Archive on Line
Keith Johnson with the moderators cut
Since my last attempt at trying to give an insight into the arcane world of a mailing list moderator real life has got in the way of 'art'. When I was made redundant I was forced to look long and hard at the forty two years I had put into my profession in the public service. Overall I think it was worthwhile and I am confident I touched many lives and achieved some lasting improvements in the areas I was active. I also know that I upset an awful lot of folk either when I considered enforcement action appropriate or found myself adjudicating in a dispute. However the long hours, emergency call outs and the like took a toll on my family and I decided that I would try, in some small measure, to make it up to them.
Technical for non Techies
The investment in BT Home Highway has worked well overall, though it is still too soon to do realistic cost comparisons. The service to Archive-on-Line has improved as I now process messages whenever I am passing the host machine. It can be tempting to sit here for long periods but mostly that can be resisted. What is particularly entertaining is the speed at which the postings are sent out, one gets a strange satisfaction from watching the numbers click over in the !PopStar window and watch the list of messages diminish as they go out. I really must get a life!
One glitch we've had from the beginning is that we've been losing the connection somewhere from time to time. It usually restores itself within a short while. This is particularly noticeable during long downloads when the connection is lost and you have to start again. It does not affect Archive-on-Line too much as the software is generally working in the background and handles the situation automatically so messages come and go unobserved. It is only when you are downloading a large attachment or upgrade that you might spot it is happening. Initially I lived with the problem but a few weekends ago we lost the service altogether for over two days. Ah well! Back to the modem. As it appeared to me to be a server problem, all the connections to the network were sound and all the lights aglow, I chased Freeserve but their logs showed no problems. I then checked the network again and still I could not see anything which could be causing this effect, nothing appeared amiss. I then tried BT and to my surprise they found a fault on the line which might not affect voice calls but could upset the ISDN. They promised to call to sort it out in seven days. Later that day the connection came back of its own accord. In the event they came in five. Problem confirmed and rectified.
However the short intermittent 'hang ups' persist and so far have defied BT's best efforts to trace the cause. As you would expect when the supervisor came round this week to try to resolve it once and for all the system worked flawlessly, despite our pushing it hard. BT have not given up but the options are becoming limited.
All this became particularly galling when I learned one of the adjacent villages, well exchange really, is getting Broadband very soon.
Whilst !NetFetch continues to handle the news group downloads emails are now fetched by !AntiSpam in an attempt to reduce the amount of junk coming into the mailboxes. By and large it works very well but I seem to have reached the limit of my ability to define rules to wholly block spam from Archive-on-Line as well as some of the more subtle stuff coming to my private address.
I am now toying with the idea of try to introduce !SpamStamp into the chain to mark and divert into a junk file the stuff evading !AntiSpam. I don't know if it will work but it could be fun trying.
The 'Digital Camera Sound Editing' or 'Digital Cameras' saga continues and messages with this subject are still banned as containing dangerous code. One suggestion has been that this ban was introduced to combat an unconventional use of mobile phone cameras. Whatever the reason certain ISPs will not pass these messages on to their subscribers. Who knows what other apparently innocent messages are being withheld. If you do intend to ask questions in this area or provide the answers please find another subject text. My attempts to change the headings to 'Non Analog Photographic Apparatus' are not always successful and it is a pain and a chore to have to do it.
AOL v Aol
We do not have many subscribers using AOL as an ISP but your Editor is one who does..
So it was interesting to start receiving bounced messages from that widely advertised source refusing to pass on any messages from Archive-on-Line. The reason given is reproduced below:
SMTP error from remote mailer after initial connection: host mailin-02.mx.aol.com [184.108.40.206]: (RLY:B1) The information presently available to AOL indicates this server is generating high volumes of member complaints from AOL's member base. Based on AOL's Unsolicited Bulk E-mail policy at http://www.aol.com/info/bulkemail.html AOL may not accept further e-mail transactions from this server or domain. For more information, please visit http://postmaster.info.aol.com.
