuntu enthusiast and Community organizer Amber Graner helps put the "You" in Ubuntu.

Amber Graner is an active Ubuntu community member and organizer who encourages everyone around her to participate, support, and learn about Ubuntu and Open Source. With a smile and a sense of humor, Amber reminds people that there is a place for everyone in the Ubuntu community – regardless of technical skill level (or lack thereof). She is constantly looking for people, places, and events within the Ubuntu community that help inspire Ubuntu users to participate actively within the Ubuntu community. Email Amber at amber AT ubuntu-user DOT com.


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