The Intermud Router Controversy

"No good deed goes unpunished."

A brief history of Intermud-3
The birth of *yatmim
The death of *gjs
The first conflict
A question of application of authority
A knack for heckling
Dear darling fascist bullyboys
A New Hope
Going forward

A brief history of Intermud-3:

I3 as a protocol was born of a desire to have communication
between muds. The developers put together a specification and coded
an implementation on a mud that served as a reference. Other muds
used this protocol, and it became a de-facto standard for networked
communication between MudOS muds. Other LP muds have used it, and
even Diku-based codebases have implementations available to them.

The way I3 works is that your mud has a client program
which can be configured to connect to an I3 server. That server is
usually a mud running special server code. That server code is
called the "router" code, and the mud that runs it is called the
"intermud router". The router serves as a central hub for communication,
so muds that want to talk to each other using the I3 protocol will
connect to one router, which will then forward data between them.
When lots of muds connect, you can have a lively, fun community
space for chatting and help and such.

The developers of I3 ran the main intermud router. It
was called *gjs. The asterisk is part of the name, and is meaningful
to internal router processes. However, the asterisk is commonly
dropped from router names when discussing them casually.

*gjs had rules. Using colors on channels was forbidden,
for example. Hate speech was not allowed. Muds who made nuisances of
themselves could find themselves banned from the router.

As the years passed, the router admins seemed to have less
and less interest in the router. The last time I saw any rule
enforced was back in 98 or 99, when StarMUD was banned...and frankly
I don't even remember what they were banned for. My best guess is that
the admins just got bored with running the router, and couldn't
be bothered arguing with jerks about rules.

By 2006, *gjs was extremely unreliable. It would go
down, literally for days, then mysteriously come back up with no
word of explanation. Its flagship chat channel, imud_gossip, had
become such a notorious cesspool that at least one major codebase
maintainer swore off putting I3 code in his work. New muds were
heavily abused, in some cases to the point of destruction. Casual use
of hate speech (stuff instantly censored on any MUD discussion
board I've been on) was common enough to be unremarkable.

The birth of *yatmim:

By that time, I had picked up maintainership of the
Dead Souls codebase. Dead Souls muds had historically been part
of the I3 community, and as the maintainer, I encouraged people to
use intermud as a way to ask questions and share their experiences.

However, the atmosphere of hostility at *gjs and its
unreliability made it hard for me to foster the new community
I wanted to nurture. I decided that I would set up an alternate
router. This would be a router people could count on to actually
be up and running all the time, and a place where they could go
without fear of punishment for just being new.

It was my intention to provide an alternative. If people wanted
to go back to *gjs and its degeneracy, that was fine by me. Nothing
in the code prevented it (and in fact, I added a command to switch
back and forth as one pleased). But at least *new* muds would get a
chance to wade in the shallow end before diving into the the
piranha pit.

The new router was called *yatmim. It was just a
couple dozen Dead Souls muds, mostly empty. The idea never, ever, was
to compete with *gjs. How could I? The eminences of LP mud were there,
probably ossified into their router connections. All *yatmim was
intended to be was a place for new muds to catch their breath, get
their heads on straight, and if they wished, then move elsewhere.

It occurred to me during one of *gjs's long downtimes
that others might want to know about an alternate router, so I
posted an invitation to other muds to join *yatmim, IF they
agreed to abide by the rules.

Since hostility was half the problem I wanted to solve,
*yatmim had rules. Pretty standard stuff, and the kind of thing you'd
expect at a place where community support is the point. Don't
hassle newbies, don't use hate speech, don't spam the channels, etc.
None of it was hard to comply with if you're a normal person, and
none of the DS muds that joined complained.

*yatmim chugged along, a happy, friendly little community
away from the grue of *gjs.

The death of *gjs:

On August 1 2006, *gjs went down again. This was not unusual.
By the summer of 2006, *gjs had become so wildly unstable that it
would be fair to say it was up and down in equal measure. I didn't
think much of it at the time.

