This is an account from one op, based on casual observation. It is offered without lots of logs, and hopefully without emotion; your mileage and understanding may differ, but this view seems to be pretty consistent with what we know, so chances are it’s close to true if not factually true.
So what happened to Freenode to make us consider migration?
Basically, an ircop sold the domain for freenode to a VPN provider, who then added ads to the website against the staff policy, and then…
The VPN provider (Andrew Lee) claimed that he owned Freenode itself (as opposed to just the domain) and threatened to sue the staff (which, as a set of volunteers, didn’t have money or organization to fight this) so he basically horned his way in… and the staff quit.
So he replaced them with 4chan ops, and changed a lot of longstanding freenode policies along the way. Among them were considerations for speech considered harmful (such as hate speech towards religions or specific people groups or other protected classes.) 4chan isn’t exactly a haven for values that Freenode ##java considers important; choosing stewards from 4chan doesn’t inspire confidence.
Here’s a tweet that mentions some of this. Also see the “WTF FAQ,” a page kept up by an op on a similar programming channel.
It’s fair to argue that free speech includes speech that some consider aggressive, but Freenode policy was made to reduce social friction, and had done so fairly successfully. Changing those rules without specific stimuli feels like a harbinger of a migration to more harmful practices, an IRC server where channels are subject to behavior against which there is no official defense at the network level.
Thus, Freenode’s core values are changing, literally, and that’s not necessarily a desired condition.
The new owner has done very little to engender trust during the transition, including what started the transition. When you start off with “Hey, I own the domain, so that means I own the service, right?,” that sends all kinds of messages to the community that you don’t want the community to hear.
What’s more, the new staff is incredibly defensive about owning the network, to the point where they’re forcibly taking over channels that don’t appreciate the possibility of being taken over. This hasn’t affected ##java or the directly-associated channels yet, but it has affected some of the channels that are implicitly associated.
So What Are We Gonna Do About It?
Well… we’re going to move the channel to a new network. We never really had any other recourse outside of the good graces and intent of Freenode staff, and that has always worked, because everyone’s been pretty benevolent. But with a wholesale change in staff, it’s hard to predict what the new staff’s intent is or how responsive they’ll be, and what we do know indicates a lot of defensive posturing and not a lot of effort to engender trust.
What we‘re doing is “moving away from Freenode,” to an alternative server. There are a few main candidates: EFNet (which has a #java already), Undernet (which … also has a #java), DALNet (which not only already has a #java, but underwent its own political chaos a few years ago and is under autocratic control), OFTC (which hosts the OpenJDK channel, among many others), and Libera.chat, which was created largely by the outgoing Freenode staff as a response to Andrew Lee taking over.
Of these, the latter seems the most palatable. So that’s literally what we’re doing: we’re moving to a new server.
This is not an act of defiance or even active defense; it’s just a move that seems wisest based on the level of trust we have for the new staff and organization behind Freenode. It’s done mostly to protect the idea behind ##java and its associated channels, and it’s done without malice.
We’re going to maintain a presence on Freenode as long as we’re able to, but the “main effort” for community development will be on the new server.