If you haven’t heard by now, the Freenode IRC network is under new, bad, management. I’m locking my channels there and will be registering my project names over on Libera.Chat.

The drama

Ars Technica offers somewhat neutral coverage of the ongoings; there’s a gist which is somewhat biased on the side of the now-former Freenode staff; and it’s all over Pythonista tech Twitter, which unsurprisingly supports the latter.

The most recent article I’ve seen is a post on Linux Weekly News; it’s a free link to what is normally a subscriber-only post, though if you’re even remotely Linux-sysadmin-adjacent, I strongly recommend you consider subscribing - their content is typically top notch.

On top of what’s in those links, more keeps coming out: the new staff sound like your classic socially regressive “bad tech nerd” types, who just don’t understand all this “horrible SJW nonsense” like banning hate speech in the network use policy. But even if you’re a free speech zealot, the new staff has a treat for you too: they’re taking over and deleting/editing any channel mentioning Libera.Chat in its /topic. I believe there’s a Star Wars quote about this somewhere…systems…fingers?

Immediate action

Rather than support a now-toxic community, I’ll be setting +m (you can join but not post anything) on my Freenode channels, and replacing their topics with a link to this post (to avoid the auto-topic-edit mentioned above).

I’ll also register the relevant namespaces on https://libera.chat - but I may not open them for business immediately, instead removing the mention of IRC from my contact pages. Read on for why.

Good memories

I feel like I was using Freenode before the below date and didn’t bother registering my nick until then, but the stats for bitprophet (or bitprophet_ because shenanigans) just now when I signed in for the last time:

-NickServ- Registered : Sep 15 15:07:53 2006 (14y 36w 5d ago)

My earliest recollection of consistent/regular IRC use (vs telnet-based stuff like MUDs and talkers, which I used as far back as the early 1990s) are chatting in #django on Freenode in 2005-2006 when both the framework and my career were largely brand new. The contacts and friendships I made during that time (up until the late 00s or early 10s, when I stopped using Django as much) have informed much of my career and tech-social life.

Goodbye, IRC?

So it’s with no small amount of sadness that I contemplate hanging up my IRC hat for good. Why? I’ve already mostly cut it out of my life for various reasons:

  • I used it very frequently the later half of the 2000s (including opening channels for my OSS projects), and if you’ve ever chatted with me in realtime anywhere, you know I am VERY CHATTY.
  • The first half of the 2010s I was very on-again-off-again, because…I realized that propensity to chat nonstop was having impacts on my ability to focus. So I treated it more mindfully and only connected when I had a specific reason to chat, or was on an OSS-focus day.
  • By the mid 2010s, I was really starting to feel burnt out, and the thought of my users inadvertently nerd-sniping me with realtime support requests (which I’m terrible about dropping everything for) meant I…just stayed logged off most of the time.
  • It also feels like the Internet has changed; fewer and fewer newbies seem to stumble across IRC and instead prefer to contact folks via email, Twitter or just the issue tracker. (Newer projects set up things like Discord, etc).

Today, I’m still in that “almost always logged off” mode – my poor bouncer loyally slurping up everything folks say, for me to wearily ignore the invariably-incredibly-stale mentions of my nick (OSS, social or otherwise) if I do log in.

Almost but not quite

Given the above, the Freenode news feels like a great opportunity to tie things off. I’m going to shut down my personal bouncer for sure, and as noted, I’m putting my Freenode channels on ice.

However, I hope eventually things will change, and even if they don’t, I don’t want to close off communications avenues for anyone who might pick up my projects if I put them down.

Thus the registrations on Libera.Chat. Same channels as on Freenode (#fabric, #paramiko, #invoke). But they’ll be locked (/mode +si - invite-only and not listed) for now, to avoid user questions being asked with no reasonable chance of an answer. (This isn’t to say that sometimes answers can’t be supplied by other users - but most of the time the questions are requests for authority, which, hi, is usually not present.)

For my friends in the couple social channels I was on, I may return someday, probably in a more “realistic” fashion (no bouncer - just a local client). Clearly me pretending to be “always-on” does nobody any serious favors.