Days passed, then weeks, and it became clear that that
this might not be an ordinary failure. After two months, I posted
another invitation to muds. It seemed to me that it would be a nice
kind of public service to offer some refuge to the abandoned. I made
it very clear in every invitation I made, be it posted or personal,
that *yatmim had rules and they were enforced.

Perhaps I should have known better. I've subsequently
been accused of being responsible for the conflicts that came, and
that I should have foreseen them. Maybe that is true. In my defense,
I thought I was being reasonable. I gave people the option to join
or not join, based on their willingness to obey the rules. It's
a bargain we strike all the time, when we enter a home, pub, or
even a public park. It's not a new concept, it's not hard to understand,
and yes, I trusted my fellow humans to make informed decisions on
this point. If that makes me guilty of something, I argue I'm
guilty of common sense expectations of normal behavior.

The first conflict:

Duuk@Haven and Corvin@Nanvaent are folks well known for
the vile content of their speech and their habitual hostility.
One can see them as "adding flavor" to a community I suppose, and
in any case, who cares that much. But once on *yatmim, they were
subject to the rules, which they broke.

Despite frequent pleas on my part, and ever-sterner
warnings, both of them chose to continue to use racist language
on a channel where it is not permitted. Eventually I came to the conclusion
that rules are pointless without enforcement, and as admin, I'd
have to do something about it. So I banned their muds from the
imud_gossip channel.

They could still connect to the router and talk on other channels.
They could do tells to other people, remote who's and finger's. But
since they kept breaking channel rules, I removed them from the
channel they were abusing.

A howl of protest erupted from the people on both muds,
and from someone named Arren, who appeared to take on their cause.
You can read a log of how the conflict was debated here.

The level of rancor was surprising to me. After all, I
thought my actions were not only rational and reasonable, but
inevitable given the rules. I wondered if there was a problem I was
misunderstanding, so I opened up the question to vote and discussion
on a forum site. The vote results and some comments are here.

The final page of the discussion is here.

I had been surprised by the nature of the opposition to
my act, but it was the vote result that surprised me the most.
Out of the 14 people who bothered to vote, exactly one felt that
the rules should be changed.

I was completely taken aback. Certainly more than one person
in the discussion thread opposed the what was going on?

A question of application of authority:

It seems that the problem Arren had was in how the rules
were applied. It seems that the problem most others had was that
the rules were applied, or that it was me who was applying them.

As far as I can tell, nostalgia for the old laissez-faire
adminship of *gjs was what I was running into. Nobody was really
up to arguing against the rules. And, really, how could they?
They're the most standard, typical rules of moderated forums.

What they didn't like was not being in the decision-making,
and that the rules, fine as they might be, were actually applied
at all.

As I indicated in the discussion thread, I was at a
complete loss as to how to address those concerns. I am unable
to morph into someone else. The router design is based on a
standard I did not develop. Someone has to have admin privs, and
if there are to be rules, that admin has to enforce them, or
they are moot.

I didn't know what I could possibly do to change anything
to people's satisfaction, given that as far as I could tell:

1) The rules were generally agreed to.
2) Muds implicitly agreed to them by joining *yatmim.
3) I had tried to avoid being a jerk, by first warning, and
finally only banning in the most limited way I could.
4) When the muds in question agreed to comply I immediately
let them back on.

The only conclusion I could reach was that the problem
was unhappiness with a single person being in complete control
of the enforcement process. At the end of the thread, I invited
folks to work toward some sort of distributed I3, if this
really was the problem.

I received no responses offering to help in this endeavor.

A knack for heckling:

Throughout these events, the mission of *yatmim has
remained the same. It is a place for new muds to conduct their
business according to the rules I set down. I set them down
for the purposes that suit me, among them providing a space for support
of new muds, particularly Dead Souls muds, the lib I develop.

Following the death of *gjs, refugees are welcome and
I have very much enjoyed their participation, because the
vast majority find the rules unremarkable and ostensibly acceptable.

However, a tiny minority of hecklers appears to have
taken to heart the misconception that *yatmim is the new *gjs.
If that's your assumption, then an obvious set of logical
steps follow: Cratylus is trying to reform people, he's usurping
control over something he has no right to, etc.

