1993-10-07 - on the cypherpunks mailing list & me

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From: “L. Detweiler” <ld231782@longs.lance.colostate.edu>
To: cypherpunks@toad.com
Message Hash: b4b609641814d3098472046190abf8a7338f28ae3718cc18d897a29841e9d08a
Message ID: <9310070742.AA18491@longs.lance.colostate.edu>
Reply To: N/A
UTC Datetime: 1993-10-07 07:45:27 UTC
Raw Date: Thu, 7 Oct 93 00:45:27 PDT

Raw message

From: "L. Detweiler" <ld231782@longs.lance.colostate.edu>
Date: Thu, 7 Oct 93 00:45:27 PDT
To: cypherpunks@toad.com
Subject: on the cypherpunks mailing list & me
Message-ID: <9310070742.AA18491@longs.lance.colostate.edu>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain

Note: please do not forward this. This is for cypherpunk readers only.

- list inundation & splitting
- an introspective note
- anonymous feedback

* * *

List moderator E.Hughes has repeatedly stated on the list that he is
not going to split it, although the exact reason is unclear (and I
don't think has ever been stated). A few weeks ago I posted a
suggestion of a possible list split in desperation of the piles of
incoming messages, hoping popular opinion would change his mind or
evince a proactive solution. I too was very saddened and frustrated by
the apparent attrition of list subscribers not because of lack of
interest but because of traffic.

I am under the impression that there is an extraordinary recent
interest in the `cause' from recent press reports, and that a 3x
increase in subscribers, say, would mean a 3x increase in traffic, to
which a split is a natural solution (like with newsgroups). But
apparently E.H. thinks that increasing flames are the fundamental
problem. I guess I'm a bit perplexed by this, because there have been
knee-deep flames ever since I started subscribing over a half year ago,
and I think they are a bit unavoidable, especially given the inherently
ornery and raucous nature of the crowd and the `cause'. Apparently he
didn't get any significant support for a split from my posting.

Anyway, the bottom line is that E.H. is vehemently opposed to
personally implementing any list split whatsoever, but is supportive of
anyone starting another.

I'd like to send out a CALL to anyone who has the capability and
commitment to create some new lists. Also, an alt.cypherpunk group
would be very easy to create, and certainly does not preclude anyone
from staying here. The newsgroup might be more appropriate to much of
the traffic on the list and might help relieve it of all the postings
E.H. considers extraneous. There are disadvantages (`the Sternlight
factor') but on the other hand we're all drowing in email. It really is
a pity all the fresh neophytes and enthusiastic souls that are
hemorraging or scared away from the `cypherpunks' because of too much
traffic that could be channelled better -- keeping everyone that's
interested `wired'. We have reached `critical mass' as far as press
coverage IMHO, and now is the time to act.

Finally, E.H. was a bit annoyed by my message calling for list split
suggestions, which gave his private mail box instead of the service
address cypherpunks-request@toad.com. My reasoning in posting his other
address was that I thought he didn't want the subscribe/unsubscribe
hotline cluttered with a lot of list split suggestions. I guess my only
consolation is that there weren't too many. So, my apology Mr. Hughes
for indirectly cluttering your mailbox with annoying stuff.

* * *

ahem, well, I tend to post a lot to the cypherpunk list out of sheer
enthusiasm, and tend to get a lot of flames publicly and in my mailbox
for dancing around especially controversial topics. But my mail tends
to be very contradictory in reaction to posts. In particular, its been
simultaneously encouraging and very excruciating lately, and
specifically I have gotten extraordinarily hostile mail from some
prominent cypherpunks I desperately wish to respect. They suggest that
my postings have gotten alarmingly out of hand, maybe even to the point
that it would be better if I stopped altogether, or even was *barred* from posting.

So, I'm rather teetering on a precipice right now in very serious ways
you can't imagine, and in the interest of better serving the group and
the cypherpunk cause, if you have strong feelings on the
appropriateness of various subjects that I post frequently on, please
send me some email. I'm enclosing various anonymous comments below to
help spur your own.

I guess of all the things I do regularly here, to me the most upsetting
reaction below is that my `L.D. cypherpunk awards', which I intend in
the best spirit to help recognize fellow cypherpunks for their
especially commendable efforts and contributions to the list, in what I
thought was a completely frivolous, harmless, and facetious way, are
considered poor or bad taste. I get quite a kick out of `handing them
out', and have gone to some trouble in at least one case to ask the
recipient beforehand, and thought that everyone thought they were good
clean fun,  but apparently not. If I have offended anyone in the past
for them, let me apologize right now.

