Where Friendship and Responsibility Collides in a Community

In the years I've had this blog I've rearely talked about the nitty-gritty of running an IRC channel.  In theory, there's not much to it.  But in reality, it's a community of people, many who have been there for many, many years. This is where a large group of my friends are.  All types of people from all over the world.

But lately the topic of respect and seniority has been brought up more and more often.  Why certain people have different levels of privileges than others.  Those who are asking, and feel they deserve the elevated rights state loyalty and seniority as the reason for it.  But I feel very differently, and I wanted to discuss it here.  I'm probably not the only one who has encountered these issues in whatever type of community they happen to run.

I have the highest respect for those who have been a party of a community for an extended length of time.  In fact, any group of people would just slowly disappear if people didn't stick around.  So that's common sense, you need a core group of people that you know will be around.  It makes it more comfortable for new people knowing that if the group has been there that long, then it must be something special.

But I personally see a very distinct difference between quantity and quality.  Especially online you know the difference between people who "use" something, and who "take part" in something.  On digg.com there's people who use it to see what stuff is popular and go and read it.  And then there's people who go out and find new stuff and submit it to the site.  On twitter there's people who only follow celebrities and read what they have to say, and then there's people who submit 140 character pieces of content to keep the community alive.  The examples can go on and on.  There's people who use it, and there's people who are it.

On IRC it's no difference.  We have people who run the web site, we have people who run the wiki, we have people who take care of the bot, host podcasts, etc etc etc.  There's been so many things over the years that people have stepped up and said "I can take care of that for us."  While there's people who have been there 15yrs and never once even logged into the wiki to update their profile page, or used the website for anything.  Those are two completely different groups of people.  While giving elevated privileges to the people who have been loyal members of the community for many years, they never earned it.  Never made an attempt, never even showed interest.

This is an issue for me.  As both groups of people are my friends.  All who are long-time friends and I care about.  The question becomes am I willing to to please a friend, and gift them with something that shows I respect them while at the same time disrespecting the community as a whole and how it operates?  My answer I determined was no.  I'm not.  This hurts people, and that really sucks.

Gabe Kangas

May 18, 2009