[Maintenance] Downtime warning — lem, orwell

Hi all,

Tomorrow evening, November 3rd 2008, at 22:00GMT we will be undertaking some routine maintenance on two of our client servers, lem and orwell, both servers have already been taken out of rotation. The downtime window is set to one (1) hour, but we anticipate that the upgrades will take less time. At time of posting we have approximately 2,000 users across the two servers, and while we will urge users to connect to a different server prior to the upgrades we realise that not everyone will be able to act on the notice in time and as such we expect to see some disturbances on the network at the time of the upgrade.

Thank you for using freenode!

Fundraising for Charity Status!

As you may be vaguely aware, we have been working on some structural changes to the operations of the parent organisation behind freenode. And I am happy to announce that Peer-Directed Projects Center Ltd is now incorporated as a company limited by guarantee in England and Wales.

This makes the administrative and organisational side of things a lot easier and manageable for us and will not in any way disturb the services we provide to our users currently.

However, we wish to register as a charity with the Charity Commission, but in order to do this we will need some help! We need to be able to meet a minimum support threshold of £5,000.00 per annum in order to be eligible for charity status.

While we historically raised a fair amount of money through various online fund raisers, we have not actively solicited for donations in the last two years, causing a massive drop in donation levels leaving us well below the threshold.

Now, there are several reasons for us not actively soliciting, for one our outgoings have over the past two years been a lot lower than previously as we no longer have any paid staff — all members of freenode and the PDPC are involved on a volunteer basis.

If you are considering donating, you will no doubt have some questions, some of which we will try to answer here:

  • If you are no longer employing anyone, what outgoings do you have, why do you need money? — Our outgoings are fairly low indeed and limited to hosting one server, registered office fees, telephone/fax, stationary expenses, domain renewal fees and other administrative overhead. We do intend to put any amount which exceeds our administrative expenses to use for the community.
  • What plans does freenode/PDPC have for “giving back to the community”? — There’s a few different programs we would like to be able to add to our current services, top of the list currently is arranging ‘live conferences” in Europe and America (if you are interested in learning more about this, helping out with planning, during the events or corporate sponsorship please drop us a line to live at freenode dot net).
  • Do I get any tax relief if I donate? — When we meet the treshold for charity status and enter the register, you will be able to write off tax on any donation made to us, and we will be able to claim tax relief of 28% per donation made from a UK tax payer!
  • Do you provide any receipts of donations? — If you donate through paypal you will automatically receive one then, however, for donations of £30.00 (approximately $50.00) or over we will also provide a separate receipt electronically or as a hard copy if you prefer.
  • Why do you want to be a charity anyway? — We want to be able to provide the services we currently provide to our community, we also wish to do future programs and we wish to get involved with working to “promote FOSS in the real world”, as a registered charitable organisation we can also apply for various grants and other support in order to reach these goals and provide a better service to the community.
  • Does this mean you will start spamming us with global notices begging us to donate all the time? — No! We believe that global notices should be reserved for messages relating to the status of the freenode network, not for soliciting funds. We may mention our fundraiser in #freenode and #defocus or other freenode owned/operated channels, and we may in future blog again and talk about it in our channels.

You can make your donation here.

While we only mention “freenode live” as a future program above, we do have other irons in the fire and if you’re curious about them, or have a suggestion for how we can better help our communities, why not come have a chat with us either over in #defocus or drop us an e-mail to ideas at freenode net

Any help, however big or small will be gratefully received! Thank you for considering donating, and to those of you who have supported us in the past and those continuing to support us a massive thanks for helping us help the community! If you have any questions, or want to discuss other levels of donating or other ways of helping out freenode and the PDPC — or getting involved with future programs, why don’t you drop me a message on IRC? You can find me online as christel.

Happy 25th Birthday, GNU!

To mark the 25th “birthday” of the GNU project the FSF have teamed up with a very special man; Stephen Fry.

I personally am a great fan of Mr. Fry — he’s an accomplished actor, terrific writer and a good documentary maker. I enjoy his books, I will happily set aside entire weekends for my fry-a-thons in which I am glued to the TV re-watching the entire set of “A bit of Fry & Laurie”, “Jeeves & Wooster” or many of the other fantastic things he’s done for British TV. And I make sure to never miss an episode of QI — again, I probably re-watch all of them. I follow his blog, I listen to his podgram.. I have a lot of respect and admiration for this man, for his insight, his honesty, his no-nonsense approach, his incredible way with words and his hysterically funny ways.

So who better to mark the anniversary of a project for which I also have a great deal of respect — a project which values, visions and goals are shared by the majority of our users. A project often found at the core of so many of the projects who choose to use freenode.

So without further ado — Happy Birthday GNU!

