I expect there are those that will agree with what follows, and those that won’t. So be it. Freedom of speech is a basic democratic right in our society, isn’t it? I think it was Voltaire that said it – something like “I might not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
Nevertheless, there are those that don’t seem to understand this. Take this example, if you will. One of my pastimes is to spend a few hours a week chatting with friends via IRC. Telstra have an IRC network running under the Bigpond banner, and this network was my introduction to the world of IRC. I consider IRC to be a superior chat service to the plethora of instant messenger services that exist today, mainly as the chat rooms on any decent IRC network have live moderators there to help weed out any undesirables. But that’s another issue entirely, so I’ll get off that soapbox and back onto the freedom of speech one.
Around mid-May, 2005, there was a power play amongst senior network operators on the Bigpond network. The network operators on Bigpond IRC are all unpaid volunteers that give freely of their time so that the IRC server can function for the benefit of the chatters that use it. The network administrator, on the other hand, is a paid Telstra employee. Unfortunately, this person has many other things to do as well as look after the IRC server network – it appears Telstra don’t consider it a resource of high priority. Given that the server network costs a considerable sum of money to maintain yet it returns almost nothing financially to Telstra, it’s not really surprising that Telstra management look like they are scaling the network down. In fact, prudent financial management of a company under the pressure to perform that Telstra currently finds itself would be to close any services that aren’t contributing to the bottom line.
In an amazing piece of mismanagement (so typical of Telstra), the administrator of the network removed the access rights of 3 of the most highly experienced and skilled operators the network had. As a result, the network operator team is now being “guided” (and I use that term very, very loosely) by a woman that has dubious technical skills, and, in my opinion, no management skills to speak of. She is untrained in any of these areas, yet Telstra, in their “wisdom,” have left her alone to bring the network to its knees.
With this woman and her lapdogs at the helm, the Telstra Bigpond network is bleeding profusely and losing chatters faster than it can gain new ones. From a network that once boasted in excess of 1500 chatters per day, it now struggles to reach 400. This person is responsible for making the network a place where chatters are unable to express an opinion that is contrary to that person’s myopic view of the network or the operators and their cronies for fear of being permanently banned from the network. This person further seems to believe that she and her cronies can march around the server like a bunch of jack-boot wearing Nazi storm-troopers and dictate to room owners how they should run their rooms. She seems to have no understanding of the concept that Bigpond is providing a service to people. She and the other operators seem incapable of realising they are there to SERVE the chatters and the room owners, not RULE over them like a dictator. They should be there to assist room owners and chatters when asked, not run around poking their noses into other people’s affairs and trying to control everything that is going on.
Addendum: The Bigpond IRC servers have since been closed down and the users have all dispersed to other networks or services.