Code in the Crossfire: NixOS & NixCon’s Dangerous Liaison with War Profiteers

NixCon Gold Sponsorship tier: Numtide, Tweag, Flox, Flying Circus, Anduril, Determinate Systems, and Cachix.

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This article has existed in unlisted form for a while, but after attempting to handle my frustrations internally, I thought it appropriate to publish it widely. Keep in mind, this was written before a statement was made, and so it is out of date, but for those just made aware of the issue, I wanna show how NixCon used the information vacuum to their advantage, and how they applied spin, something I find highly problematic of a “community effort”1.

In general, it seems to me moderation in official NixOS projects serve more as a HR department than a community protection effort.

If you’re unaware, on September the 4th, the official NixOS account on announced that NixCon was sponsored by Anduril2. Anduril Industries, Inc. is a defense tech startup by “Trump’s Most Prominent Silicon Valley Supporters”3, Palmer Luckey. Yes, the Oculus Palmer Luckey.

Already by Sep 5th, they had edited the message: “following internal discussion and community feedback, we decided to drop the sponsor”. But did the passionate community of the fediverse create such an uproar that NixOS had to retract? As we’ll see, that’s unlikely.

Military (sponsor dropped) EDIT: following internal discussion and community feedback we decided to drop this sponsor. We'll be sure to review our Code of Conduct and sponsorship rules to do better in the future. Original message: Anduril develops advanced technology to transform US & allied military capabilities, building pioneering solutions for tomorrow's software-defined conflicts. Thank you for your support as a Gold Partner of NixCon, Anduril!

On the discourse discussion forum, September 5th saw the opening of a thread about the incident. By the 8th, it was not just closed but also hidden — a move that piqued my interest.

zimbatm: Alright, this is not productive. I promise that we will address this once the conference is over. It will give the NixCon team more time to write a proper statement of the events that transpired. We tried doing one. It turns out it’s tricky to do that under pressure :sweat: Thanks for your understanding.

In the NixOS matrix channel #offtopic, a user came to vent their frustration. What became clear from that conversation was that there was no space left to discuss this. I personally suggested, quite firmly, that there should exist some space to discuss the issue. At the time, that fell for empty ears.

I was perturbed by their choice to hide the thread, viewing it as a way to sweep the issue under the rug. From my discussions with those defending the thread’s concealment, their rationale, at its most generous, was to prevent harm. They felt targeted by an aggressive, unruly mob while trying to manage a conference.

However, I believe the situation is more nuanced.

I think this conflict avoidance is symptomatic of NixOS’s broader cultural issues. Seeking answers, I posted on Reddit: “NixOS hides thread about military sponsors, promises to publish statement after NixCon”. The majority of users leaned towards defending Anduril, but a crucial piece of information emerged.

/u/shogditontoast: That wasn’t what actually happened though. Someone in the community opposed to the sponsorship (instead of going to the conf team or foundation with their concerns) notified the university hosting Nixcon with a claim the venue was being used in part as a sort of expo for the military aspects of Anduril’s work. TU Darmstadt has policies around private defence/military involvement on campus and this was potentially going to lead to the venue being rescinded by the university. So with no time to arrange a new venue it was deemed easier to just part ways with Anduril’s sponsorship. This all happened only a few days before the event was due to take place, so with this drama on top of the usual stress of organising a conf so you can see how the reaction was quite sudden/last minute as well as the confusion of communication when a lot of people were in transit to the even during that time. This whole storm in a teacup is the result of groups of people and individuals with opposing views who are spreading exaggeration, lies and misinformation for whatever reason, who obviously haven’t helped anything but their ego. I think the only fault of Nixcon team and the foundation is really poor coordination around comms and PR messaging.

Several key contributors later confirmed that the university had said it would cancel4. I had hoped the thread was hidden due to fears of conference cancellation. However, my concerns about reopening the thread were dismissed, even when the conference was over

What’s going on?

In the NixCon matrix channel, after some tense exchanges, I achieved two things: a tentative statement release date of September 23rd (no promises they said) and the opening of a channel for Anduril discussions5.

The ensuing discussion was emotionally taxing. Some seemed to view me as a convenient target for their frustrations. A few later apologized for their behavior, but the experience was deeply hurtful. When I inquired about the statement on September 23rd, I hesitated, fearing a repeat of previous hostility. I asked, and now it’s the 26th. They still haven’t replied.

The discussion confirmed my suspicions: the Reddit post was accurate. The prevailing narrative that Anduril was dropped due to public outcry isn’t entirely true. NixCon, and by extension NixOS hadn’t taken a stance on associating with the weapons industry, or it’s politically motivated founders; they were merely damage controlling.

In said thread, I tried to start a discussion about how incidents like that could be handled, specifically, I suggested transparency. I think perhaps now I know why there is such a hostility to transparency. I also have reasonable suspicions about why the draft is delayed, why the thread is locked and hidden, and why they’re desperately trying to shut down discussion.

They don’t wanna take a stand against weapons money, and they’re trying to spin this as if they have. As if anything has changed. Right now, most people think that they removed Anduril “following internal discussion and community feedback”, but frankly, that’s a lie.

They removed Anduril only so the conference wouldn’t be cancelled.

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The degree to which this is really “community washing” is certainly up for debate.


The Gold Sponsorship was 3000 euro (NixCon sponsorship tracks).


However, not that it was reported as “a sort of expo for the military aspects of Anduril’s work”.


This wasn’t an official NixOS channel however, for some reason.

Date: 2023-09-26