Possible Replacement for #swinog IRC

SwiNOG has been hosting an IRC server (irc.swinog.ch) and channel (#swinog) since around 2002(?) [citation needed]. Its usage seems to have been diminishing lately. Maybe it's time for a change. In Februrary 2020, Massimiliano Stucchi has created a SwiNOG channel on Telegram. Thank you, Max, for the initiative to improve communication within the community! The channel has attracted over 90 subscribers within less than a week, and has seen lively discussion about networking and other topics. There was also some discussion on the SwiNOG mailing list, the Telegram and IRC channels about the appropriateness of medium. Telegram was chosen partly because "it was there" (and ITNOG uses it). Compared to IRC—which seems unattractive to the younger generation—it has some usability advantages, in particular from mobile devices. Also, the service keeps records of the conversation, which reduces FOMO for those who aren't connected 24x7.

But... some of us consider moving from a decentralized, federated system with an open source implementation (IRC) to a "feudally" provided centralized closed-source system (Telegram) as too high a price to pay for the increased convenience. Can't we have both, convenience and "ownership" (sovereignty, independence, control)?

Matrix is a system with many desirable qualities: It is federated, i.e. anyone can run their own server and connect it to other servers in larger networks. There is a "default" network that makes it easy to find stuff, but independent federations are possible too. There are an open-source implementations of all(?) components. Evolution of the system is governed under the auspices of a non-profit. Yet it also has a friendly user interface including Web client, mobile, and desktop apps.

In the spirit of "let's just do it", I have set up some services so that the SwiNOG community can experiment with this system:

Possible Next Steps

Make it official

If people like this, we could move it from swinot.ch to the swinog.ch namespace. We'd ideally find some volunteers to run the system (keep the software updated, make sure it keeps running, monitor backups etc.). My experience setting this up suggests that this can be done with reasonable effort. Donors for the (modest) compute and storage resources would also be welcome.

Shut it down

If other systems remain more popular, we'll embrace the new world order and let this decentralized thing die.

Bridge all the things

If there is no clear preference within SwiNOG between these chat systems, another way to reduce fragmentation would be to interconnect them. There is a Matrix/Telegram gateway that we could try. Presumably IRC, as well as any other systems people might want to try, could all be bridged together in one happy mesh. I'm somewhat hesitate to start doing this, because I'm afraid this could lead to a confusing and brittle overall system.

Out of Scope: Content Policy Issues

An important question left out here are the rules we want to impose (or not) on communication in our fora. Should we have a Code of Conduct? What sanctions would be appropriate in case the rules are violated? Should there be moderation/censorship? This is probably more important than the choice of tool, although there are some dependencies. For example, if we used a "feudal" system with strong content policies, then we could "hide" behind those rules. On the other hand we may want to be able to set our own rules (or not). Anyway, setting such rules merits separate discussion.


Simon Leinen