mjr
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IRC channel operators pointedly aggressive and capricious

Sun Mar 17, 2013 12:21 am

I posted this first on Community/General Discussion since it was about the larger Raspberry Pi community. Apparently the IRC channel is off-topic there regardless. As this is also a matter of feedback and a request to the Foundation on a matter that concerns the Foundation's good name being used to endorse a questionably run channel, I am posting here then instead:

While Freenode's Raspberry Pi channel is somehow not "official", it advertises itself as having been "Blessed" by the Foundation. I'd like to point out to the Foundation that the channel operators' behaviour in their duties leaves much to be desired, giving the Foundation an opportunity to rethink this Blessing. As I like openness, I'll make this an open letter on the forums.

It's well understood that the channel has a "No Foul Language" policy (though not everyone notices it at once, hidden in plain sight in the middle of a rather sizable topic). It's less well understood how far it reaches, never mind the concept itself being inherently fuzzy and unclear. More disturbingly, the manner the operators choose to police the ban is rather unwholesome.

First, even if everyone noticed the topic, not everyone understands the severity with which the rule is interpreted. Debatable words? Pretty much kick. Censoring words with asterisks? Kick. Sending a URL for a _Pi-related_ article (which I dare not repeat here, lest the Foundation actually agrees with this and this forum has a similar policy) with a asterisked out swear word in the title (plus, to be fair, an uncensored one way down in the middle of the page in the text)? Kick. I've personally been scared out of providing any informative URLs on the channel, generally unable to ascertain that they won't contain objectionable content.

Second, one infraction is all that's needed to be kicked out. "<@IT_Sean> any adult content or swearing will result in a kick." There's generally no warning. Kicking is by nature a punitive action, not to be taken overly lightly. Especially new users who didn't notice the rule or didn't think the word they used was "foul" or relied on self-censorship are in for an unpleasant welcome here. (Incidentally I've taken to warning people about it being coming to them when I notice. The ops complain of my "whining" but have not yet taken direct action against me. This is probably coming now, but frankly, I don't value being allowed to remain on the channel very highly at this point.)

Third, a kick will come even if the swear was a _typo_ and even if the person _expresses contrition_ before being kicked. I was helping out a person (nick censored for his protection, and swear word removed for mine) and this is what happened:

<xxx> oh nice. I'll give that a [word]. ty. I was trying all kinds of things with dpkg and stuff.
<mjr> fyi: if an op catches you and is in a suitable mood, you may get kicked for saying that
<xxx> me?
<xxx> shot [this is what he meant to say - mjr's note]
<xxx> i assume you meant that. lol
<mjr> yeah
<xxx> my bad. it's been too much typing today so far
* mjr has considered running a script word replacing some things on this channel
[a fair minute passes]
-!- mode/#raspberrypi [+o IT_Sean] by ChanServ
-!- xxx was kicked from #raspberrypi by IT_Sean [language, please.]

Fourth, the ops behave very brashly with their power. They openly tout their absolute power over the users. This is of course the reality of any IRC channel, but it doesn't do good for the channel atmosphere if the enforcers are seemingly getting their jollies through it. "<@ReggieUK> it doesn't really matter how much you all complain about how we deal with it, we will deal with it how WE want :)"

And finally, the ops are also capricious and arbitrary, despite IT_Sean's statement earlier. Reggie's comment is more honest. Editing out the other discussions happening at the same time as this conversation:

<yyy> Jesus stop [asterisked out swear word]
<zzz> isnt that foul language?
<yyy> no, censored.
<qqq> zzz: yes
<@ReggieUK> censored isn't an excuse
<qqq> yyy: self-censorship is irrelevent
<yyy> but you love me reggie :3
[Apparently this is true, as even though it isn't an excuse, yyy remains on channel. I wonder out loud about the capricious nature of enforcement. Even under a strict regime, one likes to know where one stands, and that a fairness of sorts exists.]
<mjr> if it isn't an excuse, why is he still here? people have been kicked before for starstuff
<mjr> different rules for different people?
<zzz> mjr, "we will deal with it how WE want"
<mjr> that would be a yes on arbitrary enforcement then
<@ReggieUK> jeez, so you moan when we kick people and you moan when we don't, fickle, much?
<mjr> a user being fickle isn't a problem, ops being fickle is
<yyy> Are you two still going on
* yyy shoves zzz and mjr into the corner
<@ReggieUK> apparently I should kick you
-!- yyy was kicked from #raspberrypi by ReggieUK [they told me to]

Judging by the retorts accompanying the kick, Reggie thinks kicking people from the channel is an appropriate joke. He's an op, he's entitled, but should the Foundation "Bless" this behaviour?

