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Debian doesn't run its own IRC service. Instead, irc.debian.org points to an
external network, called Open Projects Network (OPN). Well, now it's called
"freenode", but that's besides the point. Debian users are encouraged to
join the #debian channel on irc.debian.org when they want to communicate via
IRC, to get Debian support.

Over the last few months, OPN has started soliciting donations for the use
of the network. While it is understandable that the service needs money etc
to be run, the way the donations are solicited is highly questionable.

The network administrator, Rob Levin (nickname lilo), regularly sends global
messages (messages relayed to all users, whatever channel they are in)
asking for donations and pointing to the web pages about a non-profit
organization that they are forming. Aside from the fact there's already a
non-profit organization that can be used for this, SPI, he says that the
donations will be used to pay people to run the network. As in, a salary...
at one point, he talked about 12000 USD for three months. The current "goal"
is said to be 25000 USD. That sounds like OPN is turning into a business,
not a free community network.

Debian has never in the recent history solicited donations so bluntly. We
have a donations web page linked from the front page, but that hardly
compares to spamming users with requests to donate. Debian's servers are
also operated by volunteers, so none of them are paid to do that.

This practice seems like something Debian would never want to resort to.

I would like the fundraising notices on OPN to stop. Hundreds and thousands
Debian users are not subject to such things in the rest of Debian, they
should not be subject to it when they join IRC looking for help in #debian.

I think other Debian developers would agree with me, but I'm asking on this
list to be sure -- what do you think?

There was disgruntlement within OPN with this and other things, and at least
two small groups of people previously involved with OPN "forked" their own
OPN-like networks in the recent history, lilofree.net and oftc.net. The
first one is obviously spiteful and likely not worth looking at, but the
other one is a much more interesting. The acronym stands for "Open and Free
Technology Community", they've got a constitution, a neutral mission
statement and have recently become a project that SPI sponsors, which means
they're pretty serious.

I talked to some OPN people and to some OFTC people, exploring our options.
An OPN source that wishes to remain anonymous ;) has told me that lilo would
like to keep #debian (and #debian*), so if we showed that we really dislike
the fundraising spam, they might stop sending it.

We have successfully worked with OPN for years. Several Debian developers
were also OPN admins, and several still are. I would hate to see us depart,
but OPN definitely seems to be going into a different direction than we are.

If such a thing happens, at least we have an option. An OFTC source which
also prefers anonymity ;) told me that they wouldn't solicit moving
irc.debian.org server CNAME to irc.oftc.net, but that they would gladly
accept it if we asked.

Once again, what do you people think?

     2. That which causes joy or happiness.

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