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Freenode sucks (bramcohen.livejournal.com)
47 points by jeff18 on Jan 30, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 63 comments

"<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"

Funny thing about respect, is it takes a while to build up and can be lost in a heartbeat.

edit: what's interesting is how respectful the freenode admin was throughout this whole transcript. If anything, kudos to freenode.

Are you saying you think the policy of expiring nicks after 60 days is a great idea? And the # channels are not to be used unless you fill out a form and wait 6 months?

I'm kinda biased, but I think some of the policies are borderline insane.

We're sort of used to registering something, and it being there a few months later if we need it. I don't see why you need to delete peoples registrations if they have been on holiday for a couple months. That's just really irritating - I'm not surprised he was pissed.

There's a ton of other great networks out there, so if you're setting up a new channel, don't just default to putting it on freenode (IMHO).

I specifically made zero comments on freenode's policy. My comment was specifically about Bram's demeanor and his interactions with the admin. I realize that he's good at what he does and contributed a lot, but it's like seeing someone being awfully rude to a waiter, it just gives you a sense of who they are as a person. You can tell a lot about a person at how they handle the inanity of everyday life, like for instance, unreasonable nickname retention policies.

Sure, but I think pretty much everyone given a bit of ego massaging would at some point pull a "Do you know who I am?" at some point if they were pissed off enough. Personally I don't hold that against anyone. It's just human nature.

Personally, I do. In addition to showing a distinct lack of class, in cases like this it also dilutes the advantage of being well known in the first place.

Thanks to "who he is," Bram can direct the attention of a lot of eyeballs. A levelheaded post calling out the policy and the problems it causes would have focused those eyeballs on the policy; a ranty chat transcript that shows you repeatedly playing the d-bag card focuses those eyeballs on your willingness to play the d-bag card. It's a stupid, counterproductive distraction and a wasted opportunity, assuming you actually care about solving the root problem.

idk... people get pissed when their account gets shutdown.

When Google decided to shut off my account for a week, I was pretty angry. If I'd contacted google, and they'd told me they have a policy of deleting accounts that aren't used for 60 days, I would have probably ranted at them a lot.

I don't think the fact people are volunteers really means you can't be angry with them if they have a silly policy.

On most other networks, he would have been glined for behaving like this.

While it's true that Cohen acts like a bit of a douche, I think his point is rock solid. 60 days expiration for lack of use is ridiculous. And the admin he spoke to may have stayed polite, but his glib refusal to do anything to solve an obvious problem, while endlessly reciting some BS rules out of some FAQ somewhere as if they were unbreakable laws of physics, is a terribly attitude and reminds me of the most disinterested, cynical bureaucrats I've ever had to deal with.

And for what it's worth, I respect Cohen no less for what he said. I respect him for his deeds, not for his kind and humble soul. If reading a few lines of IRC logs, that he himself posted, is enough to make him lose your respect - I would question whether that respect really meant anything in the first place.

In addition to their deeds, I respect people for kind and humble souls. I can understand being upset about the situation (and I agree with you that his point is rock solid, the 60 day expiration is ridiculous), but the fact that he 1) made the claim that he was famous, and 2) having had the time to calm down and reread the conversation, thought there was nothing wrong with what he said and posted it to his blog, makes me lose repect for him.

I respect Cohen less for this. He has contributed good things to OSS which we all appreciate, but that doesn't mean that we need maintain reverence for him regardless of his actions.

I would much rather employ and/or associate with a "kind and humble soul" that writes mediocre software than an arrogant dickface who writes excellent software. Clock cycles are much cheaper than tolerance and faith, which diminishes upon exposure to such a man.

They are called rules for a reason, he should've read them if he relied so much on the channel for communication. He should (and did) get the same treatment as anyone else.

"acts like a bit of a douche" is a huge understatement; trying to use your popularity like that is just downright ridiculous...

It's true. That is a ridiculous policy.

They should refund him his money.

No way.

He was a complete douche and the admin well has no obligation to help him. If he bent the rules for him this time, because some ass was claiming to be bram cohen, then he's opening himself up for shit and falling for any idiot willing to troll irc groups.

