An official real-time discussion channel is available to members and guests of the site, hosted on the freenode IRC network in #lobsters. This channel was originally created by @kristof. @pushcx, @355e3b (c355e3b on IRC), and @aleph (Church- on IRC) are channel operators.
The policies and ideals of the discussion channel are the same as the website; quality content and conversing, respect for other users, and no spamming. Slightly off-topic discussion is generally acceptable. The channel isn't busy enough that there's always someone talking, so don't be surprised if you try to start a conversation and no one responds. Leave it open and you'll see activity, though we're most active during US work hours.
New contributors are always welcome on Lobsters. If you are the author or otherwise involved with a story that was submitted to the site, ask and someone will invite you. If not, offer some good links or thoughts on a story and someone will likely invite you so can post them. Alternatively, share a link to your homepage or public profile (GitHub, Twitter, YC News, and LinkedIn are popular choices) so people can see you're not a spammer.
Lurking in the channel is a bot called mockturtle created and maintained by @alynpost. It announces new stories submitted to the site and provides other useful features like showing the page title of URLs mentioned in the channel.
To participate in the discussion, join the #lobsters channel on irc.freenode.net with an IRC client.
If you'd like a cloak to note that you've contributed to Lobsters development or just for privacy as a regular user, contact a channel operator for a lobsters/developer/username or lobsters/user/username cloak.
For a feed of stories without discussion, mockturtle also posts new stories in #lobsters-feed on the same network.
Lobsters used to have an off-topic channel for off-topic conversations (especially American politics) that boiled in over the main channel called #lobsters-boil. It was useful in the wake of some big events, but the mods didn't want to run it indefinitely. Community members independently run ##crustaceans and ##hommers on Freenode subject to their own policies, if you're looking for off-topic discussion.