About Sean Whitton

I'm a freenode staffer who also works on the Wikimedia project(s). You can find out more at seanwhitton.com

Thanks for volunteering!

Thank you to all those who have responded to our recent call for volunteers. We have been somewhat overwhelmed with the amount of applicants and are pleased to see so many interested in help keep freenode running. Due to the Head of Staff going on holiday, and due to the amount of e-mails received, we are running a little behind on replying to each and every applicant. Hopefully, everyone should have a response by the end of the weekend.

Thank you for your patience and we hope you will keep enriching freenode.

Keeping tabs on channel bans

The channel ban, initiated with a mode change of +b, is perhaps one of the most recognised and well known features of IRC, dating back to the origins of the protocol. freenode has implemented a number of features that extend the basic nick!user@host mask format because we believe that the ‘kickban’ is outdated and there are better ways of dealing with disruptions to channel activity. On freenode you will find the quiet, where by replacing +b with +q you can stop a user from speaking in a channel but they can still read the contents of it. It has been found that this creates a more positive atmosphere in the channel that means better discussion can take place. There is also the realname ban, used via +d.

There is however a downside to the ease of banning users on freenode from channels and that is that it is easy to lose track of bans set in large channels. There is no feature to auto-expire bans in IRC and in a busy channel it doesn’t take long for a large list to build up. With multiple operators in a channel things can very quickly become confused and no-one seems to know why ban x was set and whether or not the user should now be unbanned. This leads to unhappy users and a channel that misses out on potential positive discussion. In addition, channels have a limit of fifty bans set at any one time and bans end up being shed arbitarily in order to set a new set for a new threat. This can lead to obvious problems.

This issue is made worse by the fact that +e, +I and +d lists also share the fifty slot limit. This means that if a channel has a large list of ban exceptions or invite exceptions, the number of bans that can be set in a channel is severely limited. In order to avoid having these problems in your channel, we encourage you to take care that bans are being set only when necessary (as bans are generally a Bad Thing) and also to take responsibility for your bans. By this I mean that when a ban no longer makes sense it should be removed.

It is recognised that in some channels these limits may be problematic regardless of how tidy the channel is kept and our server does have the ability to increase the limit. This can be granted by freenode staff but is done so on a case by case basis, and not frequently — doing so indiscriminately would not only encourage channel operators to overfill their banlists, but could eventually cause resource and performance issues on the servers — freenode currently has around 16000 channels active, so increasing the memory consumed by each banlist would have a dramatic effect. Channels that have a lot of stale bans are unlikely to be granted this flag. Keep tabs on your bans for a happier channel with happier users, and clear out your channel lists to speed things up for everyone!

I would also like to take this opportunity to mention that if you are organising a conference or other event that will have many users connected to freenode at once or if you are a company or other establishment with many freenode users you can now request a larger connection limit by e-mailing your request, details and reasoning to ilines AT // NOSPAM \\ freenode DOT net. Conferences and large networks of users provide a substantial part of freenode’s active community and we always seek to accomodate those who are involved in this.

freenode has reached 40 000 users

Today at around 18:45 UTC freenode hit a total number of connections of fourty thousand, which is a new network record. Over the past few months our usercount has been steadily growing and we are really pleased that more people are finding freenode a useful resource. If you want to see how many users are connected at any one time, type the IRC command /lusers

[18:45:52] [freenode] -!- WALLOP Md: FYI, freenode has just broken the record of 40000 connected users. let’s join the party in #defocus

#freenode & #defocus: an evaluation

Donna recently posted on the move that changed #freenode-social and #tapthru to #defocus and #freenode respectively. This has involved getting the former #tapthru staff on board as our new freenode helpers, and as staff we have found them a great bunch of people to work with – thank you to you all. Yesterday we held an evaluation meeting about how the last two months had gone, with the ups and downs, and to try and set plans for the future. It was a constructive event; what follows us a brief summary of the meeting. Continue reading

Getting voice in #freenode-social

If you’ve been on the network for a little while you’ll probably have noticed that #freenode presently forwards you to #freenode-social, a moderated channel. This is officially our “staff social channel”, but it oftens confuses people how it can seem to take a long time to get a voice, when most of the channel are happily chattering away. I thought I’d have a go at clearing up this mysterious situation a little, in the hope that the channel will cause less angst in the future. At the moment, we get a lot of requests for voice, and I hope that by explaining the situation here it will be easier for people to understand what policies we are implementing.

The channel has been moderated for a long time, and this is because of the many problems with spambots that the network had been experiencing all that time ago. Unfortunately, we are the target of many an attack and moderation stops this – when a staffer comes and gives out voices, they are able to keep an eye on people trying to spoil the fun of others. Although you may notice that some users have auto-voice by ChanServ, a run of voices is usually given out every few hours or so, when a staffer notices that the channel has a lot of unvoiced people. This system isn’t the most efficient, but it allows us to keep a close eye on what is going on to keep things stable. Generally speaking, voice is not given on request because we feel that we would find ourselves very quickly inundated with requests, but we try and voice regularly none the less.

I hope that this explanation clears up some concerns surrounding the channel. In addition to all this, we’re currently looking for ways to clarify the purpose of the channel, so stay tuned for more.

Group registration with freenode

Hi all. I’d like to talk about a unique feature that freenode has that many are not aware of for my first post to this blog. Sitting quietly in a small corner of our website, the concept of group registration is one of the things that makes freenode unique amongst IRC networks and it is something that I think highlights our commitment to open projects. The process is simple: after submitting a group contact form, a representative of freenode will contact you, usually by telephone, to verify your identity and to help get things set up.

The concept of registering your project and the availability of this service has been around for some time. Rob Levin, the late founder of PDPC and freenode, placed particularly emphasis on the importance of real world-backed relationships between projects and the network, and there are many benefits to the projects for going through the process: they have rights over the channels they register, and to this end can request transfer of ownership of any channels that they lay claim to as part of their group – assuming, of course, they are able to prove that they are involved in the group to a sufficient level of authority to authorise this. Additionally, project cloaks can be requested. These replace the default unaffiliated cloaks given out; for example, I wear a Wikimedia cloak to show my involvement. Group registration is also possible for about, reference or topical groups, such as those found at ##cooking, ##philosophy and ##security on freenode, to name but a few. They too can request cloaks and gain an official relationship with the network and its staff.

Now, for a bit of honesty: we’re rather backlogged in processing requests for group registration. This is no secret; those of you who have already submitted forms will have probably noticed that you have not been contacted. Recently however, several staff have got involved in the verification process and we are starting to process forms more quickly. We operate on a squeaky wheel system: poke a staff member listed on /stats p to process your form if you have not heard back from us after a week or so, and they will try and find someone. We’re also making improvements to the systems and infrastructure we’re using to record the forms and verifications to make things smoother for everyone.

So, if you like freenode and are using it for your open project, why not register your group today?