Short bio: Computer Scientist, FOSS supporter (read more)
Tux Machines (TM)-specific
If you haven't gotten our subtle hints during the past year or so, IRC certainly is not dead. It really is the best way to get knowledgeable support from the folks who know best. There are a few caveats, however, that may not be obvious to people new to this old-school chat protocol.
Get a Good Client
If you just want to stop into the #linuxjournal channel for some quick banality, a Web-based client like the one at linuxjournal.com/irc is fine. You can drop in, request a !coffee from JustinBot, and chitchat with fellow geeks. If you're looking for something a bit more useful for the long haul, a native client makes more sense. Many people (myself included) like X-Chat. There are plenty of other options, like the command-line-only Irssi, but X-Chat offers a nice balance between features and usability.
If you look back at Kyle Rankin's Hack and / articles from the past year or so, you'll find easy ways to integrate your entire lifestyle into IRC.