There's more logs I could dig through, and I'm sure there's more of the same to come, but this shall suffice for now. Thank you for your attention.

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mahjongg
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Re: IRC channel operators pointedly aggressive and capriciou

Sun Mar 17, 2013 12:24 am

The foundation has nothing to do with the IRC channel, so it has no say over it.

mjr
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Re: IRC channel operators pointedly aggressive and capriciou

Sun Mar 17, 2013 12:27 am

mahjongg wrote:The foundation has nothing to do with the IRC channel, so it has no say over it.
The Foundation certainly has a say whether they "Bless" the channel or not, and I should think that how it's run should figure into that decision. Or do you mean to say that the "Unofficial RaspberryPi IRC channel but "Blessed" by the Foundation as the ONE channel" is actually a lie?

[Edit: To clarify, that's what they say in the persistent channel topic, so whether the Foundation has anything to do with it or not, they're dragging the Foundation into it; if it's without permission, that too would probably require rectification...]

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Re: IRC channel operators pointedly aggressive and capriciou

Sun Mar 17, 2013 12:36 am

If I were them I wouldn't make any decisions based on one irate IRC member.

mjr
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Re: IRC channel operators pointedly aggressive and capriciou

Sun Mar 17, 2013 12:43 am

mahjongg wrote:If I were them I wouldn't make any decisions based on one irate IRC member.
You again sidestep the issue. Nobody is suggesting that "one irate IRC member" (a rather confrontative description, might I say) should be reason enough for anything. Rather, they should make any decisions based on the actual behaviour of the operators. Anyone with channel logs can verify my claims and find many more similar incidents should they wish to.

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tonyhughes
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Re: IRC channel operators pointedly aggressive and capriciou

Sun Mar 17, 2013 1:21 am

It's an unofficial channel.

Follow Freenodes complaint procedure, though I would be very surprised if 'channel politics' matters aren't simply referred straight back to the channel founder/ops.

Hate to say it - if you don't like it, just leave. There are others around.

I have used the channel four or five times, and have recieved a mix of good help, and non-acknowledgement (from channel users). I count that as a good experience, and the people I have spoken to were nice.

I have seen some kicks first hand in there, nothing unusual for IRC, people were breaking the rules, and swearing in no-foul-language chatroom.

Suck it up cupcake, and play by the rules or move on. :P

Shameless plug:
The IRC server in my sig is operational on a dedicated Raspberry Pi 24/7, with Nickserv & Chanserv. It hardly gets used, and is more an experiment of 'can I build it'. It will be decomissioned at some point if it stays unused, but if anyone wants to join in, it will be a friendly place to chat, and no worries about getting kicked for stuff that is on-topic and not overly offensive. If it does get used, I'll keep it, and look to add additional nodes for some resiliency.

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Re: IRC channel operators pointedly aggressive and capriciou

Sun Mar 17, 2013 1:29 am

tonyhughes wrote:It's an unofficial channel.
Actively endorsing a channel (still presuming that the endorsement isn't an outright lie until the Foundation says otherwise - news which I'd gladly take and walk away) and then saying that "it's unofficial, we don't have anything to do with it" would be trying to have it both ways. The channel administration does reflect on the Foundation through the endorsement (it probably would anyway, since people forget the unofficial/unendorsed part easily, but the effect would be lessened.)
tonyhughes wrote:Follow Freenodes complaint procedure, though I would be very surprised if 'channel politics' matters aren't simply referred straight back to the channel founder/ops.
I am not interested in complaining to Freenode, as they're not the ones actively endorsing the channel, and their good reputation is not similarly at stake.

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tonyhughes
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Re: IRC channel operators pointedly aggressive and capriciou

Sun Mar 17, 2013 1:47 am

mjr wrote:Actively endorsing a channel //snip// and then saying that "it's unofficial, we don't have anything to do with it" would be trying to have it both ways.
No it wouldn't.

