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    Passing the torch meta

Hi all,

After five years of running the site, I’m ready to pass it on to someone else. Due to the way it’s hosted and because there are not enough built-in moderator tools to do everything through the web interface (like creating new tags and hats), it would need to be moved to a new server/VPS that the new maintainer controls. The domain, Twitter account, and GitHub repo (which can be transferred to a new organization) would go along with it.

The new maintainer would have to pay for a new server/host going forward, and continue the domain renewal ($95/year). They would also need the time and energy for moderation, light administrative duties, and advancing the Rails codebase to add new features, fix bugs, clean up the code, and all that other stuff.

I don’t know how we will collectively decide who to transfer everything to, but I guess I’ll start by asking if anyone is even up for taking it over. I’m not in a rush to move it, and I can help with much of the migration process if needed.

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    Hi jcs,

    In an attempt to preserve a community which has been a large part of our lives for a better part of the last few years, @angersock @pushcx @355e3b @alynpost and a few other of the IRC folks feel that we can take over running the website. @alynpost will be able to provide the hosting in Santa Clara, CA under pgrmr’s infrastructure. @pushcx will assume the role of head administrator and take over the domain name along with the Twitter account. @355e3b and @aleph- will take over the care and feeding of the Rails codebase.

    We will not be making any moderation changes at this time—continuity is the important thing.

    Our transition plan is as follows:

    • @pushcx will take over the domain name and Twitter account; @angersock will also have access to resolve emergencies.
    • @pushcx will set up a GitHub organization to own the repository long-term.
    • @alynpost will provision new hardware.
    • @355e3b and @aleph- will take over the administration of the IRC channel on Freenode.
    • @alynpost will invoice @angersock, @pushcx and @355e3b for the costs of running the server long-term.
    • @pushcx and @alynpost will pick a deadline by which anyone who wants their private messages or email address deleted should request it. Once that date has passed, we will pick a date and time for the migration to occur.

    This is solely to ensure continued hosting and maintenance of the website, and a continuation of the community. Long-term, if the existing moderators wish to step down, @pushcx will be responsible for picking new candidates.

    We would also like to thank you for all of your years of work put into this.

    ― #lobsters IRC regulars (aka the clawlateral committee)

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      And I assume @tedu will be in charge of the TLS certificates?

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        This comment made me super happy :D - Thanks!

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          Joker!

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          That sounds like a great plan, thanks for putting that together. I’ll feel better knowing the site will be managed by a group instead of falling all on one person.

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            Glad to see your approval. :)

            /u/pushcx should be the central point of contact for the migration deets. We’ll keep the community updated!

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              Great! We’re really happy to step up and take good care of a community we love.

              And, for the community: the first update is that I just started an email discussion with me, jcs, and alynpost to handle the technical details of the migration. I’ve migrated barnacl.es a few times, so I’m familiar with the procedure. My guess for a timeline is two weeks, but that’ll be adjusted if needed. I’ll post a comment in this thread when we’ve picked a date or there’s otherwise news.

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            This sounds great. I’m thrilled to see people working together on this. :)

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              I got back from talking to the people planning out the transition (aleph, push, socky, goodger, alyn, 355, irenes) on Mumble and IRC - they’ve all been wonderful people putting in their best to ensure the community will experience a smooth transition and avoid any turmoil.

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                Awesome, glad to have regulars and good people taking things over.

                I would strongly recommend, and as a lobste.rs regular personally request that as a group you take a bit of time to define some basic agreement about decision making and ownership, so that it is clear between you all, and also to the community.

                This is not a problem when there’s one guy in charge - it’s simple and clear and whether you agree with them or not you have consistency and stability (thanks @jcs !)

                When there’s more than one, you need extremely strong value alignment and high levels of trust. If you guys have not known each other for 5+ years and can meet in the same bar to share a beer, you need to talk about and get down some basics. Who makes decisions, how, when; who is in control of the domain / hosting / features / community management.

