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Subject: The State of the Framers List
From: jeremy@xxxxxxxxx (Jeremy H. Griffith)
Date: Thu, 01 Oct 1998 00:58:03 GMT
Organization: Omni Systems, Inc.
This has been a difficult post for me to write. Please bear with me for a while... Most of you have known me as a dedicated member of the Framers list for many, many years, about 10 years IIRC, starting when it was on uunet. Some of you are people with whom I've had lengthy off-list correspondence; some of you are Omni mif2rtf customers; and some of you are known to me only by your many helpful posts to Framers in the past. What unites us all, though, is our concern for the health and well-being of the Framers community as a whole. This is a special community to me. We help each other, freely sharing our time and expertise, openly debating the many issues around FrameMaker from our often quite-different perspectives. We do so with kindness, almost always without flaming, and with respect for what we may learn from one another. And, now and then, with humor. We may go off-topic, but we always return a bit better for the journey. Above all, we are a participatory democracy; we have no "leaders" (though we certainly have our elder statespeople) and need no policing, as we have no crime. That is our strength, and it has given us a quality of life, on the list, that we could well wish the larger societies in which we work and live to emulate. Now, today, I see before us the greatest challenge to the life of our community, as we have known it, that we have ever faced. It is an insidious challenge, but no less deadly for that. Over the years, I've seen at least three list administators come, and go. Thay have always been volunteers who undertook the minutiae of list management for no reward other than the satisfaction of a job well done. Never did one see himself as the "owner" of the list, with any authority whatsoever over the *content* of our conversations. Until now. Brad Anderson has been different from the start. He wanted the list as a base for his business, and offered to provide improved amenities in exchange for the good will he would receive from Framers for hosting the listserv. It seemed little enough to ask, but it made me nervous; what if the needs of the community conflicted with those of his business? At the time, though, his glowing promises made that seem a petty concern, and so I was silent. When Phong announced the transfer, he pointedly said that since explaining the reason for passing it on was not a "requirement", he was not going to reveal it. That made me nervous again; did Brad *buy* the list? We will never know, because neither Brad nor Phong will say... Although I was worried about the possibility of undue influence, since all was not being done openly, again I was silent. As time went on and the amenities failed to appear as had been promised, I felt a bit concerned. But there was no agreed timetable, so the out-of-date FAQ, the broken list archive, the bad links throughout the Web site, were each excusable for a while. When I was asked to pay $500 for a product listing in what was represented as an "impartial" roster of Frame-related products, I declined on principle, as I felt it was a misleading business practice... but again, I was silent. Last December, I posted a news item about a problematic practice by Microsoft involving contractors, including to my knowledge several list members, with this caveat: >Posted here because of its major importance to many >developers, including *web* developers, on this list... >It appears to include technical writers too, according >to the text of the law as quoted at the end. Brad responded off list (and this is his entire message): >Do NOT post messages like this to the Framers list >again. List list is for FrameMaker topics only. > >Brad Anderson >list owner/operator I was taken aback by the sheer incivility (as other list members had written and thanked me for the heads-up), and also by the "owner" claim. I considered pointing out to him that censorship of content has *never* been a role of the Framers list administrator. But I shrugged it off; it was easier to be silent. In late August and early September, the list was having no end of technical trouble; the list software was obviously at fault. I was unable to post myself until I resubbed with a new name and address, something many members can't do as easily as I can (having my own domain). I wrote to Brad several times, and never got an answer or any help. But I didn't complain; he had just threatened, on Aug 18: >If there are those of you that do continue to post these >types of "complaints" to the list, I will start a list of >email addresses (and add those individuals) that will be >restricted from posting to the list. So despite the gross mismanagement and abuse of the whole community happening right in front of me... I was silent. Around Aug 29/30, Brad and Dan Emory engaged in a debate on the merits of FrameMaker DB-integration products. Brad did not win. I learned independently that Brad had a financial interest in the success of the product he was advocating, an interest he had not revealed to the list. This is not ethical. But I wasn't free to identify my source, so yet again, I was silent. On Sep 11, Brad told the list that: >Dan has temporarily had his posting priveleges suspended. The reasons given were an absurdist mixture of lies and distortions, and Brad himself violated established rules of Netiquette by reposting a private message from Dan. I was shocked; I have not always agreed with Dan's views, but I certainly support his -- and everyone else's -- right to have them heard. Brad went way, way past any possible justification... and there seemed reason to believe that it was primarily intended to keep Dan from raising questions about Brad's new product, just the sort of abuse I had feared at the outset. But... it was only "suspended", not "revoked", Brad would get over it, why start a flame war... so I was silent. As were almost all of you... On Sep 29, yesterday, Brad responded to the criticism of his action by Bill Briggs, David Spreadbury, Bj0rn Smalbro, and Lynda Simons with: >... If they fail to still abide by the rules, their posting >privileges will be suspended. ... This is not up for debate. >... The rules have been set. while adding a brand-new rule for silencing critics: >Do not post messages for other people, including those that >have their posting privileges suspended. and clarifying that Dan was *permanently* exiled: >Dan ... has now had posting privileges revoked. Then Thomas Regner chimed in: >For those of you making noises about "freedom of speech" >on this or any other private forum... bunk. >In a democracy, you elect who runs things for you. On the >Internet, you don't elect anyone. Any list owner has the >ultimate say over what will be posted and what will not be >posted. But Brad is not the list owner in that sense; Framers is a community that existed before Brad, and hopefully will yet survive his malfeasance and bullying tactics intact... And yes, we *do* believe in freedom of speech here, which just happens to be part of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a treaty that has not been suspended in Cyberspace. But we only get to keep freedom of speech if we are willing to stand up and *speak* when it is being abridged, to speak our truth to those who would immorally abuse the power they were granted by the community to manage a *technical* task. And so I cannot remain silent any more. I have, therefore, made available to my community another alternative to submitting to this abuse of authority. I have set up a majordomo list, called "Free Framers", for all of us to share and run as a community. I am donating the listserv, and my own services to manage it; in fact, the cost is *very* small, under $180 per year. I am also donating Web space. My business will *not* benefit from this; I guarantee that! Nor will I be the manager of the Web site; I'd like to ask for other volunteers for that. We have plenty of bright, talented members who would do that job far better than I... and I want the "power" to be spread around, as in truth it is. I would like to invite all of you to join. Our first order of business is to discuss and resolve, as a group, how we want to run the list. What rules *do* we want? What *limits* do we want to place, to prevent another disaster like Brad Anderson from befalling us? I do not have any pat answers, but I do have a deep and abiding trust in the Framers community to come up, collectively, with good ones. I trust our list democracy. Several of you have already joined the new list. If you have not, please send a message to email@example.com with "subscribe framers" without the quotes in the body of the message. I am looking forward to continuing our conversation there. Thank you for coming with me on this journey. It has not been an easy one... but I think it will lead to a better future for us all, and for all of the Framers. Together we will make it so. -- Jeremy H. Griffith firstname.lastname@example.org VP, Software Development http://www.omsys.com/ Omni Systems, Inc. California and Vermont, USA ** To unsubscribe, send a message to email@example.com ** ** with "unsubscribe framers" (no quotes) in the body. **