Great Circle Associates List-Managers
(July 2002)

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Subject: Re: MUA elitism
From: Rich Kulawiec <rsk @ magpage . com>
Date: Fri, 5 Jul 2002 09:34:52 -0400
To: list-managers @ greatcircle . com
In-reply-to: <127474330 . 1025853622 @ sn-mrdnGW3-E0 . snet . net>
References: <24706 . 1025851598 @ kanga . nu> <127474330 . 1025853622 @ sn-mrdnGW3-E0 . snet . net>
User-agent: Mutt/1.4i

On Fri, Jul 05, 2002 at 07:20:23AM -0400, Tom Neff wrote:
> It gives list managing a bad name when we are elitist about members' mail 
> clients. Yes, Outlook and Outlook Express (which were developed separately 
> and joined later by the name, hence their differences) are malware to avoid 
> if you can, but many ordinary users don't easily have that choice, and a 
> good list administrator focuses on the topic rather than on petty 
> geekmanship.  

1. Users *do* have a choice.  There are plenty of decent MUAs available --
many of them at zero cost -- which perform the same core set of MUA tasks
as O/OE but with considerably lower risk to the user, the user's
correspondents, the user's network, and the co-inhabitants of any mailing
lists that the user happens to be on.

2. Using O/OE at this point is incredibly, unbelievably stupid.  It's not
like this is a newly-discovered problem; it's not like it's one that's
easily fixed (by deselecting an option or avoiding a single problematic
function) while retaining O/OE; and it's not like it's difficult to find
alternatives. There are no valid excuses for anyone to continue to use
a software product whose chief distinguishing feature is that it poses
a hazard to everyone else on the Internet.  O/OE is broken.  It is badly
broken.  It is broken in way that makes it a nasty piece of malware.
There is no evidence that it will be fixed; in fact, there is evidence
that its vendor considers its worst flaws to be "features" and intends
to "enhance" them.

3. If expecting users to take reasonable care to ensure that they
and their systems do not pose an unacceptably high risk to the rest
of the Internet is "petty geekmanship", then we've sunk incredibly low.
I do *not* expect end users to understand the nuances of SMTP error
codes and DNS MX records and sendmail vs. postfix etc.; however, I do
expect them to be minimally bright enough to grasp the message that's
been pounded into their heads repeatedly: Do not use O/OE.  O/OE bad.

4. I think it gives list managing "a bad name" when we are willing
to accomodate the stupidest, most intransigent users who absolutely
refuse to get a clue even when it's provided to them repeatedly in
simple language from a variety of sources over a long period of time.
We do not serve the clueful users (who are hopefully in the majority,
although I suppose that's debatable) well by lowering our standards in
order to accomodate the point-and-drool crowd.  A better course of
action is to demand that the point-and-drool crowd use the readily-available
resources (starting with "read what is on the screen in front of you")
to educate themselves out of their ignorance, thus improving not only
their own state, but that if everyone who interacts with them.  Oh, it
might seem harsh to take this attitude: but as I've learned from bitter
experience, we are not doing end users any favors by attempting to
accomodate their ignorance/laziness/stubborness.


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