All things come to an end.
I can't say I played a significant role in freenode, but I tried to do my part as a volunteer staff member, and had some fun along the way. But my involvement with freenode has to end due to what has come to light in these past months. What follows is a badly told story of what happened that made me stop volunteering my time at this network. And let's be clear about that, freenode the IRC network up until now has almost exclusively been ran by unpaid volunteers on donated hardware, sans some machines that were provided by PIA.
A long time ago, in 2016 a holding company for freenode was created, with the purpose of helping us to receive donations from PIA, for things such as freenode live. The head of staff promised that this would never have any impact on the way the network was operated. I was personally somewhat sceptical of the need for a conference for a network such as ours - conferences usually have a specific topic that is of common interest by it's attendees and thought that an IRC network that takes all (on-topic) comers might struggle to find a common topic. There were other reasons to be sceptical of course, but we were assured that nothing of operational value would be changing. The exact details of the relationship between freenode and it's holding company were not clear to me. However, it seemed to me that it did enable us to receive funding to aid in some legal manners, which was pivotal in our case. None of the volunteers that were operating freenode the IRC network never had any contractual relations with this holding copmany.
The year is a retrospectively happy and sunny, yet dark and miserable 2017. The brexit referendum had passed. There was no great pandemic. A previous head of staff managed to sell freenode in it's entirety, a feat I didn't think was possible. It was sold to Andrew Lee, a man who has certainly achieved numerous impressive feats himself. I am not a lawyer, as such, I'll refrain from speculation as to whether one can sell a peer directed community of volunteers operating on donated hardware and services, but I won't dispute that one can definitely transfer ownership of a domain name to a limited liability company and subsequently sell that. But this wasn't the only miracle up their sleeve, as the former head of staff went on to not tell any of the volunteers about any of this. None of us knew. One cannot argue how impressive this is. As a member of staff, I find this to be just as abhorrent as it is impressive.
As time went on, the network operated as normal and staffers continued to be oblivious of the impressive manouvers. Then, some months ago, a banner of shells.com was added to freenode's website. None of the staff seemingly knew anything about this. When our head of staff was questioned, they left. Another head of staff was elected, and we tried to operate as normal again. On the 15th of March, Andrew Lee said that he has not and will not interfere with freenode's operations. freenode tries to operate as normal. Given the organisational turmoil of the last head of staff departing, there were some changes that we wanted to inform our users about - thus a blog post was published on our website, on the 18th of April. The blog post disappeared on the 30th of April. And our testnet goes down the same day. And no one knows what is actually going on. Some days later, our newly elected head of staff receives a letter of the legal kind, and they are not allowed to disclose the contents of it. Eventually, Mr. Andrew Lee makes it clear that he's seeking operational control over freenode, after all, he has paid for it. These events do not inspire confidence in my ability to maintain freenode to the standards our users have come to expect. As such, I'm resigning. This is not even a full account of everything that happened, and barely gets across the frustration, anger and grief that I and other staffers have gone through. I'd like to commend tomaw's efforts to salvage the situation and appease all sides whilst having to soak up virtually all of the risk.
On a lighter note, I hope I did not discourage any of our existing users from using freenode. But if you'd still like to remove your data from the network, there's 3 easy steps you can take:
/msg nickserv set passwordto overwrite your password
/msg nikcserv set emailto reset your email address. You'll have to validate the new one before it's accepted.
/msg nickserv drop <account name> <password>Drop your account.
I'll eventually be reachable on irc.libera.chat, port 6697. If you message me there, I may or may not be able to sell you shares of the Eiffel tower.
Whilst my account of my experience is important to me, I urge readers to not take just my word for it. Please consider the contents of all the other resignation letters. The following list will be updated to the best of my ability:
- amdj: https://gist.github.com/aaronmdjones/1a9a93ded5b7d162c3f58bdd66b8f491
- edk: https://gist.github.com/edk0/478fb4351bc3ba458288d6878032669d
- Fuchs: https://gist.github.com/Fuchs/7d5866faadf71620583ceee10222ef95 / https://fuchsnet.ch/freenode-resign-letter.txt
- jess: https://gist.github.com/jesopo/45a3e9cdbe517dc55e6058eb43b00ed9
- kline: https://kline.sh
- Md: https://blog.bofh.it/debian/id_461
- mniip: https://mniip.com/freenode.txt
- niko: https://coevoet.fr/freenode.html
- Swant: https://swantzter.se/freenode-resignation