For the last month or so, the IRC world has been embroiled in drama over the new ownership of Freenode. For me, it culminated yesterday when I was banned from Freenode.
I’m not going to try to recap what happened in detail, but I can give you my overall perspective on it. The new owners started on the wrong foot, and then mishandled every subsequent interaction. At every turn, people feared the new owners and staff were going to do something malicious. Then something bad would happen, people would say, “look: malice!,” and the new staff would say, “it wasn’t malice, it was a mistake!” Then it would happen again.
A month ago, when the new trends were becoming clear, the operators of the #python channel (including me) decided to move #python to the new Libera.chat network being run by the old Freenode staff. But we also stayed in the Freenode channel to let people know where everyone had gone.
Yesterday, after a heated debate in the Freenode channel where I was accused of splitting the community, I got k-lined (banned entirely from Freenode). The reason given was “spamming”, because of my recurring message about the move to Libera. Then the entire Freenode #python channel was closed. So much for caring about the community.
Was it malice or was it mistake? Does it matter? It’s not a good way to run a network. After the channel was closed, people asking staff about what happened were banned from asking. That wasn’t a mistake.
I can’t claim to know the minds of the new Freenode owners or staff. All I can do is see their actions, or I could until they banned me from Freenode. I know that some of the new staff are people we had come to know over the years as persistent disrupters in #python. The people advocating for the new Freenode staff seem to trend towards the anti-code-of-conduct, “free speech means I don’t have to care” cohort. And the new staff seems to be using force to silence people asking questions. It’s clear that transparency is not a strong value for them.
Setting aside network drama, the big picture here is that the Freenode #python community isn’t split: it’s alive and well. It’s just not on Freenode anymore, it’s on Libera.
Freenode was a good thing. But the domain name of the server was the least important part of it, just a piece of technical trivia. There’s no reason to stick with Freenode just because it is called Freenode. As with any way of bringing people together, the important part is the people. If all of the people go someplace else, follow them there, and continue.
See you on Libera.