#photography is moving? huh?

For the past few years, #photography on freenode has been the place for us computer/camera geeks to talk about cameras and photography. I registered the channel way back in January of 2003, in fact.

Yesterday, it was made known to me that channels had to be re-registered. I went to fill out the form (of which the URI was pasted to me in a /msg), and put all the pertinent info into the necessary fields (which seemed like most every field; there was no red star or bolding or anything else which would show priority).

Around half an hour to an hour later, lilo (Rob Levin) messaged me, telling me that I needed to move #photography to something else, either #foo (where foo is the name of a website of mine — a TLD even — .com/.net/.org) or rename it to ##photography.

(Note: I do own camerahacks.com, which isn’t official yet — although we’re setting it up — but #camerahacks doesn’t have the allure nor scope of #photography, so it’s not an adequate replacement.)

I asked that if I registered photographyproject.org, if that would suffice. He said, “yes”, but then added, only for a channel called #photographyproject. Added shortly after, lilo stated that I needed photography.com, photography.net, or photography.org to actually have #photography. Frankly speaking, I doubt the owners of those domains actually care about IRC — or even know what IRC actually is (it’s a chat room protocol, in case you’re reading this and don’t know). In addition, I highly doubt that even if they did happen to know about IRC, that they would be on Freenode.

I asked lilo about #fedora then, as Red Hat doesn’t have anything called “Fedora”. All they actually have is the Fedora Project (which I helped to start when I was at Red Hat), and Fedora Core (the offspring distro of said project). “Shouldn’t #fedora be renamed to #fedoracore or #fedoraproject? Or should that also be moved to ##fedora?” Lilo replied with “Well, Red Hat is aggressively protecting their Fedora trademark.” As far as I know, Red Hat has only “Fedora Core” and “Fedora Project” in the clear. There was a dispute over the pre-existing “Fedora” name in the software space — and, hey, it’s even open source. They also have a top level domain of Fedora.info!

To make matters worse, I’ve known lilo since the days of #linpeople (and even a bit or #linux on EFNet), all through OpenProjects, and through today. I’ve met him in person a few times at various Linux World Expos — it has not been just knowing him via IRC alone. While part of the team at Linux.com, we even ran a story on him and OpenProjects. I thought he might be willing to make some exceptions to the rule, but I guess not.

Anyway, it seems though we’re not going to be given a break or be grandfathered in, so the only current solutions are to either abide by the silly IRC games and become ##photography or move it elsewhere. Personally, I already use a few other channels on FreeNode, but I have been around on gimpnet for a long time too, so I’m considering moving it there.

So what does all this mean for Freenode and channels hosted there? Should I recommend that people not have channels on that network? Is #hula going to have to be renamed to ##hula or #hulaproject? What about channels which I and my friends and coworkers may wish to start — should we start them elsewhere? Is there another freely available IRC server that’s similar in scope to Freenode?

Update: Rob (lilo) responded in nice, well written comment. Thanks, Rob.

Still, there is some decision to be made with respect to the #photography channel at the moment; I think that all of us involved with the channel will have to discuss it and try to come up with an agreeable solution.

Also, as a side note, it is hard to know when policy changes on a server (such as one running IRC) are made in the day-to-day use of a server, especially when a person is ultra-busy with work and such. I guess there is MOTD on login, but how many people really read that? Also, there are wallops from time to time, but I’d suspect lots of people have that turned off by default as well. Word of mouth is the best way, I suppose (and that’s how I found out… eventually).


17 Responses to “#photography is moving? huh?”

  1. Chriis says:

    Is there another freely available IRC server that’s similar in scope to Freenode?

    Yes, OFTC — http://www.oftc.net. It was started the last time lilo went batshit-crazy and annoyed all of his server admins, and has become pretty big for OSS projects; #gcc and #kernelnewbies are there now, for example.

    – Chris.

  2. I hope things pan out sensibly. I would not like to have to move to a different IRC network for petty “political” reasons. I really don’t see the sense of forcing such channel-name changes immediately *just in case* they become a problem in the future. As you say, the chances are that nobody will ever care! Things are fine as they are. It’s the users that make up an IRC network and I don’t see any of those complaining.

  3. Rob Levin says:


    Our conversation from yesterday trailed off, and apparently it’s been moved into blogspace.

