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From: Janis Kracht (1:261/38)
To: All
Date: Mon, 24.09.12 13:25
Fidonews Vol 6 no 16 Page: 4
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C O L U M N S
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The Old School Toolbox

By Richard Webb, 1:116/901


Connecting the Wetware part XIII.

We often speak, and have spoken with a forked tongue when
discussing our ideas about what Fidonet is and how it works. If
you'll recall, last time I left you with a reminder of the pet
phrase used by many when discussing Fidonet echoes versus usenet
newsgroups. "Fidonet echoes are better than usenet newsgroups
because ... "

Were you able to fill in the blank? I'll bet you were. "Fidonet
echoes are better than usenet newsgroups because the signal to
noise ratio is better, thanks to moderation ... "

Okay, go back in this series, and other discussions of how usenet
operates in comparison to how Fidonet operates. Usenet is that
anarchy that Fidonet folks often say they want writ large. So long
as the traffic you generate is technically within spec, what
administration there is of usenet will say absolutely nothing to
you, connect up wherever you can find a feed, then it's open
season. That doesn't mean that there won't be peer pressure and
unwritten codes of behavior within groups however. Try discussing
so-called high-end stereo in the audio production newsgroups I
frequent. Bring your version of snake oil marketing masquerading
as science into this group of people who work producing the audio
you hear on your radio, television and favorite music media.
You'll soon be shouted down and told to take it to an appropriate
newsgroup. But, there will be no great pronouncement from any
usenet administrators, no hierarchy step in.

Yes, there are moderated newsgroups, and I lurk in a couple of
them. But, for the most part, usenet is the anarchy most Fido
folks say they desire.

Yet we hard coded rules into our policy document which should have
obviously been left out. A good example is the section on
Fidonews. Fidonews can be reached at address 1:1/1 according to
policy. We gave no thought to changes in transport
technology, or the editorship moving to elsewhere than North
America, which it has twice, once to zone 5, the other to Sweden.

Then, we hard coded a clerical and administrative structure which
works well for such things, but refused to recognize that the whole
reason that a network existed in the first place was connecting
people to people. Even as Policy 4.07 was being drafted the
potential of echomail should have been realized. Echomail would be
the monster that totally changed the Fidonet world. Yet we hard
coded into policy that what governing structure there was, that
administrative and bookkeeping structure would not touch the
administration of echomail. "fight-o-net" had some of its biggest
wars over echomail, who could control it, who could distribute it
to whom, etc. etc.

So, we leave a poor Fidonews editor holding the bag for it all.
Everybody gives his grievance and pet gripe to him/her/them. We
give the poor editors no guidance, except the prime directive of
its founder, Tom Jennings, which fit when the network was quite
small, but as it grew no longer was a reasonable assumption. So we
get pages and pages of quoted echomail, feel good puff piece chain
emails and everything else under the sun, including jokes that
some wouldn't tell in mixed company. As my grandpa would say "that
ain't no way to run a railroad."

I'm sure many of you have seen the file announcements in the fdn I
coordinate that advise that this month's "Braille Monitor" is
available. The Braille Monitor is the official organ of the
National Federation Of The Blind. But, there are some parallels
with Fidonews that might be relevant to consider here.

Like Fidonews, often the Braille Monitor's editorship is
transferred from person to person by the outgoing editor
appointing, and training his/her replacement. Like Fidonews, the
monitor is intended to educate and inform members of the
organization. Yes, there's a recipes column in the monitor, a short
buy/sell/swap place for those who want to acquire or move adaptive
equipment, assistive technology, etc.

A large part of the monitor's mission is reaching the newcomer to
the movement, both the public and that newly blinded person who has
just been introduced to our movement. This means that any given
issue might have little content of interest to someone like me, an
old hand around those parts. I might skim the article on education
of blind children, or the human interest story reprinted with
permission from a local newspaper and get to the hard news of
interest to us oldtimers, but that stuff's there, to inform, and
educate.

Unlike Fidonews, the board of directors of NFB has ultimate control
over that editor however. If it is felt that an editor is not
fulfilling the mission of the official organ they can step in, and
begin the hunt for an editor more to their liking. There's never
been a case when this was required however, as the outgoing editor
has always mentored and trained his successor. Fidonews on the
other hand is a transfer of the duty, and the software, "here ya
go, have fun." Yes often that incoming editor was a frequent
contributor, but there was no feeling of a mission or purpose
transferred with that editor's title. Every new editor brought
his/her perceptions of what it meant to edit "the snooze" with him,
with no guidance from anywhere else.

On one hand we got the anarchy we said we wanted, that is, until a
poor sysop that found he didn't fit within the geographic
restrictions wanted to be listed elsewhere and couldn't get that
much bandied about geographic exemption. Then the fight was on.

So I've beat on this drum for quite a few columns now, and you're
wondering if I have any solutions. Not really. The only way there
will ever be a solution is for the zone coordinators to actually
work in concert with each other in appointing a team of thoughtful
folks to formulate a new policy proposal to put before the regional
coordinators, who have the power to give it the thumbs up or down.
Such a drafting team should represent coordinators "grunt sysops"
all zones, the proverbial whole nine yards. We already proved that
an open forum where just anybody could participate doesn't work.
If you think that's going to happen I've got some ocean front
property in Kansas City for sale. Wanna buy it?

Can there be a positive outcome without such a policy change
effort? Yes, if, and only if those gentlemens' agreements which
make Fidonet work are strengthened and certain people cease with
the senseless power plays for no reason. If some of these
individuals would quit harping on who was wronged in the past and
come to an understanding that those informal agreements are the
only real glue that holds Fidonet together then it will continue to
survive. If they don't, they'll be hastening the demise of
Fidonet. The zone 1 versus zone 2 wars must cease for any positive
outcome to result.



FIDOGAZETTE Vol 6 No 16 Page 4 September 1, 2012


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