(Note: I usually blog at https://fasterthanli.me but I'm away for a couple days and wanted to make a statement)
Up until recently, I was part of two private online discussion spaces where a bunch of Rust people hung out.
So, whenever there was drama, like when the entire mod team resigned, or when a trademark draft got a lot of people seriously worried, or just recently when RustConf took back the keynote from ThePHD https://thephd.dev/i-am-no-longer-speaking-at-rustconf-2023 then JT resigned over it https://www.jntrnr.com/why-i-left-rust/ and Saoirse wrote about governance https://without.boats/blog/if-you-can-keep-it/, I had some place to go, to assess how serious things were this time around.
And most of the time, it turned out that the intentions were, in fact, good! But the execution was poor — or that there was a lack of resources, a lack of process, or a lack of manpower, or a deadline to hold, or it was just that person being that person again.
Except, it’s never just that one person, you know? Otherwise I could burn myself by outing them, and do the whole community a favor.
It’s really more like those 4 or 5 persons.
And it’s not like they’re really bad people, it’s more like they tend to… use back channels rather than follow process? Or they have too many responsibilities, and are unable to fulfill all of them properly? Or maybe they don’t listen enough?
Or maybe it’s not individuals, but pairs of individuals who have a feud for some reason or other (sometimes completely valid). Maybe one party feels slighted by something that happened years ago, maybe they have irreconcilable goals or technical views, or differing opinions on what belongs where.
But, at no point was there anything nearly as malicious as what everyone else, in the “true out” group, speculated.
The recent incident with ThePHD’s keynote downgrade was not racially motivated, thankfully, but… if that’s what it looks like from the outside, and any form of official communication is still days or weeks away, does it really make a difference?
I was able to reassure myself, by checking these private discussion places, that there were good people, fighting for the right thing to be done. That things weren’t irremediably broken. That there was hope for improvement in the near future.
But what about all the others? Those who only had the rumors, the sparse official statements, the deleted subreddit threads to go by?
Part of me was very disappointed at ThePrimeagen's content around the trademark policy, which in my view added fuel to the fire and resulted in actual harassment (edit: it appears things have improved since, I'm still catching up)
Part of me was very disappointed in the enormous waste of time that is the “crablang” fork, and wishes the people involved could have engaged in a constructive manner instead.
But then, part of me can think of a very simple way to prevent that from happening again: the Rust project as a whole needs to be better, and communicate better.
It should be possible to be confident and optimistic about the future of the Rust project even without having back channels. There’s people several years into research or business endeavors staked on Rust. They deserve clarity.
Additionally, it should be possible to engage with the Rust project at the level you choose to.
I have chosen to do Rust education (and, one could argue, evangelism) and that’s what I want to keep doing — even though it is VERY tempting to try and get involved with governance matters
(I have seen many follow the “to do X I must first fix Y” thread all the way into burnout. I won’t be doing that.)
I’d be really excited if ThePHD & friends organized a conference, but it shouldn’t be a prerequisite for them to be able to explore and present research re: compile-time reflection in Rust https://soasis.org/posts/a-mirror-for-rust-a-plan-for-generic-compile-time-introspection-in-rust/
I’m joining the “out group” (or leaving the “in group”, depending on how you look at it).
Rust deserves competent critics, and I intend to do my part, using only publicly available knowledge from now on.
The state of my “in group” knowledge will soon be obsolete, but as of today, I can tell you that all the good people who could’ve left haven’t yet, and that all the people who should’ve resigned, haven’t yet.
I’ll be here, waiting for that to happen. If there’s any hope for the project moving forward, there must be accountability.