Log in

No account? Create an account

Sat, Jan. 30th, 2010, 12:04 am
Freenode sucks

I logged into freenode, which I haven't logged into in a while, to help stop some trolling on #bittorrent. I couldn't identify as my nick any more, so I went to ask for help...

<mquin> when did you register it?
 <bramm> uh, circa 2000
 <mquin> the current registration is a little over 6 months old - if you did register it in 2000 it must have expired since
 <bramm> so someone just stole my nick?
 <bramm> since when does this thing expire registrations?
 <bramm> I'm pretty sure I've logged in within the last year
 <bramm> given that I've always had this nick, and that there are only two people named Bram which are recognizable names in open source, and that my name is one of the most well known in open source, I'd like my nick back :-P
 <mquin> nicks are considered expired after 60 days of inactivity, after which they can be dropped either on request or when we ocassionally clean up the services database
 <bramm> also, there's a problem that I'm an op on a channel, and need to give access in it to other people
 <bramm> that policy is completely retarded
 <bramm> the #bittorrent channel is having a problem with trolls, and we need to get rid of them, and thanks to that lamebrained policy there's currently noone with sufficient ops privileges in the channel to do anything about it
 <mquin> I'm sorry you feel that way, it's not really reasonable for us to keep nickname registrations perpetually when they are not being used
 <bramm> get real. I've logged in within the last year, getting rid of them after six months is nuts
 <bramm> if nobody does anything about this I'm going to go public about it, freenode does NOT want the publicity of me being pissed off
 <bramm> er, after 60 days I meant, I've never heard of nick expiration on such a short time scale, from any site
 <bramm> I can easily prove who I am. I'm the well-known author of an important project and need my nick back to stop trolling in the project channel, is there anything which can be done about this or do I have to make a stink?
 <mquin> handing the nick back to you, even if I were able to do that, would not restore any channel access you had when you held the registration
 <mquin> channel access flags are dropped along with the account
 <bramm> well how can we get someone to have ops on the channel?
 <mquin> if you are an offical representative of the bittorrent project you can assert that by filing a group registration, which would allow you to reclaim #bittorrent
 <bramm> and how can I do that?
 <mquin> http://freenode.net/group_registration.shtml
 <mquin> you may also wish to talk to the current channel registrant - he can add additional users to the access list at this point
 <mquin> oh, my mistake, it's been held
 <bramm> what do you mean held?
 <bramm> maybe you missed that part about me being the channel registrant
 <bramm> and my nick being stolen
 <mquin> yes, I misread something I was looking at - my mistake
 <mquin> to avoid primary namespace (single-#) channels being lost in sitations such as this we transfer them to staff control in the event of the founder's nick being dropped
 <mquin> it makes it fairly straightforward to reassign them when there is a group registration rather than having them appear to be available for re-registration by anyone
 <bramm> I have never, in my entire life, heard of a registration expiration process which was this aggresive, or this cavalier about damaging existing relationships
 <mquin> the 60 days figure is just a minimum - we normally allow more grace (typically 1 week per year) for long standing registraions when processing drops by hand
 <bramm> you say that as if adding a few weeks to the end would make the time frame reasonable
 <mquin> we don't feel it is reasonable to hold nickname registrations perpetually if they are not being used
 <bramm> I'm not asking for perpetually
 <bramm> just something vaguely reasonable
 <bramm> and I hope you realize that you just completely pissed off one of the most well known and respected people in the whole open source community
 <mquin> I'm sorry you are upset
 <bramm> I'm just going to pretend you're a robot and not blow my stack at you
 <bramm> but it's requiring effort
 <mquin> What do you expect me to do? I can't very well return a nick to you that has been in use by someone else for well over 6 months.
 <bramm> well maybe the policies could have kept that person from taking over the nick, seeing as how I was using it for NINE YEARS prior to that
 <mquin> Had we known at the time that you were planning to be away from the network for an extended period of time we could have arranged for it to be held for you
 <mquin> I know it's unfortunate to lose a long-standing registration, but we do have to have some limit on what we consider a reasonable activity level
 <bramm> I was never informed of there being any such policy. I was never informed via email than my nick was about to expire. Any minimal checking of expirations being done by hand, which you say it is, would have indicated that my nick should absolutely not have been expired
 <mquin> unfortuantely it's difficult to verify which steps were or were not taken this long after the event

[Update] Well now that I've managed to get called an asshole (hi, HackerNews commenters who registered five minutes ago!) Here are my calmer thoughts

The reason I posted the log verbatim, me being pissed off and all, is that I wanted to make very clear that I was accurately representing official freenode policy, and that requesting help through support leads nowhere. My gripe is with freenode policy, which is asinine, not with the particular person I spoke to, who was merely being useless and patronizing.

