# The Core Team Is Toxic
I didn't want to write this post, but I've started to see a lot of blame for long-running issues in the Rust project being put in the wrong direction. Now with the resignation of the moderation team, I feel like I have to say something. The following is an account of my experiences with the core team. These are not neccessarily directly related to the moderation team's resignation, but I believe are emblematic of systemic issues within the core team. I'd also like to state it is mostly unrelated to the newly appointed core team members, these issues have been constant problems within the organisation.
Before we get into that, I want to give my own context, so that it is clear what kind of experience and perspective I am providing. I've been making open source Rust projects for the past six years, and I was a member of the Rust language organisation for the past four years. When I started with Rust in 2015, I was a student looking for new technology to use in my final year project. It feels trite to say now, but when I started reading the book it felt like I saw the future of programming, it felt like someone saw all my mistakes in my programs and wrote a language that removed every single one for me. Empowering was an understatement for the possibilities that Rust has opened me up to.
I started working in the rust-lang organisation in 2017 writing the release notes for each release of Rust. Writing the release notes every six weeks for the past four years exposed me to so many different people working on the project across so many different levels and projects. Every six weeks I saw the list of contributions get bigger and the number of new people coming in get larger. This is what made me realise that not only was this language the future, but that the people behind it were just as if not more important, and this organisation was a chance to create something truly unique. An organisation that was not at the behest of a single person or company, but of the people, an organisation that works to empower and uplift the individuals who work on it.
Needless to say, the governance of the project became immensely important to me, the project was taking off like a rocket and the leadership and members were already being burnt out, especially after the 2018 edition. I started to see more and more people leave the project, I had initially assumed that most of the time these were personal reasons, however, once I started to approach those people, and as I got more involved with the leadership of Rust, I found that the reasons were much darker. What follows is my own personal experience with the core team and the Rust leadership.
In 2018 there was the creation of the "Governance Working Group" which has set out to address the growing number of issues within the organisation. While this group started with noble intentions, I would describe the reality as a shitshow. Firstly unlike other groups, this was a group that was announced publicly but initially operated entirely in secret to even other members in the organisation. Only after constant prodding and inquiries would the group begin to even start to have meetings open to members, and soon after every one of the existing members would disappear and leave it entirely at the feet of I and another member, who were left to reboot the group.
One of the tenets of this group was that we didn't take governance decisions ourselves but provided processes and recommendations for the core team and other teams. While this was a great idea in theory, in practice it ceases to work when the team actually responsible (read core) for taking action becomes unresponsive and hostile to those recommendations. Here are some prominent examples of that.
The previous iteration of the governance WG had put out an open call for new working groups to be added to the organisation. However by the time I was involved, it had become clear that some of the applicant groups were never going to be accepted because some of the people who were interested in participating were considered "persona non grata" for their behaviour in the community, additionally, it became clear the whole working group effort had gone sideways, nearly all of the existing groups had become stagnant with unclear goals and lack of participation due to conflicts between the leads (some of which were also core team members).
Rather than acknowledge this fact, and start winding down these efforts, or communicating with the applicants to find a solution, the core team choose to ignore it and refused to publicly say anything on this, leaving those applicants in limbo for over a year before I had to just tell them to not wait for a response. The core team to this day has never publicly acknowledged this fact.
Acting mostly secret is how the core team operates, as can be evidenced by the formation of the Rust Foundation. Despite being a goal of the original governance group, the group was explicitly instructed to not work on this problem without active collaboration with core team involvement. While this fact is fine on its own it required that the core team actually collaborate, which never happened. Despite repeated and constant requests to work on what we saw as one of the biggest issues at that time, the core team repeatedly dismissed and ignored those calls. Only choosing to act after Mozilla had already laid off its Rust team, and even then it continued to operate in secret from the governance group and the rest of the organisation.
Refusing to acknowledge the current structure of the organisation also became a pattern of behaviour for the core team. When the governance group started a lot of the teams and efforts were out of date or missing from the team repository used to track membership. The effort to keep this sync with reality went well until it came time to revisit efforts led by some of the core team members, efforts which had long gone stagnant, and when I spoke to other members of those efforts, they expressed equal confusion about its current status and expressed that they wanted to continue the effort but that the core team members didn't work with them to allow them to proceed.
It had become obvious that these were no longer active efforts, but we were prevented from actually marking them as such because the core team members wanted to keep it on the website. This became doubly frustrating when core team members also tried to prevent the inclusion of alumni into the structure. The idea that the core team didn't value past members contributions enough to even give them credit, while they themselves use their position to personally enrich themselves and sell services to me is grossly unethical and has no place in the organisation.
Unfortunately, unethical behaviour has become the norm for the core team, as evidenced by the organisation of the failed 2020 Rust All Hands. After 2019's All Hands the core team became disinterested in organising it, and Mozilla was no longer interested in hosting the event. For those unaware, it was an event for Rust team members to meet from across the world at a single location, one of the features of this event was that if a contributor couldn't afford to attend, your travel and accommodation would be covered.
From the start the event was a mess, we were never given the budget and expenses from previous years, continually promised that we get access eventually (we never did), we had pressed on. The main expenses would be the venue and covering people's travels. At one core team member's suggestion the location was moved from Berlin, Germany to Thessaloniki, Greece. While this change provided us with a cheaper venue, a consequence of this however was that international travel for everyone became exponentially more expensive, additionally, we had trouble getting sponsorships as we wanted the event to be focused on members and not on companies.
It reached a point where either we would have to charge tickets for admittance or limit the number of people we could cover. This came to a head at a meeting with the organisers and the core team where the core team insisted that either we cover all people's travel or cancel the event. While this might seem like a noble if misguided intention, the reality is that some of the people taking advantage of this travel expense were core team members. A scheme designed to help students and those less fortunate was instead being spent on those who were in the best position to cover travels. At every point, the core team chose what options best suited them rather than consider the needs of the wider organisation.
With that behaviour, it should come as no surprise how the core team responded to members’ complaints about the continued involvement of Palantir employees in the Rust-lang organisation. The core team repeatedly dismissed and maligned several members concerns about the involvement of a company so heavily involved with producing spyware. This came to head for me in 2020 in the aftermath of George Floyd's death. The gall to publicly declare that Black Lives Matter as part of the release, while privately continuing to collaborate with the companies that provide the software that spies and suppresses those same lives and activists, is an unacceptable hypocrisy that undermines the actual work of members in the organisation to provide a space for those people.
I wish I could say these were the only points of friction, but this doesn't even include all the times that core team member's refused to collaborate and abandoned individual projects within the organisation because they viewed them as their personal pet projects. The core team markets itself as something that is essential to Rust that allows for cross-cutting collaboration, but my experience has only shown this is just marketing. This is a group that is entirely self-interested who would sooner protect their own clique and further their own goals than collaborate and act for the good of the organisation.
I would call on the members of the core team to resign and the core team as a whole to be shut down. I would ask Rust Team members (who continue to create and develop amazing innovative work in spite of this environment) to question, is this a leadership that you believe will act in your best interests and will support you when you need it? Would you call this behaviour "core" to what Rust is? I wouldn't.