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Songs on the Security of Networks
a blog by Michał "rysiek" Woźniak

This is why we can't have nice IRC

This is an ancient post, published more than 4 years ago.
As such, it might not anymore reflect the views of the author or the state of the world. It is provided as historical record.

…or how the FOSS Foundation and the Warsaw Hackerspace got (temporarily) banned from #debian at Freenode.

Asking about Ubuntu on Debian’s IRC channels is not considered nice – and being a lurker there for years I can understand why. These are two different systems, and trying to get Debian people to work on your Ubuntu problem is more often than not wasting their resources and your time. There are better places to get support for Ubuntu.

Having said that, when somebody makes such a misstep, the right way to proceed is inform. Especially when the question is not about Ubuntu itself, but about a tool used by both distros.

I can understand that many people ask such questions in #debian, and that some need a bit more of an incentive to move to the right channel. We wouldn’t want to ban a whole hackerspace because of one user like that, now would we?

“You should know better”

Well, apparently some would. And not only this – every single other person that asked why the whole Warsaw Hackerspace’s network was banned from the channel, also got immediately banned, with a dry explanation in the kick message:

you should know better

Because I asked about the situation, while connecting from the Free and Open Source Software Foundation’s infrastructure, the whole FOSSF got affected:

[00:08:35](02.02.14) <rysiek|pl> abrotman: hey, that's a damn good idea to just ban a whole hackerspace because somebody asked about apt-get in #debian [00:08:55](02.02.14) *** Mode #debian +o abrotman by ChanServ [00:08:56](02.02.14) *** Mode #debian +b *!* by abrotman [00:08:57](02.02.14) <-* abrotman has kicked rysiek|pl from #debian (you should know better)

Now that’s a way to make new friends, abrotman!

“The ban will expire”

Friends or no friends, the whole FOSSF network got banned from #debian. We’re doing a lot on that distro, all our servers are running it, providing stable and safe services for projects we run. Bottom line – if we’re banned from #debian, spreading Free Software in Poland gets this much harder.

So I started to look around for ways to get in contact with people that might be able to help. Posted on Diaspora, asked in #freenode, got sent to #debian-ops. There I (and several other people from the Warsaw Hackerspace) have tried to reason with the op in question:

[00:33:20](02.02.14) <abrotman> and having you both come in and whine doesn't help [00:33:23](02.02.14) <q3k> you jus tbanned a community od ~60 people [00:33:33](02.02.14) <q3k> which is not really excellent. [00:34:15](02.02.14) <rysiek|pl> abrotman: "come and whine"? I'm sorry, but you just banned a host with many users owned by the organisation I represent [00:34:34](02.02.14) <rysiek|pl> abrotman: because I asked about your attitude towards a user in #debian [00:34:35](02.02.14) <abrotman> The ban will expire, folks can ask for a +e

“The ban will expire” was the only real answer we got.

“You had to escalate why?”

Turned out there are many things that “won’t help”:

[01:13:46](02.02.14) <abrotman> Posting on diaspora probably won't help .. [01:15:17](02.02.14) <rysiek|pl> abrotman: and this is my fault... how? [01:15:31](02.02.14) <abrotman> You had to escalate why?

I guess the question about escalating is the real question here. Did it have to escalate to banning the whole because somebody asked a question containing the word “Ubuntu”? Did it have to escalate to banning the whole because I asked about why the Warsaw Hackerspace got banned from #debian?

Being excellent to each other

I understand being an op is a tough cookie, I really do, especially in very popular channels like #debian. And I understand that people get tired, annoyed, frustrated doing that. I appreciate their work, just as I would like people to appreciate the work I do.

But that is no justification for indiscriminately banning whole networks. As Quinn Norton has said at 30C3, “it is time for us to up our game”. I believe we can do better.

The bans have been lifted now, thanks to some other good soul in the #debian channel, and I hope once all parties involved get some well-deserved sleep, we’ll be able to draw conclusions, and then go past this.