Great Circle Associates List-Managers
(February 1997)

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Subject: Re: fresh horror from AOL
From: Rich Kulawiec <rsk @ itw . com>
Organization: Ditka Diplomatic Studies Institute
Date: Mon, 3 Feb 1997 09:49:05 -0500 (EST)
To: list-managers @ GreatCircle . COM
In-reply-to: <v03007812af1acf81e14e @ [205 . 252 . 121 . 193]> from "Brad Knowles" at Feb 02, 1997 06:20:54 PM
Reply-to: rsk @ itw . com

>At 12:12 PM -0500 1/31/1997, Rich Kulawiec wrote:
>>Brad Knowles writes:
>>>	Check the comp.mail.sendmail FAQ.  That wouldn't get written
>>>without their support.
>>While I find the comp.mail.sendmail FAQ eminently useful, and am very
>>glad that it exists, there's no doubt in my mind that it would exist
>>even if AOL never had.  It's too necessary not to.
>	See my previous comments.  I guarantee you that it would have
>died on the vine.  There simply was zero interest in keeping the
>thing up to date, until I took the thing over.  Were I to let it go
>now, it probably would survive, but not if I'd done so back then.

I'm sorry, then we just have a difference of opinion.  I know that
several FAQs that I maintain would be scooped up very quickly if I
got run over by a bus; there are (apparently) just way too many people
who are interested in the info for it to go away.   I think the sendmail
FAQ falls into the same category, you don't.  Fair enough.

>	AOL pays for the hardware, including the power, space, cooling,
>etc....  AOL pays the paychecks of its employees, and some of us tend
>to be pretty activist towards certain types of things, and that's
>part of why we were hired, and that is officially considered part (or
>all) of our job while at AOL.  It's part of my official job
>description, if nothing else.

Okay, part of this I'll now agree with, but part of it I don't.  If
maintaining the sendmail FAQ is part of your job description, then
great, AOL is underwriting something that is very useful for the rest
of the Internet.  But as far as providing power/space/cooling or
cycles/disk/memory, that's been the de facto mode of operation for
all of us for years and years.  We all know that mailing lists and
moderated newsgroups and FAQs and all of that kind of thing are done
by people who are (sometimes) utilizing facilities that are not 100%
their own.  Some places don't know about it, some tolerate it, and
some encourage it.  (I'd still like to know who paid ihnp4's phone bills.)

>>For example, not implementing poorly-thought-out mail filtering
>>or screwing up HTTP 1.1 support would be a good start [see attached ASCII
>>document] and respecting work done by non-AOLers (meaning leaving
>>copyrighted work intact including all attributions, so that it's easily
>>distinguishable from AOL's own work) would be nice.
>	The mail filtering I can address -- this issue is being forwarded
>to our developers.  The HTTP support I can't, especially since we're
>integrating commercial software to provide the web browser function.
>That would have to be directed at the people who implement the web
>browser we are integrating.

I understand this.  But in both cases, the barn door is already open,
and closing it now, while helpful, won't stop the horses.  In the
case of both mail filtering (which started this discussion) and HTTP
standards compliance, AOL acted unilaterally -- which is certainly
their priviledge as an independent company -- but with nasty results for
the rest of us.  What exacerbates this is AOL's public claim (which I know
you are not responsible for) that everyone is out of step but Johnny.
(E.g. their repeated and official statements that the web difficulties
were not AOL's problem, but the problems of thousands of sites.)

Look, if AOL wants to service millions of customers, that's fine.
Make all the money in the world; I don't care.  But take responsibility:
they're *your* users, they pay *you*, *you* educate them.  If you can't
handle the problem of dealing with X million users, maybe you shouldn't
have X million users.  Choose.

It's your web browser/mail filter/whatever, *you* make it work.  Or
else work with the Internet to develop universally applicable solutions,
so that the problem changes to "*we* make it work".  (Heck, underwrite
the Hyperion project at UofI/NCSA, a followon to Mosaic.  They're
grad students, it'll be cheap.  And it could give us back a decent GUI
browser with full source code.  If it flops, you're only out chump change.
If it flies, you're heroes.)

Please excuse the frustration that's obviously showing.  I get the
impression that you're a hardworking person trying to redirect AOL's
efforts in more productive direction, for which I thank you.  But you
are not the official spokesperson for the company, and until those
people stop bashing us (see the web-related attachment to my last
message) some of us are not going to be terribly inclined to help you.
I guess I find myself in the position where the right hand is asking
for help, but the left hand is aimed at my face.  I think AOL needs to
decide which hand it wants to use.


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