A story from a backwater of a little bit of IRC

This is a story of something that only really exists as data in a server, but is somehow more than that, of people, personalities, our own little soap opera in what they now call cyberspace; In essence it is the story behind a channel on something called Internet Relay Chat otherwise known as #gb, however things are not quite as tidy as that. I'm not going to say its factually correct, it probably isn't, but I like it and that is really all that matters.

I first discovered what they refer to as the Internet in 1991, when I started university, in those days the culture was somewhat different from what it is now, the network was primarily the plaything of the academic community, it was a privilege. I used to partake in Usenet discussion groups, if you got more than 20 articles in a day the newsgroup was probably high traffic. The wise listened on Usenet support group, and when there was a question they could answer they answered it correctly, concisely and matter of fact. I got involved in some of the later early generation of muds, I still have 3 or 4 wizards on various muds out there. Life was a gentle easy backwater, however behind the scenes various things were happening, Usenet was getting bigger, its content value was getting lower and lots of non educational people were getting connected, they paid for their connection, sod this netiquette stuff they would do whatever they wanted. On Usenet this came to a head around 1994 with "the great" Canter and Seigel spam, Usenet has never been the same since.

It just happened in 1994 I finished at university, my free Internet access ended, so I joined the modem crew and got an account with Demon Internet. The history behind Demon Internet is sort of important here, it was started as a sort of self help, co-operative "get ourselves connected to the Internet scheme". The people behind it (several of which are now considerably richer) came from what might be called the classic Internet culture, there was no official help line everyone helped each other out and it all happened from a back room of the demon consultancy and it all just got a little out of hand. When I joined in 1994 this was still the predominate atmosphere, most people knew most of the technical staff, the support line had arrived, but the "official" software was still a hacked together bit of kit known as KA9Q.

One of the Usenet newsgroups that demon provide is a newsgroup called 'demon.local' it was in this newsgroup that demons staff and customers of hung out. Several of demons staff also hung out on an IRC channel known as #gb, and probably more by accident #gb become a sort of social hang out for quite a few of those from demon.local. In its original incarnation #gb was used by various system administrators, technical support staff, bored students and other people in the traditional Internet vain who worked during the day and of course IRC'd during the day too.

This caused #gb to increasing take on a duel personality, during the day it was a quiet gentle chat area, time being of no particular essence and after 6pm, cheap phone call time, the masses from demon Internet and increasingly other ISP's would race online and things would take on a more urgent feel since these people had phone bills to worry about. As time went by these groups got further apart, there where people who where in both camps, but the difference in feel between the two personalities was quite noticeable.

It is here we introduce a few people personalities, Michael Lawrie, a fairly clever sort of chap, however he does suffer from being a little big headed and seems to like to see people kicking and screaming when there is nothing they can do. When I started using #gb there seemed a little bit of a controversy if he would be allowed on the channel at all, but partly because of the number of node names he had, partly because nobody could be bothered to make an effort in the other direction and partly because some people didn't mind him that much he slowly managed to become part of the furniture. This in itself is still resented by some of the "old timers", and does get mentioned from time to time.

Partly because of the residents, partly because op's where giving out moderately freely and partly because people got fairly liberal with the kicks and bans, #gb became a frequent take over target (when someone tries to get sole control of a channel), this started to become a serious irritant and although several residents had IRC operator status it did often cause the channel to become unusable. Amongst the people who got moderately annoyed by this was Michael Lawrie, and he came to the conclusion that the easiest way to stop this was reduce the number of people with channel operator status and to enforce channel policy by means of an IRC bot, known as Tilda. This was to some extent discussed during the day, however the evening crowd where not really consulted, since they where not really considered important.

To those of a paranoid disposition this smelt like a channel takeover, and to be honest there may well of been that as part of its intention, however operator status was a God given right and Michael Lawrie could not take it away from them. To those in the evening crowd he didn't even take part, so how could he take over their channel? Those with which the limited discussion had taken place where never around during the evening so to many of the evening crowd it was Michael Lawrie v The Rest of the World.

Not surprisingly Michael Lawrie got a little pissed off at those arguing with him, after all, it was a perfectly sensible idea and so Channel Policy started to include a ban on the worse offenders. This only got the worst offenders even more annoyed and gradually a parallel channel initially called #xgb and eventually being called #dl-bar grew up.

Many of those in #dl-bar will tell you that the channel is the real #gb and that Lawrie only has the name for a bit, those in #gb may tell you that they have got rid of the invaders and the channel can return to what it should be. The truth if such a thing exists is probably neither.

Page last updated: 24/10/1997 at 23:25:45. webmaster@looking-glass.org