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Bryan Rabeler and ticalc.org Part Ways
Taken from http://www.msu.edu/~rabelerb/ticalc.txt
(Reposted on http://www.geocities.com/SiliconValley/Network/3254/ticalc.txt)
It has been rumored in the past few days that I left or retired from
ticalc.org. This rumor is not true, in fact, it is very far from the truth.
Dismissed, fired, disposed of.. that's what really happened.
This happened on the night of Thursday, March 4, 1999 at around 9:20 PM
EST; only a few hours after I had been adding files, answering ticalc.org
e-mail, and adding a news article for Icarus Productions, a site I was very proud
to get hosted at ticalc.org. Ironically, I was not at the computer when this
happened and didn't return to the computer until the next morning, which is very
unusual. I had no school on Friday, due to a teacher inservice day, so I had
planned to spend a few hours answering some help mail after I woke up. However,
to my surprise, I found my computer screen filled with AIM and ICQ messages, I
was disconnected from my SSH connections to ticalc.org, and I was booted off
IRC. My first instinct was that I had been disconnected from my ISP, but that
wasn't the case. So I simply tried to log back onto ticalc.org, but a strange
thing happened, my password didn't work. Then something clicked in my
mind—there must be some connection here between the password not working and
being booted off IRC. I knew there was some problem with ticalc.org. So I
reloaded the page, and to my great surprise, there was a new article posted
entitled "Bryan Rabeler and ticalc.org Part Ways". Then I just went into a
state of shock and couldn't believe it. "Why, Why?" I asked myself, "How can
they just get rid of me like that?"
I checked my non-ticalc.org e-mail and discovered two e-mails, one from
Magnus and one from Chris. Magnus had sent me the carefully crafted dismissal
letter which the four coordinators wrote. Chris sent me a ZIP file which
contained the files in my home directory, and said that my mail was coming soon.
I still haven't gotten my mail, I suspect every piece is being read to get
missing information for the people who are going to takeover my sections.
There was no single incident labeled as the reason for my dismissal,
instead they say, it was a series of incidents. I can probably guess what these
incidents are, but in my humble opinion, they are far from dismissable offences.
I will try to explain a few of these incidents.
The first incident that I can remember is the so-called "TI-Files hack"
incident, which occurred in early November, 1998. What happened was I got the
FTP password to the TI-Files from a member who was resigning, I logged in using
that password, and deleted about 15 files in the main directory. I knew TI-
Files made backups once a week and that doing this wouldn't cause any unfixable
damage, it was more or less a joke. But nevertheless, nothing can take away
from how unprofessional and disrespectful this act was, and I am sorry for it.
I made a public apology on November 10, 1998 in the form of a news article on
A month or so later, Magnus and Chris proposed a new "staff structure".
Up until this point, the ticalc.org staff operated as if each member was an
equal. No staff member could really tell another staff member what to do,
although Magnus did have some final authority since he owns the box and the
connection, and Isaac since he owns the domain name, however Isaac has been
retired for a few years now. Such a staff structure prevented people from
telling others what to do and made it difficult for a staff member to be forced
out. However, all that was about to change. The new staff structure called for
four coordinators to be in ultimate control of the project and to make virtually
all the important decisions. Specific rules were written up for each section,
such as the file archives, reviews editor, etc. It was then presented to the
staff mailing list for discussion. Many of the veteran members agreed with it
right away (Amitai, Henrik, and Isaac) and the newer members also agreed right
away (Ahmed and Niklas). I suspect the veteran members agreed quickly because
they trusted the wisdom of Magnus and Chris, and the newer members agreed
quickly because they may not have had the "guts" to stand up to the tidal wave
of support for the new measure.
I looked the new proposal over carefully but in the end, I didn't agree
with it. For one, the proposed coordinators were Magnus, Chris, Isaac, and
Andy. These were good candidates for the job and I didn't feel any of them were
unqualified, however I felt I was being left out because I was the only "active"
member that wasn't a coordinator. Sure, other members did work now and then,
but I contributed just as many hours as everyone else did, most likely a lot
more, and quite frankly, I felt like they wanted all the power and didn't
appreciate me at all. Then after I voiced my concerns about that, Chris
e-mailed me with a metaphor saying I was like the cook in a restaurant and they
were the owners. That made be feel *SO* much better.
