Creating an IRC Team/Workgroup

While many people are willing to abandon IRC and use Discord instead, this does not fit everyone’s needs. My proposal is that those people who prefer to keep using IRC as their method of communication create a team in order to figure out:

  • which server the IRC channels should move to
  • designating official channels with moderation (and who moderates them)
  • finding effective methods for moderation, in case it is needed

Sidenote: As for servers: there are currently freenode.net and oftc.net, the latter having the advantage of good cooperation with the admins. Most of the #rust channels exist on OFTC already.

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I’m with you.
I really hope we can move to #freenode or another server.
If I can somehow help I would be glad to.

Please note that the plan for what to move to has not been set, and if you have thoughts on the next generation of chat service, they’d be welcome.

If you have requirements other than “is IRC”, those should absolutely feed into the selection of the next chat platform. (That could include things like open APIs, a variety of clients including text-based clients, etc.) And for that matter, there are always things like matterircd if nothing else other than an IRC client will work for you.

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I was trying not to to into the details of IRC/Discord/Zulip/XMPP/… as they depend quite a lot on whom you ask. While an important problem (I am interested in), it is a separate problem. IRC has proven to work (certainly not perfectly, but it does work), and there are many ways for people with different requirements to connect to it. To me it is a proven technology, that I am not willing to replace with something that isn’t a clear improvement over it.

Attempting an analogy: I have an old Linux laptop and no interest in buying the newest Apple-Device just because it is new and shiny and promises to make things easier. What I have works for me. This doesn’t mean trying things is not possible, but I prefer to keep the working things around until the new thing is reliable too.

To me it looks like irc.mozilla.org is going down at some point and we don’t have a good replacement for IRC yet. This means a new server is needed.

While most channels don’t require moderation most of the time, sometimes moderation is nessesary, so choosing a server that makes this as simple as possible is a good idea.

Right now IRC has disappeared from the website, so unless one already knows about the #rust and #rust-beginner channels, people will not easily find them. My goal is to get IRC back on the official site, which means having at least those two channels moderated.

All this should be solved before the switch is announced, to avoid fragmenting the IRC community. (#moc on irc.mozilla.org is closed already)

Hence me asking what it would take for a chat platform to be a clear improvement, or at the very least to have parity. It’s clear that you don’t place as much value on the same things many other people do, such as automatic persistent logging across clients, searching, not having to run a bouncer, etc. What do you value? If there are key things that IRC does for you better than any other platform you’ve tried, then I’d love to know what those things are.

There’s community value in unifying around one chat service, rather than fragmentation around a half-dozen like we have now. Chat services have network effects.

To give one hypothetical example: suppose, for whatever chat platform the community ended up selecting, there were a perfect IRC bridge, so you could keep using whatever IRC client you’re currently using and just point it at a new server. Would that satisfy your requirements?

My goal, here, would be to make sure that people who care about features of IRC are included in the discussion of the next chat platform, rather than just fostering the automatic assumption that “there must be an IRC server, nothing else will ever work”.

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As long as any IRC client can connect and participate in discussions, it would work for me. Ideally it would support moderation via commands from IRC as well. To make it usable beyond that, the server should be open source with a fairly stable and documented client API.

For new users who are not already using IRC, there should be a web-interface that does not require previous registration. (A Captcha or small puzzle would be fine – although reCaptcha can be really annoying).

That helps to know, thank you.

Agreed completely. One of the alternatives I had in mind would be Mattermost, which has an open server, open clients, an open API, and an IRC-compatible bridge server.

What counts as “previous registration”? Would it suffice if you can give people a web link that lets them create an account through that link and then immediately start chatting?

For someone who is trying out Rust and has a small question, it would be nice if they can ask it without having to create an account first. Basically the lowest entry barrier possible. Registering could enable them more abilities (like posting URLs outside of github/playground).

The problem with zero-registration access is that it’s in conflict with moderation. If it’s trivial for someone on a public computer / shared IP to get a zero-registration participation and spam a copypasta or whatever, that’s a failing of preventive measures.

If your server is public, it will be a target for drive-by attacks, especially if you make it trivial to do so.

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I am aware of that, and I think here is the main problem. A part of the community wants an “open” chat (even if that means potential spam), the other wants a tight moderation (even if it requires identification/authentication). For most channels the latter probably works, but for some (#rust, #rust-beginners, #rust-offtopic, …) it does not.

I suspect that assessment is dependent on the percentage of the channel traffic that is spam. If it’s 90% spam or more, nobody is going to have the patience to stay with a zero-registration channel.

If you agree with that assessment, then we’re merely discussing the point at which registration is less onerous than filtering out all the crap.

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They all have a very low percentage of spam, unless no moderator is there and the auto-ban fails.

The harassment problem cannot be solved with registration. If a new user can reach a channel, anyone can.

I’d like to add my support to @s3bk’s proposal.

I’ve been a part of the Rust IRC channels in MozNet for almost two years now under the lovesegfault and bemeurer nicks. There is a vibrant, wonderful community of people in those channels, and it would pain me deeply to see it be dismantled, dismembered.

At MozNet, #rust-beginners helps dozens of newbies every single day, and in general they tend to come back with more questions because their experience is so good. A lot of people who later on become “entrenched” in the Rust community start off with a simple question on IRC. This is how I started at least, with a stupid newbie question that was met with patience and thoroughness in that channel. Fast-forward a couple years and two of my coworkers I met in #rust-offtopic and hired them from there. Not to go too off track, but my main point is that the Rust IRC channels are really nice places, with a tremendously welcoming atmosphere.