If they 'Bless' the channel as a place that they know exists, and thank them for help, but make clear they don't run it - that's okay. It doesn't place any form of requirement on them to intervene in petty political matters like "I swore but it wasn't really swearing so pull your endorsement or sort it out because it looks bad for you". If you think it does, well that's okay too, but I'd love to see a poll on the matter. :D
The channel administration does reflect on the Foundation through the endorsement
Nope, it doesn't. Pretty much the same argument rehashed. The channel is not run for the foundation.
(it probably would anyway, since people forget the unofficial/unendorsed part easily, but the effect would be lessened.)
Again - I disagree - the first word of the channel topic is "Unofficial". That's as good as it gets on IRC, you just can't ask for a better indication of an unofficial channel, than having a static topic that starts with 'Unofficial'. Anyone who chooses to not read a channel topic on IRC is simply sticking their head in the sand.
I am not interested in complaining to Freenode, as they're not the ones actively endorsing the channel, and their good reputation is not similarly at stake.
I think you are trying to project your problems with the channel founders/ops onto the Foundation just because of the offhand comment in the topic about it being '"Blessed" by the Foundation as the ONE channel.' (but conveniently saying that that means a lot, but the "Unofficial" part is meaningless).

I think this is poor form, just because you can't get your way in the channel, and don't agree with the channel ops.

Seriously, move on to another channel where you don't have a beef with the owners.

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Re: IRC channel operators pointedly aggressive and capriciou

Sun Mar 17, 2013 4:31 am

Thanks Tony, you raised some good points.

I don't understand why it's so hard not to swear in the first place. Isn't it basic manners not to swear in front of other people's children?

There generally IS warning. It is done in private, so if you don't see it, it doesn't mean it's not there. It's not often people get kicked for a first offence, though it does happen in some cases.

I pretty much always send a message reminding the person to check the topic and to avoid swearing in the channel. Usually I get a thanks for the heads up, we move on and everything is ok. If they continue to swear on purpose (I understand that people slip up occasionally), they get kicked. If they still continue to do so, they get banned.

There are always people who will try to stay between what's ok and what isn't. Whether it's abbreviating or misspelling profanity, replacing it with nonsense or asterisks, it's absurd to think that that's ok. The general context is that it's a family friendly channel, so why on earth would asterisks be ok?

That's why you sometimes get something like "we will deal with it how WE want". It's not to be arbitrary and to say that you can get banned at any stage for no reason at our whim. It's not aimed at people who are trying to be mindful of the rules. It's to make it clear that we don't go by your ideology, your interpretation of the rule or your definition of what foul language is. If you're not sure, feel free to ask or even argue, but we want to make it clear that it's not ok to redefine words so that you can get around the rules. It's to make it clear that if you know the rules, don't expect that you can continue swearing at or to people until you get a warning.

Now, I'll get back to my pointedly aggressive capriciousness and go try to help some people.

mjr
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Re: IRC channel operators pointedly aggressive and capriciou

Sun Mar 17, 2013 9:19 am

tonyhughes wrote:
mjr wrote: If they 'Bless' the channel as a place that they know exists, and thank them for help, but make clear they don't run it - that's okay. It doesn't place any form of requirement on them to intervene in petty political matters like "I swore but it wasn't really swearing so pull your endorsement or sort it out because it looks bad for you". If you think it does, well that's okay too, but I'd love to see a poll on the matter. :D
I'm not asking them to intervene in the operations of the channel. I am asking them to reconsider their endorsement of it.

And if you're intent on making it about me personally (poor form, especially as you rely only on conjecture and don't have any actual information on the matter), it seems by my logs I've never been kicked off the channel (and in case they're incomplete, by my memory that it's certainly not happened a lot, and certainly not recently). I know the rule and am very wary of breaking it (which I thought was rather clear when I said I don't even post URLs there anymore, since I'd be held liable for their content).

I just watch it happen. It's not pretty.
tonyhughes wrote:
The channel administration does reflect on the Foundation through the endorsement
Nope, it doesn't. Pretty much the same argument rehashed. The channel is not run for the foundation.
I am rehashing it specifically because you people are trying to ignore what I'm actually saying and twisting it into something I'm not. Pretty much _every_ message posted in response up to and including this one of yours has done it. Excuse me if I'm a bit frustrated into repeating myself.
tonyhughes wrote:I think you are trying to project your problems with the channel founders/ops onto the Foundation just because of the offhand comment in the topic about it being '"Blessed" by the Foundation as the ONE channel.' (but conveniently saying that that means a lot, but the "Unofficial" part is meaningless).
I never said that it's meaningless. Please just stop twisting my words, it's rather impolite even if you strongly disagree with someone. I'm merely saying that the endorsement is not meaningless either.

