[Balug-Admin] Lists: stats, etc.

Rick Moen rick@linuxmafia.com
Fri Dec 28 16:04:33 PST 2007

Quoting Michael Paoli (Michael.Paoli@cal.berkeley.edu):

> I also restricted access of the list roster to the list admins - to prevent
> potential abuse (e.g. by spammers). 


I think we need to talk about that, because I think it's an extremely bad
idea, and am delaying un-doing your change pending discussion primarily
in the name of the spirit of consultation among admins.  I.e., I _do_
expect to revert that change soon, but wish to discuss the matter first.

(In the future, I'd actually respectfully suggest you check with the
other admins before making fundamental changes, rather than having us
merely react to them retrospectively.  I hope you don't take that as any
form of personal criticism, as I highly respect you for showing
leadership.  Very likely, you assumed this was a no-brainer improvement,
and I gladly acknowledge your benign intent.)

Making the roster accessible to listadmins only, as opposed to
subscribed members, really doesn't help the "I'm hiding my address from
spammers" people much, in the first place:  Spammers can easily
programmatically "harvest" the addresses of anyone who's ever posted,
from the back-postings archives.  Moreover, the "I'm hiding from
spammers" people already have a less-drastic remedy that doesn't injure
the transparency of the roster generally:  Anyone who's _that_ concerned 
about his/her address never being seen in public need only set the
"hidden" flag on his/her individual subscription.[1]

The harm done by setting the roster listadmin-accessible-only is
twofold:  (1) It prevents people from seeing whom they're sharing the
list with, i.e., whom they're speaking to at the moment -- for no
compelling reason whatsoever.  I really think this is an important
concern, and part of what it means to be a community -- to know _who_ 
(or at least what e-mail address) is participating with you, other than 
those who've explicitly hidden their addresses.

(2) Using the listadmin-accessible-only setting creates an implication
of hypercontrol and creates the suspicion in the minds of many of us
mailing list old-timers that this is yet another forum run by control
freaks who like to "disappear" people they dislike while making sure
that, lacking access to the roster, they write to their fellow members
to protest the action.  (You can rightly protest that we're not that
sort of admins.  The point, however, is that's the impression such
settings naturally convey.)

I hope the above analysis doesn't come across as cranky or kneejerk:
I've been through this discussion many, many times over a period of
decades, and so please accept my apologies in advance if it seems harsh,
peremptory, or insufficiently well explained.

[1] People here who are subscribed to the main SVLUG mailing list, whose
roster is viewable by any subscribed party, can see the effect of that
flag's use at http://lists.svlug.org/lists/roster/svlug .  For the benefit
of those who aren't, the roster starts out with this header data:

 436 Non-digested Members of svlug:      166 Digested Members of svlug:
 (11 private members not shown)          (4 private members not shown)
 [list follows below that]               [list follows below that]

The "11 private members" and "4 private members" are those who've set
the "hidden" flag on their individual subscriptions.

The SVLUG list's listinfo page includes this advisory in strong-tagged
text, to further warn in advance any I'm-hiding-from-spammers people:
  Our public message archives display unobscured posting addresses. If
  you're trying to hide your e-mail address from spammers, do not post
  from that address. 

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