Vortex Network, the touted replacement for the BrokenStones tracker, is today surrounded by controversy. The site owner announced she will link the site to a non-profit organization as part of a wider plan to unite all BitTorrent sites in a new air of legitimacy. Staff and members are leaving the site en masse.
A few weeks ago after difficulties with Malaysian hosting, the much-loved BrokenStones BitTorrent tracker went down. When news of a replacement site started to filter through, staff, members and others were prepared to offer time and resources to make the site a success. This led to the birth of Vortex Network – a brand new site put together in record time and one of the first to be built on the shiny new ‘Gazelle‘ codebase, developed by What.cd.
Around two weeks ago, a message appeared on the site, written by Rachel Faith Anderson, “Owner, SysOp and Chief Admin of the Vortex Network”. In it were thanks to the ‘heroes’ who put the site together along with statements about Vortex Network becoming something unique and something different, a standard claim for a new BitTorrent site trying to get off the ground. “Welcome to the eye of the storm my friend” ends the notice from Rachel, which has turned out to be quite the prophetic greeting.
The Start of the Storm
A few days ago the first rumblings of dissatisfaction started to appear from within the userbase of Vortex Network. Although donations are an absolute requirement for most BitTorrent communities to stay afloat, there are many differing opinions on how this issue should be approached. It’s safe to say that some of the community were not happy with the site’s ‘donation’ page. While it’s not compulsory for users to pay to use Vortex Network, there is a page where users can pay cash to fix their share ratio, enabling them to opt-out of seeding and get ‘customer’ or ‘patron’ status.
Some other members who won’t (or can’t) seed have cautiously welcomed the scheme. However, it seems that most are not in favor of it, labeling Rachel Faith – a self-confessed BitTorrent newcomer – as greedy. For her part, Rachel denies that the site is accepting payments in this fashion, indicating that the code was already present in ‘Gazelle’.
The P2L debate will rage on here and elsewhere, but this is really just a distraction. Following this discussion came an announcement from Rachel Faith Anderson herself. It’s quite long but in order to present the entire picture, here it is in full. To fully appreciate the nuances, a detailed read is required:
A Discussion not a Debate
That is what I shall be doing. In a debate, sides present their case and then some other party gets to decide. In a discussion, both sides can present their case and then that is that. They are each understood. But there is not the presumption that persuasion will occur.
I know this “debate” has been around for longer than p2p. I know the roots run deep and no one post can persuade those whose minds are already made up. Thus, this is a discussion. Feel free to discuss for as long as you wish. Feel free to ‘debate’ if you wish. Know that I am not interested in debate.
With that being said, let me make the brief introduction and outline the points I hope to present. There are many issues, and not all of them are even related, so keeping this as a discussion not a debate, allows the latitude to include all the points being raised even if some are not germane.
The list of points:
P2L is bad, impure, and somehow against the spirit of something greater. It makes others (those who pay not seed) who are for this reason not as good as others (those who see seeding as the ultimate sign) equal.
Yeah, it does exactly that. It says, just because you seed and do not donate, you are not better than someone who donates and does not seed as much as you. If you are offended by the equality of the two different ways in which status can be obtained, that is your personal feeling. But a feeling is not a fact. Choose to act upon a feeling and not a fact, and you act irrationally. That is also a fact.
The fact is, we fully declare that there is no superiority between those who seed and those who donate. None. We are neutral, unbiased and blind to any such thought, rejecting totally and without repentance the notion that seeders are “better” than “donors”.
That this is a point of contention for those who would like to think they are better than someone else , because their way is pure , is a very old elitist mentality which we fully intend to eradicate. In short such thinking is beyond bullshit, and the mark of juvenile thinking and weak egos who cannot bear the thought that they are not superior to someone else.
This is why we do not have the titles as plain as other sites.
Take the word user, or power user. What is a user? Someone who uses something or someone. This too has been rejected. You will never see the word user in any of our rules or guides. You, the people are not users. You are not using us, using each other, or using the community. You are members, each equal under the rules and given the same opportunity to succeed or fail in your own right.