The "offhand comment" clearly has emphasis there, it's unofficial "but" it's nevertheless the "ONE" (emphasis theirs).
tonyhughes wrote:Seriously, move on to another channel where you don't have a beef with the owners.
Perhaps I will. But the problem would remain.

For reference, are there others with a decent user base? I'm not really direly in need of a (reasonable) Raspberry channel so I haven't bothered to shop around; this one was just conveniently there.


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Re: IRC channel operators pointedly aggressive and capriciou

Sun Mar 17, 2013 9:52 am

ShiftPlusOne wrote:Thanks Tony, you raised some good points.
A self-serving endorsement if there ever was one. That someone agrees with you does have a tendency of making their points seem "good" regardless of actual merit. I'm curious, which of the points were good amongst the misrepresentations of my position that I pointed out in my previous message or the false suggestion that I'm just angry because I've been kicked? I guess that leaves the "endorsement emphasized in capital letters doesn't mean anything" assertion. Well, we're just going to have to disagree there.
ShiftPlusOne wrote:I don't understand why it's so hard not to swear in the first place. Isn't it basic manners not to swear in front of other people's children?
Ah, a sidestep into "Would somebody think of the children?" You'll notice that the presence or the rationale of the rule is not presently at question, merely the pettiness of its enforcers.

To give a short answer regardless of this strand of conversation being completely off-topic, the extent of the normal use of swearing is _extremely_ (sub)culturally variable. You see your norms as self-evident precisely because they're _your_ norms. You are of course entitled, as an operator, to push your norms onto other users of the channel, but it would be wise to remember that they do not all share your background.
ShiftPlusOne wrote:There generally IS warning. It is done in private, so if you don't see it, it doesn't mean it's not there. It's not often people get kicked for a first offence, though it does happen in some cases.
It's quite convenient to claim that there "generally" is warning when it supposedly happens invisibly, so nobody can check the statistics. Also, your assessment may suffer from bias according to how _you_ do things, and not reflect as well how the other operators act.

But this makes for a constructive suggestion: Just make the warnings public. More transparency will decrease the appearance of capriciousness (real or imaginary), and will remind people of the rule.

In contrast, consider the impression that merely privately reminding people not to swear easily leaves other people on the channel with? The immediate impression will be that swearing is okay, since "he swore and nothing happened". Even if they know the rule, people are very sensitive to context. Rules, or even the fact that you're on this specific channel with these specific rules, are easily forgotten when going with the apparent flow of the conversation.
ShiftPlusOne wrote:I pretty much always send a message reminding the person to check the topic and to avoid swearing in the channel. Usually I get a thanks for the heads up, we move on and everything is ok. If they continue to swear on purpose (I understand that people slip up occasionally), they get kicked. If they still continue to do so, they get banned.
Then it is of course no coincidence that a quick search for the most egrerious instances of operator conduct, as quoted above, didn't include anything by you. It is good to know there's someone there with a sense of proportion. But this does not remove the problem. Maybe you could teach your colleagues a thing or two.

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Re: IRC channel operators pointedly aggressive and capriciou

Sun Mar 17, 2013 9:56 am

@mjr
Start up your own Raspberry Pi IRC channel with an any language is OK policy. If it becomes active you could ask the Foundation to transfer their blessing to the new channel.

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Re: IRC channel operators pointedly aggressive and capriciou

Sun Mar 17, 2013 10:02 am

<grabs popcorn>

I could look at incorporating an installer for an IRC server and services server into the next version of Baked Raspberry Pi Mod, although it might have to be after the new-feature-freeze I have just imposed (See: http://www.raspberrypi.org/phpBB3/viewt ... 25#p311525 ).

Actually - Hybrid itself is trivial, and available via apt-get in Raspbian, its services (Chanserv/Nickserv - c/o Hybserv) that was the harder bit.

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Re: IRC channel operators pointedly aggressive and capriciou

Sun Mar 17, 2013 10:29 am

I've said my thing, you've said your thing. It's getting a bit personal and since the topic it targeted at the RPF folks anyway, I'll leave it here.

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Re: IRC channel operators pointedly aggressive and capriciou

Sun Mar 17, 2013 4:26 pm

[This is not going to answer anything in the previous posts other than to explain what the channel topic means for those who are unable to understand it & to explain how things work.]

