More Rust ructions as project team confesses failure of “leadership chat”

More Rust ructions as project team confesses failure of “leadership chat”

The Rust project has had remarkable success in driving language adoption but project governance has been more problematic. The long weekend saw further drama, initially around a withdrawn invitation to give a keynote talk at the forthcoming RustConf event, prompting an official apology and much community discussion.

The new incident kicked off when software engineer JeanHeyd Meneide complained about a call he received from a RustConf organizer stating that his forthcoming keynote on a possible future for compile-time programming was to be degraded to a regular talk. The reason he was given was that the Rust project did not want to endorse the subject of the keynote. “It is … deeply confusing and ultimately insulting for them not to contact me beforehand and simply ask me if I would disclaimer my work to make it clear that they did not explicitly endorse this direction,” wrote Meneide, who went on to state that he would no longer speak at the event at all. 

Subsequently JT, co-leader of the core language team, resigned from his role in the Rust project. He had been involved in the keynote decision and said: “I apologize to JeanHeyd for taking thoughtless actions that led to him being removed as a keynote speaker.”

Yesterday Shepherd’s Oasis LLC, with whom Meneide was working on possible compile-time reflection in Rust, said that “Due to the actions of the Rust Project, we formally requested to withdraw from the Rust Foundation’s Grant program on the morning of Monday, 29 May 2023.”

Leah Silber, organizer of RustConf, posted an apology saying: “I’ve made it 100% clear to @__phantomderp that we’re sorry, that a keynote is still theirs if they want it, and that I view what happened to them as an epic CoC violation” – though her full Twitter thread on the subject explained that “I still don’t know the full details” and that three organizations were involved: the Rust Project, the Rust Foundation, and RustConf itself. Part of the problem, she said, was “a general lack of transparency about what communication was coming from which subgroup of The Rust Project.”

A post on the official Rust blog apologises on behalf of Leadership Chat, a group established in October last year, consisting of core team members and “serving as an interim governing body while efforts to establish the next evolution of Rust project-wide governance are underway.” The new post explains that: “The primary causes of the failure were the decision-making and communication processes of leadership chat” and promises that “We are going to launch the new governance council as soon as possible.”

Despite all these apologies, issues remain. “The wrong people are resigning,” said community member Amos, for example. It is a puzzling situation for outsiders, since it indicates that at the heart of the problems are individuals who do not get on as they might; but specifics are often not communicated.

Issues with Rust governance were first highlighted back in November 2021 when the entire Rust moderation team resigned citing “structural unaccountability.”

Another recent issue was when the Rust Foundation posted a draft trademark policy perceived by the community as too restrictive and a factor in the language being forked shortly after as Crab with the remark “All of the memory-safe features you love, now with 100% less bureaucracy!” Amos referenced the initiative as “the enormous waste of time that is the ‘crablang’ fork.”

The current disturbance relates though to the Rust Project, while the trademark issues concern the Rust Foundation, two separate organizations though it is unfortunate that both are to an extent troubled and controversial.

“Many positive things can be said about the Rust community. The amount of drama is not one of them,” observed a developer on Reddit.