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From: Janis Kracht (1:261/38)
To: All
Date: Fri, 20.04.12 19:18
The FidoGazette Vol. 6 No. 8 Page 4

The Old School Toolbox
By Richard Webb, 1:116/901

Connecting the Wetware, Part VI.

To recap, we're talking about Fidonet and Usenet, two networks based ostensibly
on principles of positive anarchy. We're
looking at why usenet seems to maintain enough critical mass and even draws in
some newcomers occasionally, where Fidonet sort of limps along. I've always
felt that one of the main problems was that Fidonet, according to policy wanted
it both ways.

I've already discussed the problem with the section of policy discussing
Fidonews, a pretty hard and fast rule recognized more in the breach over the
years it would seem. Expediency carried the day, hard and fast rule be damned.
Getting policy changed was impossible, so we go along and do what needs to be

Another major bone of contention was the basic organization, which on the
surface appears totally logical. After all, this is a hobby network, and a
geographical organization would appear to be most effective from both a cost
standpoint, and as a method of recruiting and educating sysops. But, as we
know, Usenet survived without any such hard and fast rule, even before usenet
was connected by full time links. Usenet like Fidonet was based on systems
dialing each other when rates were lowest. Yet Usenet didn't dictate how you
joined. If you could get someone to give you a feed you connected to them. If
you were in Springfield, Illinois and wished to call Australia for your feed
and were willing to eat the toll charges that was between you and your feed.
But Fidonet tried to bring some logic to the system.

Logic as it appears wasn't always logical however. Your humble writer ran into
this one back in the middle 1990's when relocating to southeastern Iowa. A
call to my NC for routed netmail was a toll call, in state. Rates were higher
than dialing out of state. But, when asking the RC what I should do when I knew
a move was immanent I was told to join eastern Iowa net. I became a hub for
other boards in my local calling area, but still getting our routed netmail
required an in state toll call. It wasn't long before i found an out of state
echomail feed, which lowered my costs there, but I still couldn't find a way to
get routed netmail where we connected up for our echomail. A couple of schemes
were floated that would have worked, but politics got in the way. Even then,
(1995) the quest for cheap mail was breaking the local net concept.

About the time Ifna was going toes up so was Pc Pursuit, which meant that the
major force driving Fidonet was the quest for cheaper mail. This quest for
cheap mail resulted in a further erosion of cohesiveness and common purpose.
The only common bond local sysops had with each other was the constant hunt for
lower cost mail. Enter services such as Planetconnect, and anybody willing to
put up a dish and set up a system to dial into Tennessee or wherever to drop
off outbound mail, and pick up the transmissions of the dish to feed others was
suddenly a distributor, most times nonprofit, but sometimes as a money making
endeavor. The only loyalty you had was to the guy who would deliver your next
mail bundle, and if you found somebody who would do it cheaper than the guy you
were using then goodbye old feed, hello new feed. Everybody became fair
weather friends. Just try to get folks cooperating when they have no real
incentive to do it. I dare you, as an old guitar player buddy of mine used to

Policy was developed with lower cost as one of its driving factors, but as we
can see when looking at history, even then policy didn't keep up with the
changes necessitated by lowering costs. Combine this with p4 not fitting well
with operations in other zones, and it's obvious that eventually there will be
a major breakdown if that disconnect between policy and day to day operations
is not resolved. To better understand how this disconnect became a problem
even in North America we'll look at the history of the cheaper mail quest next
time in greater detail.

FIDOGAZETTE Vol 6 No 08 Page 4 April 24, 2012


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