For future reference, a good way to handle this would be:

"The #bittorrent channel on Freenode has been getting trolled hard lately and I no longer have access to it due to the following policies that I think suck: <insert policies>. After talking to a Freenode support member, they refuse to budge on these so I have moved #bittorrent to irc.bittorrent.com, please join us there!"

Wrong way to handle it:

Paste the transcript of you smacking a Freenode volunteer around with your 10 foot long e-peen.

Even better way (IMO) to handle it: Register a new nick, ask a Freenode support member to give him OP-access to #bittorrent. Ban trolls - have lunch.

Except the FreeNode channel registration process takes months or years (I'm not entirely sure it works at all for already claimed channels, even if the prior claimant has no relation to the project, and there is no doubt of the claims of the new person attempting to register). You'll starve to death if you plan to have lunch after ops are obtained.

So, I'm not "one of the most well known and respected people in the whole open source community" and I'm not as socially inept as Bram, but I, too, had some issues getting things done on FreeNode, and I sympathize with his frustration.

The #webmin channel had been claimed by someone unrelated to the project, and who we had no prior contact with; it wasn't a hostile thing, but they hadn't logged in for months, weren't dealing with trolls and had opened access to the topic to everyone (so the topic was being abused for all sorts of ridiculous stuff). We were unable to contact the person directly, so I tried taking over ownership of the channel through the official means. After a year of just waiting (because I'd been warned it was a very slow process, and I don't spend a lot of time in IRC these days), I chimed in on the operators channel, and spoke with a couple of folks. All were nice, friendly folks, but weren't able or willing to do anything about solving our problems with the channel. I believe in the end I was told that our application would be brought to the front of the queue because of the ongoing problems, and how long we'd been waiting. I don't know what, if anything, happened with that; it was at least 8 months ago. I never heard anything about it, anyway, and the last time I logged in, I don't think we had ops on #webmin.

So, Bram is a bit of a douche. This is pretty well-known; anyone that has ever met him or interacted with him knows that socially he is inept (and Asperger's gets bandied about as the reason, though I don't think that really accounts for lack of online social graces). I look past it because intellectually he's brilliant, and ethically he seems solid, so two out of three aint bad; in short, he means well, but he can be mean about it. Even in terms of helping people, within the limits of his social graces, he is generous with his time in helping folks use and understand his code. We all have our flaws, and the FreeNode processes and policies and lack of staff to deal appropriately with those process and policies can frustrate someone with the patience of Job. Bram definitely does not have the patience of Job.

So, to sum up: A 60 day expiry on accounts is idiotic. The official channel registration process, while well-meaning, is baroque and seems to leave a lot of channels in a lurch of having no operator or an abusive operator for months or years. Bram is kind of an asshole. But we still like FreeNode and we still like Bram.

good excuse to hup a screen somewhere and camp the nick. eom.

Look up Asperger's.

I'm familiar with the term. It's my understanding that face-to-face communications are the most impacted areas of human interaction for folks with this condition, and that online communications are easier for them, because they're on mostly equal footing with the folks they're talking to (no one can see anybodies facial expressions on the net, and so only the words themselves matter). It's one of the reasons so many of them find their way into computing and other fields that don't require direct human interaction. With Bram's intelligence, I'm certain he would be capable of effectively simulating normal human interactions online (and I've spoken to him online and he seemed perfectly normal, though he probably wasn't in a frustrated mental state at the time). He could have chosen to approach things with more civility, regardless of whether he has Asperger's or some other condition that makes human interaction in the real world difficult. The loosely realtime nature of IRC allows time for thinking over what you're saying, considering the implications, and thinking through how it will appear to others.

In short, I'm saying that I don't think Bram should get (or would be right to expect) a pass for being an asshole to a volunteer on FreeNode, regardless of whether he has Asperger's or not. Being an asshole isn't OK, even if you have a condition that makes it easier to be one without noticing. It just means you need to be more mindful of your behavior, since it's no one else's job to do it for you.

While some people with Asperger's experience problems with face to face communications and have an easier time dealing with people online, that's a sweeping statement.

I know Bram and I don't think he would care if I said that face to face communication is not a problem for him. In my time speaking with Bram both face to face and online, his primary characteristic per Asperger's has been a near complete lack of social fear.

Most humans get nervous in certain social situations. Bram does not. This will certainly cause problems when faced with someone that social might wield power, as an administrator, and Bram my have to pay for his lack of decorum in these situations.