Now the other end. The VIPs. We do not have this term either. Rejected is the idea that someone is more important or very important beyond anyone else. All members are part of the same body. Any opinion from any member is received with the same hope, optimism and credibility as is any other. Each will be weighed on the merits of the idea, not on some favored status. You are all Very Important People. Words have meaning, and we have chosen the theme and the words for the titles with that care in mind.
What are the other problems? The red herring. Server costs. Let us be very clear. Vortex Network is not a tracker. It has a tracker. True enough. And we come to existence from the ashes of a tracker. Also true. But this is not who we are, where we are going and what is to be the future.
We are more than a tracker. We are more than 22,000 members. Not yet, not today, not this hour. But sooner than later. Sooner than many but a very small few who really understand what is going on, would dare to believe. So let us be clearer for all.
We are a legal and legitimate Tax Exempt Corporation. Any other site taking money of any kind for any reasons and not filing with the authorities needs to face the facts that p2p may not have ever put anyone in prison, but tax evasion has done so to the best of mice and men.
There are two schools of thought. One is old and is the conventional thinking. One is new and is the wisdom we present.
The first school of thought says this: Our technology is forbidden by most authorities, we must be small, quiet, hidden and meek. If we get caught we must lie and erase our activities. We, by these actions admit our guilt and we believe ourselves to be criminals. Nothing, will or can change and we must act in this belief.
We reject every element of that thought. We embrace a better future. We believe the statutes change. We believe public perception changes. We are students of the law, of history and we are agents of change.
Like those before us who stood for the right of men to be free of slavery, like those before us whose suffrage was to bring the right of women to vote, and like those before us who have stood even for their most basic of human rights under much worse oppression and tyranny, we stand to bring the necessary changes to the use of p2p technology and to the common sense rights for intellectual property as well.
We do not hide. We are not criminals. Our behavior will not be that of cowards, criminals or those who are ashamed to speak out truth in this, a darkened night.
Your donation is not for access to a tracker. That access is free. And as the seeder club has pointed out, a donation is not needed at all to seed or even to build a ratio, provided you are willing to wait long enough.
Your donation will fund this change. It will provide us the opportunity to build a community far beyond 22,000 members, beyond 220,000 members. It will change the whole misunderstanding about what p2p technology is, does and who and why we are doing what we do.
Our effort will be public, it will be open, it will be legal, and you will see exactly where your contributions are going. And we use the word contribution, because it is not just a donation of money, but of time and effort, which will be rewarded as well.
This is just a single small step into a new world vision. This is but the tiniest spark of hope in a hopeless future. We are asking you to be part of that spark. To be keen to lighting the brush fire which then can never be extinguished!
And to our dear friends who cannot. To those whom we still love and respect, we wish you the best in your efforts. We bear no ill will to those who, in their own belief cannot see, cannot hear and will not act. We ask only, that you let us do so. We ask this in friendship and sincerity.
We know these are real differences and they are real points of objection. We understand the thinking of fear. Do not think we are deaf to it or ignorant of it. We know you are uncomfortable with our choice, and you feel safer in your isolation. That is the freedom we all share. The choice we all make. You can go in peace or stay and be peaceful.
This is not a debate. This is a direction and a path. You are welcome to walk it with us, or stop and wait and watch, or run and hide as far as you may need to run. We will not hold it against you in any path you choose.
And should providence shine a blessing upon us, we will never ask “Where were you?” We will embrace it together, welcoming you to this future as brothers/sisters, family.
For those who understand, who see what could be and seek with us to pursue it, to embrace the future: You have reached the calmâ€¦ the eye of the storm.
Rachel Faith Anderson
We are a Legal and Legitimate Tax Exempt Corporation
In this headline and statement from Rachel lies the real controversy. It appears that in order to supposedly protect Vortex Network from legal action, it (or a parent organization) has been incorporated in the US as a non-profit Subchapter “S” corporation, which was necessary to “open a bank account, purchase equipment and report revenue to the taxing authorities”. We can find no evidence to suggest that Rachel is worried about copyright laws, which is an interesting approach.
