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Proposal for Libera Chat to leave nonfree platforms

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This is a summary of the discussion from #libera-dev today, and a formal
proposal for the network.

Libera Chat should leave GitHub, Facebook, and Twitter, all non-free
platforms, in favor of free platforms.

## Rationale

The Libera bylaws states the purpose of the network as follows:

> The purpose of the organisation is to provide services such as a
> community platform for free open-source software and peer directed
> projects on a volunteer basis.

Libera exists to support the free and open source community. It should
do so in all of its affairs, whenever practical.

Libera requires a vote of confidence from FOSS projects in order to be
successful. Each project which joins Libera helps to legitimize the new
network and ensure its future success. We should respond in kind by
putting our faith in the free software community, especially when there
is little to no cost associated with a preference for free software in a
particular domain.

In short: why should FOSS projects choose Libera Chat when Libera Chat
won't choose them?

## Where to go?

I recommend replacing Twitter and Facebook both with a presence on the
fediverse, i.e. Mastodon. The fediverse is a popular free and decentralized
social network which provides features similar to Twitter, and Mastodon
is a popular implementation of the fediverse protocols. Many other FOSS
projects have enjoyed success there, and some even have a better reach
on the fediverse than on Twitter.

As far as hosting is concerned, the Fosstodon instance would be
compatible with Libera Chat in terms of values and mission. If more
options are desired, I can do a detailed inquiry into which instances
may be well suited to Liberachat. Self-hosting is also possible; see
self-hosting considerations below.

For a GitHub replacement, it's not quite as cut-and-dry. These are my
recommendations for FOSS platforms:

GitLab
	Pros: like GitHub; large community; stable
	Cons: poor performance; not entirely free; ethical concerns

Codeberg (hosted service), Gitea (software)
	Pros: like GitHub; community owned & operated
	Cons: small community; the software has many minor bugs

SourceHut
	Pros: has a libera channel & staff available to Libera for support
	Cons: not like GitHub

Disclaimer: the author of this memo (hi!) is also the founder of
SourceHut (hi!).

I can provide more detailed insights for each of these options if anyone
wants to hear more.

## Self hosting considerations

Each of the recommended platforms has hosted options, which are easy and
run by reliable operators. However, if Libera Chat so wishes, it can
also operate these on its own infrastructure. Should this be desirable,
SourceHut is prepared to offer operational support and server resources,
or to the funds necessary to acquire these independently.

## Arguments against, and rebuttals

> We should use nonfree platforms if they are better than free options

Maybe. However, for the specific platforms under scrutiny - GitHub,
Facebook, and Twitter - alternatives exist which meet or exceed the
capabilities of their nonfree counterparts.

> The nonfree platforms are more popular and have a broader reach.
> Shouldn't we prefer them if only for that reason?

The nonfree platforms provide value, i.e. access to their users.
However, they also have a cost. One cost is in the reputational costs of
compromising on our values as an organization. Another cost is the
long-term cost of divesting in FOSS infrastructure - what example would
we be setting for projects who are considering Discord instead of IRC?

There are more effective ways to reach people than these platforms.
Outreach on Twitter and Facebook involves manually trawling for possibly
interested parties and engaging them in one-on-one discussions, which is
a very inefficient approach. If the same resources were invested into
directed FOSS community outreach and engagement, i.e. working directly
with FOSS projects to get them situated and ensure their needs are met,
the rewards will be much greater for the same investment. kline has some
thoughts on this, by the way, shoot him a message for thoughts on how to
apply this in practice.

> Why not support both and mirror between them?

This is better than no change from the status quo, but I would argue
against it in favor of a full migration. There are practical reasons to
prefer FOSS infrastructure, indeed, which would be addressed (partially)
with a mirror solution. However, I am making an argument from values.
Being on Twitter legitimizes Twitter and harms Mastodon. The same is
true for GitHub vs its free alternatives. We should not think in terms
of what's better for Libera right now, but in terms of what's best for
the free software ecosystem as a whole. Investing in the broader
ecosystem, casting our support with one another and helping to
cross-legitimize each other's services and software, is a long-term
investment that will pay higher dividends for Libera Chat than the use
of nonfree platforms could. Libera's value is derived from the projects
which use it, and reinforcing them with our support will naturally
benefit us as well.

> We need to be on Twitter to combat FUD from Andrew Lee.

This is a bad idea. We've cut ties with Lee and co. and the best thing
to do now is focus on setting an example as an excellent community with
a strong commitment to our values and fulfilling our operational needs.
Engaging in petty fights on Twitter will only ever make us look worse.

## Comments?

If you have a comment on this discussion, please click "reply to thread"
on the web archive to add your thoughts (or just reply to this email
directly if you were Cc'd).
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Hi,

Drew DeVault writes:

> Libera Chat should leave GitHub, Facebook, and Twitter, all non-free
> platforms, in favor of free platforms.