One thing I have gone through a lot of trouble for a long time is to
forward relevant material. I think this is one of the best ways I have
served the group, and it takes a lot of time, attention, and poring
through other mailing lists. And in fact I think a major part of future
cyberspace will reward this kind of effort in directing raw information
more readily. Right now, its not only a thankless job, but one to get
flamed over. I've hinted about it before and got strong reaction that
even important Usenet postings are appreciated, esp. for some people
that don't have news access and also like it as a way of filtering the
noise. And I'm very hurt by strong comments below that complain about

I think it strange when some people complain they have seen something
I've posted before. Am I a mindreader? Seeing something more than once
in cyberspace is something *everyone* has to deal with. Why am I the
scapegoat? The things I foward, mostly from obscure mailing lists, I
think are generally *not* found on various newsgroups prior to my
posting it. And I am always greatly both amused and annoyed when
someone reposts something that I was the first to post to the list.
OTOH, though, in light of all these comments, I have decreased my
forwarding activity to a large degree lately to some extent because of
this critical mail.

Another fairly common complaint in the comments is `acting bossy'. I
guess this ties in with the cypherpunk awards. I want to make it clear
that all my posts urging action are mere suggestions. I guess I
volunteer them in the spirit of sitting around a table, saying `what
can we do?' and throwing in my own shot. This is also a way of spurring
other people's comments. Also, I often make `calls to cypherpunks'--but
these are partly satirical. I'm nothing but another string of ASCII
characters. Whenever I get out of hand, though, please call me on it --
but quote the text. I guess some people might have gotten especially
annoyed when I went from `[x] gets my vote as cypherpunk of the week'
to `[x] gets an L.D. cypherpunk award.' I thought it was an innocuous
and natural progression but apparently not.

One respondent below really focused on my excitement as `causing
flames' or `inviting flames'. It seems to me the only thing that truly
`invites flames' is a direct personal insult, and I've stayed away from
that from my whole experience. If my postings are controversial, I
can't really be responsible for  hostile reactions. The whole essence
of cypherpunk ideology is controversial.  Part of the point of a
mailing list is to be provocative and get a discussion going, explore
all the points. And yes, it leads to a high profile. I don't feel
apologetic for any of this.

Not coincidentally, some of the hottest flame wars I've been involved
in have been over the most basic cypherpunk causes. Some time ago
someone, I forget who, suggested we abandon PGP for RSADSI software
because of the patent problem. You can imagine the flames that caused.
Another person suggested we change the name `cypherpunk' to something
less `subversive' like the Privacy Group or something equally bland. I
flamed searingly against both and stand by my positions proudly today.
(Curiously, these anomalous sentiments have not reappeared after the
blaring NYT article touting the *cypherpunks* or even after the recent
PGP subpoenas.) I'm also proud to have flamed people like Denning and
Bidzos long before it was fashionable. <g> (Seriously, though, there
was a time when saying that she had anything to do with the NSA would
be branded a `conspiracy theory'. Actually, that's what I flamed her for.)

Many posters object to my verbosity. Yes, I tend to be verbose,
especially when in an especially excited or analytical mood. But both
the English language use and average attention span has decayed
steadily over time, perhaps due to `television stupor' and `educational
passivity'. If anyone has seen old newspapers or classic writing, `big
sentences' are no big deal. I don't feel like apologizing for
exercising a large vocabulary or writing complex sentences.

Another bone of contention was my analytical postings, wherein I pick
apart an article. I don't think people realize how tricky this is.
Criticism is a very subtle and delicate art. In many ways it is more
difficult than simple writing itself. And I object to anyone asking for
less analysis on the list. This is where we get valuable `intellgence'
that *demands* analysis. IMHO, if anything, we need more of it -- we
already have plenty of Usenet-style one-liner replies. I think its a
pity not more people do this in a systematic way.

I have not actually always attached much significance to analysis since
being on the list.  I got the idea that systematic critiques were
really fascinating for list readersfrom one I read by someone, I forget
who, regarding the initial Newsweek article on Clipper. It pointed out
what a favorable article it was for the cypherpunk cause. After that, I
realized how energizing a cogent analysis can be and have been making a
habit of it ever since. I must admit the technique is dear to my heart.
Anyway, I've gotten both positive and negative feedback on my analyses.

Some people complain of my volume of postings. I generally give little
credence to comments along the lines ``you post too much.'' In a simple
way these sometimes amount to ``I'm drowning in email, and I've seen a
lot of your posts lately.'' (Well, I bang my head on my disk quota
everyday too.) Worse, though, some strike me as petty and meanspirited
-- seeming to me to amount to only slightly less rude euphemisms for
``sit down and shut up'' or ``get lost, jerk''. Unless you can point to
particular postings that you think were not relevant, please don't
complain to me. I simply don't have any idea how to adjust unless you are specific.

