IRSeeK Suspends Search Engine Pending Changes To Address IRC Community Concerns

from the public-or-private? dept

Slashdot points to the heated debate over IRSeeK, a "search engine" for public IRC channels. Although IRC channels are technically public, a lot of IRC users are uncomfortable with the notion of their off-the-cuff comments being recorded for posterity. I think the flare-up reflects the complicated dynamics of "public" versus" private" information. Although we often use these words as though they're two discrete categories, "public" and "private" are actually points along a spectrum. In the physical world we've developed an elaborate system of subtle social conventions regarding when it's appropriate to listen in on, record, and share the communications of others. Conversations overheard at a restaurant or on the bus obviously aren't as private as conversations in your living room, but people would still feel their privacy was being invaded if someone surreptitiously recorded them and then published them on the Internet. There are a lot of different degrees of "public" and "private" in our daily lives. The same principle applies in cyberspace: the fact that a communications forum is "public" doesn't necessarily mean that people are comfortable with it being recorded, archived, published, and indexed by search engines. Unfortunately the online world is so new that the relevant social conventions have yet to fully emerge. Facebook, for example, caught a lot of flack when they introduced news feeds that let you keep tabs on your friends' actions. That resistance appears to have largely evaporated as people discovered how useful the feature could be. By the same token, IRSeeK could turn out to be a very useful service, and so initial resistance shouldn't necessarily be a reason to abandon the idea. A search engine could be particularly useful for tech support forums, because it would allow users who had a particular problem to search the logs for references to their particular problem before asking about it.

But it's important that IRSeeK help to develop clear social norms so that people know when their conversations are being recorded and how the archives will be used. And to their credit, they appear to be doing just that. It has announced that the search engine will be suspended until they've found ways to address the community's concerns, and it also mentions several measure it's considering to address the community's concerns. The most important, from my perspective, is to develop an analogue to the web's robots.txt file, so that IRC operators have a straightforward way to opt out of archives and search engines. IRSeeK also mentions giving their bots standard names so that other IRC users will know their statements are being recorded. And it may avoid indexing nicknames to make it harder to track a given user's activities across multiple IRC channels. IRSeeK's swift response to community outrage and its apparent willingness to modify its services to address community concerns suggests that it may successfully navigate these tricky issues and come up with a service that's genuinely useful without being overly intrusive.

Filed Under: , ,
Companies: irseek

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “IRSeeK Suspends Search Engine Pending Changes To Address IRC Community Concerns”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment

IRC sessions are the equivalent of standing in a room IRL and chatting. Everyone there can hear you. Everyone there can remember what you said (logs). But everyone in the world CANNOT hear you, nor remember every word you said.

Thats just how it is for the vast majority of irc channels–that is the metaphor to reality that they utilize.

Now, some of us might elect to invite the loggers into our channels to log us. That would keep us on task, and civilized, and we might move some of our bull to secret channels where you are NOT invited. We will adjust. But do not log where you are unwelcome, whether or not you think it is public or private.



I expect people to have good manners. I expect them to respect my privacy.

I also expect them to be jerks and do neither. I expect I will have to kick their asses if we meet.

It is too much trouble to plan for the worse. Smart people can naively carry on and get burned. They are smart enough to know its worth it. They are smart enough to deal with the consequences.


It’s true anyone can log their chats to a file and do whatever they want with it, but it’s a big difference between that and a search engine that always records everything and makes it available to the public. Deleting nicknames is helpful, but there’s a lot of personal information given out in a chat channel regardless.
Strange how they don’t mention which channels they want to monitor, there’s credit card fraud ones, adult stuff, medical conditions, and they don’t say which they are recording. I think most channel ops will opt out because if everything knows what they say is going into a search engine as public record, nobody is going to say anything.
I don’t think the IRC would be that good a source of information to search, it’s all unverified and anonymous.

Even channels like #politics don’t have useful information, all opinion. Most people don’t chat like they would in real life there. Just the thought of searching through a month of logs for any keyword that’s been used a million times, I just don’t see how you could learn anything relevant from it anyway.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Older Stuff
13:40 It's Great That Winnie The Pooh Is In The Public Domain; But He Should Have Been Free In 1982 (Or Earlier) (35)
12:06 Norton 360 Now Comes With Crypto Mining Capabilities And Sketchy Removal Process (28)
10:45 Chinese Government Dragnet Now Folding In American Social Media Platforms To Silence Dissent (14)
10:40 Daily Deal: The 2022 Ultimate Cybersecurity Analyst Preparation Bundle (0)
09:29 A Fight Between Facebook And The British Medical Journal Highlights The Difficulty Of Moderating 'Medical Misinformation' (9)
06:29 Court Ruling Paves The Way For Better, More Reliable Wi-Fi (4)
20:12 Eighth Circuit (Again) Says There's Nothing Wrong With Detaining Innocent Minors At Gunpoint (15)
15:48 China's Regulatory War On Its Gaming Industry Racks Up 14k Casualties (10)
13:31 Chinese Government Fines Local Car Dealerships For Surveilling While Not Being The Government (5)
12:08 Eric Clapton Pretends To Regret The Decision To Sue Random German Woman Who Listed A Bootleg Of One Of His CDs On Ebay (29)
10:44 ICE Is So Toxic That The DHS's Investigative Wing Is Asking To Be Completely Separated From It (29)
10:39 Daily Deal: The 2022 Complete Raspberry Pi And Arduino Developer Bundle (0)
09:31 Google Blocked An Article About Police From The Intercept... Because The Title Included A Phrase That Was Also A Movie Title (24)
06:22 Wireless Carriers Balk At FAA Demand For 5G Deployment Delays Amid Shaky Safety Concerns (16)
19:53 Tenth Circuit Denies Qualified Immunity To Social Worker Who Fabricated A Mother's Confession Of Child Abuse (35)
15:39 Sci-Hub's Creator Thinks Academic Publishers, Not Her Site, Are The Real Threat To Science, And Says: 'Any Law Against Knowledge Is Fundamentally Unjust' (34)
13:32 Federal Court Tells Proud Boys Defendants That Raiding The Capitol Building Isn't Covered By The First Amendment (25)
12:14 US Courts Realizing They Have A Judge Alan Albright Sized Problem In Waco (17)
10:44 Boston Police Department Used Forfeiture Funds To Hide Purchase Of Surveillance Tech From City Reps (16)
10:39 Daily Deal: The Ultimate Microsoft Excel Training Bundle (0)
09:20 NY Senator Proposes Ridiculously Unconstitutional Social Media Law That Is The Mirror Opposite Of Equally Unconstitutional Laws In Florida & Texas (25)
06:12 Telecom Monopolies Are Exploiting Crappy U.S. Broadband Maps To Block Community Broadband Grant Requests (7)
12:00 Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of 2021 At Techdirt (17)
10:00 Gaming Like It's 1926: Join The Fourth Annual Public Domain Game Jam (6)
09:00 New Year's Message: The Arc Of The Moral Universe Is A Twisty Path (33)
19:39 DHS, ICE Begin Body Camera Pilot Program With Surprisingly Good Policies In Place (7)
15:29 Remembering Techdirt Contributors Sherwin And Elliot (1)
13:32 DC Metro PD's Powerful Review Panel Keeps Giving Bad Cops Their Jobs Back (6)
12:11 Missouri Governor Still Expects Journalists To Be Prosecuted For Showing How His Admin Leaked Teacher Social Security Numbers (39)
10:48 Oversight Board Overturning Instagram Takedown Of Ayahuasca Post Demonstrates The Impossibility Of Content Moderation (10)
More arrow
This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it