    First, I should note that the policy we were discussing isn’t new; it’s been posted for months. After all that time, we’re beginning to enforce it only to the extent of being reluctant to provide password resets and founder changes for channels that don’t seem to follow it. Your article above has a lot of urls, but it’s missing the policy page urls, so I figured I should add them: the ones for channel ownership and “about” channels. (I’m not that familiar with how comments are supposed to be formatted, so hopefully those URL’s appeared formatted well.)

    The purpose of the policy is to try to avoid a whole class of problems which occur when you’re running an IRC network that is designed to provide service to specific external communities, and one of the main communities freenode serves is the FOSS community.

    The problems occur when an external project comes to the network for the first time, and discovers that it has no control over the channels bearing its name. We want projects to be able to own their channels. We also want it to be easy to distinguish between official channels of some project or group, or unofficial channels which are run by somebody else. So we’ve set up a policy which gives priority use of the “#foo” address space to named projects and groups, and provides an additional namespace convention, “##foo”, for channels which don’t officially own some name ‘foo’. Projects are slowly moving over; ##linux and ##slackware are unofficial channels, whereas #gentoo and #fedora are official channels. We’re not forcing name changes, at least at this point; but we’re encouraging them strongly, and trying not to provide channel resets and channel contact changes to reinforce the existing naming where it doesn’t fit with policy.

    Sometimes naming decisions aren’t as simple and clear as one might hope. For example, Red Hat’s Fedora project may not be the only project with that name, but they have some serious claim to the use of the name ‘fedora’ and no one has complained on the behalf of the other project using that name. If someone complains from the other project, well, we sit down and talk about it with the project people; but I think people coming to the network would be very surprised to see something other than Red Hat’s sponsored project under that name.

    We’ve also provided for situations in which a group is not any sort of formal project, or is using a name they have no special claim on. That’s the “about” channel (see link above).

    I know it’s unusual for an IRC network to have a channel ownership policy of this sort, but I’ve always tried to be clear that I consider freenode to be “in IRC but not of it.” We’re here to provide a service to project groups, and the FOSS community is at the head of our list.

    For a general reference channel such as yours, maybe it really does make sense for you to be on a more conventional IRC network, where channel names have no special significance and where “first come, first served” is the only rule. There are a lot of IRC networks that fill that role. Chriis mentions OFTC, and they have a good reputation. We don’t especially want your group to leave, but maybe they’d be a better choice.

    I’m sorry for the irritation factor involved; we did try to post the link to the policy document in a prominent place on the website, but sometimes it just doesn’t occur to people that freenode is anything but the usual sort of IRC network. Apologies for the difficulties.

    Sincerely yours,

    Rob Levin
    Head of Staff, freenode

  4. I’ve got easy access to my DNS and webserver, so I quickly added photography.rahga.com if you wish to use it to claim it as the channel’s action for trademark defense. 😉

  5. Robert Levin says:


    IANAL, but I’m not sure there’s any way to really capture “photography” as a trademark, considering how long various entities have used that word. On the other hand, unless and until somebody can make a case to own that channel, there’s no reason why we couldn’t forward it to the new channel, or provide an ENTRYMSG that pointed to the new channel name as the location of freenode’s premier photography channel. We’re doing other channel forwards to try to accomodate channels that have moved, and consider it a reasonable convenience for long-time IRC users who are not used to some of freenode’s unusual aspects.

    It may be that some other network would be better for this channel; but I’d hate to see it go, and I’d be happy for freenode to do whatever it can within policy to support it.

    Rob L.

  6. Tybstar says:

    If we are not the sort of group that Freenode wants on their server, I would be happy to move. It doesn’t matter to me which network we move to. I’m already in Gimpnet but adding another network to my list isn’t a big deal.

    I found the channel because the channel name made sense, and it was on a popular network. I would never have found ##photography or #camerageeks or #photochat or any number of lilo-approved names. I don’t want to change the name of the channel.

  7. Sorry Rob… It was a bit off the cuff and for fun (thus the winkage). The “action for trademark defense” was meant to parallel RedHat’s used of the “Fedora” word and not to imply that photography could be trademarked. Either way, I’ve seen the network and policies go through all those changes since #linpeople 1997, and have seen it take on a number of those “unusual aspects”. I think it is disappointing, but not unprecedented. That’s all.