Interestingly, some of these comments also seem to amount to the
strangely paradoxical sentiment `your posts take too long to read'. I
think I have gone to great trouble to index and organize my comments to
the list for convenient reading. No one is forcing anybody to read them
and it takes about one second to hit the delete button. I think this is
a no-win situation for me too -- someone tells me to break up all my
multi-subject letters into separate posts, but, leaning in that
direction, I get flamed for posting too much. <sigh>

For me the most disheartening and alienating comment of all below was
that there is `no cypherpunk cause' and that my delusions in thinking
so are the root of not only all the list problems but personal ones!
Perhaps I've seriously misjudged the intended purpose of the list. For
me, though, the beauty of the cypherpunks mailing list (which I thought
was highly representative of `the' cause, or a least `a' cause) is that
anyone anywhere, not necessarily at just the physical meetings in
California, can feel like they are plugged in to a sort of club of
associates -- a sort of `virtual community' -- and make positive
contributions, meet people, yack, and keep in touch with the premier
issues of our day. But maybe I've just made a grave, embarrassing
mistake in taking it all too seriously.

* * *

<shew> all this has been rather difficult for me to bang out on the
keyboard. (I've noticed that the most emotional and draining prose has
a high occurence of the words `I' and `you'.) I hope no one will flame
me for this post. I think every 1000 or so I'm entitled to a little
public introspection (<g>), to reflect back and try to figure out what
was the most helpful to everyone out there. 

In particular, if you wish to make comments to me or anyone else
posting to the list, I urge you to quote sections of the text that you
think are inappropriate or offensive or whatever. Unfortunately
virtually all the critical comments I have ever gotten never do this,
and its exceedingly difficult to make adjustments when the feedback is
vague.  I generally ignore comments along the lines of `there is a
reason people are flaming you,' chalking it up to my e-personality,
without quoting relevant material. I simply won't apologize for
excitement or enthusiasm for the cypherpunk cause, and am rather hurt
by people who tell me I should.

One thing for sure: I don't think anyone is getting very much positive
feedback for their posts here. I have always sent out a lot of private
email in this vein when I see things I like, but nobody is receiving
any significant amount of it, from what I can figure out. I am lucky to
receive one email response every ten messages. In fact, this is one
reason I was fiddling with the `cypherpunk awards' -- to fill a vacuum
of positive reinforcement.

Please, don't just email to flame. Email when you have read something
you really appreciated or would like to see more of. *especially* say
something when you forward material elsewhere, this is the sincerest
form of flattery. This the absolute best method, IMHO, to improve
signal-to-noise and even E.H. agrees. Consider that positive feedback
is in many ways the only `payment' for sometimes much time invested.
Sort of like T.C. May's signature: ``I put time and money into my
posts, I hope you appreciate them.''

Anyway, here's some feedback I've received. I think this is a
comprehensive and representative selection. Hopefully this exercise
will let you help me and anyone posting to the list in determining what
is acceptable and interesting. I'm quoting it all anonymously of
course, in classic cypherpunk spirit <g>.  There are 5 people
represented here,  2 of them supportive, both rather terse, and 3 of
them hostile, all rather verbose and redundant. (At times I wonder if 2
of the 3 are members of a secret L.D. Hate Society, but that's just my
characteristic paranoia <g>. Actually, I have other excellent reasons
to be paranoid.)

Truthfully, I have been propelled in cypherpunk list posting in the
hope that people's sentiments at large are not represented accurately
by my mail, which can be quite ego-shattering at times, and I'm writing
this message with quite a bit of edgy desperation and anxiety. If in
response to all this I get a lot of complaints along the same `3' lines
I guess I'll have to seriously consider unsubscribing in the best
interests of the group. <snif>


>Let me be blunt.  I consider that there are three specific people
>which are responsible for any deteriorating quality of the list.  You
>are number one on that list, more than the other two combined.
>Many list processing packages allow the maintainer to block certain
>individuals from posting, or at least pre-approve all of their posts.
>Do you get the hint?
>I would suggest you go find out what censorship is.  If you are denied
>access to this mailing list, that is not censorship.

>I won't respond to any more of your paranoid rants, your
>florid hyperbole, your announcements of "Detweiler Awards," or your
>"you really disappoint me" nonsense.
>You take this stuff entirely too personally and are much too quick to
>judge the motivations of others.
>Too tiresome for me.

>I believe that you personally are responsible,
>directly and in responses, for much of the noise on this list.
>There is no cypherpunks cause.  Neither is there a cypherpunks
>movement.  Get these delusions out of your head.  There is, however,
>cypherpunks software.
>I repeat, the cause and movement are in your own head.

>BTW: despite any flammage you may receive from the Metzgerly, I'd like
>to express some degree of thanks for the effort you've put into your
>analyses of the various issues at hand.  Not to say I agree with them
>all, but for the most part they seem sound, and in any case it's nice to
>see someone giving the matters a lot of hard thought.  