I'm not excusing Bram's behavior. There is no need to excuse it. It has happened and he will pay whatever price is exacted. I'm simply explaining it.

I'm particularly fond of this exchange in the comments:

3ricj: It's still just a damn IRC nick. register a new one and ask an channel op to give you rights to the channel. Problem solved. Don't abuse volunteer support people due to inflated self-importance. It's tacky.

Bram: If you'd spent the two minutes necessary to read the conversation you'd know there is no fucking channel op, because I was the only one. Stop being an ass.

Unfortunately Bram, there is only one person being an ass...

I'd like to clarify a few points around my post.

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.

Your argument that because you're "blunt" entitles you to behave like a 5 year old, is utter bullshit. There is something called tact. If you want people to help you, then perhaps try showing some.

The dude had a lot more patience than support channels on other networks that would have outright banned you for your childish behavior and holier than thou attitude.

You are aware, right, that a bunch of people who had no opinion of you now have a negative opinion of you now? Then you posted this comment, and now there are more.

You really think that Freenode is a "negative value to society" because you can't use your rather-common first name as your nick? Yeah...

> If you value the superficial affectation of politeness over the essential point of what someone is saying, you can shove it.

Surely, in situations like these, even you can understand the value of politeness. You engineered politeness into the bittorrent protocol (tit for tat.) It's the same thing. The admin wasn't being useless and patronizing, he was choking you because you were acting like a bad peer.

You were a total douche about it. The other guy was actually a bit polite and helpful.

>People are free to criticize me for not being polite, and I'm free to respond that they're being petty and superficial.

This is you not getting it, possibly because you have Aspergers.

edit: Actually, fuck that. You're functional enough to understand what you're doing.

I didn't have any opinion of him as a person (yes I appreciate his work), until I saw him spouting off about being important. Now I have a negative opinion of his personality.

The whole aspergers thing is based on a self-diagnosis and the only reason he wouldn't get diagnosed is out of fear not having it.

P.S. Somebody stole my nick, where can I cry about it?

``P.S. Somebody stole my nick, where can I cry about it?''

Please learn to read. He is complaining about a policy he wasn't warned about, a policy that _doesn't_ involve warning the user of upcoming expiry, and finally, that doesn't in any way seem to take into account channel ownership.

It's a bad protocol. That's all.

While I agree that he was being a complete jerk to the volunteer, there is some truth to this. Freenode has a policy of reserving the "main" channel namespace (only one hash like #bittorrent or #wikipedia) to officially registered groups. This process is carried out by filling out a long form and waiting for approval. Due to lack of volunteers willing and able to clear out the queue, it takes maybe half a year at minimum. It's nice that Freenode has a system for officially registering groups, but they really should not be actively enforcing rules relying on that if they have no plans to reliably process the gigantic queue.

I have to say Freenode came of rather well here. Bram... not so much. :P

<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

Sounds like he's possibly completely pissed off a large portion of the Open Source community :)

Indeed. Bram has written some good software, but he's no more important than the thousands of other people that have written good software that I use everyday.

If you read the comments one reason FreeNode is in disarray is because Rob Levin who ran the site died in a bicycling accident a few years ago.

In fact the chaos and drama at FreeNode might be the real story here.


Fragglet writes (in the comments):

"This shouldn't be surprising to anyone with any experience of Freenode. Freenode is a perfect example of how open source projects tend to acquire the personality of their founder. In the case of Freenode, that founder was Rob Levin, famous for his online begging over wallops and for being completely incompetent in general. Levin's incompetence, begging and dictatorial style where he branded everyone who disagreed with him a "troll" gradually alienated all the sensible and technically skilled people from the network staff until the only people left were his equally incompetent sycophantic underlings.

"When Levin died several years ago as a result of his own stupidity (riding a bike without a helmet), they took over. I haven't heard of mquin before but it looks like the cycle continues.

"Your best option is to close the Freenode channel and move to OFTC, the staff of which consist mostly of the sensible and technically skilled people who left Freenode."