The reason I got pissed wasn't because of the nick loss, which I find mildly annoying, but because channel ops got blown away, causing me to have to deal with this bullshit instead of just giving ops to someone else.

Yes I can be blunt. If you value the superficial affectation of politeness over the essential point of what someone is saying, you can shove it. I don't appreciate people saying that I'm this way because of asperger's, it just causes other people to whine that they're being oppressed because they can't criticize me. The whole line of argument is stupid. People are free to criticize me for not being polite, and I'm free to respond that they're being petty and superficial.

The whole 'it's free so you can't complain' argument is bullshit. There are plenty of free things which are of negative value to society because they suck up or distract resources which could be working on a much better alternative. I've provided lots of support for free stuff myself, both via employees and directly, and never have I claimed that a problem won't be fixed because the person airing a legitimate gripe hasn't gone through arbitrary bureaucratic processes, or that the person complaining should implement it themselves because they're a programmer, or refused to acknowledge that some pain a user experienced through no fault of their own really was unfortunate. And I always prioritize up users who matter and problems which need immediate fixing. That's the way you run things if you actually care about providing a valuable service.

As far as whether my ops problem might get resolved, whether I'd utterly cursed out the guy from support or had the humility of a saint, it probably wouldn't get handled regardless.

[Update 2] Some commenters don't seem to understand that Freenode policy, in fact Freenode's whole foundation for legitimacy, is that project leaders are entitled to control their channels. I am in fact a project leader with a long established channel, and in the time that site op spent pedantically repeating rules and procedures he could have verified who I was and fixed the situation, which, say what you will about lilo, is something he actually would do. I was not making any claim to importance which I don't unambiguously have, and my message to other programmers considering using public servers is that OFTC is down the hall and to the left.

Sat, Jan. 30th, 2010 11:20 am (UTC)

Does storing a username, a password and some privelege flags consume so much memory they need to purge their database every 6 months?

WTF is wrong with people.

Sat, Jan. 30th, 2010 11:36 am (UTC)

People also bitch just this enthusiastically when there's a nick they want because it's 'their' nick, but it's already registered and hasn't been used for several months/years. We try to strike a balance.

Sat, Jan. 30th, 2010 11:54 am (UTC)

Hello Denny!

While it's clear that Bram is handling this situation with all the diplomacy and charm he can muster, I hope that won't put you guys off reviewing the policy to see if it can be improved. For example, it might be worth setting a longer expiration for older nicks or channel ops.

My nick is pretty frequently used at the moment, but if for some reason I was ill for a couple of months I'd be pretty miffed to find it taken over.

Sat, Jan. 30th, 2010 12:05 pm (UTC)

As mquin mentioned, we do apply a rule of thumb whereby the longer something has been registered for, the more we're inclined to stall a drop request. If Bram's nick had been registered for nine years, he probably had to have been away for more than 4 months before it would have been dropped.

It's also possible to set your nick to vacation mode, in an explicit "I'm going away for a while, please don't drop me", although obviously that doesn't help with unforeseen absences such as illness.

As mquin also mentioned, we reassign channels to a 'freenode-staff' user if their founder's nick expires, to facilitate handing them back if the founder reappears. Non-founder ops disappearing is considered relatively unimportant, as the rest of the channel management team should be able to replace them or reinstate them as needed.