>It is my opinion that the list would be a better if you put less time
>and energy into it.
>I would rather have you learn self-restraint and quality thought and
>writing than to prevent you from posting.

>I guess -- coming back to your postings -- that I'd be more comfortable if
>you were to quietly compose and send a letter to your congresscritters
>proposing a correction to ITAR rather than post your theories and anger and
>fears to the safe cypherpunks audience.

>1.  No awards.  If you wish to congratulate someone, do so privately.
>If you wish to denigrate someone, do so privately.
>2.  No news analysis.  Your detailed examinations are uninformed
>(witness the Orange Book) and condescending.  A text speaks for
>itself.  If something puzzles you, ask, don't tell.
>3.  No ranting.  Your ranting creates other ranting.  I cannot offer a
>specific criterion to determine ranting, but I can tell you that about
>three-fourths of your stuff is rant.
>4.  Check your facts.  Use a library.  If you don't know what
>something is, do not invent an identity for it.  If you don't
>understand something, it is wiser to ask a question than to create a
>paranoid explanation.
>5.  One topic per post.  There are a number of people who read the
>list traffic with newsreaders; it is mere civility to have one thread
>per Subject: line.
>6.  Do not reply to Perry Metzger in public.  This should be a
>redundant instruction, but unfortunately I feel the need to emphasize
>this particular interaction.
>7.  Listen to other people's opinion of you.  A single interpersonal
>conflict is indeterminable, but when several people have the same
>complaints, it is time to start listening.
>8.  Remain technical.  cypherpunks is a technical list informed by
>politics, not a political list informed by technicalities.  Learn the
>difference.  Technology is primary, politics is secondary.

>From my reading of your posts, you sound:
>1.      really worked up
>2.      somewhat bossy (telling cypherpunks what they should do)
>3.      quite verbose
>Meanwhile, I observe the reactions you're getting -- and it's clearly a
>flame war starting.
>My assumption is that people are reacting to your non-verbal message (the 3
>points above) more than to your verbal one.
>As for being bossy -- read your own posts.  They are sometimes arrogant.
>You sometimes sound like you have analyzed the situation and know what is
>to be done and you're sharing your wisdom with the list.
>As I said, it comes across as if you're excited.  I appreciate that.  I'm
>excited too.  Now that we've conveyed that information, there's no other
>use for what you're writing in such high volume.  I grant its theraputic
>effect *for you*, perhaps, but it does nothing for me.

>I am writing to suggest that there is valid reason for people to complain
>about your posts and to hope that you step back and consider that
>possibility.  I don't like seeing you invite such attacks.

>It's the [...] journalist e-mailing you. Thanks for posting your
>response to the Westworld story. I'm much too busy ( [...] ) 
>to concentrate on encryption and digital cash
>features, but one day I will get around to it. And when I do, I'll be
>calling you and other cypherpunks for help.

>I don't want to write you off...so instead, I
>sent you a message.  I don't think you're flame-baiting the way he was
>but rather by adding volume without new content (without information, in the
>communications theory sense) and by showing your agitation without doing
>anything about it, you have clearly invited flames.

>I'm concerned, too.  However, a "go out and do this" message to cypherpunks
>comes across as:
>1.      preaching to the choir (therefore a waste of bandwidth)
>2.      officious (acting as if you were in charge when you're not)
>Both of these are cause for offense -- not "unnerving", just offensive and
>therefore an invitation for flaming.

>Those sentences sound like they're coming from a wounded person who is
>trying to get back at an attacker rather than from a calm adult who is
>cooperating in the stated goals of cypherpunks.  In other words, it sounds
>like you're hooked into a flame war -- and that, alone, sounds paranoid.
>It has nothing to do with the NSA.

>I know the situation.  So does everyone else on the list.  We don't need
>reposts from newsgroups.  We don't need lectures.  We're as worried ad you
>and some people on the list are actually doing things to fight this battle.
>Your posts don't appear to contribute to this effort.  They might make you
>feel better -- make it feel like you're doing something -- but it's the
>wrong audience and the wrong words.  The result is personal flames.

>I value your work in sci.crypt and hate to see you maligned.  I especially
>hate to see you invite it.  Lately in cypherpunks, it looks like you're
>inviting it.

>I read everything you send -- or
>start to read it -- but when I find a re-post of something I've read on a
>newsgroup, I get pissed.  My mailbox is gaining about 200 messages a day,
>not counting real work messages.  My time is too valuable to waste in
>re-reading something (often for the 5th time).

>I'm favorably disposed
>toward you but I am telling you that your flood of information -- both
>reposts and rehashes of your opinion at great length but offering nothing
>I haven't already thought of -- have led me to delete your messages with
>my own frustration -- over wasted reading time, discovering that I've
>seen this before and nothign of value has been added.  That takes time.