Attempts to contact a real person have, to date, proved fruitless. (I have now spoken to someone who for want of better evidence I am prepared to consider could be human - ED). Attempts to gain more information from the postmaster or access the policy have not taken us any further forward. We are also, sometimes, similarly affected by their 'associate companies'. It begs several questions:
Is this major company having a go at poor little ol' us?
How many complaints have they actually received from their member base?
Has some spammer been using our identity for nefarious purposes?
If so then how did they get hold of it? This is supposed to be a members only list.
Just how badly is their monitoring software written?
How many more questions can a paranoid moderator come up with?
As you are with another ISP do you really care?
One of the things about this job is that you are always learning something new. Usually it is contained in the correspondence passing across the screen. Occasionally something rears up and bites your ... well never mind.
As a direct result of a rearing, biting thing I took some serious (I paid for it) advice and found that the Internet is not the last resting place of freedom of speech. You cannot go out and express yourself with total impunity. We are all aware of the danger that something you dashed off in anger , or misplaced humour, can come back, maybe years later, to haunt you. Government is plagued by it and television programmes are made about it. What I did not realise, but obvious when you think about it, is that as moderator of this list I have a responsibility for the accuracy and truthfulness of the content. This places me in the same position as you esteemed editor and publisher or that of any other publication. The reason for this is that I review each submission and make a decision as to which are passed on and if any changes are to be made. The fact that I may not know the facts are wrong is, apparently, no defence. If the list was unmoderated I could plead ignorance, apologise, withdraw the offending message and filter out any others. You would get to see everything including spam and then we really would be purveyors if not propagators of that stuff.
Hence the disclaimer that now appears on the bottom of the messages from Archive-on-Line.
Some folk have complained about it being there, its length and its content. I make no apology, I paid for the advice I'm not going to ignore it. The person who gave it will be the person defending it, and me, if it does not work.
Suggestions have also been made that it only appear infrequently, in a welcome message or even on a web site. This would not suffice as one could not prove beyond doubt that everyone had seen it let alone taken it in.
This exercise led me to collect a few other disclaimers which caught my eye. A selection, ever so slightly altered to protect the innocent, is reproduced below:
This first one is used by the BBC:
This e-mail (and any attachments) is confidential and may contain personal views which are not the views of the BBC unless specifically stated. If you have received it in error, please delete it from your system, do not use, copy or disclose the information in any way nor act in reliance on it and notify the sender immediately. Please note that the BBC monitors e-mails sent or received. Further communication will signify your consent to this.
This one is used by a well known commercial company:
DISCLAIMER: This e-mail contains proprietary information some or all of which may be legally privileged. It is for attention and use of the intended recipient only. If an addressing or transmission error has misdirected this e-mail, please notify the author by replying to this e-mail or email administrator@*************.com. If you are not the intended recipient you must not use, disclose, distribute, copy, print, take any action on, or rely on this e-mail. Internet communications are not secure and therefore ******* ******* Limited does not accept legal responsibility for the contents or attachments of this message, nor is it guaranteed virus free. Any views or opinions presented are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of ******** ********* Limited. Registration no XXXXXXX.
It is interesting to note that it is not guaranteed to be virus free many companies or organisations do now claim their messages have been checked by one system or another.used Of course if you are providing services, say, within the NHS then your concerns may be different:
"This message may contain legally privileged, confidential, commercial or patient information intended to be for the use of the individual(s) or entity named above. If you are not the intended recipient, please advise the sender and destroy all copies of the message as you would any other confidential waste (shredding or incineration for printed copies, deletion for electronic copies). Please note that any dissemination, distribution or copying of this message is strictly prohibited." "Unless expressly stated otherwise, the contents of this message represent only the views of the sender as expressed only to the intended recipient, do not commit X******* Hospitals Trust (XHT) to any course of action and are not intended to impose any legal obligation upon XHT".