Now, to the question of moderation. Despite being online in all #rust-* channels every day for the past years I can count on my fingers how many issues I’ve seen that required & received moderator intervention. It seems, from my anecdotal experience, like this focus on “We need more powerful moderation tools ASAP” is a bit of security theater. I understand and appreciate the ethos of the community team’s efforts in this front, but I find that it’s partially misguided, not urgent, and arguably not necessary.

I’m in no way an IRC idealist who claims “There’s nothing wrong with IRC.” There’s plenty wrong with IRC. It just so happens that IRC is the common denominator between many disparate priorities / use cases, in my opinion. As an example, IRCcloud seems to me to have mostly solved the “ease of use” issue with IRC.

Finally, and to give this post a more concrete thesis, I think Rust should have an official IRC channel, either in an existing network (e.g. OFTC) or in it’s own network, and that should remain as a listed channel on Rust’s website. Please do not let our community be fragmented into many unofficial channels, it’s the worst possible outcome.

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As an addendum, we use Rust in production for a number of our components at Standard Cogntion and a number of our engineers are active participants on the IRC. If the community team wished to host Rust’s own IRC network, then I am certain I can make a compelling case to our peers for us to help maintain the server at a technical/physical level, leaving the “community maintainership” at the hands of the community team.

I, for one, gladly volunteer to keep the server up and running and to cover its bills out of my own pocket if it means we’re allowed to have an official Rust IRC.

  1. Moderation policy is set by the mod team, which is consciously not the community team.
  2. We had targeted harassment from anons on irc.mozilla.org, and not only once, but regularly. Project members have left the platform because of that. Calling this “misguided” is really, really unfair.

Hard disagree, even though I’m a huge IRCCloud user and use it for my companys chat. It has a lot of UX issues. Also, it costs 5$ per month per user for features expected from modern platforms (e.g. receiving messages when you are offline), which is certainly not a good option in comparison to competitors.

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I disagree here, the community is large enough that they can fill multiple servers and there is not much use in having everyone at the same location. As long as there is someone there who can pick up the discussion, most chats are large enough.

The community team hosts no services. We’re not an infrastructure team.

Also, please consider that adopting a new service means investing into its longevity, otherwise, we’ll have the same discussion in 2 years. Mozilla had a sizable ops team to run irc.mozilla.org and keep it safe from harm. This team has decided that the investment is not worth it. I’m not convinced that it’s in the interest of the project to become a provider of such a service. We’re building a programming language, not host chat servers.

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I’m not claiming only IRC should exist. If users find that having asynchronicity is of the utmost importance for they they are free to:

  1. Use an alternative that provides that, and interacting with Rust’s community there
  2. Setup a bouncer

This goes beyond just the synchronous aspect, with the main point being that it’s fine to offer and use things other than IRC, that’s the case right now, and it’s nice because the users make the choice of which platform they want to use.

Ok, my mistake. Nonetheless the question of which team sets the rules is immaterial to this discussion.

I was not aware of that. Nonetheless this has not been an issue for the users in #rust{,-offtopic,-beginners} as far as I am aware. It is truly a shame that the developers were targeted, it’s wrong, and no one deserves hate less than they do. Nonetheless, they have already moved to “safer” channels, and with it most of the incentive to target the IRC seems to have withered.

Just because we’re building a programming language, doesn’t mean we cannot (or should not) be invested in the ancillary aspects of that primary goal. If that was the case, why bother hosting and maintaining a website? We’re building a programming language, not a website. That argument can be applied to almost everything we do that isn’t strictly “build Rust”, and it’s short-sighted.

Maybe not, and that’s fine, which doesn’t mean it can’t defer the hosting issue to a willing person (or group of people). I guarantee you there are plenty of stellar members of the Rust community who frequent the IRC every day and would be more than happy to take on the burden of moderation for a Rust IRC. In the OFTC channels, this has already begun to happen organically.

Fundamentally I understand how easy it is to shove IRC away as outdated, insufficient, and so on; but for us who use it daily, and honestly have grown to love it, it’s not that simple. If I were the only one discontent with the prospect of no official Rust IRC then perhaps it would be fine to brush this aside, but it is almost unanimous among the dozens of active IRC members that:

  1. The alternatives are insufficient, and we are unwilling to move to Discord as the blog post suggests (I can go in more detail about this)
  2. The way the shut down was handled by the Rust team wasn’t the best, for us it equated to “We’re shutting this down, now scram.” This left us with a bunch of rooms in separate networks.
  3. We are perfectly happy with IRC, shortcomings included, and with the health of the community we’ve created within it. We do not want to see that go.

Fundamentally I think our main claim is that we (the large Rust community around IRC) have made MozNet our home, and we now feel hung out to dry in a sense. All we are asking for is the help of Rust (as an official entity) to organize and oficialize the move in a way that cannibalizes our community the least.

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Here are the last two paragraphs of the blog post:

We understand that not everyone wishes to switch to Discord for many reasons. For people who wish to continue using IRC, there is an unofficial freenode channel which you can hang out in, though we’d like to emphasize that this is not associated with the Rust teams and is not moderated by our Moderation team. You’re also free to create new channels on freenode in accordance with the freenode rules.

There are still a couple months before irc.mozilla.org shuts down — we’ll work at making this transition as smooth as possible in this time. Thanks to everyone who made #rust and #rust-beginners on Mozilla IRC a great place to hang out! We are sad to see it go. :cry:

Could you explain to me how that read to you as “we’re shutting this down, now scram”?

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If this is just about having an IRC channel to go to, I don’t see the problem with centering on Freenode. It exists already and just needs more people, right?

It won’t be officially official (i.e. linked from the website) because the Rust moderation team has no power there to enforce the Code of Conduct, and it’d be up to the community to moderate it. But there’s nothing wrong with it being “unofficially official” in that when people ask “where’s IRC”, that’s where they’re pointed.