New GRF-freenode process

As you might know, GRFs (Group Registration Forms) exist to form a relationship between a project and the PDPC (Peer Directed Projects Center). This relationship is relatively formal – personal details (address/tel no./etc) need to be shared by the project. For this reason, a severe backlog of GRFs has built up, since only a few staff have access to them (to protect this personal data). PDPC is the UK-based not-for-profit company which runs freenode. For most groups in our request backlog, their reason for registering is not to work with PDPC, but to gain a channel or cloak namespace on freenode. We’ve decided that running a separate, freenode-centric groups request system may help to move the system along. By requesting fewer details, we can open up this system to more staff, and hopefully keep on top of the queue of requests.

From now on, using a new, shorter form, projects can choose to file a GRF-f (for GRF-freenode) and submit a GRF for processing by freenode, rather than by PDPC. This sends details (no personal details, other than email address, will be required) to a system to which many more staff will have access. This new form will allow you to gain control of a channel and the right to issue cloaks much more quickly than previously, as we will double/treble the number of staff able to deal with requests. For now, please only apply if you are a ‘priority’ group – ie, you do not own the main channel of your namespace.

If you already have a group registered and approved with an old-style GRF, you do not need to do anything. Your registration remains valid. If you need to make changes to the registration, please contact staff on freenode who will, if appropriate, direct you to use the old (GRF) system. The GRF-f system cannot be used to update groups which filed under the GRF system.

If you have a request pending in the old GRF queue, you are welcome to re-file under the GRF-f system. This is likely to mean that your request will be dealt with much more quickly than otherwise. This approach supersedes the grfprocess@ system introduced a while back – unfortunately, we just weren’t able to keep up with requests to that address.

You might be wondering where all of this fits into the GMS (Groups Management System) masterplan. When GMS is ready, we may need to ask all projects registered under the GRF-f system, and likely some projects which are already registered, to re-file. The GMS system will allow us to dispense with GRF-fs, and just build project<=>PDPC relationships, since forms will be able to be processed much more quickly. To be clear – it is quite possible that any registration made now may be revoked if a registration is not re-filed after GMS is released. If this does become reality, as much warning as possible will be given.

We hope that this will change will counter some of the ill-feeling around the GRFs system. In effect, the mentality is shifting from one of “GMS will clear the GRFs backlog” to “GMS will help us to serve groups better”. We’re no longer waiting for GMS to clear the queue. We’re still looking for help with GMS: if you have Perl/Catalyst or web design experience and think you can help, join #freenode-gms.

Update 2012-06-09 – All group registration has been suspended whilst we evaluate the system and its implementation. A replacement should be available in due course, but for now it is not possible to register groups, and the link to the grf-f form has been removed.

Group Registration Form verifications

For a long time, freenode has utilised a Group Registration system to give groups (such as companies and open source projects) the ability to manage channels in the primary namespace (ie, channels beginning with a single “#”) and to give contributors to their projects cloaks. Perhaps more importantly, the system allows groups to retain control of their identity on freenode. It is because of this aspect of Group Registration that filing a Group Registration Form (GRF) has been necessary for projects to acquire primary channels which have been already registered. For the same reason, we ask those who register new primary channels to file a form.

A great number of fantastic projects use freenode. Only a small subset of staff are able to handle GRFs, and in combination with the large volume of forms filed we have developed a significant backlog. We realise that because of this backlog, certain groups are unable to claim channels on freenode which should rightfully be theirs. While we appreciate that many projects have been waiting months or years for a form to be processed, we must consider GRFs filed in order to obtain channel ownership for a legitimate project to be a priority – if you’re in the former position and not the latter, I hope you can see why.

At this stage, we are hoping to move through these priority requests in the coming weeks (and, depending on volume, months), before moving on to other requests. If you are a prospective group contact who has filed a GRF form before and you fall into the priority group (to be clear: you are in the priority group only if you need the GRF to be processed in order for you to gain access to the #group or #project channel on freenode), please email us at grfprocess at freenode dot net. The email should contain your IRC nick and your group’s name – no other personal information should be sent. We will soon be in touch regarding “next steps”.

If you want to help us to provide a top class service to groups, please consider getting involved with development of our new Group Management System (GMS).

Finally, a quick word of gratitude to those who have been waiting for GRFs to be filed for a long period of time. Thank you for your patience – we will move on to processing your requests as soon as we are able, and will let you know when via this blog and network wallops. Thanks for choosing freenode :)

Groups Advisory Board

For many years now, freenode has offered projects and userbases on the network the option of registering themselves as “Groups”.  Each of these groups has one or more designated people as their “Group Contacts”, who are the point of contact for freenode-staff<=>group liasion, and are thus able to contact staff to request that cloaks be set, or to request assistance in administering channels.

We now have several hundred registered groups on freenode, and many more groups for which registration requests have been submitted.  There is a rather large backlog of these requests, but this will reduce dramatically once GMS has been completed, tested, and deployed (on which note, if you think you can give some time to help code it, get in touch!). An aim of the groups policy is to foster good relationships between groups and staff.

This is where the Groups Advisory Board (GAB) comes in – immediately, for approved GCs!  This is a way in which we would like to give groups a role in influencing the direction that freenode, and the PDPC, will follow in the future with regards to group and project related policy.  The GAB is completely optional and brings with it no committment. It is open to all group contacts who would like to be members. The GAB is effectively a consultation forum where staff can get feedback from groups. As well as improptu discussions on IRC, discussions will take place on a mailing list and occasional, optional IRC meetings will be arranged. If you’re interested in giving your group a greater voice in the management of freenode, speak to staff in #freenode, or drop an email to support NOSPAM at freenode.net, and we’ll sign you up to the freenode-groups mailing list and invite you to #freenode-gab.

Thanks!