The Changes

In the last few weeks, I've made some changes to (Yes, I said "I". I'll explain in a bit.) The response has been mixed. Several "yay!"s, several "wat"s and a silence I'll assume is "meh". I want to take a bit and put some context around these changes and why I'm making them.

Let's start with some history. wasn't born It was born in 1999-2000 as MAGnet or Rhizomatic, depending on who you ask. It was a refuge from EFnet #perl which had gotten a bit too, I guess, n00b-filled for everyone. So, a splinter group built an irc server and thus Rhizomatic was born. (I prefer Rhizomatic for the philosophical roots.) There were maybe a dozen or two users on a single server. Really, there was a single channel, too: #perl. Just as lawless as EFnet #perl but a more curated community. Curation by obscurity.

Over time, we added another server to cover downtime, then a third. Oper blocks were handed out to people we liked. There were no real rules because it was a network of friends.

Then it all changed.

One day, we woke up to discover that the domain had been pointed to our little network. Suddenly, we had n00bs and DDoS and botnets. Suddenly, we had a need for policy.

We purged the oper blocks down to just the people that run the network and drafted the most simple of policies. "We, the opers, run the network. Don't fuck with us." It was simple, elegant, and reflected our general annoyance at being bothered. But we also had an internal rule. No one gives a shit about the channels. We ran the network not the channels. We restored ops when necessary and that was pretty much it. We were still a network of only a few hundred. is a very different place now. Years have passed. We've grown from a few hundred to 1400 strong. We've grown from one main channel to 460 channels, most of which are community channels dedicated to a particular open source project. We've gone through half a dozen different node providers and even more opers.

All this time, though, general policy has stayed the same. Don't fuck with the opers.

Let's go back to that "I" from the beginning. Over the years, the oper group has shrunk for various reasons. I am the only surviving oper of the first few years. There are three of us who take care of the day to day, really. When it comes to policy, I'm the one deciding changes and making them happen. I control the server deployments. When I decided to make changes, I didn't need to consult anyone. (I did, though.) This is the definition of SPOF and the tendency for policy-developed-by-navel-gazing is too high.

You deserve better.

The new Standard of Conduct and the proposed governance structure are designed to two things. First, they codify what we've done informally for a long time. Second, they give control of the community back to the community.

Our Standard of Conduct really is, fundamentally, the Reasonable Person Principle spelled out in long form. There's nothing new in there, from my perspective. Don't be an asshole. In case you're not sure what that means, we helpfully spell it out.

The governance proposal makes official a program I started a year or two ago. To deal with the vast segments of the community I'm not aware of, I asked a couple of people to be opers so they could take care of the needs of their community segment. This proposal makes that official and puts them in one channel and, really, gives them a single goal. "Make this irc network into the best it can be for the community it serves."

Honestly, I do not expect this to change your day to day life on Well, unless you're an abusive asshole in a public channel. Then, yeah, you might want to re-examine your life choices. Otherwise, nothing in your irc life changes and, if there's a problem, you know who you can talk to about it.

And, yes, it is still just a proposal. If we decide this proposal a bad idea, as a community, we'll figure something else out.

From a network ops perspective, nothing is changing. Still the same ol' curmudgeon assholes keeping the lights on. You'll see us when the monsters come out to play.

I do want to be very clear about something, though. Part of the goal of the new SoC and the new governance is transparency. I will not, however, be transparent about the server architecture or day to day operations of the network. There's secret sauce in the system that helps mitigate and prevent the DDoS issues we had in 2010. If it affects the userbase, I'll be as transparent as I can but some things will always remain private.

There are a few other things brewing. Nothing that really affects anyone, though. I promised a way that you can donate to the server operations budget and that's still coming. I'm also working on some other ways people can pitch in.

For now though, I really need everyone to provide constructive feedback on the governance proposal. Please comment on the gist, grab me on irc or twitter.