Well, we tried, but the core devs weren't having any of it. They considered it more fun to mock and tear down. For an update on how the experiment turned out, visit the following link:
1. I'll start with a few observations.
(a) The MT project as a whole lacks direction. There isn't much of a committee or a focus on project issues outside of core development.
As a related point, in IRC contexts, there isn't much of a project structure. For the most part, it's the core devs, with their channel, and everybody else, putting senior modders, senior world hosts, 12-year-olds doing their first blocks, and passersby into a single large pile.
#minetest-staff was partly an attempt to address this. It was a worthwhile idea. But I think that something broader is needed.
(b) When I checked, recently, 97% of the public servers on the primary MT server list were empty; either just one person or nobody at all.
97% is pretty empty. Most people I've talked to agree there has been a fall-off in MT traffic. Whatever the reason, it's an issue. People come to servers to build with, or talk to, other people. If a project loses critical mass in this respect, it's hard to get it back.
(c) The core devs have, historically, been perceived as hostile to non-core dev visitors to their channel.
C55 points out a reason for possible negative reactions to visitors: the core devs need to focus on development and interruptions break focus. However, core devs are only one of several pillars that hold up the project.
Serious modders and world hosts are equally important to the project as a whole. But there is not really a place for senior contributors to go to discuss core dev issues relevant to their work except for the core dev channel.
Not unless they wait in the same general forum as everybody else, including 12 year olds doing their first Pikachu block, for a core dev to stop by and provide scraps of information.
Additionally, the core devs are sometimes hostile even when visitors are asking legitimate questions.
In short, hard work does not buy respect or assistance for contributors. No feeling of being part of a team or even of being recognized for months or years of contributions. So, we lose them.
This is an over-simplification. But everybody knows that there is some truth to this picture.
2. The MT project retains value:
* It's portable, easy to set up, and amazingly flexible
* It's a building game, a battle game, a puzzle game, a social venue, and a creative outlet in general
* It's an educational platform for beginning coders
However, we're losing more serious contributors than we're gaining.
Long-term serious world hosts are a minority. We have a number of modders, but they tend to leave.
There are multiple reasons behind the departures of modders. Some are simply college students and must return to school. Regardless, we should be actively encouraging modders, not letting them feel that they're unappreciated or even disrespected.
One step, not a complete solution, would be to set up a venue where contributors are recognized as such and can talk to core devs as equals. Not as subordinates or supplicants.
The proposal is for a moderated channel, #minetest-project. Moderated means that people need to be vetted before they can speak. Additionally, I'd propose the following four rules:
* Safe For Work
* Bash Ideas Not People
* Be Helpful If Possible
* Only Invite People Who Like the Rules — it's recursive :P
This is how I've run my business channel since 2012 and it's worked out O.K. there.
A fly in the ointment is that many serious contributors aren't in IRC. However, this proposal would at least create a place for those who are in IRC not simply to get questions answered but to participate in decisions related to MT as a whole and, additionally, to recognized formally as contributors.
In short, #minetest-project has similarities to #minetest-staff but is intended to serve a broader purpose. This will be a committee that will help to shape the future of the project.