This Local Authority, not my former employer, has this an interesting glitch or just plain finger trouble which usually results in it being sent twice:
The information contained in this email is intended only for the person or organization to which it is addressed. If you have received it by mistake, please disregard and notify the sender immediately. Unauthorized disclosure or use of such information may be a breach of legislation or confidentiality and may be legally privileged. Emails sent from and received by Members and employees of X****** County Council may be monitored. Unless this email relates to X****** County Council business it will be regarded by the Council as personal and will not be authorized by or sent on behalf of the Council. The sender will have sole responsibility for any legal actions or disputes that may arise.
The last paragraph goes a lot further in protecting the organisation from the views of the sender by dumping responsibility firmly in their lap rather than just distancing the organisation to a safe distance.
It also reminds me of one subscriber, employed by another local authority who has used his work mailbox to log onto Archive-on-Line. When I received a warning from the authority's postmaster I sent out a 'heads up' warning. Now the mailbox has been slammed shut on postings from this address. I hope no disciplinary action has been taken but it serves as a reminder to those posting from work to ensure that they are acting within company guidelines.
I also wonder who, if anyone, has actually followed up on the dire warnings about unauthorised use of information hinted at in the above disclaimers. Makes you wonder also about the outcome of investigations into government leaks. Who would take the action and under what legislation? Official Secrets and where a commercial loss or consequential damage can be quantified I can see but most of the material must be less easily defined. If you come across other examples I would be interested in seeing them. I have looked, but cannot find, one that says something along the lines of: "If you receive this message in error please do not open it or read the contents." A genuine example must exist somewhere.
Posting Stats and Subjects.
Since the Wakefield Show in May Archive-on-Line has handled some 2423 messages to date. The subject range is a wide as ever and I'll provide a breakdown next time.
Many thanks to all who asked questions and particularly those who provided answers or otherwise contributed to the debates.
Remember Archive-on-Line fills the gap between editions of RISC World (and Archive - ED) and is open to all current subscribers.
There is no requirement for you to take out a further subscription. I hope you will contribute and help further to strengthen and enhance the current mail list and bring members of the RISC OS community a bit closer together, whilst not creating yet another, competing, forum. The list is moderated with, I hope, a fairly light touch but I do take advantage of !Pluto's facilities to add comments to postings from time to time. At the end of the day this avoids any increase in traffic my interventions would inevitably bring.
Messages can be sent here at any time and are now sent on whenever I see them, real life not withstanding.
Sensible snipping is always appreciated, as is the avoidance of bouncing emails when your mailbox is full.
To subscribe please send a message to: firstname.lastname@example.org with:
SIGNON or SUBSCRIBE
in the Subject Line. Pluto picks up your message, adds you to the list and sends you a brief acknowledgement. You can put something in the body of the mail if you wish or if your software does not like sending blank messages. It will not affect Pluto but I do read them. Anyone who signs on who is not a subscriber to RISC World or Archive will normally be sent a polite message and invited to subscribe or removed if a reply is not received in a day or so. As Pluto dates and times the entries on the list it is relatively simple to keep track of what is going on and I normally allow a period of grace of up to three months for the renewal of subscriptions before I remove someone from the list. This reduces the amount of time I have to spend checking valid memberships and gives time for late renewals to be processed.
The only other reason for my removing someone is when I get fed up with mail being bounced by an ISP, so check your mailbox and subscription are up to date.
In the unlikely event that you should wish to withdraw from the list then a message with:
SIGNOFF or UNSUBSCRIBE
in the Subject Line will automatically remove your name from the list.
If your email address changes then signoff the old one and signon the new. You can try out the new address and run them both side by side until you are confident that the new one is working but do not forget to signoff the old address once you are happy. I look forward to hearing from you on the list.
If you want to talk to me off list I can be contacted on email@example.com or via the Editor.
Keith Johnson with the moderators cut