Great Circle Associates List-Managers
(June 1998)

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Subject: Re: Finding A Listowner
From: Eric Thomas <ERIC @ VM . SE . LSOFT . COM>
Date: Mon, 15 Jun 1998 17:34:06 +0200
To: list-managers @ greatcircle . com
In-reply-to: Message of Mon, 15 Jun 1998 09:59:52 -0500 (CDT) from list-managers-owner @ GreatCircle . COM

>Anyone writing e-mail or list software who doesn't know what the IETF is
>and what it does is incredibly naive.  I was aware that IETF was working
>on an RFC dealing with mailing lists,

This RFC is not about mailing  lists, it is about defining "mailbox names
for common roles, services and functions." Things like ABUSE, HOSTMASTER,
WEBMASTER and so forth. Only one  of the sections is about mailing lists,
and then  only about the  -REQUEST address.  Since mailing lists  are not
mentioned in the abstract, I don't  see how you can reasonably claim that
mailing list developers  should have been aware of this  RFC. You have to
happen to be interested in philosophical discussions about the naming for
the address of the NNTP manager to read this RFC and discover section 6.

The reason we are having this discussion is that the WG screwed up. It is
not the IETF's  goal or desire to  have this sort of thing  happen! A RFC
must represent a "rough consensus" in  the community, and this can hardly
be the case  if the community is  totally unaware of the  RFC because its
abstract mentions only unrelated issues, and the community was never made
aware of the RFC through the many existing tools at the WG's disposal.

>Lastly,  how many  complaints have  we seen  about Microsoft  or AOL  or
>[insert favorite target here] not conforming to this or that
>well-established RFC standard?

The  key here  is "well-established."  I think  RFC822 is  a big  pile of
manure, but it's  been around for 16  years and we all have  to follow it
because it defines the protocols  that just about everyone implements. We
follow RFC822  not because  the IETF says  so, but because  it is  such a
widely implemented and well-established industry standard.

RFC2142 has at best minority implementation. Most lists work differently,
and  have  worked  differently  for   over  10  years,  which  in  itself
constitutes a strong  objection to the change. The IETF  does not attempt
to change existing de facto practice without a VERY GOOD reason, and here
the reason is at best tenuous! The  problem RFC2142 is trying to solve is
that  you  cannot  know  whether  to send  your  commands  to  LISTSERV@,
Majordomo@ or ListProc@ if  all you know is the name of  the list, so you
should write  to -request instead.  Well, all  right, but you  won't know
what command syntax  to use unless you know which  software is sitting at
the -request, so this hardly solves anything. Also, in practice you don't
have this  problem to  begin with.  You can't  write to  -request without
knowing the  hostname, and  typically you would  get the  hostname either
from a message inviting people to subscribe or from a list search engine,
in either case you will have subscription instructions.

I think the  WG were just wondering what other  well-known mailboxes they
could add to the RFC, and they  came up with -REQUEST. I don't think they
realized the potential  impact of what they were  doing. Anyway, LISTSERV
introduced the  -SERVER mailbox many  years ago to address  this problem,
but it was not implemented in  other major list managers because there is
simply no demand from the users. RFC2142  #6 is a solution in search of a
problem, and it is a bad  solution because it breaks the well-established
-REQUEST tradition. A  good solution would introduce a  new mailbox name,
such as -SERVER,  to avoid alienating existing users. -SERVER  would be a
particularly good choice  because just about every  LISTSERV site already
supports it,  but it  could be  anything else  and L-Soft  would probably
implement it as long as it were a NEW mailbox and did not break anything.


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