[Development] Changes to Freenode's IRC

Edward Welbourne edward.welbourne at qt.io
Thu May 20 16:14:04 CEST 2021

On 20/05/2021 13:47, Alejandro Exojo wrote:
>> Also, I don't understand how not having to register can be a
>> requirement at all, given that one needs to register, sometimes
>> multiple times, to use some of the other official channels. E.g. to
>> participate in the mailing list I of course need to subscribe to it,
>> and to get an email account at all I would either need to register
>> with some provider or use a work email address (or self-host or...).

There is a world of difference between having to subscribe with a
service provide determined by the forum (freenode, the list-server) and
having to have an e-mail account, which is decoupled from the choice of
forum.  Those who value privacy highly do have the option of getting
their e-mail service from a provider that assures privacy - in extremis
by running their own mail server - while those less concerned about it
can just use gmail.

Users of the mailing list have no choice about the mailing-list hosting
(unless they can persuade the rest of us to change it) but have
extensive choice over who hosts their e-mail.  In particular, some
e-mail service providers support features that let one user have many
e-mail addresses (e.g. the +suffix notation some use) which can make it
easier to sort in-coming mail (by which address was used).

Giuseppe D'Angelo (20 May 2021 14:18) replied
> Or self-host, indeed. But nothing apart from your email is needed, and
> that email is NEVER used for any commercial or marketing or research
> purpose. Which is the same requirement for the mailing lists. It might
> not be the case for some 3rd party services.

Indeed - especially when their business model is to sell (data about)
their users to anyone who'll pay them for it.

>> If at all, not requiring registration makes me more concerned about
>> spam, trolling, harassment, etc.

That is fair, though there are mechanisms for combating it.  There is a
need for some level of balance in how much information users must give
at registration; but I think the real registration concern folk have is
not the information the Qt project needs to ensure respectful discourse
in our fora, so much as the chat-service providers tending to want all
manner of information about users, for all manner of purposes, that
won't all align with community priorities.

> Which you can easily ignore (see user mode +g, +R). None of this has
> been a major problem on Freenode so far.

Setting modes in IRC is something experienced users may take for
granted, but those who are less familiar with IRC are unlikely to know
about.  Hence this defence fails to get over Andy's objection that
bright young minds born this century aren't familiar with IRC: they
probably don't know about the user modes of this antiquated system.

The design of IRC dates back to when a significant proportion of the
participants in a discussion might be connecting to the internet via
rather precarious (metaphorical) pieces of salty string; consequently,
it did one thing robustly and didn't try to do much more.  Archiving and
searching can be done by other software after all.

Decades have passed and now most participants in most online discussions
have high-bandwidth permanent connections, making a service that
integrates more functionality advantageous; and many such services are
now available, with no single one standing out as a compelling choice
over all the others.  That leaves the world of chat fragmented; and many
of the chat services have a vested (if perhaps misguided) interest in
not being interoperable with their competitors; they want their captive
audiences.  For the user, it is tiresome to need several chat clients,
so we tend to get segregated into silos - each of us would rather limit
how many chat clients we need to run (preferably to one), but the
communities we want to participate in may be spread across different
services, with incompatible clients.  Which has left many projects
facing the same difficulty we do today: how do we chose one ?

The virtue of a service running open-source software is that - as long
as the service provider can be trusted to be running the published
version - it's a lot easier to be confident about the service not using
data about users in ways we don't approve of.  Likewise, having the
server under the community's control improves our capacity for trust -
although an allied and friendly community's control, such as KDE, can
work just as well.  Our ability to trust the service is more important
than the question of whether it requires registration, I think.


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