I also voiced concerns that the coordinators could tell each section
editor how to run their section and it would turn into a dictatorship. However,
I was assured again that most decisions would be made by the entire staff and
the coordinators would not tell anyone how to run their section (a rule later to
Finally, I voiced concerns that the process for electing coordinators was
not really fair. The process called for two votes each time an election was to
be held. The first vote was on whether or not the new staff structure should
continue and the second was if the current four coordinators should be kept for
another term. Every staff member could vote on the first question and only the
non-coordinators could vote on the second. Now if you take the first question,
you can assume that all four coordinators will vote yes on that, and so you only
need two more yes votes to get a majority. So even if a majority of the
non-coordinators are upset with the policy, it still stays in effect. With the
second vote, if a majority of the non-coordinators voted no, the policy called
for new coordinators to be nominated and voted upon. Lets say that all the
non-coordinators banded together and voted in three new coordinators (Magnus is by
default the editor-in-chief and always a coordinator). Now you are in the
position of having coordinators without root access having "power" over people
with root access. Such a situation would not be ideal. Any way you slice this
coordinator thing, its not really that fair. You are going to have people that
are always coordinators for "life" and people who work for years on the project
but are never given the opportunity to be a coordinator. That's just the way
the system is. Do you think Magnus and Chris would have proposed and promoted
this new staff structure if they were not picked to be the coordinators?
Probably not. They were already the veteran leaders on the staff, and so their
opinions already counted slightly more than everyone else's, what more could
they want right?
I know what a lot of you must be thinking, "Why go through all this
trouble to stop this new policy?" Well, the way the staff worked up until that
point was good. We were able to talk about things as a team and work through
our disagreements. Now the coordinators would run things and have the final
say. If we didn't like their decision, then too bad. Does the book "Animal
Farm" ring any bells here? I even changed my nickname on IRC to "Snowball"
because of this. Now the nickname fits perfectly.
In the end, I was the only one who strongly disagreed with the new
proposal. Only after Chris told me that I could be a coordinator after the next
election did I reluctantly vote for the proposal. Now that I look back on it, I
should probably have either opposed it all the way or resigned over it.
However, the result is nearly the same as it is now, so it didn't make much
difference in the end.
The new staff structure was passed sometime in December and the next
election was scheduled for the end of January.
Sometime in mid-January, Chris asked me to document the procedures I use
to run the file archives, since I am the only one who does the file archives and
I go by very specific rules and guidelines. I was reluctant to do so at first,
because doing so would mean that Kirk Meyer (the designated backup file
archiver) would have an excuse to start working on the file archives. There is
one little bit of information you need to know before I continue. When I joined
the ticalc.org project on March 2, 1997, my job was the file archives. I have
been doing them for exactly two years and two days (ironic isn't it?). I have
tested every single program I have added or updated to the archives on one of my
calculators, to make sure it works well and doesn't contain any inappropriate
material. I know exactly where every file is and why certain files are where
they are. You could say I have grown "attached" to them. So naturally, I
didn't want Kirk working on them. For one, it wasn't necessary. I felt I doing
a good job and we had other sections that needed a lot more work, such as the
reviews (5 new reviews in the last month is not exactly outstanding by any
means). Second, I didn't want anything messed up. When new files are added,
updated, or moved around, I no longer know where everything is and it's less
effective for me as the file archiver. However, I did write up a long
documentation file (16,497 bytes and 362 lines long) which detailed my
procedures. I presented this to the rest of the staff and Chris was pleased.
Weeks later Kirk, new to the staff, was the first to comment on it. He said
many of my procedures were useless and redundant, and that testing the program
on the calculator was not necessary. I responded by telling him that those are
my procedures and that is how it is to be done. I believe that testing all
programs on the calculator was what made ticalc.org unique and better from other
rival sites. So why should I, a two-year veteran at the file archives, have to
change my procedures because a "newbie" doesn't like them? I was accused of
being unwilling to compromise here.
