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07.18.20

Introduction to Techrights IRC

Posted in Site News at 9:16 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

IRC channels

Summary: A sort of belated primer regarding our IRC channels; these remain our main collaboration tool for real-time interactions (since 2008)

Techrights IRC channels go back more than 12 years (hence the channels with "boycottnovell" still in them; it’s a legacy feature or artifact). There are 4 channels and one of them is mostly used to retain local copies of Social Control Media posts; historically this was done for about a dozen regulars of ours, using Identi.ca (and later Twitter) APIs; when Twitter shut down these APIs 2 years ago we resorted to Pleroma/Fediverse (a bot called “viera” was developed for us, for this very purpose), so the number of people echoed was significantly reduced. Many are, sadly enough, not on Fediverse (and not because they’re too busy blogging).

“Nowadays the main channel has in it between 60 to 70 people (plus bots) constantly lurking. Some people do not lurk in IRC but instead read the logs to keep abreast (happenings behind the scenes).”In a sense, going back to these Identi.ca roots (Fediverse is only partly compatible with what was once known as StatusNet) is a gain for freedom and for Free software, even if the paradigm itself — namely Social Control Media — is deeply flawed.

Nowadays the main channel has in it between 60 to 70 people (plus bots) constantly lurking. Some people do not lurk in IRC but instead read the logs to keep abreast (happenings behind the scenes). Sometimes E-mail provides a sort of ‘feedback loop’ between log lurkers and IRC lurkers (they can communicate with one another days apart). We facilitate those kinds of discussions.

While we don’t need to talk about who’s who (some people prefer their pseudonyms and their privacy; they’re reasonably technical and privacy-conscious), there’s something to be said about the IRC logs.

Logging

It all started in 2008. Keith from Slated.org helped set up the main and first channel. The channels were logged on multiple machines and logs published on a daily basis since the early days (my workstation in Manchester University used to be the fallback machine, sitting there in the shared office with XChat in the background). Some time around 2011 — or maybe a year later — the logs were published less regularly because the workflow was labour-intensive and sometimes I was physically away. Mark, who is based in Canada, has a server sitting on the channels logging it for us in case the connection goes offline here in the UK. Logging is nowadays also being done in the US. So three different countries do the logging, which improves robustness (avoiding data loss/textual lapses) by redundancy. Netsplits and Freenode downtime incidents — however rare these may be — can be compensated for (by having logs from both sides of the ‘split’). We improved these mechanisms over the years. Not even prolonged power outages would lead to data loss.

“Netsplits and Freenode downtime incidents — however rare these may be — can be compensated for (by having logs from both sides of the ‘split’).”Last summer or in early autumn (we published some logs retroactively) we worked to address that lack of automation and resumed publishing logs every day at roughly the same time. The logs are typically generated, manually, some time after midnight and then uploaded. Supervised by a person, the process is less error-prone. Two people check the process.

Redaction

There are two levels of redaction. One pertains to pre-pasting of material onto channels and another is done, albeit very rarely, after something is said publicly (in IRC, but not in logs). This can be due to a privacy issue, a pasting malfunction, or a request (it’s rare but it happens). We don’t just publish everything irresponsibly. We carefully check that nothing illegal, for example, is being done or promoted. Considering the fact we’re censorship-free, the channels are still surprisingly civil and most of the time they’re professional enough. Profanities aren’t being censored; we detest censorship. Profanity is part of human nature and deletion won’t change that nature.

How to Join Us

The channels can be accessed using a Web browser or using an IRC client. The main channel is #techrights at irc.freenode.org (the less important channels are #boycottnovell, #techbytes and #boycottnovell-social; there’s also #tuxmachines, but that’s a different site).

“It probably shouldn’t be too shocking that many of the IRC discussion lead to topics and angles covered here on a daily basis (in wiki and blog form).”We’re always attentive and there’s always somebody ready to reply, provided one waits long enough because people are “away from keyboard” (afk) a lot of the time. Sometimes people drop by, say a few words, then disappear after about a minute, not giving even an opportunity to respond. 4 of my screens show me 4 IRC channels in tandem, but rather than or instead relying on alerts/notifications I depend on motion (screen changes) to detect activity because it is a lot less distracting.

It probably shouldn’t be too shocking that many of the IRC discussion lead to topics and angles covered here on a daily basis (in wiki and blog form). The community generally grew over time and we’re proud to say no censorship or “CoC” was needed; it would only harm the general atmosphere. We’re an unmoderated forum. We’re also transparent enough that the concept of “techrightsGate” or “techrightsLeaks” is ludicrous at best; it would not reveal anything that’s not already publicly accessible to all.

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