IRC Bots are nothing else then additional users which are connected to your network. You can call them with certain commands and they’ll answer with the needed information. A simple example would be to ask a bot for the time, as seen in a screenshot on Wikipedia:
There are a lot of Bots out there, in fact it is not very difficult to write your own Bot. As always Wikipedia comes up with a Comparison of IRC Bots. One of the bigger projects is supybot. It’s based on Python, includes a lot of useful addons and is easily extendable.
The Extendability is an important feature, because this allows to create custom plugins for internal systems like the company-owned bugtracking system or the Intranet. Python is also a reason why I chose this Bot. It comes with batteries included, so it is very easy to create new addons.
But let’s first see how you can set up supybot: After downloading the newest version and having the prerequisites set up (Python), you can call setup.py install and supybot will install itself into the Scripts-directory of your Python installation (C:\Python27\Scripts\ on Windows).
The Bot comes with a wizard which helps you configure the initial configuration. It also gives an overview over the packaged addons and let you choose if you want to install them right away. Simply start it with supybot-wizard.
If everything is configured as it is needed to be, you can run the Bot by starting supybot <config> where you would put the name of your config as the first parameter.
In IRC you can start talking to the Bot by starting a query via /query <botname>. Just write him help to get a first overview. I’ll soon publish a post about which addons are useful from a business perspective and how you could use them.