Freedom Fry

Lugradio Live: The grand finale

I, for one, was saddened to hear that my favourite FOSS podcast; Lugradio is coming to an end. If you are in the UK, heck, if you’re anywhere and don’t mind traveling a bit you may want to catch the grand finale at this years Lugradio Live.

LugRadio Live UK 2008
The Lighthouse Media Center, Fryer St., Wolverhampton, WV1 1HT

LugRadio Live UK 2008, the most popular community Open Source event in the UK takes place in Wolverhampton on the 19th and 20th and features three stages full of 25+ speakers including Chris DiBona (Google), Max Spevack (Red Hat), Steve Lamb (Microsoft), Robert Collins (Canonical),
Benjamin Otte (GNOME), Rob McQueen (Collabora), Edward Hervey (Collabora Multimedia), James Hooker, Kevin Sandom, Barbie (MessageLabs), Daniel James, Emma Jane Hogbin, Bruno Bord, Ben Thorp, Rufus Pollock (FFFI) Sam Birchall, John Carr, William J Giddings and many more…

In addition to this the show will feature over 20 exhibitors, special debate sessions, the legendary Gong-a-thong Lightbulb Talk Extravaganza (read: a series of small talk chaired by a man in a very small pair of pants and a very large gong – not to be missed!), parties on the Friday and Saturday evenings and much, much more.

All of this is just £5, and there are even a raft of hotel deals
available to make your trip simple and cost effective. Head over to www.lugradio.org/live to find out more.

I hope to see you there!

Happy holidays!

It’s been just over a year since freenode saw it’s biggest shake-up yet, the passing of founder Rob ‘lilo’ Levin. It has been a challenging and interesting year both for freenode and Peer-Directed Projects Center, the not-for-profit organisation which owns and operates the network. There have been changes within the staff, there have been technical changes and soon we will see the change-over of both our Services package and our IRC daemon.

freenode is doing well — we’ve more sponsors than ever, and we’ve gained around 18,000 users. We’ve had interesting projects choose to use our services and we’ve had a lot of input from users on what changes they would like to see. This past year has truly shown freenode for what it is — a service provided by the community for the community. We’ve been joined by new staff, all of whom we’re pleased to have onboard. We’re making progress on the development side, both internally and externally.

PDPC has been more of a challenge. The NFP was fairly inactive previously and the change to having a active board who share a passion for the community we serve has been great, but it has also meant that we’ve had a lot to tidy up. While we are finally seeing light at the end of the tunnel, we haven’t quite gotten to where we want to be yet. However, I am confident that all the hard work put in by the board members, project specific volunteers and of course, our lawyers, CPA and accountant (without whom we’d be hairless by now), we will be able to do some truly spectacular things for the community in the coming years.

It has been a interesting and exciting year — I am proud and happy to have had the chance to work with such an amazing group of people: freenode staff, the PDPC board, past and present code contributors, projects using our services and of course the diverse and incredible user group freenode has.

I’d like to thank the PDPC board for sticking in there and for having the energy and drive to push on with what at times looked bleak and depressing, each and every one of the freenode staff members for the time and effort they have put in to keep the network running, our developers and code contributors for new services and IRCd (and of course, to the original Atheme and Charybdis developers for allowing us to continue work on already amazing services in order to make it fit our needs!), every project which uses our facilities, every single PDPC donor for helping us help the community, and of course our sponsors, without whom none of this would be possible.

I’d also like to thank the OFTC staffers for this year’s collaboration. It has been an interesting journey and one which I hope we will continue together.

And finally, I’d like to wish everyone happy holidays and a great new year!

More blogging about logging…

I promised you all that I would write an update when we’d had a chance to review things and speak with the IRseeK people. After a bit of discussion, both amongst freenode staff and with the management of the company which provides the IRseeK service, we are happy to announce that there will be a few changes.

  1. The IRseeK service will be on a opt-in basis only.
  2. The IRseeK bots will (on freenode) be cloaked and easy to identify.
  3. Logs obtained prior to the service becoming opt-in will not be published on the IRseeK website without the explicit permission of the channel owners.

It is our belief that IRseeK and similar services can provide a useful service not only to the IRC community but to other interested users as well, and we (freenode staff) are very happy to see that IRseeK are happy to change their approach to one which is clear and concise rather than covert. I hope that the service can be of benefit to the projects which use freenode, and should you have any queries — or if you’d like to get in touch with the IRseeK people — don’t hesitate to talk to us and we’ll do our best to put channel owners in touch with the IRseeK project.

Again, we encourage projects which do publicly log their channels to make this clear to all users of the channel, by placing a note in the topic or with an on-join message.

I hope this solution is one which our users find satisfactory.

We are recruiting!