Just want to chime in to express my support for this proposal. I'm
fairly new to this IRC thing, and to free software to a lesser extent,
but I agree with Drew's points here.

> In short: why should FOSS projects choose Libera Chat when Libera Chat
> won't choose them?

Everyone freaked out when they found out about that one important guy
from the Linux Foundation using macOS; in some measure the situation is
similar here. Not using and pushing FOSS alternatives (where they exist)
to proprietary platforms makes the claim that Libera is "for free and
open-source software" sound not as strong as we all would probably like.

> For a GitHub replacement, it's not quite as cut-and-dry. These are my
> recommendations for FOSS platforms:
>
> GitLab
> 	Pros: like GitHub; large community; stable
> 	Cons: poor performance; not entirely free; ethical concerns
>
> Codeberg (hosted service), Gitea (software)
> 	Pros: like GitHub; community owned & operated
> 	Cons: small community; the software has many minor bugs
>
> SourceHut
> 	Pros: has a libera channel & staff available to Libera for support
> 	Cons: not like GitHub

Grealty appreciate the try there, Drew, but it's not nice to lie!

> Disclaimer: the author of this memo (hi!) is also the founder of
> SourceHut (hi!).

I'm just a university student that is passionate about libre software
and I use IRC mainly for finding out new developments in projects I use
or for asking questions about these projects.

Since I have no ties with the mentioned git hosting platforms other than
the fact that I'm one of their users, I can say without feeling the
guilt of bias that I would much more prefer that Libera used
Sourcehut. It is the fastest, easiest to use and most accessible of the
three (the argument that GitHub is easier to use because more people use
it is not valid; they had to learn to use GitHub, as they had to learn
to use anything in their life).

Some people think using a self-hosted GitLab or Gitea will solve the
issue of being in the hands of a corporation, or using a proprietary
platform. That is true. It will solve that issue. Only that
issue. Software has both an aspect of ownership and an aspect of user
experience, so thus far the issue of user experience has not been dealt
with. Are these solutions best for both freedom and experience?

Having me create yet another account on yet another Git* self-hosted
instance to post a bug report or feature request is extremely annoying,
when I could do that by just sending an email with an account I already
have (everyone has email). Having me create a fork on my account, then
clone that, commit, push, create a PR, is both a way more intense
process for the user than sending a patch and way more storage-intensive
on the server side.

Having the platform be lightweight, which is something that Sourcehut
also does, means that lower-end devices will not struggle so much to
access and work with it. Sourcehut also has the benefit of working with
no JavaScript enabled, which is something that GitLab can't even dream
of.

>> The nonfree platforms are more popular and have a broader reach.
>> Shouldn't we prefer them if only for that reason?
>
> The nonfree platforms provide value, i.e. access to their users.
> However, they also have a cost. One cost is in the reputational costs of
> compromising on our values as an organization. Another cost is the
> long-term cost of divesting in FOSS infrastructure - what example would
> we be setting for projects who are considering Discord instead of IRC?
>
> There are more effective ways to reach people than these platforms.
> Outreach on Twitter and Facebook involves manually trawling for possibly
> interested parties and engaging them in one-on-one discussions, which is
> a very inefficient approach. If the same resources were invested into
> directed FOSS community outreach and engagement, i.e. working directly
> with FOSS projects to get them situated and ensure their needs are met,
> the rewards will be much greater for the same investment. kline has some
> thoughts on this, by the way, shoot him a message for thoughts on how to
> apply this in practice.

If people do however want to engage in one-by-one discussions about IRC
and Libera and whatever on these platforms, they can do so
themselves. If you have a friend that you think could be "converted"
over to IRC, talk to them yourself, don't wait for them to see some
magical Twitter thread. A Libera Twitter account is still just a single
Twitter account, while you guys that use it are more and can persuade
more people through direct 1:1 discussions than an official account
could.

Cheers to Drew for this proposal, and thanks to the people that run
Libera.Chat for making it feel so cozy.

-- 
Alexandru-Sergiu Marton
https://brown.121407.xyz
kline
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Hi Drew

We're working on all of these, I'm very keen personally that we're on 
foss infra as much as possible. The accounts we have fall broadly into 
these kinds:

1) Places we've grabbed to prevent other people doing so (facebook, mostly)
2) Places we're using because we needed to jump a little earlier than we 
hoped (github)
3) Places we're using because it's where we've communicated in the past 
(twitter).

freenode never actively used facebook previously, and there's no 
intention to start with libera, but keeping it away from anyone with 
"motivations" for libera to not do as well is something we're keenly 
aware of.

