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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 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.

Sat, Jan. 30th, 2010 01:13 pm (UTC)

Facebook hasn't had usernames for very long, and you have to explicitly set one, so most of their userbase still don't have one. For a good view of what happens when you never expire usernames, look at recently created Hotmail accounts - all random numbers and crap, because all the good names have gone. Same goes for LJ usernames to some extent, and Gmail is starting to see similar issues although obviously it's not as bad as Hotmail - yet.

From my perspective, the reason we prioritise (active) new users over (absent) old users is that the new users are using the network, and the old ones aren't - and mostly never will again.

By the way, I looked at an old copy of the services database from just before the new owner registered 'bram', and (the old) Bram didn't have an email set, so we couldn't have notified him of imminent expiry or a random nick change or whatever. He hadn't identified to NickServ since September 2008, making him almost 9 months idle at that time.

Sat, Jan. 30th, 2010 02:10 pm (UTC)

That sounds like a poor policy choice.

Why were (are?) you allowing people to register without a point of contact?

I'm a fan of anonymity but I'm guessing this isn't a conscious nod or a hat tip in that direction. It seems prudent to _ensure_ that they are aware of impending events that will impact them.

I support allowing people to anonymously register a nick. It may be of value to tell them that they're possibly going to lose their nick at registration time.

Obviously if Bram's nick is nearly ten years old, you might want to grandfather that nickname into the system. Upsetting your original support base is usually not a good move. They made the network relevant and generally mean well.

Sat, Jan. 30th, 2010 02:15 pm (UTC)

It was anonymity, yes - adding an email used to be optional. It changed to compulsory about 3 years ago, although you can still choose to hide it from non-staff.

Sat, Jan. 30th, 2010 07:51 pm (UTC)

Hotmail does in fact have login expiration, and it was recently used to break into Twitter's systems and steal a bunch of their sensitive corporate documents, so it's an example of such policies being a disaster, not a good thing.

Sun, Jan. 31st, 2010 03:18 am (UTC)

Expiration is obviously a bad thing when the username alone grants authorization to other resources -- such as an email address. But a login ID and a public nick are two different things, and there is no reason (except for convenience) in this day and age for them to be the same thing. Your login ID should be unique, inviolable, and never expire. Public nicks maybe should or should not be unique across a given domain (it depends on the application), but aside from the legacy of IRC, there's really no reason why Freenode couldn't have a permanent login ID that never expires (and to which ops are attached), and separate from that, nicks which are what other people see when they want to figure out who you are.

Yes, I realize IRC Doesn't Work That Way.

Mon, Feb. 1st, 2010 04:33 pm (UTC)

Actually that's sort of how our services work now. The login ID isn't inviolable, but there is a separation of account and nick concepts. The account is initially created in the name of the first nick registered, but if you group some more nicks and then drop the original one, the account (and all its attendant privs) move on to the next nick in the group.

So, for instance, if Bram[1] had grouped 'bramcohen' at some point, when another person called Bram[2] asked to take over the 9-months-unused nick 'bram' and we dropped it for him, Bram[1]'s privs would have stayed with the 'bramcohen' nick, which Bram[1] could still have logged in to to manage his channel.

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 :)

Mon, Feb. 1st, 2010 11:00 am (UTC)

Yet this isn't activity ...

Wow, that sucks.

We switched services a couple of years ago, dunno if you encountered this with old or new services but I've raised it as a potential issue for the developers to check out.

Mon, Feb. 1st, 2010 01:44 pm (UTC)

just checking logs... December 2007 it was...

I spoke to admin at the time about it... he was much with the 'sorry', and otherwise (and understandably) unable to help further.

I'll minimise my log quoting, since I have no problem with Gary at all - we chatted amicably for half an hour...

[2007-12-29 01:28:48] and ghosting is sadly not identifying
[2007-12-29 01:29:10]
[Error: Irreparable invalid markup ('<nemo^>') in entry. Owner must fix manually. Raw contents below.]

just checking logs... December 2007 it was...

I spoke to admin <Gary> at the time about it... he was much with the 'sorry', and otherwise (and understandably) unable to help further.

I'll minimise my log quoting, since I have no problem with Gary at all - we chatted amicably for half an hour...

[2007-12-29 01:28:48] <Gary> and ghosting is sadly not identifying
[2007-12-29 01:29:10] <nemo^> hmmm... so even though ghost recovery proves I was actively using the nick, it's not sufficient??
[2007-12-29 01:29:33] <Gary> no, as it doesn't register that you have identified
[2007-12-29 01:30:27] <nemo^> (from a user perspective, I'd consider that a bug personally, but maybe I'm just gripey at the moment. *shrugs*
[2007-12-29 01:30:33] <Gary> yeah, sorry
[2007-12-29 01:30:59] <Gary> you have to identify at least once every 60 days
[2007-12-29 01:31:30] <nemo^> yeah... seriosuly then, feature suggestion: consider any valid apssword sent to nickserv to be sufficient. (ise, ghost as well as identify)
[2007-12-29 01:31:41] <nemo^> beyond that, oh well. *shrugs*
[2007-12-29 01:32:05] <Gary> yeah, as per http://freenode.net/faq.shtml#userexpirations
[2007-12-29 01:32:30] <Gary> I don't think we are able to link ghost with identify
[2007-12-29 01:32:36] <nemo^> yeah, point me to policy all you like - from a user perspective, I'm considering it broken. either/both at the policy and the code level. *shrugs*

So anyway, I don't know which codebase that was related to, but if it can be looked into now, that would be most cool and no doubt help some way to alleviate the possibility of this issue recurring for more people down the track. Thankyou! :)