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History lesson

By popular demand, I'm going to explain the basic facts
of Framers list ownership as simply as I can.

Brad does *not* own the Framers list.  He can't.  In fact,
it was deliberately set up so that *nobody* can, ever.
The reason is simple.  There are only two ways you get 
to own something.  You create it, or you buy it.  You do
not acquire ownership by stealing it or squatting on it.
(Ask your landlord.)  OK so far?

Now, did Brad *create* Framers?  No, he did not.  When
he became admin, there were 2000 members.  I have a copy
of the list as it was at that time.  Why?  I'll explain.
Framers was one of the first lists on UUnet, one of the
first e-lists of any sort.  It worked the same way all
the others did.  The members as a group "owned" the list.
The group asked for a volunteer to handle the day-to-day
admin.  This was seen as a public service job, and there
was no shortage of volunteers.  The job was unpaid, and
required that the admin arrange for reliable hosting.
What a deal, huh?  Nonetheless, someone always stepped
up to the job, generally someone connected with a 
university, faculty, staff, or grad student.  The school
donated the server use; this was standard.  If there
were out-of-pocket expenses, the admin asked for donations,
and a few minutes later announced the problem was handled.
But this rarely happened, only for backup tapes, say.

If the admin got tired of the job, or graduated, they
announced that a replacement was needed.  Volunteers
contacted the admin, who generally chose the next admin.
This was because the admin was trusted to act on behalf 
of the group as a whole, not because he was the owner,
and few ever betrayed that trust.  They picked someone
who knew what they were doing, had a server handy, and
was willing to spend the hours at mindnumbing tedium
so that the group as a whole benefitted.

At that time, any member could use "who" in majordomo
to get a copy of the list; there was no spam problem,
and nobody was worried about this.  It was a safety
measure.  What if the server crashed, and there was
no current backup?  Or the admin went in hospital?
Ah, that's why all of us old members (you know who 
you are) regularly ran "who"; when the list went down,
we wrote to each other, figured out who had the latest
copy, and that became the new starting copy.  Call it
a distributed backup system.  That's how framers ran.

Now, getting back to Brad...  He didn't create framers,
in fact he wasn't even a member before he turned up
as admin.  Huh?  Well, it *was* odd.  Very odd.  The
previous admin just announced one day, out of the blue,
that he was passing the list on to Brad.  He also said
something strange, that since he wasn't *required* to
give a reason, he wasn't going to.  (All previous
admins gave a reason and plenty of notice.)  Then Brad 
posted that he wanted to do all these wonderful things 
for the group, and he wanted to do that pesky admin work,
and he was starting a Web site, and he might have ads
on the Web site... and he already had the list...
and guess what?  "who" didn't work any more.  Brad
said he had to turn it off to prevent spammers from
getting the list.  OK, fine, but will you give me,
one of the list elders, a current copy?  No.  Hmmm.

So, Brad didn't create it, did he *buy* it?  Well, no, 
he couldn't, because 2000 people owned it and he'd have 
to make a deal with every last one of them.  So what
had just happened?  A lot of people were very disturbed,
and there were lots of unsubs.  After all, think about
it; if Brad *paid* the previous admin, as looked real
likely, that wasn't a purchase, it was a bribe of the
trusted admin to hand over the group's property.  And 
if he *didn't*, he had no right at all to claim that
he was now, not admin, but *owner*, as he did...

Well, we were pretty easygoing types, and Brad seemed
sincerely willing to do a good job, so we just let
it pass.  But some funny things started to happen.
First, reliability went in the toilet; the list was
down for days, and Brad was in acute denial.  The
Web site was a mess, and the FAQ was ruined.  And 
there were new rules, every week or two... mainly
don't say anything that could possibly be a criticism
of Brad on list, or you are history.  This was way
outside the bounds of acceptable admin behavior.  If 
a proper admin is criticized, he offers to resign...
as soon as a replacement can be found.  Then the
group debates and arrives at a consensus.  It works.

That's when Free Framers was created, after the
situation had turned truly grim.  People were being
banned from Framers because they criticized a
product that was sold by one of Brad's sponsors.
After my review of this situation was posted to
the list, hundreds voted with their feet to join
the brand-new Free Framers list, framers@omsys.com.

So, who owns Free Framers?  Well, I could say I do,
because I created it, but that's *not* what I say.
Instead I say that the members own it, as a group.
It's like the "copyleft"; I've assigned my rights
of ownership to the group at large, which means
that Free Framers, too, can never be sold.  It
can never have an owner.  I'm just the admin.
And when I pass it on, it will be with the 
knowledge and consent of the entire group, to
someone who makes the same commitment.  It's
only right.

And who really owns Framers?  The group, all of us.
Forever.  If Brad can't accept that, and give us 
the respect due the *real* owners, he is free to 
*create* his own list.  But Framers isn't it.  I'm 
quite sure others are willing to volunteer to do 
the admin job.  I'll take it on myself, if nobody 
else qualified wants to, and host it on a new 
domain of its own.  No ads, no charge, fast.  Web
archive, searchable.  I already have the hosting
account waiting, so a changeover could be instant.

If Brad still wishes to assert ownership, I'd like 
to hear him explain *exactly* how he acquired it.  
Precisely *who* he paid how much to.  <vbg>  But 
I don't *really* expect to hear that confession...

I trust that now everyone will realize that
a non-owner has no "right" to make money off
somebody else's property, even if it was
(forcibly) left in his care for a while...
so the whole house of cards based on Brad's
"ownership" collapses.  Sorry, Brad.  But
that's the simple truth.

-- Jeremy H. Griffith, at Omni Systems Inc.
   (jeremy@omsys.com)     http://www.omsys.com/
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