As a lot of people have noticed, libera launched with relatively short 
notice, and we've been knees to chest ensuring that everything works, 
mitigate the spam and current ddos, and move communities. Because of the 
rush and staff capacity we're using github because we know it and it's 
what all our tools and practices are based on. It's something we'll 
discuss in the future and I'd personally love to move to sr.ht, but 
right now moving the network as well as a whole set of practices is too 
much. I want to revisit this in a month when we have the time and 
capacity to afford it.

As for twitter, we've grabbed it because it's practical and we used it 
in the past. We've also gotten https://mastodon.social/@liberachat which 
was linked from May 19th, and double tapped
https://fosstodon.org/@liberachat , which will be the primary presence. 
It's what's linked on the website, we're just looking to get the 
followers moved over.

In summary, I'm behind your proposal, but the difficult nature of 
libera's birth has forced us to be a bit pragmatic in some aspects, and 
broader than I'd like in others.

A final point: I hope we can post soon about our governance. We'd done a 
lot of work on this while at freenode, and posting about this after some 
time trialing new governance internally is one of the catalysts for the 
move. We're registered now under a Swedish non-profit and have a board 
of 3x exec members, 3x functional members (reps for the infra, 
development, and projects+communities teams), as well as two auditors 
who oversee the board. This is similar to the structure we had just 
started on freenode:
https://web.archive.org/web/20210423231451/https://freenode.net/people

Thanks for your support (because you've been quietly really important so 
far), and the support of everyone else who has come along for the ride 
so far.

kline
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Hey kline! Thanks for the details. Naturally I don't expect this to be
done urgently - the network is brand new - but I do wish that it is not
forgotten. As always, you have an open offer for my help should you need
it in getting more urgent priorities spun up. I also set up a shared
document for other volunteers, which you might have already seen:

https://semestriel.framapad.org/p/freenode-volunteers-9nj4

I'll reply to some of your comments but feel free to defer until you
have more bandwidth to consider this discussion properly.

On Fri May 21, 2021 at 4:57 PM EDT, kline wrote:
> We're working on all of these, I'm very keen personally that we're on
> foss infra as much as possible.

Excellent :)

> The accounts we have fall broadly into these kinds:
>
> 1) Places we've grabbed to prevent other people doing so (facebook, mostly)
> 2) Places we're using because we needed to jump a little earlier than we hoped (github)
> 3) Places we're using because it's where we've communicated in the past (twitter).
>
> freenode never actively used facebook previously, and there's no
> intention to start with libera, but keeping it away from anyone with
> "motivations" for libera to not do as well is something we're keenly
> aware of.

Yeah, given Freenode's specific circumstances it makes sense to squat
these so that they aren't used for misinformation. My condolances to
whatever poor staffer has to maintain a Facebook account to maintain it.
I'll refer you to my answer to "We need to be on Twitter to combat FUD
from Andrew Lee", though. It's for the best that these remain unused.

I'm not so thrilled with the idea of grandfathering Twitter in because
it was used for Freenode before. That should not be a factor in a
critical examination of the role of proprietary platforms in Libera's
future, IMHO.

> A final point: I hope we can post soon about our governance.

FYI this was published by your peers after some nagging:

https://libera.chat/bylaws

Thanks :)
Cara Salter
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As someone who has no business relationship with any mentioned 
alternative, I want to throw my support behind Sourcehut, as the single 
most reliable code forge I have used in my life.

I support Libera not wanting bad actors to seize their name on 
platforms, as long as those accounts direct to the FOSS equivalents 
(mastodon, sourcehut, etc).

Hopefully this can be made better soon!

Cara
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On 5/21/21 12:44 PM, Alexandru-Sergiu Marton wrote:
> Some people think using a self-hosted GitLab or Gitea will solve the
> issue of being in the hands of a corporation, or using a proprietary
> platform. That is true. It will solve that issue. Only that
> issue. Software has both an aspect of ownership and an aspect of user
> experience, so thus far the issue of user experience has not been dealt
> with. Are these solutions best for both freedom and experience?
> 
> Having me create yet another account on yet another Git* self-hosted
> instance to post a bug report or feature request is extremely annoying,
> when I could do that by just sending an email with an account I already
> have (everyone has email). Having me create a fork on my account, then
> clone that, commit, push, create a PR, is both a way more intense
> process for the user than sending a patch and way more storage-intensive
> on the server side.

I'd like to highlight this point, since it's one of the bigger values of
using IRC rather than, say, declaring IRC is dead and switching to matrix.

IRC has a low barrier to entry due to being able to instantly connect
and get FOSS help without signing up for an account.

Sourcehut has the *same* ease of use which is central to IRC. As such I
believe it is the only natural choice to host Libera Chat development. :)

-- 
Eli Schwartz
Arch Linux Bug Wrangler and Trusted User
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