[Mailman-Users] Goodmail spells doom for mailing lists?

Stephen J. Turnbull stephen at xemacs.org
Fri Mar 3 06:25:27 CET 2006

>>>>> "Brad" == Brad Knowles <brad at stop.mail-abuse.org> writes:

    Brad> At 3:07 PM +0900 2006-03-02, Stephen J. Turnbull wrote:

    >> *sigh* I see lots of explanation of why this is going to hurt
    >> "legitimate" bulk emailers there, but ... isn't that obvious?
    >> OTOH, very little about how it hurts the typical AOL customer.

    Brad> 	It hurts them because [...].

You understand that and I understand that, but I don't think it's easy
to grasp from the pages whose URLs you posted.  What _is_ easy to grasp
is that bulk emailers who have been getting a certain level of QoS for
free are now being asked to pay for it, and they're upset.  Stinks of
"special interest" to high heaven.

Of course, especially for the altruistic lists (eg, the cancer
victims' group), that special interest is going to be supported by
highly motivated users, and get bad publicity for AOL.  But I doubt if
that's enough to get AOL to turn back.

    Brad> 	If you were suddenly told that you could no longer
    Brad> communicate with any kind of reliability with most of the
    Brad> people in the world, would you not be hurt?

Sure, but I don't believe that statement, and I don't think AOL users
will believe it.  You and I know that "possible" reliability is
6-sigma or so.  Mail simply does not need to ever get lost barring a
nuclear strike on your MX.  But we also know that there's a social
system and broken providers that drives a wedge between "possible" and
what we actually experience.  Without our knowledge, and given that
their providers are not going to accept the blame, nor blame the users
if possible to avoid it, many users will accept the excuse the system
as a whole is unreliable, and will believe AOL when they claim that
Goodmail improves reliability for many of their lists.  They won't
believe predictions that reliability will go through the floor, at
least not until they see them come true.

    Brad> 	Yes, AOL users can be extraordinarily dumb.  But does
    Brad> that mean that we have to hurt all of them, just because of
    Brad> the stupidity of some?

It's not *us* that are doing the hurting, though.  They're doing it to
themselves, just like the victims of any fraud.  The only thing you
can do to reduce fraud in the long run is to properly educate the
victims.  My point is that I see education of people who are already
aware of the knife at their throats, the bulk emailers.  I don't see
education of the people that AOL will listen to, namely their users.

    Brad> 	Internet e-mail is a fundamentally different kind of
    Brad> beast.  You can't make comparisons with the USPS, UPS,
    Brad> FedEx, or any other carriers of physical mail.

Economics is "the science that compares apples with oranges."  Of
course I can make the comparison.  More to the point, the third
parties that I mention already are doing so, and they are recommending
and even making policy based on those comparisons.

    Brad> whatever pay-to-play schemes we should be investigating
    Brad> should be under the complete control of the user in
    Brad> question, and not imposed on them by a service provider.

It's not imposition; it's a measure of the value of the service to the
users.  (Unless AOL can accept the mail and bill you later, and
successfully sue if you don't pay.)

As long as you think of it in terms of "imposition by the SP", you're
going to have trouble convincing people who are reasonably satisfied
with the SP.  Their satisfaction levels will go down as the costs go
up, and that's as it should be.  But if the SP makes a reasonably
convincing case that it reflects their cost of doing business, the
users are going to say to us, "if you're so smart, why aren't you
running a better service?"

    Brad> 	But you should not be forced by your provider to
    Brad> charge certain people extra money in order to have
    Brad> guaranteed access to your mail box.

You are not, and I am not.  We can always change providers.  That
possibility _does_ need protection, it's not a natural law.  Ie, there
needs to be a class of provider that is a common carrier, that "just
transports packets for money", and those providers need to form a
global internet, as a subset of the Internet.  They need to be
protected from a cartel of AOL-like providers that would try to
Balkanize, and thus eliminate, that 'net.  And they need to be
accessible to retail customers like us.

Beyond that, it's not clear to me what really is needed from society's
point of view.

    Brad> 	No, not imminent death.  Just one more step down the
    Brad> road towards making George Orwell's greatest fears come to
    Brad> life.

    Brad> "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a
    Brad> little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor
    Brad> Safety."

That can be spelled much more succinctly: "AOL".  Is it our job to
protect their Liberty and Safety?

    >> That said, I'm perfectly willing to believe that the move to
    >> pay-per-mail is bad for everybody.

    Brad> 	Then help us make the case more strongly.

Well, that's why I'm posting.

    Brad> Contact the EFF and the other supporters of the website I
    Brad> mentioned above, and get them to try to explain things
    Brad> better -- to you, and to the rest of the world.  If you can
    Brad> come up with anything more yourself, please contribute that
    Brad> work back to the effort.

Well, maybe.  The presentational problem I perceive is a reflection of
confusion of "the good we're trying to do for society" with "the good
of society".  Such confusion is not easy to overcome.

School of Systems and Information Engineering http://turnbull.sk.tsukuba.ac.jp
University of Tsukuba                    Tennodai 1-1-1 Tsukuba 305-8573 JAPAN
               Ask not how you can "do" free software business;
              ask what your business can "do for" free software.

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