Culture / Development / Tools

Rust Mod Team Resigns in Protest of ‘Unaccountable’ Core Team

22 Nov 2021 11:20am, by

This morning, the moderation team for the Rust programming language resigned effective immediately. The resignation was tendered via a pull request on GitHub, wherein team member Andrew Gallant wrote that the team resigned “in protest of the Core Team placing themselves unaccountable to anyone but themselves.”

According to the page describing Rust governance, the moderation team’s purpose is to do just that — to help “uphold the code of conduct and community standards” — and according to the resignation letter, they are unable to do so, with the Core Team seemingly being outside of those bounds.

“As a result of such structural unaccountability, we have been unable to enforce the Rust Code of Conduct to the standards the community expects of us and to the standards we hold ourselves to,” Gallant continues, before making four specific recommendations to the Rust community as to how to move forward.

Accountability

First, Gallant writes that the Rust community should “come to a consensus on a process for oversight over the Core Team,” which he says is currently “answerable only to themselves.” Next, the outgoing team recommends that the “replacement for the Mod Team be made by Rust Team Members not on the Core Team,” and that this future team “with advice from Rust Team Members, proactively decide how best to handle and discover unhealthy conflict among Rust Team Members,” with “professional mediation” also suggested.

The final point, which they say is unrelated, is that the next team should “take special care to keep the team of a healthy size and diversity, to the extent possible,” something they failed to do themselves. To that point, the outgoing team is just three members, Andre Bogus, Andrew Gallant, and Matthieu M.

While these recommendations were made, it would appear from the moderation team page that an interim team, if not a permanent replacement, has already been named, with Khionu Sybiern and Joshua Gould, already listed as new members. Gould was already a member of the Rust Community Team. The page now lists the former team as Alumni and with a message thanking “all past members for their invaluable contributions!”

The former team concludes their resignation letter, writing that “we have avoided airing specific grievances beyond unaccountability” because they are choosing “to maintain discretion and confidentiality” and that the Rust community and their replacements “exercise extreme skepticism of any statements by the Core Team (or members thereof) claiming to illuminate the situation.” Finally, they note that they are open to being contacted by Rust Team Members “for advice or clarity,” which, with that letter and its ending, one must imagine the community will be doing.

Open Source Governance

While little is happening on Twitter beyond various Rustaceans wondering what exactly is going on beneath the surface, Andrew Gallant’s last tweets appear to concern an early September kerfuffle around the direction of Rust, the Core Team, and Amazon, in which an article in Infoworld set things off.

The article was later edited with a note that “A previous version of the article correctly stated that the Rustacean Principles were modeled after Amazonian tenets, but unintentionally may have implied that Amazon was somehow responsible for Rust development. Amazon employs several Rust maintainers and contributors, but it is just one of many companies with employees involved.” Of course, these two things may be entirely unrelated, as well.

Update: A top level comment by a /r/Rust moderator, on the post detailed below, was later edited to say that this was not the case: “To answer the question of whether or not this is related to the incident earlier this year with Steve Klabnik’s concerns about the Rust Foundation’s search for an executive director and Amazon’s influence over the Rust Foundation, we can conclude that that is unrelated to this incident: the core team is a separate organization from the Rust Foundation, the Rust Foundation has since chosen an executive director, and of the core team and the moderation team none appear to be associated with Amazon at all.”

While they are not offering any further specifics, a separate Reddit thread on /r/Rust was posted this morning by former mod team member Matthieu M., where he apologizes to the Rust Foundation’s new CEO Rebecca Rumbul, and three new members of the Core Team, JT, Jan-Erik Rediger and Ryan Levick. Matthieu writes “our relationship with Core has been deteriorating for months, and our resignation in no way should be seen as a condemnation of your nomination. I wish you the best.”

For some further commentary on the resignation of the moderation team, Chef co-founder Adam Jacob offers his own meta take on the topic on Twitter, where he notes that, while he has no insider information on the situation, the Rust community has effectively created an unanswerable entity with its Core Team. “One of the things that’s dangerous in the current setup is what the mod team points out here: they’ve effectively created an oligarchy,” he writes. “They’ve created teams to manage various aspects of the community — but how does one join the team? How do we remove them?”