  8. Rob Levin says:


    We’d be very happy to have the group continue to use freenode, but it’s definitely your choice. Our major channels are reasonably-well publicized on websites, and in many cases belong to the groups who run the projects they pertain to. We’re not so much a browsing network for general topics, at this point, as a network for external groups to provide for interactive discussion pertaining to their work and interests.

    Again, our policy page has talked about this and other topics for some time.


    Rob Levin

  9. Rob, when #photography was started in January of 2003, the policy page was much different.

    #photography was the official name of the channel, and it has been known by that name for the past 2+ years now.

    Typically, when an entity changes a policy, people and groups involved are grandfathered in — for instance, certain homeowner laws, cell phone plans, various intrest rates, bank plans, etc.

    I understand that there are no obligations for Freenode to provide any sort of grandfathering clause. However, since Freenode exists to serve its users, it would be nice to accomodate some of the long-time users in special cases.

    Anyway, just a bit more perspective from some of the time users of your appreciated community service.

  10. Yes says:

    Well, I can understand this. If FooBarLinuxDistro (which owns foobarlinux.org) comes to freenode, maybe they’d want #foobarlinux, and that’s OK.

    But photography is not something that can be “owned”, it’s a topic. It cannot be trademarked either. Of course you can register photography.com. But while #foobarlinux indicates the projects that the channel is about, #photography indicates it’s subject.

    OK, my point is that the name “photography” cannot be officially claimed…

    OTOH, there are a _lot_ of other channels that are tolerated for some reason. I’m in many channels, but #lisp comes to mind, for example. It’s also not the name of a project, but merely a topic. The difference is that lisp.org is owned by a person who is more-or-less regular in the channel. But, I am free to create a company called LISP Inc, and register the domain lisp.com (if not already taken), and then I can claim their channel? Or look at linpeople.org. What if that domain’s owner came to freenode. According to the policy, he would have the “right”/”privilege” to take over other’s channel?

    What about the channel called #? It should be ##, because the owner of octothorpe.net will claim it. Isn’t this policy just calling for more trouble?

  11. Parker McGee (pmazer) says:

    Following “Yes”‘s comment, some other channels that come to mind: #electronics and #ai. These are some communities that were a tremendous help for me when I needed them and I /never/ would have found them without the easy to guess names. FreeNode obviously has the space for these channels, why don’t they let them continue to exist when they’re so helpful?

  12. Trae McCombs says:

    Wow, I like the comments Garrett….

    Rob is a great guy, as both Garrett and I know. We’ve defended him and his policies within OPN and now Freenode. This one though Rob… I’m going to have to take Garrett’s side on.

    I fully believe that they should be grandfathered in. I think they’ve laid out some good reasons as to why they should be. You also, if you are going to “pick on” one group, you need to make sure you are consistant with all of the other groups you choose to enforce your policies on.

    Triple our money back if we don’t like the service… (oh wait, that won’t work for me, as I’ve shelled out money before 😉 [PS. have any of you donated $$$ to freenode yet? If not, you should]

    Seriously though, Freenode is a great service to the community. I enjoy it and sadly enough, it is a part of my life. Does this mean that #linuxhelp is going to have to move to ##linuxhelp, as I doubt we own linuxhelp.org (I registered that channel eons ago, but it’s since fallen into other peoples hands.)


    Rob rocks.
    Garrett’s Right.
    Colors are cool for comments garrett.

    /me is out.

  13. Eric says:

    I do *not* recomend switching to GIMPnet, the guys in charge of there will ban you from the entire network if you get into an argument with one of them, to make sure you don’t forget who is in charge or something.

    It’s a goddamned joke. IRC networks that have more than one project should not be run by short-tempered developers of a specific project, it just doesn’t work.

  14. Tony[] says:

    IANAL either, but I seriously suspect that Trademarking is not an issue in this case, especially considering photography has an entry in the Oxford English Dictionary. IIRC, Microsoft had a last minute panic a few years ago when the Oxford English Dictionary was going to enter a definition for “Windows” as a generic term for describing a Graphical User Interface for an Operating System. Microsofts last minute dash prevented the entry, otherwise MS couldn’t claim tradmark to it as it would’ve been classed as a commonly used term within the English Language. In the same way that you or I cannot go and trademark hamburger for our fast food product. You could however build a car or motorcycle, call it “The Hamburger” and trademark it, due to the lack of relevance to the commonly used english dictionary definition.

