[TAG] [Fwd:] In RI federal court -- Harvard vs. the RIAA
ben at linuxgazette.net
Wed Dec 24 04:57:30 MSK 2008
On Tue, Dec 23, 2008 at 02:35:58PM -0800, Rick Moen wrote:
> Quoting Ben Okopnik (ben at linuxgazette.net):
> > Not when you have 50 (or 250) trolls a day pop into your NG because they
> > heard that your regulars had the temerity to killfile off their buddy. A
> > killfile does not stop the flood of troll posts that reduces the
> > readable traffic in the NG to 1% - and then to .01%. A killfile does not
> > prevent a newbie poster in a forum from being deluged by a flood of
> > attacks from those trolls. A killfile does not prevent your company's
> > sysadmin from shutting off USENET access because it's suddenly taking a
> > significant chunk of bandwidth.
> The workplaces that turned off Usenet access (i.e., putting in
> place port blocks to outbound 119/tcp AKA nntp) in general did so
> because (1) newgroups are seen as frivolous, and (2) executive staff
> don't use it. (It's OK to have access to, say, YouTube, as long as the
> VP of Sales uses it.)
That was one of the ostensible reasons, yes - and I agree that it was a
bad one - but it does not cover all the reasons, and ignores the real
ones. It is undeniable that USENET traffic exploded, about five years
after The September That Never Ended, making it far less feasible to
carry for companies with limited bandwidth. This time, though, it wasn't
simply an influx of The Clueless; this was a flood of trolls, people
who got their fun from abusing the system, in the same way that skript
kiddies and crackers do.
Companies will sometimes make this kind of decisions for the flimsiest
of reasons; sometimes, for no reason at all other than some manager not
understanding this "weird USENET thing", making the decision out of
fear, and justifying it afterwards. In this case, though, there was an
actual reason - and even if it wasn't the end of the world and could
have been mitigated, it was certainly reason aplenty to shut off
something that looked like a resource of marginal benefit at best, and a
possible detriment. Business decisions, as you have noted yourself, are
often made while ignoring the technical factors.
> > All of the above have actually happened, in NGs and to people I knew.
> > See, I used to participate in a variety of NGs - social and technical
> > - and watched the trolls destroy most of these groups in zip time. The
> > problem was never a lack of killfiles; the problem was absence of
> > initial verification and/or moderation.
> I strongly disagree. The moderated groups I know have been, in general,
> stagnant and boring in every medium.
In my experience, the unmoderated groups are hotbeds of trolling and
spam - and are essentially useless to anyone who hasn't been there
"since the early days". I guess we just have completely unrelated sample
> Distributed technical means of
> deciding what traffic to see at a local level is the clueful way to
> address the problem. NNTP and news spools make that feasible in a way
> that most other media do not.
Only if you have unlimited bandwidth. Anyone at the end of a skinny pipe
can't afford to take on a huge load of crap so that the end users can
filter the feed to suit themselves.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't we recapping the "local spam
filtering vs. SMTP-time rejection" argument here, with you (amazingly)
defending the "local filtering" end?
> > Groups that had those things still survive;
> Newsgroups that _don't_ have those things (as a generality) do much
> better, in my experience.
If they manage to survive at all, that is. Most of them didn't.
I note that pretty much _every_ modern means of group communication
involves lists, *not* USENET. Ubuntu, for example. I also note the huge
success of Yahoo groups (even though many of those groups tend to be
full of Yahoos... but how is that different from how USENET worked?)
> "Having those things" tends to be, in general, a heavyhanded, poor
> remedy applied as a bandaid for discussion forums that, for whatever
> reason, decline to apply appropriate technical measures.
My contention is that there _are_ no appropriate technical measures.
USENET is/was Broken As Designed - like many other protocols of that
era, it just didn't survive the test of time.
> This effect
> has not been confined to newsgroups: The longtime secureshell mailing
> list immediately went into a steep and permanent decline the moment it
> was turned into a moderated mailing list. (It subsequently was shut
> down; it was presumably easier for the sponsoring company to eliminate
> the forum than to admit that it had made a huge judgement error in
> directly causing the forum's slow death.)
On the other hand, comp.perl.lang.moderated not only lives but has
*also* extended itself (and grew HUGELY) as a list: 'perlmonks.org'. A
quick check of all the *un*moderated groups I used to participate in
shows them as having less than a hundred members each (in the case of
alt.callahans, that's down from tens of *thousands*.)
> > as you saw, I had no idea that bloggers could be any kind
> > of a problem until you explained.
> Bloggers are not a _problem_. My point about blogs was that they're a
> perfectly suitable outlet for expressions unsuitable for collective
> discussion media such as Usenet.
Blogs, as I see it, fullfill a different function from USENET: they're a
diary as opposed to a conversation. Do the contents of a diary belong in
a general conversation? I'd say "no", but there were many "soc.*" and
"alt.*" groups whose members would disagree - and given their group
dynamics, they may well be right.
> > 'comp.lang.perl.misc' doesn't have a problem with bloggers - never did.
> Usenet as a whole had a problem with people dropping in and blathering
> pointlessly in ways of no interest to the group. Now, they can and do
> perform that blathering on their blogs, instead. Good for them; good
> for Usenet.
Rick, I think you're conflating a couple of unrelated things. People who
came into NGs and "blathered" usually weren't interested in actually
learning anything or recording their thoughts for posterity; many of
them were only interested in how much of an effect they could produce.
How many people they could annoy, much like the idiots who sent around
the "forward this letter for the little girl dying of cancer" email.
Unmoderated newsgroups gave them the leverage to do so.
> Overall, I think you fundamentally misunderstood my post. I'm not the
> least bit annoyed at bloggers: I'm glad they have a suitable place to
> do the sorts of things that bloggers do. That place was not Usenet, nor
> any other collective discussion forum for technical discussion.
> And I think you're tragically and egregiously wrong about the necessity
> for moderators, in the general case. Wrong problem space, wrong
I haven't heard of any actual solution - nothing that sounded effective,
anyway - besides redesigning the whole thing from the bottom up. In any
case, whatever the result of that might be, it won't be USENET anymore;
those days are gone.
* Ben Okopnik * Editor-in-Chief, Linux Gazette * http://LinuxGazette.NET *
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