[TAG] [Fwd:] In RI federal court -- Harvard vs. the RIAA
rick at linuxmafia.com
Wed Dec 24 06:45:15 MSK 2008
Quoting Ben Okopnik (ben at linuxgazette.net):
> 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.
I'm not sure I'm following you. A moment ago, you were talking about
companies curtailing _access_ to Usenet, by, e.g., blocking outbound
access to port 119/tcp (NNTP) anywhere in the outside world -- which, as
I pointed out, was because of a clueless assumption that this
constituted an improvement to security, combined with a lack of
incentive to leave it unimpeded because of usage by the executive staff,
as with far less useful things on the Web.
However, _now_ you're talking as if the corporate world had at one time
all been running NNTP _servers_ (e.g., your talk about "less feasible to
carry"), and thus suffered because the "bandwidth exploded", and thus
terminated their news servers.
Sorry, but that situation never existed. No significant amount of the
corporate world _ever_ had internal Usenet news servers. It has always
been necessary to connect one's news reader to feeds on servers
In olden days, there was a much larger variety of public feeds, many of
them free of charge (subsidised), at ISPs, at colleges, and so on.
Because of the large increase in traffic (and groups) over the years,
essentially all of the gratis public options have vanished, but many
ISPs continue to either operate their own news servers _or_ pay a
monthly fee entitling users of their IP netblocks to connect to large,
well-maintained servers at UsenetServer.com, Supernews, Giganews, or
Usenet.com. My own ISP, the illustrious RawBandwidth.com, carries two
such third-party commercial feeds, accessible as (if I recall correctly)
nntp2.tsoft.net and nntp3.tsoft.net.
> 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.
I'm sorry, but you keep attempting to describe a situation that I simply
do not observe on comp.os.linux.*. Perhaps you should switch to a
quality news feed? Maybe mine? ;->
> 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.
As noted, this analysis is fundamentally mistaken, resting as it does on
the key mistaken assumption that the corporations in question were actually
_running news servers_, which (probably with very minor exceptions) they
On the other hand, quite a lot of corporations cluelessly decided "I
don't see any point in permitting outbound access to 119/tcp, so let's
block it." In which situation, ssh'ing over to your friendly Linux
shell server is, as usual, one excellent solution. You'll find tin and
slrn available for your newsreading pleasure on
uncle-enzo.linuxmafia.com, for example. (Yr. welcome!)
> 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
This does not accurately characterise comp.os.linux.* -- though it
_does_ characterise comp.os.*.advocacy (including comp.os.linux.advocacy),
which set of groups were _deliberately established_ as a tarpit for
idiots and trolls, to keep them out of the real groups. (Accordingly,
one wants to killfile cross-posts to those groups, as a few of the
denizens thereof are smart enough to want to suck everyone else in.)
> > 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.
Again, you are making the fundamental, severe error of confusing "having
access to a news server" with "running a news server".
People who have news spools can and do perform a first-level job of
filtering obvious crud out, e.g., Supernews appears to do so. And then
individual users, who either connect using plain, unadorned NNTP _or_
run a slightly more elaborate setup (such as leafnode) that keeps a
small local spool, can and should set up their own local rulesets for
what they want to accept for their newsreaders and (if applicable) for
the local (e.g., leafnode) spool.
> Correct me if I'm wrong
OK, you're wrong. See above. ;->
> ...but aren't we recapping the "local spam filtering vs. SMTP-time
> rejection" argument here, with you (amazingly) defending the "local
> filtering" end?
I'll be glad to attempt to hold a talk about how to effectively manage
netnews connections and protect its quality, after you're clear on the
lack of a need to run one's own full-newsfeed news server. ;->
> If they manage to survive at all, that is. Most of them didn't.
This being _Linux Gazette_, I am obliged to point out the highly notable
counter-example of comp.os.linux.* (less comp.os.linux.advocacy) as
experienced via a quality feed. Apparently, you aren't aware of that
group hierarcy's complete failure to fall over dead.
> I note that pretty much _every_ modern means of group communication
> involves lists, *not* USENET.
This is primarily driven by two things: (1) clueless firewalling off of
outbound access to port 119/tcp. (2) Catering to the lowest common
denominator of user, who grasps the concept of e-mail and maybe on a
good day is capable of distinguishing it from the World-Wide Web, and
who has icons for MSIE and Outlook Express on his metaphorical desktop.
> Ubuntu, for example.
Bad example: The lion's share of their communication is on their (very
stereotypically awful) Web forums -- not their mailing lists.
However, I'd speculate that you're still slightly more likely to get a
_good_ answer to an Ubuntu question on comp.os.linux.misc than you are
in either of those other two places.
> 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?)
Yahoo Groups are a "success" in pretty much the same way fruitflies are.
OK as to _quantity_.
> > "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.
I'm sorry, but you appear to be speaking from ignorance.
There are really good reasons why I regard the message semantics and
architecture of NNTP newsgroups to be the best we've yet achieved,
_much_ better than those of mailing lists and Web forums -- and one of
their particular glories is that they work while avoiding single points
of failure and single points of control.
You assert that the only way such groups can work is with an add-on --
moderation -- that deliberately cripples both of those advantages, and
(in general, in my experience) greatly damages the forums to which
they're applied. Sorry, no. I do my level best as a mailing list
listadmin to _try_ to offer members of my mailing lists the closest
approximation to the technical and social advantages of unmoderated
newsgroups that the technology can support -- while knowing that it's a
That is why I run my mailing lists in as maximally open fashion as is
consistent with spam-rejection, and deliberately eschew the moderator
functions unless driven to it. (To date, I have managed to avoid
muzzling or ejecting any non-spammer subscriber from any mailing list,
in part by keeping the rules down to the absolute bare minimum and then
enforcing them exactly the same against everyone, starting with myself.
Mine is the first listadmin approach ever to bring peace to the Silicon
Valley Linux User Group mailing lists, for example: Even though there
are any number of emotionally labile, resentful knuckleheads who'd
_love_ to portray me as a tyrant, every time they try they look really
silly because I just calmly rebut the factual claims and ignore the
name-calling, the latter being officially immune from any response other
than laughter if aimed at the listadmin.)
> 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.
You appear to be talking past me and ignoring my point: The fact that
the contents of diaries don't belong on Usenet (or mailing lists) never
prevented people from posting such drivel there. Their having a Very
Special Place for it is thus a good thing for public discussion forums.
> 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.
Again, you appear to be ignoring my point: We aren't getting such
people as much on Usenet any more. Because now they have blogs.
> I haven't heard of any actual solution - nothing that sounded effective,
> anyway - besides redesigning the whole thing from the bottom up.
I would take your offhand opinion more seriously if you didn't think one
must run a news server to participate in Usenet.
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