The mere thought of being registered or linked to some sort of tax-exempt charity/organization has sent shockwaves through the Vortex Network community. Add to this that she is suggesting that tracker admins should no longer hide in the shadows, but join her to face the world head on, has seen many of the staff deleting their accounts and leaving the site in disbelief.
Rachel Faith’s Plan for World BitTorrent Domination
Although previously we’ve spoken about non-profit organizations, Rachel actually wants prominent people and existing sites from the BitTorrent community to unite to join her in a new, “for-profit entity” which has already been registered in the US. Labeling herself as a “visionary” she proposes – either by creation, merger or acquisition – the establishment of a network of private trackers which will operate together, combining resources, members and staff.
Her theory is that the unified resources of these sites will prove a more difficult target for the authorities to take down. By making the sites “99% community and 1% tracker”, Rachel feels legal issues surrounding the tracker can be mitigated. She also hopes that by combining the sites – hopefully hundreds – the whole operation will become more secure and “profitable”. Those enjoying a small club-like feel to their favorite tracker better get used to becoming a small cog in a huge wheel – if Rachel gets her way, that is.
Additionally, she views large and overly vocal public trackers as a menace and proposes that steps should be taken to put “embarrassing” sites (such as The Pirate Bay) “out of business”.
Rachel and her ever decreasing team believe that the way regular trackers operate is doomed to failure and so they intend to embark on a mission to change the public’s perception of BitTorrent in order to encourage legal change to allow their plan to grow. They aim to do this in 12 months, while at the same time amassing a minimum of 250,000 members as a base to work from.
Whatever this new plan for BitTorrent is, it’s not calming nerves and there is growing opposition to this plan, before it even gets off the ground. Rachel may want to take on the world in a blaze of glory, but most seem to want a quiet life.
We are students of the law, of history and we are agents of change.
According to sources close to the situation, Rachel Faith (possibly Rachel Faith Anderson, possibly something else) has a background in banking and is a lawyer (or at least a law student) using her real name. Using real names consistently on the Internet has its problems. As does hosting your avatar on your AOL page, which in turn reveals your AOL account name. Unless, of course, this is all some elaborate case of misdirection. But there again, Rachel said she isn’t hiding but it seems crazy to believe someone would be as open as this.
In any event, it’s clear that the majority of staff and members who have expressed a preference are not happy to be treated as “guinea pigs” in Rachel’s worldwide BitTorrent laboratory, especially when they now view the “BrokenStones replacement” line as a simple “bait and switch” tactic to get a solid base for her plans for domination.
Time will tell what will come of these plans, but in the meantime the opinions of others in the community are plain to see, especially if one visits any of the #crazybitch channels that have appeared on IRC, or the many outraged posters on the Vortex forums.
Or maybe Rachel Faith Anderson is sane and everyone else is crazy? Stranger things have happened…
…or if you read ‘Scene’ notices…..
Update: TorrentFreak managed to catch up with Rachel Faith Anderson but with other ‘real-life’ commitments (hey, we all have them), she didn’t really have much time for much other than a very brief chat. We’ve offered her a full right of reply and even delayed this article for her to do so, but we have heard nothing further.
However, she has finally responded to the ex-BrokenStones community and staff. Here is a small part of it which seems to have hit a raw nerve:
But there was existing, trained, competent staff from BS looking for a new home and so we tried to make it fit and tried to make it work. But from the very beginning, I could tell that it would not. The end was not unexpected, though it was untimely and unplanned. And this is the sadness I share with many. It is a loss and it came at a terrible time. Such is the nature of life.
So long ex-BrokenStones staff who worked hard to put the new site together, seems the Vortex Network doesn’t want you anymore…..
You can read Rachel’s full announcement here.