Great Circle Associates List-Managers
(July 2002)

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Subject: Re: MUA elitism
From: Rich Kulawiec <rsk @ magpage . com>
Date: Sat, 6 Jul 2002 16:29:21 -0400
To: list-managers @ greatcircle . com
In-reply-to: <001201c224f5$a859cc80$f3943ccc @ tomw2kc>
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On Sat, Jul 06, 2002 at 10:01:42AM -0400, Tom Neff wrote:
> I find this counterargument perhaps unintentionally revealing, because in
> fact we DO allow people to drive Corvairs [...]

s/Covairs/1974 Ford Pinto/ if you don't happen to like that analogy but
do happen to like Corvairs.

> We are not the nannies of the universe.
> [...]
> Every list should be MIME checked, virus checked, and spam checked.

I find these statements to be self-contradictory.  I *don't* virus check
any of my mailing lists because I don't use software products that are
highly susceptible to viruses.  (There are no Microsoft products here.
In fact, there aren't even any Intel processors.)  I don't consider it my
responsibility to make up for the egregious security issues that other
people have brought on themselves by their decision to use Microsoft
operating systems and applications.  Which is my way of saying, "I'm not
their nanny".  Maybe we just have a different idea of what this means
and we're arguing semantics.  Or maybe I should just take that to its
logical extension and not worry about O/OE users constantly hammering
each other with viruses.

> Assuming that security vulnerability is a well-ordered metric, there will
> ALWAYS be a "most vulnerable client."  If Gabriel's trumpet sounded tonight,
> and every copy of Outlook Express and Outlook were vanished into MS
> Heaven(TM), then some other MUA would automatically be the most vulnerable.

Certainly true.  But this does not in any support the position that we
should therefore do nothing and passively allow O/OE to continue to infest
the Internet.  One could equally argue that if the most prolific spammer
is blacklisted sufficiently that another would then become the most
prolific spammer; I don't see that as an argument against blacklisting
the current #1. [1]

> Therefore, if we make it our mission to wean users from the most vulnerable

What makes you think it's a bad thing *for anyone*?  Improving matters --
from better routing algorithms to faster web browsers to layer-3 switches
to hardened operating systems -- is part of the continuing evolution of
the Internet.  I can't speak for you (and I doubt you'd want me to ;-)
) but I consider it part of my responsibility to promote and effect
continued improvement any way I can.  If I can find a fix to a software
bug or suggest a better anti-spam mechanism or provide a helpful service
to a non-profit org or write a useful document, that's all part of it --
and so is trying to get people to migrate away from braindamaged software
and toward things that function much better.

> Not that this would be a bad thing for the professional crusading business.

Or for the Internet.  We didn't get where we are by accomodating the
least capable software/hardware out there.  No, I'm in not in favor
of random changes disguised as "progress", and no, I'm not in favor
of gratuitous incompatibility; but I do recognize that "the Internet"
is an evolving entity which requires of anyone (or anything) trying
to use it that *they* evolve too -- which means, from time to time,
abandoning bits and pieces of the technology as other bits and pieces
which are demonstrably superior present themselves.

Anyone who's not prepared to do that is in the wrong place.  (An argument
I frequently make to people who get into the computer industry and then
complain about how fast it changes.  I recommend that such people consider
an alternative career in sheepherding or some other field that moves at
a more sedentary pace.  There are days I consider it myself. ;-) )

> No, you just show them how to do it with a FAQ in your welcome message. 

Actually, that's an excellent idea.  I'll be modifying my FAQ to recommend
that users stop using O/OE immediately.  I've no idea how many will
pay attention to it, but I guess eventually I'll be able to find out
by comparing header stats now with header stats in say, six months.
(My first guess: almost none.)

> That's easy: the number of lists (or Yahoo groups etc) would double in a
> month, as offended members voted with their feet.  It is way too easy to
> start a list these days for anybody to pretend they can enforce such things.

Good point: it would probably take widespread blocking of O/OE-generated
messages at the MTA level to actually put a dent in things.

> They still make great mice! :)

<chuckle> I wouldn't know: I've never used one.


[1] Yep, I'm neatly sidestepping the problem of just how we might
determine just who the top spammer is. ;-)

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