    So like I said IANAL, but in order to worry about someone claiming trademark issues on #photography they would first have to prove that their business had nothing whatsoever in common with the Oxford English Dictionary definition, and secondly prove that #photography had nothing to do with the Oxford English Definition AND that #photography had something in common with whatever they were in the business of.

    I suspect that freenode are simply trying to avoid complications and legal difficulty. I might be wrong on all of the above comments (I’m frequently wrong), oh and did I mention IANAL?

    My comments are based on UK Law, you mileage may vary with USA law.

    NB: The Oxford English Dictionary IS NOT the same as the Oxford Dictionary of English. The former is the authoratative text of the English Language, the latter deals with the living language, and contains many words and terms not found in the former (Firewire for example)



  15. […] Linuxart Garrett LeSage’s Website « #photography is moving? huh? The fate of #photography […]

  16. Rob Levin says:

    Hi all,

    Sorry I didn’t have a chance to respond for a while, and I’m happy that everybody was able to make the transition to #photogeeks and still remain on freenode.

    Garrett, the only reason that grandfathering-in channels wouldn’t work in this case is that there are an awful lot of channels that would have to be grandfathered-in—it would be hard to ever see the policy being truly effective if we did so. On the other hand, we’re not rushing people to make that change, and it was disconcerting to realize as I did in the middle of the discussion that there really was no immediate reason for you folks to change; you didn’t need any special help of the sort that normally triggers my nudging people to change their channel name (such as channel password or channel contact resets).

    I appreciate that you went ahead and made the change anyway, and I would agree with neom’s comments that having a discrete identity apart from your IRC presence can only do your group good.

    Pmazer, Tony and Yes, the trademark aspect of the policy is partly to avoid legal issues, and partly to assure corporate entities that work with the communities that we serve that we really are serious about respecting what they would consider to be their property. There is a whole lot more involved in the channel ownership policy than just trademark issues, though. In many cases there is no trademark involved, but only a more informal claim. We want to honor informal claims, but we also want to emphasize that we’re here to serve groups of real people, not just to serve up IRC channels;so the claims we want to take the most seriously are claims which are external to IRC itself.

    The channel ownership policy also has another element. Because of our emphasis on serving external groups, we want people to be able to tell the difference between official (#foo) and unofficial (##foo) channels. All that it takes to reserve an official channel is to have a reasonable claim to a unique identity. Some names are found only on IRC, but are so clearly unique and original that they stand up very clearly as a unique identity, and some are so generic it’s harder to make that case.

    For what it’s worth, nobody wants to push #electronics or #ai or similar groups off the network. We’re not pushing channels hard to conform to the new policy, and one of the reasons is that, given that the policy is slowly making the rounds, we can reasonably hope and expect that we’ll be able to talk to nearly all of the participants before they need to take any action. In this case things got a little crazy earlier than they needed to, and my apologies.

    Eric, about GIMPnet; I would only say that they are not only a small IRC network, but a very traditional one, and traditional IRC networks do sometimes have very poorly-articulated policies and understandings about user participation. I don’t think anyone would mean to run you off if someone got into an argument with a developer but, yah, it could happen.

    For what it’s worth, freenode is trying not only to have a clear policy that reflects the goals of the network, but also to be flexible enough not to cause a lot of immediate difficulties to existing groups. Sometimes we’re more successful that others; in this case, the system broke down a bit, in that we got involved in a major discussion of the requirements of the policy before you guys really needed to do anything about it. Apologies for that breakdown of the system, and I’m glad that matters were resolved in such a thorough way (many thanks to Garrett, neom and everybody on #photogeeks for their efforts and understanding).

    Trae, thanks for your kind words and for your honesty about your feelings on the matter. I’m glad the issues seem to be resolved and that you folks are staying.


    Rob Levin
    Head of Staff, freenode

  17. […] channel manager of #photography explains on his blog: “Yesterday, it was made known to me that channels had to be re-registered. I went to fill […]

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