Finally, as hinted at above, people with unusual nicks have a much better chance of coming back and finding them still there - we very rarely automatically expire nicks, it's usually only done on request. I lost 'denny' once when I was away for a few months... to a guy called Dennis. I didn't complain. Your nick is probably safe from accidental collisions of that nature :)
(Deleted comment)

Sat, Jan. 30th, 2010 12:41 pm (UTC)

We do have a 1 week drop limit for nicks that were only used for a few minutes after being registered. I favour the idea of an algorithmic limit personally (x weeks of idleness allowed for every y months of use, or whatever), but I think we'd need to code it into services rather than expecting staff to remember it and work it out halfway through a request :)

Edited at 2010-01-30 12:44 pm (UTC)

Sat, Jan. 30th, 2010 03:11 pm (UTC)

You might notice in the dialog that at the time I bitched for 'my' nick back I didn't actually believe that they have an automatic expiry policy, because they absolutely did not in the past, in which case getting a nick and associated permissions taken away would require it get hacked, which gets people kind of, you know, pissed off.

Sat, Jan. 30th, 2010 11:57 am (UTC)

Solution: Don't delete nicknames until they're requested by someone else. When that request is made, email the original nickname owner. Wait a week or two. If the original owner doesn't come back, rename them to some arbitrary string, preserving any channel ownership in the process, and allow the requester to take over the nickname.

Sat, Jan. 30th, 2010 12:13 pm (UTC)

In the 5+ years I've been staff on freenode, we've only automatically purged the NickServ database once to my knowledge, and that only took out nicks that hadn't been used in over 120 days (four months). Generally it's done on request, and with a nick that is a relatively common forename, I'll guarantee that's what happened.

I've explained above how we handle the issue of channel ownerships, I think it's neater than your proposed solution.

Emailing (previous) nick owners to ask them if they want to re-establish their claim is a nice idea, but it would eat a lot of time. We don't get paid to staff on freenode, and we support well in excess of 50,000 users at any given time with less than 50 network staff. Making an active user wait a few weeks for word from someone who hasn't cared enough to connect to the network in months is also a bit unfair to the active person, imho. We do try to strike a fair balance with our policies, but you can't please all the people all the time.

Sat, Jan. 30th, 2010 12:25 pm (UTC)

I don't think it's neater, personally. The admins can reclaim channels on demand anyway - this method would have allowed you to just say "check your email, search for X keyword, you'll have ownership of any channel you had before".

Also, I never said this stuff should require any human intervention. Scripting this entire system really shouldn't be too tough - "/msg nickserv requisition (nickname) (my_email_to_be_contacted_in_a_week_or_two)" and the internal code runs everything from there.

I guess I see this weird contradiction in policies. #1 is "people don't care too much about specific nicknames that they're not using". #2 is "people care a lot about specific nicknames that they've never used". I don't quite see why you're prioritizing new users that much over old registered users, especially when far more heavily used services (gmail, livejournal, facebook) don't have any username deletion/reclamation process and yet somehow truck along just fine.

Sun, Jan. 31st, 2010 11:47 pm (UTC)

as someone who has also lost a freenode nick registration due to policies, I started out with sympathy for bram here.

In my case, the definition of 'inactivity' was, imho, clearly bunk - My usage of the nick was current, and I'd tend to stay connected 24/7. For that reason, I never set nick protection, and on rare occasions I'd wake up and notice I'd dropped out, and my nick was taken. I'd ghost it and get it back. To do this required that I send nickserv my password! Yet this isn't activity, because I still lost the nick due to not having done an 'identify' within the requisite timeframe.

Please, freenode, if you're going to have a draconian nick expiration policy, at least be as broad as possible about what you consider 'activity' to be.

('earthnative' on freenode too, now :)

Sat, Jan. 30th, 2010 12:26 pm (UTC)

Heh. Isn't this one of those scenarios where people bitch about mitigating risk? Considering there isn't an option that will make everyone happy, these are the 2 generalized options:

1) Have people complain the nick they wanted is taken.
2) Have long term users complain when they discover their nicks are accidentally purged.

What demographic of people complain the nick they wanted is taken, anyway? Probably like... 12 year old girls. Why bother screwing long term users upon whom you rely upon for the sake of extending a policy of appeasement to 12 year old girls? WTF.

Sat, Jan. 30th, 2010 12:30 pm (UTC)

The vast majority of the people you've called 'long term users' are in fact 'ex-users'. They never come back. That changes the risk weights somewhat.

Sat, Jan. 30th, 2010 12:32 pm (UTC)

Good point.

Sat, Jan. 30th, 2010 02:00 pm (UTC)

It seems like your policy may encourage people who are away to become ex-users permanently.