[Mailman-Users] Removing archives query.

Stephen J. Turnbull stephen at xemacs.org
Sun Jan 10 12:03:44 CET 2010

Brian Carpenter writes:

 > > John Fitzsimons writes:
 > > 
 > >  > If it is then are there any plans for us CPanel users to be
 > >  > able to remove archives in a future Mailman release please ?

 > > John, it's not called "free software" because you pay nothing for
 > > it.  It's call "free software" because you, and I, and the
 > > general public are licensed to do almost anything with the
 > > software.

 > Wow! That is a harsh reply.

Heh.  If you don't like my writing style, well, I'm aware of (some of)
my deficiencies.  Feel free to preempt my posts with your own.  I'll
be almost as happy as everyone else.<wink>

Maybe my reply was harsh.  The realities facing free software projects
are harsh, too.  The OP has as yet contributed nothing, and he is
implicitly asking the Mailman project to put effort into a feature
that benefits primarily people who are using a product that also
returns nothing to Mailman, and mostly serves to add value to services
that return nothing to Mailman and provide insufficient support to
their own customers.

Now, there is no legal requirement whatsoever that users *contribute*
anything back (and IMHO, no ethical requirement either).  He is not
even bound by the GPL since he doesn't actually have the software
himself IIUC.  But most people do want to contribute something.  He
has made it plain that his technical skills make it difficult for him
to do much in the way of code or user support; I offered a detailed
plan for how he *could* help *if he wants to*.

I should explain why I believe *this* feature doesn't really benefit
Mailman itself.  It requires destroying data, on behalf of people who
almost by definition don't know exactly what they're doing.  In some
cases, doing this properly would require ensuring a fresh backup
before removing that data, and that is something that the host
administrator must do, and he should provide advice to the (naive)
user before it is done.

 > He is really not posting about cPanel here. He is simply trying to
 > get some assistance with Mailman which he is using via his cPanel
 > hosting account.

That is a rather generous interpretation of the words you quote
above, and especially in context.  He made it quite plain that cPanel
is an important, perhaps essential, ingredient in his use of Mailman.

 > He may be perhaps confused about the relationship between cPanel
 > and Mailman which is understandable.

Indeed, and the main point of my post was to clarify that
relationship, and to elucidate the "software ecosystem" that supports
the services he is using.

 > On a positive note, cPanel has introduce a large number of folks to
 > Mailman who would have otherwise been ignorant of its existence.

Yes, on false pretenses, it would seem.  If cPanel and hosting
services using cPanel would provide proper support to their users,
*they* would be posting here requesting the feature (not to mention
offering financial support).  With "friends" like that....

I have no objection to commercial use of free software.  For example,
I am very pleased that you are present on the list -- the fact that
you offer a good value proposition for people who can afford your
rather modest fees is a Really Good Thing[tm] for Mailman.  OTOH,
cPanel has for years been withholding their sources from the
community, and (some) hosting companies using cPanel have similarly
been shuffling off their support responsibilities onto the Mailman
developers and supporters for equally long.

Now the legal obligation of cPanel is nil, and the ethical obligation
is in some sense moot (we knew about this when we chose to contribute
to a GPLed project).  But since *we* *are* going try to help cPanel
users who show up here, it would be really nice to have access to a
reasonably fresh copy of those sources.  They *must* come from a
cPanel customer; the GPL does not permit us to just go out and grab

That is something he may be able to do for us, if he wants to.

           Ask not how you can "do" free software business.
     Rather ask, "What can my business do for software freedom?"

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