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Many Topics are Appropriate for Discussion Here
At 2:38 PM 11/3/95, Perry E. Metzger wrote:
>Look, its simple. If you want the FBI and NSA to win, post lots of
>crap here. Nothing will help them out more than clogging one of the
>few communications channels available to people interested in
>spreading cryptography. If you are really successful, all the smart
>people will leave (as has happened in waves before -- the losses of
>Steve Bellovin and (effectively) Phil Karn are still felt) and you
>will have totally destroyed the channel.
There have been many posts which are more "clogging" than some minor
conspiracy rants. And if people don't want to respond to these rants,
they'll decline. Far more serious, in my opinion of course, are the
cross-posts to multiple mailing lists and the various press releases and
position papers bombarding us.
Implying that the reason Bellovin and Karn left the list--if they did, as I
haven't checked--was because of "off-topic" posts seems to be a stretch.
Even if Perry has gotten assurances from them personally that the
"off-topic" posts were a major factor, I'm not sure much can be concluded
from this. People leave for all sorts of reasons. I don't know what
reasons, if any, were responsible for the unsubscribings (or at least
nonpostings) of Bellovin or Karn, but I'm not too sure it matters.
I don't think it is useful to speculate on the causes for specific people
leaving the list, or even to ask them why they left. If they feel it is
important for us to know that they left the list because of too much talk
about UFOs, or about IETF committees, or about Netscape breakages, they can
tell us in their departing message.
Certainly using the departure of J. Random Subscriber, or even R. Noted
Hacker, as "proof" that topics are inappropriate is flawed logic. "We've
lost fine subscribers like Phil Zimmermann because of crap posted here." I
suspect there's some fancy Latin name for this kind of appeal to authority.
Topics have always been in flux, which is almost certainly a good thing,
else a lot of us would have left a long time ago. Certainly those
interested in some topics have little if any interest in other topics.
Lots of other people have joined the list, and the subscription base has
done from an earlier plateau of about 700 subscribers to more than 1200
recently. And many of the current subscribers are very active in
cryptography and security. I'd be tempted to mention a half dozen or so
names, but anyone I left out might feel slighted.
I do agree with Perry that longish political essays are probably not the
_best_ material for this list, though thoughtful essays on the implications
of digital cash, such as several folks have written about, are always
useful. And there are many troubling aspects of "crypto anarchy" that need
more explication, something I always feel is approprate for this list.
I am much less bothered by _custom written_ essays by current subscribers,
whatever the topic, than by reposts of long articles from other lists.
Thus, occasional rants from list members are preferable, to me, to longish
essays from outsiders, generally speaking.
Political aspects of strong cryptography have always been important to this
list. Though new subscribers may be forgiven for thinking this is the
"Netscape bug list," such has not always been the case. Key escrow was a
dominant topic in the early days, as it is today. And there are massive
numbers of issues to be discussed in the digital money area, involving
banking laws, the role of intelligence agencies in desiring to monitor cash
flows, the legal implications of anonymous cash, and scads of technical
Views here are not the views of my Internet Service Provider or Government.
Timothy C. May | Crypto Anarchy: encryption, digital money,
[email protected] 408-728-0152 | anonymous networks, digital pseudonyms, zero
Corralitos, CA | knowledge, reputations, information markets,
Higher Power: 2^756839 | black markets, collapse of governments.
"National borders are just speed bumps on the information superhighway."