Why was Jon Ringer banned from GitHub?

I came across a Reddit post indicating that Jon Ringer, a significant contributor to the NixOS project, has been banned from GitHub. This raises some critical questions:

  1. Could this adversely impact the NixOS 24.05 release?
  2. What are the specific reasons behind the moderation team’s decision to ban Jon Ringer from GitHub?

I think it’s safe to say that the broader community would be eager to get answers to these questions.

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I can understand why he would be banned from Discourse and such, but I don’t think it’s in the best interest of the community to ban him from GitHub. His technical contributions are objectively useful and meaningful.

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He is suspended. It’s not a permanent ban.

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Question still remains: NixOS 24.05 release cycle starts now and the person leading it is suspended from GitHub for the entire release cycle. What do we do?

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TL;DR

willfully furthering the division

I hope we see Jon (and others!) back someday soon and that these divisions can be healed. A house divided against itself, cannot stand.

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The stated reason is:

repeatedly derailing sensitive discussions and willfully furthering the division in the community

That doesnt sound like transparancy to me, with this justification most things could be blocked, banned, muted etc. and users still wouldnt know why.

I think the old “with great power comes great responsabilities” applies to moderation as well.

To be meaningful and transparent, we should get:

  • Moderator responsible for the ban
  • Message that triggered the ban
  • Clear pointing to the rule that was broken

If you can ban people, you should be able to stand by that with your account, no hiding behind shared , generel purpose Mod accounts. I get that there comes heat in the direction of the Mod/s, but this comes with the title. If youre not willing to stand by your actions publicly, you shouldnt perform those actions. This also lowers the chances of rogue actors, because the community can identify them and hold them accountable.

If the users dont have the Message and the clear pointing to the rule that was violated, they might not understand the ban and might have problems following the rules, if the rules and the applications arent clear.

Adding to that, why do people get banned from github instead from discourse? It seem like this ban has nothing to do with commits/ actions or in-actions on the code base . So why block this person from performing tasks that are needed and add to the project and the community? Give a temp ban here on Discourse, it seems like that the violation happend here anyway.

As a new user im already scared of the moderation and voicing my opinion.

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I’d like to see some more details about why he was banned. Most of the posts I’ve seen from him were pretty respectful and reasonable.

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While vague on its own, I think it’s fairly clear what the reason given in the moderation log means if we just look around the Discourse, GitHub, and Matrix space where Jon participated over the past week and especially at the flashpoint which I believe was 2024-04-25T00:00:00Z. [^1] Whether the reasons are sufficiently strong for the suspension, and its being issued at this time, I don’t know; But, I expect (or even hope) that the moderation team at least considered that carefully, right or wrong. It would be very cumbersome to document all of Jon’s behaviour in the log, both due to the effort of compilation and writing, and the larger diff size (not such a big deal imo, but still). Further, I believe (and this is speculation on my part) that the moderation team has also made this decision based on other prior instances where no action was taken. Since the issue the mod team was addressing was probably not an isolated incident (even if it was one that prompted the action) but more likely a pattern of behaviour and Jon’s disposition on certain subjects, which he expressed frequently, it would be very difficult to produce an exhaustive and thorough explanation.

[^1]: I won’t link to any instances here, but I assure you that they aren’t terribly hard to find. In fact, I wasn’t looking for them but merely stumbled upon them. And what’s more, it’s conceivable that you might find Jon’s position in those instances to be reasonable. Even so, I think it’s recognizable that his behaviour was plausibly actionable.

P.S. Did we disable footnotes? That makes me sad.

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Some people are accusing the moderation team of bias in banning Jon. To address these concerns, please provide specific examples of his violations instead of relying on vague insinuations.

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Jon himself has said he is “not innocent” on the reddit post. There’s no need for you to litigate this.

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I’m brand new to Nix, and I was just checking out the release schedule (NixOS 24.05 — Release Schedule · Issue #303285 · NixOS/nixpkgs · GitHub) to figure out if I should hold off for the new release (I prefer sticking to stable branches) or not. While browsing, I stumbled upon a comment regarding Jon’s ban, which piqued my interest to learn more about how the project operates. I’m keen on diving into NixOS, so understanding why Jon got banned, whether it was justified, and if I want to be part of a community that bans people like him is important to me.

Now, bear in mind, all I have are speculations as I’ve only spent about an hour looking into this.

