I was hoping I'd be able to really sit down and say a bit more about this, but time is pretty tight at the moment, but it's starting now, so I'll get this much said:
We're kicking off something called Ubuntu Open Week as of half an hour ago! This is a week full of sessions on IRC intended to help people find out more about Ubuntu and get questions about it answered if just starting out, and learn about ways of getting involved in helping if they wish, and how to go about doing that. Session topics included what the Ubuntu Community is and how it works (and how official "membership" is granted), a question and answer session with Mark Shuttleworth, to more advanced things like how to become a package maintainer. So, if you've been curious about what I've been talking about before and just want to ask a few things, or have grabbed a Live CD or installed it but don't quite know your way around, or have been using it for a while but want to help out, come check out some of the sessions. Full details and a session schedule are available at https://wiki.ubuntu.com/UbuntuOpenWeek. Note that if you can't make a session, there are logs available.
The sessions take place on IRC, which you may not have used before, so here's a quick lesson on that to get you started:
IRC (Internet Relay Chat) is somewhat like instant messager on steroids. It can handle thousand of people and thousands of channels (like chat rooms), and is easier to handle many different conversations in my opinion. To use IRC, you will need an IRC client. Gaim is capable of this, but I don't like its interface for this particular protocol, so I recommend XChat (in Ubuntu, install the 'xchat' package with Synaptic, on Windows, download from here). Once it's installed, do the following:
- Run the program from the shortcut or menu item created.
- Set a suitable "Nick name" - this is your screenname.
- From the Networks list, select Freenode, and hit connect.
- Once connected, enter #ubuntu-classroom (or #ubuntu-freshers for Friday) under "Join this channel" at the prompt, or select "Nothing".
- Be sure to read the topic message you get when joining, and to not interrupt the presenters take chatter and questions to #ubuntu-classroom-chat (type /join #name-of-channel to join others).
[Edit: Some people have asked what's appropriate for the just-starting crowd. If you're new to using Ubuntu or still merely considering trying it, the sessions most appropriate for you are the Freshers Day (all of Friday), The Ubuntu Community (second one is 17:00 UTC Wednesday), and for the curious/adventurous, Ask Mark (17:00 UTC Tuesday). Remember that the US/CA Central time zone is UTC-6, so those are both 11:00 AM for the Minnesota crowd, and Friday runs 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM. Since you may have class, there's always the logs.]