We are currently looking to expand the freenode volunteer staff team – seeking people from across the target communities we serve.

Previous irc experience is a bonus, but not a requirement.

We ask that you familiarise yourself with the guidelines, policies, procedures and philosophies as per our website: http://freenode.net and assess whether you feel you agree with what we are all about. We are looking for someone who is able to work as part of a team but also happy to take initiative.

The current volunteer team is a diverse group of people – of all ages and backgrounds. We share a common passion and interest in Free and Open Source Software as well as Free Culture. We are looking for people who would compliment the current set-up and be a refreshing addition to the team – we love suggestions and ideas and appreciate it if you aren’t too shy to speak your mind!

The freenode network is run by a great team of volunteers, it’s day to day operations are overseen by the Steering Committee under the oversight of Head of Staff. While each freenode staffer has a individual role within the project; utilizing their strengths, experiences and interests the most important role on the network is that of the levelone support volunteer. We encourage all staff, regardless of seniority to spend as much time as possible on levelone duties.

We are currently looking for more staff to join us in order to better serve the groups and projects which use our services, if you should be interested please drop us a few lines to volunteering AT freenode.net letting us know a little bit about yourself, what projects you are currently involved with, why you would be interested in helping out with freenode and why you would be the right person for us to take onboard!

In addition to looking for volunteer staff we are also looking for developers – we are looking for people familiar with Ruby on Rails to work on our Group Management System (GMS) which is a web based dashboard to services, allowing group contacts of projects to better manage their namespace, cloaks etc.

We are also looking for people who could be interested in coming on board to work on 7 (Seven), which is the Charybdis based IRCD which freenode will be moving to. In addition to these, there are also other development opportunities available – and we would love to hear it if you have suggestions for something new/different too! If you are interested in helping out on the coding side, get in touch with us via code AT freenode.net and we’ll take it from there!

We hope to hear from you soon – while we will endeavour to get back to all interested parties, please keep in mind that we may not reply to your e-mail before we have reviewed a fair chunk of them. We are putting up a preliminary cut-off date of January 1st 2008, and all curious users should receive an indication of interest from us by January 15th 2008.

For now, happy hacking and er, happy holidays!

Blogging about logging..

After this recent article on techcrunch.com many of our users have contacted freenode staff to express their concern, shock, surprise and unease that IRseeK have for some time now been operating covert clients in various channels on freenode (and other IRC Networks) logging all communication and publishing it on their website.

We, freenode staff, are also surprised, not to mention rather upset, that this company has chosen to completely ignore our policies and perform actions which our users see as an invasion of their privacy. While we have contacted B & C Advanced Solutions, the company behind IRseeK, to request that they discontinue unauthorized logging on freenode and also that they remove any published logs, we have unfortunately had to take the additional step of blocking new tor connections while we pursue the matter further. The logging bots primarily connect through tor, seem to have no distinguishing characteristics that we can identify, and so far the company has not been willing to remove them voluntarily. We are currently removing the bots as we see them, and if you do spot a client you believe may be a IRseeK logging bot, please do let staff know and they will look into whether the client needs to be removed from the network. To all legitimate tor users out there, I apologise for the inconvenience caused and hope to have normal service restored as soon as possible.

Our website clearly states our policies on this topic, which have been published for several years. For those who haven’t read them recently, I quote one of the relevant sections:

“If you’re considering publishing channel logs, think it through. The freenode network is an interactive environment. Even on public channels, most users don’t weigh their comments with the idea that they’ll be enshrined in perpetuity. For that reason, few participants publish logs.

If you’re publishing logs on an ongoing basis, your channel topic should reflect that fact. Be sure to provide a way for users to make comments without logging, and get permission from the channel owners before you start. If you’re thinking of “anonymizing” your logs (removing information that identifies the specific users), be aware that it’s difficult to do it well—replies and general context often provide identifying information which is hard to filter.

If you just want to publish a single conversation, be careful to get permission from each participant. Provide as much context as you can. Avoid the temptation to publish or distribute logs without permission in order to portray someone in a bad light. The reputation you save will most likely be your own. “

And this perhaps, is where I feel that IRseeK has gone horribly wrong. I believe that this could have become a popular service had it been done in a way which promotes choice — operating on an opt-in basis could very well have meant that a lot of channel owners would have chosen to request an IRseeK logging bot in their channel so that logs could be referenced and looked at later.

However, currently there is no way to opt-in, or even to opt out. The bots aren’t easily identifiable and you’re not aware that they are present in your channel. Ideally, I would have liked to see:

  1. Logging bots clearly identifiable as such.
  2. Logging of channels occurring only at the channel owners’ request.
  3. Channels that opt in to this service displaying, in a way which is visible to all current and new users of the channel, that the channel is being logged and the logs made publically available on the web. The channel topic and on-join notice could easily be used to this effect.
  4. An easy method to remove logging bots from a channel should it join in error or a channel owner decide that they no longer wish their channel to be logged.

