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Appropriate Topics?

At 8:35 PM 8/3/95, Ray Cromwell wrote:

>> Good idea.
>> I would have some suggestions, but first
>> an important question:
>> Is it to be discussed on the Cypherpunks list?
>  I don't see why not. It's related to crypto, and it's related to
>writing code. Or has the cypherpunks list degenerated into an arena
>where the top subjects are the Waco hearings, paranoid government/NSA
>rumors, US vs German censorhip, and irrelevent political messages?

As I see things, talking about Ray's ideas for an object-oriented crypto
library is a big part of what this list is for. (Ditto for Wei Dai's code,
for Hal's code, and so on.)

However, it's a mistake to think that the _only_ thing appropriate for the
list is talking about code (of either kind). Not that Ray said this.

It seems to me the list is pretty well-balanced between several different
kinds of topics:

* crypto -- RSA, Diffie-Hellman, entropy, randomness, denial of service
attacks, and so on.

* software -- PGP implementations, hooks to other programs, MIME, Unix,
C++, Java, TCL, etc.

* policy -- Exon, EFF, Perl t-shirts, law, export, etc. (The worst of these
are the long policy analyses forwarded to this list from other places.)

* cultural -- movies with crypto or security themes, books, comments,
humor, etc.

* speculation -- tax effects, money laundering, crypto anarchy, etc.

* rants and conspiracies -- coverups, NSA, Waco, black helicopters, Masons,
etc. (the worst of these rants are long, rambling conspiracy theories
forwarded to this list from other places...these are probably the items
that least belong here).

(Note that the two serious problems--policy statements and conspiracy rants
forwarded from other places--share a common point: they are not written for
the Cypherpunks list by Cypherpunks...they are just stuff forwarded, with
only tangential interest to the list. And they tend to be long.)

Are these themes appropriate? Some folks want to read posts on one topic,
some on others, etc.

It's a fact that highly-specialized or detailed posts about, say, crypto
libraries, will not get as many general comments--in real life or on this
list--as a reference to a current movie will get. That's the nature of
things. I could go on about why this is so, but I think you all know why.

The "Cypherpunks write code" mantra, sometimes cited by those who dislike
the discussions they see, has a broader interpretation. To wit, instead of
asking others to write the code you want to see, try writing it yourself.
And this directly relates to postings: instead of asking for a different
kind of post, one should just _write_ that kind of post!

People will talk about what they want to talk about. If they get _too_ far
off into themes only distantly related to the ostensible themes of this
list, then usually some slight peer pressure will work. Plus, if people
don't respond, the threads die.

The noise messages of the form "This is not about writing code; this does
not belong on Cypherpunks" are misguided. The list is made up of people who
have crypto and privacy concerns broader than just writing C++ code for

--Tim May

Timothy C. May         | Crypto Anarchy: encryption, digital money,
[email protected]   | anonymous networks, digital pseudonyms, zero
408-728-0152           | knowledge, reputations, information markets,
Corralitos, CA         | black markets, collapse of governments.
Higher Power: 2^756839 | Public Key: PGP and MailSafe available.
"National borders are just speed bumps on the information superhighway."