Here are some links with more details,



Although I've only seen a part of a presumably actual conversation (haven't tried to confirm it using other sources) I do find the attitude shown by Bram Cohen to be something I would not have expected from 'one of the most well known and respected people in the whole open source community'. It actually saddens me to see an open source programming 'role model' of mine behave like a spoiled child

I do understand the frustration surrounding the policies, yet I also understand Freenode which is offering a free, gratis service. A more humble approach would probably have yielded a quicker result and IMHO was more appropriate.

ps: If Bram Cohen is not really happy with Freenode, he, as 'one of the most well known and respected people in the whole open source community' probably has other options to create a #bittorrent irc channel according his wishes.

The source for the transcript is Bram Cohen's official blog.

He was just p'eed off and rightly so. He tried civility. And aired a bug in the system. That's all.

A better title would have been 'Bram Cohen loses Freenode nick, complains' as generally articles here take the title from the link where possible and try not to editorialize when it isn't.

...but it would probably be better still if Internet drama was kept as far away from HN as possible.

On the contrary, I find stuff like this highly interesting and consider myself a hacker. I found the comments between Calacanis and Aaron Wall the most awesome stuff I read on Hacker News in the past week, to be honest, and the way I found those was by looking at the HN top rated comments.

It would be interesting to hear other hacker's feelings before we decide what is best for the community.

I can't believe he thinks it's a good idea to post this conversation. Apparently he's not aware that several of his lines are straight parodies of the Bad Guy in popular entertainment.

Bram Cohen's Aspergers is well-publicized (http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/08_43/b41050468...) and essential context for anything you read about/by him.

I find that really patronizing. The subtext of your comment is that "people with Aspergers can't help but be douches with a massive ego". On the contrary, I think that many people with Aspergers are quite nice. Autism is not an excuse for publicly "shaming" a Freenode volunteer.

From my experience, I think Aspergers can be an excuse for saying irrelevant things like changing the subject to baseball cards in the middle of a conversation or casually commenting on someone's weight, not realizing that that is taboo. However, it has little to do with entitlement and in general being rude.

I don't want Aspergers to become synonymous with douche and ego. When someone says something awkward or inappropriate -- sure. Don't associate it with "DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM -- FIX THIS YESTERDAY -- I'M POSTING THIS ON MY BLOG". That's not Aspergers.

You can read whatever subtext and be as offended as you wish. My only purpose was to highlight his well-known issue with Aspergers. You can do with it as you like.

As pointed out below, he doesn't even have a real diagnosis. He hides behind the label to excuse himself from learning appropriate behaviors.

The syndrome exists (or does not exist) independent of the diagnosis.

I can't comment on your second sentence but it seems completely speculative and I can't imagine how you can substantiate it.

"Cohen never sought a formal diagnosis but turned his considerable attention to the matter"

Self-diagnosis. Are you fucking kidding me?

Just because you were picked on in highschool and are a huge pain in the ass to work with, doesn't mean you have Aspergers.

Guess what, Bram Cohen's probably just an asshole who writes good software.

I agree and am really sick of self-diagnosed "Aspies". Asperger's is the new ADHD, which is to say, the new favored scapegoat for an awkward child (or adult in this case). This will only get worse as publication of Asperger's increases; there's a new movie coming out about some guy with Asperger's, I expect it to do bad things.

ADHD remains the favored scapegoat for a disobedient or hyperactive child.

Watch any of his talks or speak to anyone who has ever worked with him.

It's not just about being rude but genuinely not understanding the socially correct behaviour to his own detriment.

Exhibit A: not realizing that it is a bad idea to post a chat transcript of you dressing down a volunteer to a free service.

Not understanding social contract is not necessarily Asperger's. Also, exhibit A could also be seen as not caring, there is no proof that he did not realize.

I think this is the difference between a reason and an excuse. Though his condition may have contributed to his behavior, it's still not a reasonable way for an adult to act. Part of the burden of Aspergers is having to learn what others intuitively understand about social interactions. I hope Bram learns something from this.

I completely agree and don't think it excuses his misbehavior but rather helps explain it.

I'll leave the moralizing and righteous indignation to the others.

I had forgotten about this and it changes my feelings about his encounter with the admins. Everyone on the autism spectrum that I've known in my daily life was very rude. If he truly has a mild form of autism then publicly flogging his actions is insensitive and overkill. There's a real difference between the stereotypical rude entitled college student, and someone with a real medical problem. The real question to ask is should he have known better. It's reasonable to suggest that perhaps he did not.