Perhaps, in this regard, they could have taken a leaf out of CIA’s book and become a lot more popular in the process.

To me, the biggest surprise is that the people behind IRseeK defend their actions and believe that they are entirely within their rights to do what they do in the manner that they do it. Leaving our guidelines aside for a moment, what irks me is this: freenode caters primarily to people from the FOSS communities, people to whom choice and freedom are important. For us, providing a service such as freenode to our community is important; our users give a lot, we share code, knowledge, hints, frustrations, laughter.. and we like to give back in the little way we can. It then does not feel comfortable or at all right to have someone intrude upon our privacy, sneaking into the circle and observing with the singular aim of publicising our conversations entirely without our knowledge or consent. By taking the route that they did, IRseeK has taken away our freedom and our choice. They have forced something down on us and in the process soured and poisoned a community which thrives on trust and collaboration. It has created a bad atmosphere and made a lot of people uncomfortable.

I am really sorry that this problem has reached our network, and I am really sorry for the way it has affected our community. I am also sorry for the way in which IRseeK choose to perform their actions, and sorrier still that we did not catch it sooner.

I sincerely hope that IRseeK will honour our request to stop attempting to log channels on freenode without the channel owner’s explicit permission, and I also hope that they will honour our request to remove logs already in their system.

Lastly, I would like to wish IRseeK well, and I hope that you re-consider your approach. I believe that if done properly, what you have could be turned into a respectable service which would be used by and appreciated by a lot of people.

As I said, we have gotten in touch with the people behind IRseeK and they have asked to have until this sunday (tomorrow) to respond. I will give you an update when we hear back from them and know which way the tide is turning.

For now, thank you for using freenode and have a great day!

A very brief mention of upcoming changes..

As you are probably aware we are in the process of rehauling the IRCd and Services software running on freenode. While hyperion and theia have served us well for a significant amount of time they are also starting to struggle under the weight of our rapid growth (we recently hit 43,000 users, which is a number we hadn’t anticipated – that’s 15,000 more users than we had a year ago).

We are of course pleased that our numbers are growing and that more and more people and projects are finding a use for freenode; it’s a fantastic feeling to be able to give something back to the wider FOSS community.

Services wise, we’re currently testing new services on testnet and are close to letting you all loose over there for wider testing before we introduce the new services to the production network. Now, there will be a few changes, and while most of them won’t be noticeable, I felt it was a good idea to remind you of a couple of things.

If as many people as possible can follow the above advice I’d be grateful – it would make the migration a lot easier for us, as well as for our users.

Expirations and e-mails aside, we’ve had a lot of feedback from projects and users who would like to see some changes to the services package – among other things a web-based frontend to services has been mentioned over and over again, particulary for project management. Group contacts would like a way to manage their project namespace, set project related cloaks, and the like. We are looking into OpenID and how to help users and projects which want to more easily integrate, for example, bugzilla and similar with their IRC infrastructure. We’re also trialling a new procedure for verifying group contact forms that may help to reduce the backlog somewhat; over the next few weeks we’ll be trying it out with a portion of the current queue.

In addition to everything I’ve mentioned, we’ve heard some really great ideas and suggestions for further improvement originating from our users, so I thought I’d ask you all what you would put on your wishlist. What can freenode do to better serve the communities? How can we improve irc as a communication and development tool for your project? For your users? I’d love to hear any ideas you may have and would love it if you dropped me a line to ideasATfreenodeDOTnet

Before I wrap up, I’d like to apologise for the instability of the network over the past few days. We have been under a pretty heavy DDoS attack, though hopefully it has all settled down by now. I’d like to thank our fantastic sponsors for the swift manner in which they dealt with things their end, for their continued support and for pulling together to ensure that we have the data required to pass on to the relevant authorities.

It’s pretty rare for us to be on the recieving end of an attack like that, and I sincerely hope it will turn out to be an isolated incident.

Thank you!

Today saw the (hopefully temporary) resignation of one of our senior staffers; Andy Lindeman (alindeman). Andy has been an important part of freenode staff, both as an excellent part of the strong group of user facing staff and as a part of our infrastructure team. It’s sad to see him go, and we hope that he will find the time to rejoin our ranks at some point in the future, but as most of us can relate, being a college student you often find yourself with new and other priorities, be it studies or the social aspects of spending a few years away studying.

On behalf of freenode staff and the PDPC board I would like to thank Andy for the time and effort he has put in volunteering for us over the years and wish him all the best for the future. And when you finish your degree, do come back! :)