As current #raspberrypi channel owner i'll just put in my two cents and explain exactly what the channel topic means.

Unofficial Raspberry Pi IRC Channel

no ties to the Raspberry Pi Foundation other than we like those guys.

but "Blessed" by the Foundation as the ONE channel.

I created the channel as soon as a need was perceived so that someone with nefarious plans could not do so, the Foundation said "thanks". There is a need that there is one easily findable channel on IRC that is the first place to stop for general chat about the Raspberry Pi & to get initial help and the foundation via Liz has agreed that for the time being we can be it. There is a long standing agreement between the ops & myself & the foundation that if the need arises channel ownership will immediately be transfered to the foundation & the foundation already has several full ops accounts if they choose to use them.

** No Foul Language **

NO foul language. and as is standard practice in IRC channels the ops are the final say on what is considered foul language.

** No unauthorised Bots **

no unauthorised bots, want a bot in the channel ask an op who will probably say no unless its a really good bot with useful function.

You will only be able to join #raspberrypi if you are identified w/ Nickserv.

You need a registered IRC nick so we can kick/ban you with as little colateral damage to others if it is necessary to kick or ban you.

----------
I think that explains what the rules are and what the topic means. Obviously as we only have approx 1 op per 100 users sometimes things slip through the cracks but we try to rectify that as soon as its noticed and we warn or explain things to users in private (as is polite) unless they are repeat offenders.

Although it is not written in the topic we also consider spamming of links (the same link posted twice or more in a short period of time unless it is obviously to help someone) no matter what their subject or FUD or trolling as is standard in all IRC channels to be against the rules. and again as per standard in IRC channels ops decision is final.

We try to make the channel a pleasant and useful experience for the majority of users and on the whole we seem to succeed , obviously you can't please everyone all the time especially those who try to bend or break the rules but that's life.

We ops also have rules for our own conduct. No op may reverse a ban by another op, we review the ban & warning list every few days and revoke any bannings that we unanimously agree on. An op can have his op status revoked if the majority of the other ops agree to it. We can only add a new op if the existing ops unanimously agree. I as channel owner can overrule any decision by the ops (never done it though). ops must keep all personal logs for 3 months so that they can be reviewed if necessary. Ops must act as they expect the users to act if not better.

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Re: IRC channel operators pointedly aggressive and capriciou

Sun Mar 17, 2013 4:46 pm

I was sitting in PM with the guy I subsequently kicked (due to your complaint!!) so how do you want it? Should we say something on channel(I did), should I have said something in PM? (I did) or should I have kicked? (I did), so Which way would you like me to jump and how high? I was in PM with the person in question at the time, it's not really my problem if you didn't understand exactly how trivial a kick is and what the kick message meant to him :-)

If we were banning people constantly then I could understand your issue but we're not, it's a simple kick, it takes 5 seconds to rejoin, which is consequently how much time it takes to read our topic and the one rule contained within them that applies here.

It's funny, neither of the people that were kicked are here complaining, it's just you that's got the issue with it in this instance, despite you knowing how we deal with these issues, you felt it necessary to complain in the channel and didn't like the response, strangely, after I acted how you wanted (consistently) you've now come here to complain too.

Perhaps if you'd have taken your complaint to PM you might've been taken a bit more seriously, instead of just as a rabble rouser?

You complain about other respondents to your post making it personal, yet you've decided to name 2 ops in all of this, you like to use big words like unwholesome, yet you are guilty of profanity on the channel yourself, I have warned you in the past, in PM I might add, you failed to respond at all, so whilst you claim that we are heavy handed, I have clear evidence to the contrary.

As for kick/banning over NSFW posts, there is a level where we think things are just totally unacceptable, if someone is at work, they might not get a 2nd chance if someone should see this inappropriate material, we have to be very mindful of this, subsequently it requires us to make an instant judgement call which will 99% result in a ban.

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Re: IRC channel operators pointedly aggressive and capriciou

Sun Mar 17, 2013 5:06 pm

Much as I enjoy this sort of thing (actually, I fail to understand why most of this stuff happens - bad language is bad language, use it here and you will be warned/banned. It's quite a simple rule), I think the situation has been adequately explained. The IRC channel is not run by the Foundation, and I even hesitate to use the word 'blessed' by them. I've not seen any specific blessing or endorsement.

So I'm closing the thread. Problems with IRC need to be dealt with on IRC. Not here.
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