6 months? That's pretty lame, and I'd be a bit peeved as well. Having to go through that entire process of re-registering, etc, just to get an account back and admin'ing that group? I'm glad this isn't a global policy on email addresses or website registrations!

Actually, it's 60 days.

If you become a supporter and give a donation for the service, you can keep your nick even if you don't log in. So, instead of complaining about a free service, he could have made a tax-deductible donation and not had any of these problems. Alas, lots of "could haves" in this whole episode.

The difference between being an asshole and an Aspie is clear; assholes are completely resistant to hearing about a better way to handle something, and Aspies, go "gee, that didn't occur to me, and I was just looking at it this way, but next time I'll try that." I know Bram pretty well, and when something doesn't work, he listens to his friend's suggestions and tries to add them to his social algorithm. Maybe he doesn't do this too publicly, but would you? In casual everyday life he never throws around status, when he meets people he doesn't say anything other than, "I'm a programmer" if asked. He really usually gets embarrassed by recognition and tries to downplay it. However, I think we've all behaved less than humbly when pushed to our boiling point. The trigger is frequently just the straw that breaks the camel's back, and we all can get pissy. It doesn't meet my high spiritual standards for myself when I lose my temper, but it happens. Jeff18 who posted an actually good suggestion on how to handle this situation, would be really good working with Aspies. That is exactly what they need, and what teachers spend most of their time doing with AS children, modeling different solutions. It was very helpful.

There is a lesson Bram needs to learn. If you wish to avoid being considered a 'douche' you have to better optimise your statements to undermine your oponent and remove their credibility. He could have posted a factual account of his unpleasant experiences with Freenode that included a sincere warning to any other organisers of official projects. Instead he overemphasised the importance of showing both sides of the story.

If you are going to be negative then it is important to do it well and do it ruthlessly. Don't try to be fair or direct. Play to the crowd and ruthlessly take the moral high ground or it will be taken from you, as is the case here. It is a little ironic but if Bram had been more of a Machiavellian 'meanie' then he would not have been been labeled a 'meanie'. Some of the posts here provide good advice on ways he could have done that.

It seems clear that Bram's misfortune warrants a warning for all potential users of the Freenode servers. Hopefully this is not missed due to Bram's neglect of political expediency.

Why not just do what Shaquille O'Neal did for Twitter?


Look Bram, you can even yell in your nick too!

    /nick THE_REAL_BRAM
    /join #bittorrent
    /privmsg #bittorrent :Trolls, please stop. It's me, Bram.

If anything, this just goes to show the quality support you get from Freenode volunteer admins.

You act like a douche, you should be treated like a douche; "essential context" of suffering from Asperger syndrome or otherwise.

Taking a step back as an impartial observer,

(1) Sure, Freenode's policy can be improved, because a significant amt. of users think it is a bit stifling. The admins need to figure out how to engage the users.

(2) In this situation, there are solutions more optimal than douche-baggery. If he wanted his nick back, being nice increases his odds. Bram can use a class in negotations 101.

OK - Let's move on with our lives now, don't you need to prepare for the 3/3/2010 YC deadline? If you are bored - there are plenty of single founders looking for co-founder.

Asperger and 'being a meanie' can sometimes be confused. I know Bram's diagnosis isn't official but it seems obvious to most that meet him that's he's a little different.

Edit: Okay I just RTFA and Bram does seem very douchy. If I was the admin I would have handed his ass to him 1/4 of the way through the conversation when he threw his first insult.

And I would have invited him to make a stink in public ... just spell my name right.

We're all a little different. That doesn't give him a free pass to be an ass, IMO.

Edit re: your edit - lol! :P

Interesting.... logs into Freenode Yay! My nick is still registered. I don't think I've logged in for over a year.

There was a problem and someone not solving it - to many this is the douchery.


I would be honoured to have Bram Cohen ask me for some help and given his heroic efforts on behalf of the network I would go above and beyond.

Seems Bram just camly stated the facts and the sysop just kept replying rules trump all.

Ashbergers Mashbergers for IRC this is probably the most dainty little flame ever.

PS Bram Cohen rules teh internets

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