Message Hash: 605962d53c6068f49550adccd107608a6909fe1836c9509254f262c80d58ad8f
Message ID: <9303060131.AA02315@longs.lance.colostate.edu>
Reply To: <9303052041.AA05452@soda.berkeley.edu>
UTC Datetime: 1993-03-06 01:33:02 UTC
Raw Date: Fri, 5 Mar 93 17:33:02 PST
From: email@example.com Date: Fri, 5 Mar 93 17:33:02 PST To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: USENET: musings on a new MUSENET In-Reply-To: <9303052041.AA05452@soda.berkeley.edu> Message-ID: <9303060131.AA02315@longs.lance.colostate.edu> MIME-Version: 1.0 Content-Type: text/plain Interesting the conversation about accountability and free speech has turned toward discussing the weaknesses in Usenet. I've been thinking about Usenet software a lot, and think there are some fundamental methods that could vastly improve the dreary and oft-discussed-lamented-cursed signal-to-noise ratio. I would propose these ideas in some newsgroup devoted to the topic but these tend to be frequented by fuddy duddies with too much at stake in the current system and completely unimaginative and uninnovative, and interested in yucky stuff like strengthening authentication (in stark contrast to the sheer brilliance in our club). (For an existence proof, look at the brouhaha on anonymity in news.admin.policy.) Now, I think we should get a thread started on the ultimate news posting software system. Let's recall the totally ad hoc nature of the original Usenet, which just sort of *emerged* because people started writing and running software for it. I fully believe this could happen with `our' system, esp. if the systems are "workable" and very attractive, and *effective*. I propose to call it MUSENET, because it's what I'm musing on at the moment. Above I called authentication mechanisms `yucky', and I still believe that they should be avoided, or at least I want to be able to peruse groups with no posting restrictions. But the authentication technique really does improve signal-to-noise ratios. That is because, no matter what anybody tells you, it is really only used for holding users accountable for their posts, to the degree of complaining to their sysadmins. I submit that high-signal-to-noise and total freedom of posting (e.g. anonymity) are mostly mutually exclusive objectives, but unfortunately each equally preferrable. So, here's the idea. Let USENET continue to ferment in relative `peaceful anarchy', with total freedom in posting. Lets start MUSENET with significant registration mechanisms. Just having an internet account wouldn't cut it. Some groups might be invitation only, others you might fill out an application/background form and current members vote on you, or whatever. The system should allow as much flexibility across groups as possible. Wouldn't it be great if every new user had to pass a multiple choice test on the group's FAQ? (sort of like getting a poster's license!) Or that the faq was archived along with group postings? Wouldn't it be great to peruse lists of members, their backgrounds or ``electronic resumes'', and their interests? This all should be possible. (Imagine reading a neat post and reading about the accomplishments of the person behind it, where they work, etc.) Now, imagine that every group also has an associated 'metagroup' for discussions about the group itself, whether it should be split, posters that are abusing it and the actions against them, etc. *built into the software* would be mechanisms for "complaining" about a post. If a user gets too many complaints, depending on the group charter, he might be automatically expelled or suspended. I proposed earlier the idea of a bank account that people can credit or debit based on your postings, and membership dependent on nonbankruptcy! There could be "trials" and "proceedings" against the accused in the meta-group. Also, mechanisms for tracking article use would be great. People could vote on articles they *liked* also. Each group would automatically have an associated "supergroup" where the best articles are percolated up, not by posting, but by positive vote mechanisms. It would be a great honor to make it into certain of these groups. In fact, there might be a net-wide "super hall of fame" (or even a "hall of shame"). I'd also like to see a lot of tracking about when articles are saved, how long they are being read, that kind of thing--propagated back to the poster! Can you imagine what kind of effect that would have on quality? (er, maybe I mean `could'...) There is a tremendous amount of analysis of articles that is going on *completely behind the scenes* right now, totally separated from the articles themselves. Lets get that beautiful data into cyberspace! Group charters should be very specific about the mechanisms involved in the particular group, and what kind of speech will be tolerated, and how abuses will be dealt with. There should be some way for a group to approve their "official faq", or more than one of such. Maybe it would appear first as a regular article, and make it into FAQhood if there are enough positive votes. I also like the idea of "free-lance moderators" or "free-lance editors". The newservers would not only propagate articles but meta-articles built by these free-lance editors of their favorite articles, perhaps in a single group but ideally globally. These editors would be able to create very customized portfolios of their favorite articles, even with their own comments on the stuff, and anyone can read the portfolios instead of the raw unfiltered stuff. I think anyone should be able to become a free-lance moderator. I think many people will. There should be some way to keep around outstanding articles. I.e., if they get enough votes, they are archived on some machine (ideally, the site they originated from or whatever) and they can be referenced in future articles. I think there ought to be a new "pseudonymous FTP" where anybody with an internet account could set up a part of their directory for archiving their favorite articles, made available to other newsreaders, possibly on the local news server. (My luddite administrators can seem to deal with anonymous FTP.) Holy cow, I haven't even gotten to all the cryptography features. Traffic should be encrypted. Everybody has public and private keys with verification. No free posting--if an article is transmitted, it means that it really was written by someone, by strength of their password secrecy. Hashing on articles to ensure they're untampered, etc. I think people should get away from the point of view that any restrictions on posting are anti-free-speech. I see a lot of news admins pretend that they don't want more control, and that any such suggestion is an insult to their unimpeachible ethical standards. There is a lot of hypocrisy going on right now. Lets make control legitimate, something *everyone* can exercise. More control is not censorship. It is the means toward improving s/n drastically. Anonymity should be built into the software for the appropriate groups. *no* tracking (e.g. storing machine routing paths) should be appended to the articles that are posted anonymously. In fact, the new server should act like our lovely remailers in this regard (cloaking/rerouting mechanisms, etc.) OK, I have to mention hypertext too. What if articles could incorporate GIF pictures or postscript files? Audio sound? have push-button pointers to other articles and files and FTP sites? yowza! Please don't misconstrue any of this. I don't advocate getting rid of completely free posting areas, forcing everyone to be validated, etc. In fact, I think these systems should always be there, and that they *will* always be frequented even after much better systems with better s/n will come along (there may also be a "creep" of outstanding freely-posted articles into the selective groups by people who vouch for them by posting them, and take the consequences for failures of judgement, as determined by voting response). Whaddya say, cypherpunks? want to be in on the next communication revolution? Want to mold the onslaught of cyberspace the way you like it, according to your distinct and prophetic vision? All we have to do is put a little prototype code together...
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