Keith Moore writes:
> >It sounds like a valuable service. But most of the lists that you
> >advertise are run for the benefit of the entire net community -- not
> >just AOL. You are taking the time to collect the information and make
> >sure it's accurate -- for which I commend you -- but those list
> >maintainers are also taking their time to give you the information.
> >Why should they have to do this separately for AOL?
> That's a good question. Personally, I'd rather make sure that AOL members are
> provided complete, accurate and up to date information about my lists.
> Considering how many AOL members there are, making sure they have (or have
> easy access to) accurate information is important. The amount of time it
> takes to fill our (or verify) the information on a mailing list is miniscule
> compared to the benefit of AOL members having access to the information.
Okay, I'll put this another way: given that AOL considers it
worthwhile to collect this information from the net for the benefit of
its members, why doesn't AOL return the favor and share that
information with the rest of the net?
The net has traditionally been a cooperative where people shared their
work for the benefit of all. Someone who needs to write a program to
solve a particular problem can make that program available to
everyone. Another person who does some research on a particular topic
might put his results on his web server. Or a person with an interest
in a particular topic volunteers to maintain a public mailing list for
discussion about that topic.
AOL members now benefit from these services, but as far as I can tell,
neither AOL nor its members give anything back. Does AOL allow its
members to make files available for ftp or to export information to
the world wide web or gopher? Does AOL allow its members to maintain
mailing lists that are accessible from the Internet? I can understand
why AOL would not give random.internet.user access to its value added
services, but does AOL even allow Internet users to access its
discussion groups where everything was contributed by AOL members?
This is part of why AOL's use of the net is seen an insult by a lot of
the net community. It's 2 million members put a large load on the
services provided (often by volunteers) from the rest of the net.
It's bad enough that these people often aren't well informed about the
culture of the net (and I appreciate your efforts to improve that
situation), but it's even worse that a lot is taken, and nothing is
given back. (Of course, AOL is not the only one doing this, but by
virtue of its size it's probably the worst offender.)
Given that a lot of AOL's appeal comes from being able to use Internet
services (or else why would they advertise it?), I believe it is in
AOL's interest to contribute some things back to the net to help it
grow, and to allow its members to do the same.
If the net only consisted of large service providers like AOL, most of
the services that make it valuable would not exist. If service
providers take over the net, it will cease to be useful. AOL and
other providers should be *adding* value to the net, rather than
taking it away. Surely there are some things they can give back with
little additional effort on their part. Doing so would also enhance
Personally, I would love to be able to refer net.newbies to AOL, but
only if I could count on AOL to not only give them an easy to use
interface, but also to teach them to be contributors to the net as a