1997-01-20 - Thoughts re moderation, filtering, and name changes

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From: Greg Broiles <gbroiles@netbox.com>
To: cypherpunks@toad.com
Message Hash: 9e5a321706f891ffe5bd9eda2c2e45a612b520d73aa47e09e4ebe90fc40f7d70
Message ID: <>
Reply To: N/A
UTC Datetime: 1997-01-20 00:06:14 UTC
Raw Date: Sun, 19 Jan 1997 16:06:14 -0800 (PST)

Raw message

From: Greg Broiles <gbroiles@netbox.com>
Date: Sun, 19 Jan 1997 16:06:14 -0800 (PST)
To: cypherpunks@toad.com
Subject: Thoughts re moderation, filtering, and name changes
Message-ID: <>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain

(I wrote a pretty long message and decided that the last few paragraphs
said what I was really getting at. So I put the long message on the web at
<http://www.io.com/~gbroiles/cpunks.html> and have sent along only the last

This discussion of public perception now finally reaches what finally
spurred me to write in the first place, which is the relationship of all of
this to the name of the list, and whether the unfiltered list should be
called "cypherpunks" or "cypherpunks-unedited" or whatever. I think that
the dispute over the name (or, more accurately, grumbling and dissent about
John Gilmore's decision about naming) is reducible to a dispute over
whether it's more important that the list be perceived as a "free
expression zone" where any message is accepted, or if it is perceived as a
mailing list with a high signal/noise ratio. At a purely technical level,
these are both non-issues; the name "cypherpunks@toad.com" is merely a
string of text, and we could all just as easily subscribe to
"mxfgfds@toad.com"; and motivated subscribers can use automated tools to
tweak the signal/noise ratio to their individual liking. But most people
will follow a path of least resistance; they will (remain) subscribe[d] to
"cypherpunks@toad.com", and they will not use filters, and what they get is
what the world at large will think "cypherpunks" is.

While I don't care (and suspect many others don't care) what the perception
of "cypherpunks" is, per se, I do care about whether or not interesting
people choose to send their thoughts and information to the list. So to the
extent that public perception changes that, I'm interested. And we've been
doing the "free expression zone" for several years, and what we're ending
up with is a mixture that's mostly crap - of the messages I see (and I
filter a lot out), a small fraction (10%?)  is pure garbage (e.g., the
"cocksucker" messages), a large fraction (60%?) is on-topic but
uninteresting or not useful, and the rest is useful in that it's got
information or a perspective I hadn't been exposed to before I read the
message. Other lists which are moderated (either by message or by author)
attract people whose messages are frequently useful; many of those people
have been on the Cypherpunks list at one time or another and have found it
unsuitable. So I'm ready to experiment with a new configuration because I'd
like to get more useful information.  

One approach to the name question would be to eliminate
"cypherpunks@toad.com" and force old/new subscribers to choose between
"cypherpunks-edited" and "cypherpunks-unedited". The advantage I see is
that it provides more accurate feedback about what people want; the present
method provides information about the perceived value of unmoderation
weighed against the bother of dealing with subscribing & unsubscribing. The
disadvantage is that it's likely to eliminate many subscribers, and that it
tends to abandon the "cypherpunks@toad.com" history which is, by now, ~5
years old. 

Greg Broiles                | US crypto export control policy in a nutshell:
gbroiles@netbox.com         | 
http://www.io.com/~gbroiles | Export jobs, not crypto.