t byfield on Fri, 19 Apr 2002 14:46:26 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> The Economist: The Internet sells its soul

geert@xs4all.nl (Wed 04/17/02 at 12:06 PM +1000):

> <...> A few lists that I know have recently take the courageous step to move
> their database to indepedendent servers. <...>

it's a strange day when the word 'courageous' has become (at best) so
devoid of meaning or (at worst) so hypeside-down that it's used to de-
scribe moving a list from a corporate server provided 'for free' (i.e.,
to leverage content and/or subscribers in some way) to a service (*not*
'server': as i've told you for years, servers hence services are LABOR) 
that's less or not at all interested in regarding specific social ex-
changes as generic 'content' assets to be mined and/or sold.

moving a list is a major pain in the ass, which involves a LOT of work.
i know: i helped move nettime twice. we still haven't sorted out all 
the details of the various DB transitions from desk.nl/nettime.org to 
material.net to thing.net/amsterdam.nettime.org: instead of redirected 
links and queries we have a default nettime-* search/archive page. but
we did succeed in other ways: keeping the list running continuously,
diversifying archives, avoiding implicit or explicit indebtedness to 
any single host, and so on.

in starting a list, the 'owner' has a choice: either take the lazily 
uncritical path of alleged convenience and, in effect, treat the en-
terprise as the equivalent of buying big-name mayonnaise at the near-
est hypermarket; or take a more considered path which involves looking 
into options where the goals--reliability, trust, low cost, etc--often 
require practical support instead of alienated presumptions that could 
be (and are) equally accurately described as 'brand loyalty.' but, as
we saw with the nano-outcries about 'privacy' and 'intellectual prop-
erty rights' following the M&As of various commercial list maintainers 
(topica, egroups, onelist, etc--blast from the past, eh?), that 'con-
venience'--very predictably--was really only a way of deferring *some* 
kind of payment.

your heroic discourse misses the point in a way that can only be de-
scribed as precise. for those who assumed that the dotcom explosion 
would go on forever it must have made sense to assume that it didn't
matter which host would run a list: it was a postpolititical choice in 
which the ultimate fate of a collective effort could only ever be de-
termined by 'the market.' certainly, some people explicitly thought
that; but many more merely made the same choices without ever thinking
about it. in a way, i'm inclined to give more credit to the ideologues
than to those who merely drifted along: at least the ideologues acted
on their convictions. 

it's tempting to contrast those examples with our own decision to move
nettime to The Thing, a choice that was driven partly by a lack of vi-
able alternatives and partly by an active desire to support TT. as it 
turns out, it was an excellent choice because TT's support for nettime
(as for others: etoy and rtmark are notable examples) has been uncondi-
tional: very old-skewl, you could say. but the problem with drawing a 
contrast like this is that doing so inverts the issue at hand: moving 
nettime to TT was just a *normal*, sensible, utterly banal, and obvious 
choice because it affirmed some of the basic values that have animated 
this list. the people who set up lists on 'free' commercial services 
are the ones behaved in a very exotic way: if anything, *they* were the 
'courageous' pioneers of fucked-up 90s 'cyberspace' discourse and fut-
uristic utopianism. i guess it's unfortunate that these people are now
beginning to confront the rupture that separates their traditional as-
sumptions about sociability, OT1H, and their bleeding-edge experiment-
alism, OT0H. oh well.

as i said, to describe their actions under the circumstances as 'cour-
ageous' *precisely* misses the point: their lazy and uncritical faith
when they set up their lists on topica, egroups, onelist, and yahoo--
*that* was 'courageous' in the finest sense, i.e., they had no fucking
clue that what they were doing was in fact courageous. but now that 
they need to explore traditional forms of social relations--friends,
businesses, etc--to find out how to save their efforts, what they are
doing is the *precise* opposite of courage; instead, it's the conser-
vative fear borne of 'investments' of care and effort will be wasted.
they're coming home from their way and becoming home-owners who are 
worried about their property.

> <...> The issue often is that list owners often do not know reliable servers
> they can trust which could host their list. But the point is: there are so
> many! Maybe we post a list of servers, ready to receive former Yahoo!  groups
> and make a wider public announcement, showing that there are viable
> alternatives to Yahoo! <...>

some might think that there are 'so many' that they're too numerous 
for you to list, but i don't believe that at all. if you consider
multiplier and network effects, there is no greater service that you
could provide right now than to list those allegedly numerous servers.
but, again, you miss the point very precisely: they may be legion, as
you suggest, but you could never find them. they're not just a cheap
negation/inversion of yahoo etc; instead, they are favors exchanged
and relationships established between cronies, constituencies, and cli-
ents. the people who need them have to find them.

there are some services--hosts as well as software--that could fulfill
this role, but it's not for me (or you) to name them and thereby volun-
teer their labor 'for free.' if they want to promote themselves as al-
ternatives, that's their business--or the the business of those who need 
them to find them. TANSTAAFL.

"The more thoroughly they bore themselves, the more potent the medium of
diversion they offer others, also when the boredom reaches its maximum,
since they either die of boredom (the passive category) or shoot them-
selves out of curiosity (the active category)."         --Kierkegaard

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