I recently was voted on to the board for the XMPP Standards Foundation.
(XMPP—also known as Jabber—is a standardized protocol for realtime communication. We use it a lot at &yet and believe it to be quite useful.)
I’m extremely honored to become an official part of a community I have a significant amount of respect for.
As I said in my application, I’m a huge fan of the XMPP community. Many of the folks who are passionate and vocal in this unique community have inspired my beliefs about what the Internet should be.
The XSF is this tiny conclave that seems to have somehow preserved a lot of the ethos of the best hopes of the Internet. But sadly, XMPP is viewed at best as irrelevant to every developer community I have participated in outside the XSF.
In an era when people are increasingly distrusting of centralized services, that’s absolutely unacceptable.
I want that to change. And very respectfully, I would like to say that I believe a big part of what needs to change is the XSF itself.
Four of the key things I said I wanted to do as a board member were:
- Push for the XSF to be very opinionated and have an agenda.
- Encourage the community to focus on users.
- Get rid of religious ideals that discourage new users from accessing, adopting, and understanding.
- Help the XSF shift toward seeing itself as an agent of empowerment for open source rather than a judgmental gatekeeper.
The first motion I’d like to make is probably one of the more controversial ones I could possibly make.
I’d like to propose the XSF use IRC.
No, that’s not a joke!
Here’s why I am legitimately proposing this.
- If XMPP is going to be a viable technology long-term, it needs to gain more adoption.
- If we believe it’s a useful standard, we need to make it more accessible.
- And we’re not going to gain adoption or accessibility if the leadership of the community is off in a corner.
Yes, there is value in the community eating our own dogfood by using XMPP for our communication.
But is that value more significant than growing the community, educating new users about available tools and approaches, combating myths and inaccurate assumptions about the technology, listening to the needs of users, and helping developers overcome the complex aspects of working with XMPP?
And I’d challenge anyone to make a compelling case otherwise.
I’m not saying we stop using XMPP entirely, or that we shouldn’t use XMPP for XSF governance, but that we should recognize where the developer community is hanging out all day—it’s IRC, Slack, Gitter IM, and other locations—and we should encourage the community to have an active (idle?) presence there.
Yes, the fragmentation of chat is antithesis of the spirit and purpose of XMPP. But the XMPP community isn’t going to convince anyone of anything if all we’ve got is a few dusty monestaries and a dwindling number of very smart and stubborn monks. (Well intentioned as they may be!)
In 2014, XMPP is an effective silo because its best advocates are in ivory towers instead of the messy marketplace.
Let’s go where the people are, help them be successful with this technology and all the new cool things it can help them do. Are there more exciting areas than IoT and WebRTC right now? People want to use XMPP for these things.
Let’s go where they are and help them do it!