> An issue is raising its head in the scientific community which will
> eventually be a problem for mailing list administrators. Because
> mailing lists make it possible for a single individual to control a
> potentially important avenue of communication, there is growing concern
> that this control could be abused and could lead to censorship and
> unfair restriction on access to information.
Ah, somehow I don't quite see it that way. Your argument might work if
there were a limited number of "frequencies" that your list could travel
over (like in radio or TV broadcasting), or if it cost an exhorbitant
amount of money to enter this type of media. Since neither of those
things apply to mailing lists there is no case for an abuse of power.
Indeed, there is no "power" to abuse!
> I've run into this personally and the future implications are scary.
Well, the implications may have scared *you*, but I don't find them at
all disturbing. But, let's continue --
> Earlier this year I set up a mailing list in collaboration with a
> young foreign scientist. After a short time we had a falling out and he
> moved the list to another site, by simply copying all the addresses.
This is a perfectly legitimate way for you to part company.
> Several months ago he decided that he didn't want me and a number of
> other scientists on the list and summarily deleted us
As a list administrator, that was certainly his prerogative. A mailing
list is not a public service, it is a private club. There is no reason
to expect permanent or unlimited service from any list.
> (although there was a lot of personal animosity, none of us were being
> disruptive or otherwise interfering with the operation of the list).
While this may be important to you, I do not see that it has any bearing
on the situation as you have currently described it.
> We now find ourselves cut off from a mailing list that is proving an
> increasingly important avenue of communication in our field.
That's very unfortunate. You should start your own list. You've already
indicated that you have a list of subscribers that is a few months old --
that would be a good place to start. Add to that everyone else who has
posted to that list in the last few weeks, and I think you have an excellent
place to start.
Besides, you could always subscribe again from another account and just
keep your mouth shut. Unless this list admin cards every subscriber (and
I only know about two lists which do that), then you have no reason to
believe you are cut off from this information flow.
> I find the implications of this alarming. Until now I had subscribed to
> the hacker view that increased access to information channels would be a
> wonderfully democratic influence, but I now realize that there are
> frightening opportunities for autocracy and censorship as well.
That's pretty high-falutin' language, mister. In fact, I have to smile
when I read it because it sounds comically extreme.
No one ever promised you free and unrestricted access to someone else's
computer system (and in the case of a list administrator -- their time).
You've forgotten that you were a guest. Unless you actually paid real money
for your access -- not imaginary accounting offsets which might *maybe*
eventually someday trickle-down to this admin -- you don't have a leg to
For whatever reason, you wore out your welcome and were made to leave.
Your attempt to drum up ethical support for a forced re-entrance to a forum
where you were an invited guest is, in all honesty, sickening.
> Although some of the other scientists who were cut off this list have
> simply suggested that we set up a competing list, this does not seem to
> be a very desirable way to proceed.
Why not? (First, lose the notion of "competing"; you'll be setting up a
list with "similar focus" or "common interest" but not in competition...)
You just dismiss this alternative out of hand -- as though it was
something obviously unacceptable or unworkable.
Setting up your own list is definitely the best way for you to proceed.
Not only will it give you a forum that no one else can take away from
you, it will help you learn a thing or two about the trials and
tribulations of being a list administrator yourself -- without a "young
foreign scientist" to help you out.
> Perhaps we need a code of conduct for mailing list administrators, but
> how can it be enforced?
It can't. And such a "code of conduct" would never be agreed upon anyway.
It would also set a bad precedent which would create an entire class of
objectors who would run their own systems in defiance... and we would
have gotten exactly nowhere. Study the history of USENET for a reminder
of how impossible distributed information systems are to control.
I think a much greater priority is educating list members about their
responsibilities in their role as invited guests, and helping them be good
net.citizens rather than spoiled party crashers.