                Personally, I like the ‘benevolent dictator’ situation. It reduces ambiguity and facilitates short sharp clear decisions. Greater than 2 people needs work to define that recognises that you will eventually have a conflict, that some of you will come and go, and that there is no way you can all have perfect understanding of what each other wants for this community and what your values are.

                Not doing this is a valid choice too; equal to commitment to cede to whoever has ‘root’ and control of the hosting and then domains if a conflict happens, and requiring proactively thinking about forking / commuity splits.

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                  The way that I personally view it is, @pushcx will step into @jcs’s role and take over as the benevolent dictator.

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                    Is that what you’re thinking too @pushcx ?

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                      That’s the current plan I’m executing on, yes. I want to continue this excellent community. Lobsters is in a good place: we have a healthy, active userbase, the code is stable, bug-free, and has little need for new features, and I’m on sabbatical so I have plenty of time and attention to devote to a smooth transition.

                      After the migration is complete I think it’s worth having a new meta thread about if we want to shift to a new community governance model. I’m comfortable being BD for years if not indefinitely, but there’s enough folks talking about community models that I want to have a dedicated discussion to explore examples and consider the option.

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                    One of the guiding principles we talked about a lot during the clawlateral committee meeting was that we wanted to stray as little as possible from the existing governance structure for the time being–the site has done well in its current incarnation, and @pushcx is we believe a good steward to carry on the precedent set by @jcs.

                    The plan explicitly has redundancy in roles (think failover) for all important things you mentioned. We also tried to follow a principle of least-trust and a little bit of separation of powers for the failover folks, so that continuity of service is easy but forking and hijacking is hard.

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                        So what moderation changes will you make later?

                        The first rule of intelligent tinkering is to keep all the pieces. When we say we will not be making any moderation changes at this time, we mean that we have no moderation changes to make. This group volunteered to operate lobste.rs because we like the way the website has been run. We will moderate with the same principles the site has always operated on. The moderation log is available for public inspection. Changes to the site, just like the one announced here, will be discussed in their own meta thread.

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                    Thank you all. I work a lot, don’t know Rails, and don’t really have anything constructive to contribute, but this is far and away the best signal to noise community I’m involved with and I really appreciate it.

                    If throwing money at the problem will help the new maintainers along please consider setting something up and I’ll chip in.

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                      They said they should be able to pay for everything out of pocket, as far as I know.

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                      Does this mean we can finally get an @angersock plushie?

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                        You guys were my first thought when I saw this post lol. Thanks for your continued commitment to the community ~

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                          Thanks @angersock, @pushcx, @355e3b, @alynpost!

                          I’d hate to see lobsters die!

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                            I love how fast this plan was put together and I feel it will be in good hands. I was scared seeing this post and am excited to see the community I love will keep going and be in good hands!

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                            Hello @jcs. I’d like to offer the VPS or colo space necessary to run this site. As some of you know I run prgmr.com and maintain the #lobsters channel bot, mockturtle. I’d be happy to provide the infrastructure necessary to operate lobste.rs.

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                              Thanks for building up a great community and making the extra effort to ensure its continuity.

                              I said once that if you were to shut down the site I’d find and sit on your stoop until you gave me the domain and a database dump, and that still stands.

                              The IRC regulars are chatting about putting together a plan for continuing the site. I think that’s going to be the best option, but on the off chance it doesn’t work out I’ll dust off my camping chair.

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                                You’re very much among the people I’d trust as a site owner, and I have always seen that you care about this place. I would support you, if the IRC plan doesn’t pan out. :)

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                                If you can go a bit more into traffic statistics, observed hosting costs, etc. then I’m at least curious.

                                EDIT:

                                Also, thank you for keeping this place up and running for half a decade! It means a lot to some of us, I suspect.

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                                  I’d support this. I think the moment when I started seeing you more favorably after we got off on the wrong foot was when you invited me to IRC to talk about a grassroots code of conduct you and some others had already made a start on. People who care about a community should be willing to step on toes occasionally, and I respect that you were. :)

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                                  Hi @jcs, thanks for creating Lobsters. I only joined recently and it has been a blast to be welcomed into the community.

