All roads lead to #defocus

Some time ago I used to work as a special projects mentor for a large international company, one of the things I were to try purvey to the people I trained was ‘Change is good, change is great’. It took a long time for me to change my internal thought process and face my own fears of giving up security of what’s familiar, and as such it took a long time for me to be able to stand there in a room full of people and utter those words while actually believing in and meaning what I said.

This past week the phrase has played on my mind a lot, in regards to our changes to the official freenode help and social channels.

We are certainly hoping that this change will turn out to be good — and feedback so far has been primarily positive, though, that is not to say there hasn’t been those unhappy with the change.

I will try and speak of some of the reasoning behind closing down #freenode-social, and replacing it with respectively #freenode for help and #defocus for social chatter. The below quotations may help you understand some of the reasoning behind changing the way we operate our social channel, these are just some and not all of the observations made.

Over the last little while it has become apparent that running #freenode-social the way we currently do is not working for staff or users, and as such is not working for the network, the community or the visions and goals we possess.

We (freenode staff) propose to close down #freenode-social and replace it with #freenode (focused on user/network support ala #tapthru) and #freenode-offtopic (for general natter), in this regard we would like to extend an invitation to the tapthru staff to come on board and co-manage #freenode with us.

The list of items below should be considered a starting point for conversation rather than any definitive pronouncement of how the world should wag. It’s not complete (no such list can ever be) but tries to hit most of the major issues we’ll face as we embark on this project. Be blunt about your likes/dislikes of the various suggestions and about suggesting changes/additions/removals! Please note that there is no significance to the ordering of the items in the list below; that’s just how they came out. They have numbers only to speed the referencing of them during discussion.

1. What is wrong with #freenode-social? (This isn’t the finger of blame! Just a way to get a handle on what we are trying to fix.)
1. No defined topic (so no way to say: “that’s offtopic”)
2. No defined rules
3. Lack of regular chanops (we got scared and ran away)
4. Chanop behaviour is sporadic and hard to predict
5. Voicing/devoicing system has holes
1. Voicing is random. This can cause various behaviors:
1. People want to capture voice and hold it forever, against the time they might want to speak
2. When someone has waited hours to be voiced, (s)he may already be quite frustrated
3. By the time you’re voiced, you forgot why you came
2. We can’t remember why a person was devoiced
3. Access list too long to meaningfully evaluate
4. No system for ‘devoice for xx minutes’, so devoices either get forgotten and remain forever, or someone is re-voiced sooner than the devoicing staffer wanted them to be.
6. We used to say ‘be a catalyst in #freenode-social and maybe we’ll ask you to be staff someday’ … is that still true?
2. Some scenarios for the new #freenode channel (things people will come to say). ?? Categorize as (O)OK, (N)Not OK, (P)Private ??
1. Nick issues
1. Help me register my nick
2. Cloak me!
3. Someone took my nick
4. Lost my password
5. Help me admin my nick options
2. Client issues
1. Help me with my client
2. How does $somecommand work?
3. Cannot connect to freenode
3. Channel issues
1. I need help with my channel registration, modes, etc
2. They banned me in #foo!
3. #foo is offtopic/offensive/criminal/other, whatcha gonna do about it?
4. #foo has mean chanops
5. We are having a disagreement in #foo, please come and mediate
6. Explain primary/about channels for me again?
7. Does #foochannel exist?
8. Everybody come to #foo, it is the ubar-greatest!
4. About individuals
1. $somenick is PMing me and I don’t like it
2. $somenick is spamming/trolling/racist remarks/other on #foo
3. $somenick is spamming/trolling/racist remarks/other on several channels
4. $somenick is an asshole, kline him now
5. $somenick’s nick offends me
6. My friend $somenick was klined, remove it already!
5. Group issues
1. GCF approvals
2. Explain groups to me
3. I’m a GC and I need something done
4. Who is the GCF for $somegroup
5. $somegroup has no right to exist, we are the rightful owners of that group name
6. Freenode issues
1. $somestaffer treated me unfairly
2. I want to be a staffer
3. Teach me to be a catalyst
4. Announcements by staff
5. Donation issues
6. I want to host a freenode server
7. This wierd thing just happened, is it a network issue, help!
8. Help me understand the Freenode policy about $whatever.
9. I disagree with Freenode policy
10. Freenode should do this wonderful thing _______!
11. Freenode should endorse my campaign to save the world
12. I hate Freenode, rant-rant-rant.
13. I love Freenode, love-love-love.
7. Other
1. I need help with something not in 1-6 above
2. Let’s talk about my life issues/problems/whatever.
3. My political/religious/societal views
4. spam
5. random invective
6. http://somelink is funny/offensive/interesting/whatever, let’s all talk abut it
7. well, all sorts of stuff not found in 1-6 above
3. Escalating help. We all have different freenode-admin privs; some of us have none other than ‘helpful person’.
1. General SLA for the channel: “#Freenode tries but does not promise to solve your issue; if you are still unsolved here, talk to staffer via /stats p”
2. Try to identify things that should happen privately (in PM) and move there as soon as possible.
3. If you haven’t the privs to resolve an issue, send them to /stats p or /who *freenode/staff* asap
4. Suggestions?
4. #freenode discipline
1. What do we discipline for?
1. Offtopic
2. Tone/attitude
1. Ontopic but rude
2. Note- how to handle “I was not being rude, I was joking!”
3. Personal attacks/characterizations/judgements. (Suggest: we simply avoid all observations of a personal matter)
4. Giving out bad advice on the channel. Again, the issue of “I was joking” should be addressed.
2. Possible discipline escalations:
1. Catalyze in-channel, never ban or mute
2. Catalyze in-channel, ban or mute after x lines or minutes if it doesn’t work
3. Mute immediately and catalyze in PM; unmute when they understand
4. Ban/mute for x minutes on first offense, y minutes on second offense, z minutes on third offense
5. Replace ban/mute with redirec to #freenode-offtopic; perform all catalyzation in there
6. Some combination of the above
3. How to handle leftover bans/mutes?
1. leave forever since no one wants to override another chanop’s actions
2. periodically flush any ban/mute more than x days old
5. #freenode-offtopic discipline
1. none at all
2. same as main channel
3. relaxed rules
4. different rules entirely

Having spent some time discussing the situation and mulled over the above channel thoughts it was decided to move forward and start working out some clearer guidelines for the new channels. The name #freenode-offtopic was also replaced by #defocus, we considered keeping the #freenode-social name but decided that it was better to start afresh and sculpt something from the ground up and so we decided to re-name.

The guidelines for the two new channels are far from set in stone, and we will continuously evaluate them and we ask for your help in ensuring that we choose a set of rules which are of the most benefit to the community at large. In this regard I highly encourage you to e-mail staff at freenode dot net with any concerns, comments, questions or ideas you have. We love hearing from you and your feedback is crucial to making freenode what it is.

Like Rome, #defocus won’t be built in a day and we expect some fumbling while we try work out which way suits our community best. We’re trying something new and we are all learning on our feet.

I hope the above helped clarify some of the motivation behind #defocus and I hope that you will come join us in the channel.

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