At the end of January, it came time for the first coordinator elections
after the proposal had been agreed to. Each staff member e-mailed their vote to
the staff mailing list. I don't remember exactly how everyone voted on the
second question, but this is pretty close. I voted no along with Ahmed, and
Kirk voted yes. None of the others voted. It could have been different, but I
know the vote was 2-1 in favor of new coordinators. However, after Chris
"talked" to Ahmed, Ahmed changed his vote to undecided, so the vote was tied at
1-1, which isn't a majority. Chris said that Ahmed didn't even understand what
he was voting for, and therefore his first vote was not valid. I do question,
however, Chris' motive for initially contacting Ahmed about his vote.
There was also another area in which I was accused of not cooperating and
not compromising. During the month of January and part of February, I was
getting behind on the file archives and had almost 200 files in the pending
directory. A few of the staff members got on my back about this, and I began to
work on the backlog. After I had the backlog down to about 100 files, Magnus
demanded that Kirk work on the file archives at the same time, so as to get the
backlog down to zero. This made me upset because I was already working hard on
the backlog and it would be down to zero in a couple days. You may be asking
again, "Why make such a big deal about this?" Well, as I said above, I took my
job of doing the file archives very seriously and was fairly protective of them.
In addition, Kirk was the backup file archiver, a position I felt was
unnecessary from the start. Under the staff contract passed a few months ago,
the backup file archiver is not to start adding/updating files unless the main
file archiver is absent for a few days (I said 72 hours in my documentation I
wrote up for Chris). So Kirk started to add files to the archive while I was
also adding files to the archive. Most people won't understand this, but that
situation does not work very well. I told Kirk to stop and let me do my job,
but he would not stop. So I moved the pending files to a secret location and
added them one by one, so Kirk could not mess up my work. This entire situation
came about because the coordinators felt that they could tell me how to run my
section, something they told me they wouldn't do when I opposed the staff
A few days later, the backlog was down to zero and Kirk was not bothering
me about the files. All was good I thought. Then Kirk started to write this
little program that supposedly checked any program file (*.8??, *.9??) for
integrity and automatically took screenshots all by itself. I was skeptical of
such a program, especially since he promoted it as a substitute for testing
programs on the calculator. I have no idea why he spent so much time working on
the program if he was only the backup file archiver, and thus would probably
never have a time to use it (however I have a few guesses here). Other staff
members liked the idea but I opposed it. I suspect this was another incident in
which I was "unwilling to compromise". Perhaps I fail to understand why I, as
the veteran file archiver here, know less about doing file archives than the
rest of the staff. Why doesn't the "expert's" opinion count here?
So in the end, I gather that the combination of all these incidents was
the reason I was fired. Many of you may not understand why I had to disagree on
many of these issues, but trust me, I felt very strongly about those things and
you have to question whether there was really a conspiracy to get rid of me.
I was told by a current staff member that the "movement" to dismiss me
started many months ago. This could have even started before or during the
discussion on the new staff structure. You have to agree that with the new
staff structure, it is much easier to dismiss someone than it was before. Plus,
I believe that one of the main reasons Chris told me to write up documentation
on how I handle the file archives was so someone else would know how to do it
after they "disposed" of me. The thought of such a thing makes me sick.
Now the coordinators will say that there was no conspiracy to dispose of
me. They can say what they want, but think about it, there are _always_
conspiracies and cover-ups. I believe this new staff structure and coordinator
thing will eventually ruin ticalc.org. The coordinators discuss everything in
secret and don't have to explain everything to the entire staff.
Now that the first person has been fired from ticalc.org, it will be
easier to do the next time. I always thought ticalc.org was different and
unique in the fact that they had never fired anyone, unlike TI-Files and other
rival sites, and were able to talk out their differences. Sure, I disagreed on
a few things in the last few months, but the coordinators were unable to
understand where I was coming from.
ticalc.org has been a fairly big part of my life these last two years and
it has ended very suddenly and unexpectedly. At this time, I'm not sure if I
want to work on another TI site, start a new one, or do something different. If
you have any suggestions, comments, or questions, you can e-mail me at
su.im.21k.mahgni.dsi|relebarb#su.im.21k.mahgni.dsi|relebarb. I'll still be hanging around on the mailing
lists, AIM, ICQ, and IRC.
Bryan Rabeler <su.im.21k.mahgni.dsi|relebarb#su.im.21k.mahgni.dsi|relebarb>
Former maintainer of The Fargo Archive
Former ticalc.org staff member