Somehow in the noise is lost the fact that this is
a router people volutarily connected to, subject to the rules
which derive from its mission.

*yatmim was never intended to be the new *gjs. *yatmim
started because *gjs was the problem.


In the finest traditions of the internet, rather than
complain on *gjs about how unsuitable it was for my purposes,
I just rolled my own. I used Tim@TimMUD's fine router code
to put up *yatmim, because relying on other people to fix my
technical/development problem is something that has just never
quite panned out for me.

I have similarly made it possible for anyone who wants
to run an intermud router to do so. I include the router code in
every single download of Dead Souls. Anyone can download it
and make their own router, where the rules can be or not
be to their heart's content.

It seems to me that if people really want to have *gjs
back, they can either track down the old *gjs admins and
have it out, or they can set up their own router, which is
incredibly easy to do now with Dead Souls.

Instead, a few folks prefer to whine and threaten and complain.

Dear darling fascist bullyboys:

In a way, this article is dedicated to them, because it
is intended to serve as the official response to their continuing
petulance, and those (and yes, there seem to be some) that are
swayed by their ad hominem attacks.

It's hard for me not to respond when someone complains,
because I take Dead Souls seriously, and I take the purpose
of *yatmim seriously. I find it difficult just ignoring people, even when
their position has been shown to be moot, or incorrect, or
just plain mean-spirited and in bad faith. I feel like it starts
me down the path of evil, the dark path of the Admin That Just
Doesn't Care. And so I find myself involved in the exact same
argument with some folks, over and over and over, as if they were
incapable of remembering the rules they agreed to.

As much as I want to continue being a responsive admin,
as much as I want to demonstrate that I am not trying to be their boss,
not interested in their private communications, not invested in
being The Next *gjs....there's a limit to my time. I can't get stuck
in these Groundhog Day debates whenever someone is bored. Continuing
to justify my intentions takes up time I can ill afford on petty

Let this article stand as the response to whatever
charge of malicious intermud intent is presented against me. If
it is insufficient, then let the chips fall where they may.

A New Hope:

Arren@Anarres II has set up a new router. Please see the intermud page for connection details.

When he set up this router, another Arren debate
occurred. You can see the details here.

A you can see, it's rather confusing. What he'd first
agreed to was being listed on the intermud page, but then he
wanted "primary routership". He agreed with the idea of setting up
an inter router network but then continued to argue for his
being primary router, which in the context of a distributed
network doesn't make sense. If there's an inter router network,
what difference does it make who is the admin of which router?

And finally, though he continually argued against
"fragmentation", when I hesitated to agree to all of his demands
that very night, he decided it was ok to ask muds on *yatmim
over to his router.

I think it's understandable for me to be wary of the
conflicting messages and the aggressive pressuring. I've asked
for comments
on that log on the lpmuds site, because frankly,
I'm not sure I get his deal.

However, I don't have to understand him in order to
know he'll run a reliable router. If you are uncomfortable
with the way I run *yatmim or even if you want a change of scenery,
Arren's router is a perfectly good choice.

UPDATE, 7 July 2007:
By chance I ran across something that explains to me
the reason for Arren's behavior (aka Shevek aka Ben Mankin).

I am no longer puzzled. It appears that rudely fragmenting communities is
actually a habit of his. See the following urls (be patient, the wayback machine
can take a very long time to load pages) (Arren's text is in red):

For context on what they're talking about:

AFAICT Arren and some other guy decided to take over the name (by
incrementing the version number) and development of the spf
library, over the objections and concerns of the developer who wrote it
and was still maintaining it. This was seemingly done as rudely and
aggressively as Arren's attempted maneuver to claim primary i3
router adminship.

I'm no longer so sure about recommending folks to
use Arren's router. It pains me to suggest affiliation
with someone whose behavior is chronically so meanspirited and

However, the fact remains that his router is probably a quite
reliable alternative, and I suppose that's all that matters.

Going forward:

As I mentioned before, those unhappy with *yatmim
can avail themselves of Arren's router. I don't
know what his rules and policies are, so you'll need to
discuss that with him, but believe me, you won't be hurting
my feelings when you go :)

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