Despite going through the ban reasoning (Suspend jonringer for 6 weeks · NixOS/moderation@c0f7744 · GitHub), I couldn’t find a clear reason for his ban. So, I turned to Jon’s activity history on Discourse (Profile - jonringer - NixOS Discourse) to see if there were any red flags. Nothing really stood out to me at first glance. He appeared quite level-headed—no signs of aggression or a tendency to escalate situations. I stumbled upon this thread (Should organizations relating to the defense sector being able to sponsor NixOS? - #32 by no_name) where some folks were acting in a way that, personally, I would consider bullying, but Jon handled it very calmly. I also found this Reddit post of his (written in a calm and reasonable tone, almost seeming like he’s been gaslighted into believing he’s wrong here) https://www.reddit.com/r/NixOS/comments/1cd5fod/in_case_im_unable_to_return_wish_you_all_the_best/, which led me to an open letter https://save-nix-together.org that I haven’t had time to read yet, but it seems Jon’s stance on this letter might’ve played a part in his ban.

From an outsider’s perspective, it all appears like an internal power struggle—someone possibly wanting Jon to keep quiet not because he’s bad for the project, but because he crossed paths with someone.

I’m not taking sides here because I don’t know enough about the situation, but I strongly believe in transparency, and this whole scenario doesn’t seem transparent at all. Hopefully, this situation will prompt the Foundation to move towards a more open approach.

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I could be wrong (and welcome any corrections from people who actually know), but it seems to me that the Foundation is not effectively a governing body: all actual governance (such as deciding who is part of the Github org, or who gets to speak on this Discourse instance or in the official Matrix chats) is done by a team of “moderators” who operate in an intentionally-opaque manner and are not accountable to the Foundation. Moreover, the Foundation seems to have been made further irrelevant by certain recent public statements.

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From an outsider’s perspective, it all appears like an internal power struggle—someone possibly wanting Jon to keep quiet not because he’s bad for the project, but because he crossed paths with someone.

It appears to be a power struggle because it is one. A politically motivated one, at that. It’s a shame, we picked probably the worst possible time to be seriously interested in NixOS, but it is what it is.

At some point, people are going to stop pretending to themselves that the mod team are working for the good of the NixOS project. Until then, (and until morale improves), the beatings will continue.

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To be honest, this doesn’t really quell any concerns. When I looked at Jon’s posts I couldn’t find anything that looked remotely like misconduct, certainly not something that would warrant a 6 week suspension. Jon’s civility, if anything, makes the need for moderator action like this seem even less likely.

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Answering your question is tricky to say the least. You are right that Jon appears quite level-headed and polite! He doesn’t call people names, he doesn’t outright troll people, and overall he seems very reasonable (and I’m still of the opinion that he is).

That said, our community as a whole is at the peak of years-long crisis. Historically, Nix community has been very welcoming of anyone tech-savvy and not outright hostile. We haven’t even had any moderation at all for a very long time, and we used to do things based on lengthy discussions and implicit authority that is based around people’s contributions. This might sound like a good thing, but it had backfired horribly on so many occasions. Flakes are in a half-baked limbo for eternity because people used their authority to push the feature without properly addressing community’s concerns. We are permanently short on people, because people with authority block any attempts to expand the teams. We are struggling with getting a lot of basic things done, because people with authority block any progress on that.

This is no exaggeration that this is a years-long crisis. There are people with authority in our community that are destroying the project and the community, and this authority is all implicit. A reasonable thing to do would be to ban those people from the project, as they are doing a lot of harm. But we can’t. We don’t have any formal structures in place to do that. Our moderation team is very limited in scope (as a result of people with authority limiting it!), and we don’t have anyone with actual explicit authority to ban people from the project.

As you can see, the situation is extremely dire. We desperately need to take decisive actions. The open letter was one of those actions. Jon’s input is, unfortunately, counterproductive in this case: the concerns he raises are valid, but he also misses the very important context of the situation being extremely bad. As such, he derails the sensitive conversation and wastes everyone’s time, when the clock is ticking like it never did.

To be clear: I’m not part of the moderation team, and I don’t speak for its behalf. This is my vision of a situation as someone who involved themselves with Nix Project for 3 years, without assuming some formal position. While I don’t want to see Jon gone from the community, I support the 6-week suspension: we really are in a terrible situation, and his input right now doesn’t help.

Regarding the Foundation: it is not a governing body. It just takes cares of administrative tasks, such as setting up events, NGOs, interacting with the sponsors, and so on. Moderation team isn’t a government body either: RFC 98 tried to establish it as such, and failed miserably. There are reasons to think that this failure (as long as all other failures at establishing a coherent governance model) are intentional sabotage from people who enjoy the implicit authority under the status quo.

The open letter calls this situation out, and wants to fix it. The open letter also depends on knowing a lot of internal context, so I’ve put out a text that aims to explain the situation concisely (shameless self-plug!).

I’ll add the section about RFC 98, Moderation team, and how it plays into this conflict, since it seems very apparent that people are confused about it, and are questioning moderation decisions in this case.

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There are people with authority in our community that are destroying the project and the community, […]

I’m having a hard time figuring out whom you’re referring to. Could you help me?

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No sealioning please.

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