                                  Forgive me for being forward, but would it be possible for us to convince you to stick around in some capacity? I don’t know your situation, but maybe if you offloaded 90% of your current Lobsters duties to a trustworthy team, it would help? There’s no need for all your current duties to be operated by a single individual, and it’s understandable that it’s a ton of work for one person.

                                  Moderation could be a team, the GitHub could be a team, and deployments could probably be automated.

                                  I would be willing to help out on the Lobsters GitHub organization, since I’ve been slowly learning parts of the code. Also willing to chip in money for server expenses.

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                                    The idea of a change in ownership is scary before a plan is worked out. If we implemented nice mod tooling, did a small donation run once a year to keep things running, and took over development from you, would you have the capacity to handle the light administration and keep being the owner?

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                                      Agreed—as someone else who’s joined relatively recently, and despite being fairly minimally involved so far, I’ve been surprised with how welcoming the community is.

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                                        I was thinking of this as well - the BDFL model, perhaps?

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                                        Could we possibly set up a Patreon or similar, to help with the financing?

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                                          Thanks for all your hard work, @jcs. You created a beautiful thing. Best to you on all your future ventures.

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                                            I need to think long and hard about that. The monetary costs and light duties are fine, but I couldn’t handle the code maintenance on my own, I don’t have that amount of time. I also wonder whether I’d be emotionally stable enough to manage the site; take a look at my recent threads if you want to see what I mean.

                                            In principle, with that in mind, I’m interested. I’d appreciate feedback from other community members about how they’d feel about it, and please be honest.

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                                              Building up a dev team of interested lobste.rs could probably alleviate the coding requirements

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                                              that sucks and sorry to hear you’re going. Your hand was steady at the till.

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                                                I’d be more than happy to help pay for any hosting/domain costs, and am willing to volunteer for some moderation duties. Lobsters is my go-to online community and has been for the better part of 3 years and I am willing to put in the time to keep it going. Thanks @jcs for all your hard work. It’s deeply appreciated.

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                                                  As echoed by the others, if you set up some way to donate a few dollars for the server maintenance and to give a round of drinks for the moderator team every now and then, I’ll be happy to chip in.

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                                                    Thanks for everything you’ve done @jcs. Even though I’m not a high-profile lobster, I still get a lot of pleasure and a great deal of valuable info from this site.

                                                    Thanks very much to the IRC crew for stepping up - so quickly that I didn’t even have a chance to offer to chip in for costs! (Which I’d still be happy to do if it’s needed.)

                                                    I’m particularly glad to see the list of specific crustaceans involved in the plan, a very solid bunch, and @pushcx seems like the perfect choice at the wheel to keep us In The Manner To Which We Have Become Accustomed.

                                                    Ace.

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                                                      Thank you so much for everything you’ve done, jcs. It means a lot to me and to many other people that there’s a tech news aggregator we can visit, with a community we’re comfortable enough to participate in and learn from.

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                                                        If I can be of any help, developing new features or bug fixes, I am more than happy to contribute. This is least I can do. Kindly let me know whom should i contact regarding this. I am new to lobsters. :)

                                                        Regards, Amey

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                                                          FWIW, I just started a site clone of my own, and have been looking at adding a few new admin tools, mainly a admin-only web interface for creating and editing tags. Might be open to looking at a few other things if anyone needs anything specific.

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                                                            Thank you for the site!!

                                                            The Ruby in Hollywood Ruby brigade might be a good fit for helping with the server/host payments and app features/upkeep. We’re a weekly meet-up of mostly Rails developers. We’ve been looking for a project to take on as a meet-up to hone our skills while we teach our newer members. And we have multiple lobsters in the group!

                                                            Edit: I see the irc community rallied with a proposal! We’d love to help. Maybe we can tackle some of the Github issues.

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