Patrice Riemens on 18 Feb 2001 20:56:56 -0000

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<nettime> Michael ('Mieg') Van Eeden on the current situation with DDS

"Fugit Irreparabile Tempus" was the Vergilian quote much uttered in Fleet
Street to describe The (London) Times winding its way through the printing
presses with its usual complement of typos, errors and ommissions. Same would
apply to my  fly-by-nite latest update on the (Association to save the) Digital
City, but I'm availing of a second chance to bother you?

This because there has been a downright brilliant posting by Michael 'Mieg'
van Eeden on the Association's mailing-list, which I feel the urge to
translate, since its relevance goes immo way beyond the current crisis at the
Amsterdam Digital City, but pertains to networked communities anywhere.

First however, I need to mention a factoid I didn't in my report, without which
you'd miss the context of Mieg's piece. The remainder of my addendum comes
after that.

One of the problems facing the Association in its early stages was how to
contact the DDS community (and how to assess its true size in the first place).
Since the DDS 'privatization' such data - but in fact everything pertaining to
the nature and operations of DDS - was deemed commercially sensitive and
shrouded in secrecy. Given the available 'expertise' at ist disposal, it would
have however been possible for the Association to approach all accountholders,
but this option was rejected after much discussion on the mailing-list ('we
want no spam!'). 

Yet it was exactly what the directors of the DDS did on February 9, sending a
hastily drawn-up enquete to the 70.000 current accounts, duly bringing down the
DDS system for a couple of hours in the process. They eventually got 15.000
answers on this spam, something that has at least the advantage of putting a
floor to the speculations about the true number of 'real' or 'unique' accounts
on the DDS system. Core question in that enquete/spam was whether the
accountholders would be prepared to pay a fee in order to keep their accounts,
with other words whether they would be prepared to relinquish the tenet that
DDS is a 'free' provider. Apparently a sizeable majority of respondents was not
immediately adverse to such a change. Whereupon the management recidived on
February 15 - on the very evening of the Association's first GA - asking more
precise questions this time about what kind of services users were wishing, and
prepared to pay for. Needless to say that no mention whatsoever of the
Association's activities or even existence was made in these spams. These fresh
vagaries are suggesting that the DDS management is now toying with the idea to
turn DDS-City into a 'ordinary' ISP, this amidst rumors of negotiations with
KPN-Telecom, the former monopolist (and incidentally owner of XS4ALL?).

Mieg's posting:

"The most interesting and innovative idea I heard last evening (at the
Association to save the DDS G.A.) was Caroline Nevejan's point on the issue
that the inhabitants/users of DDS, having been on the system for so long, had
build up some sort of 'tenant rights'. The fact that one has used of and hence
become dependent on a given service for years on end, has made the provider of
that service to incur an obligation towards you. This applies the more so to
the DDS, since it is supposed (by its terms of refernce) to be bound by those
very rights.  The analogy of course comes from the tenancy rights in real life,
but I could well imagine that we are going to see much more of this issue in
future, since more and more things one 'consume' are going to be 'services'
rather than 'produces'.  (cf Jeremy Rifkin's "Age of Access" - translator)

 The enquete that went - in true Flint fashion - into our mailboxes at the
precise moment the GA was held shows very clearly that Joost Flint is not
intent on handing DDS to us. He'd rather play for small time ISP. One can then
ask whether  that is such a bad thing. In that case we could stop bothering
about those 'services' we're discussing all the time, and which I at least, do
not deem worth of a lot of my energy. Besides, we'd for sure want to see how
many people actually want to take a paying account with Flint: I do not have a
high opinion of the DDS's stability and level of service. That is something one
will cope with if one feels affinity with the outfit (because it's your club
for instance), but when you deal with a commercial service provided by some
vague company, you're probably much more critical.

Myself, I am not all interested in a DDS-mailbox and address per se, and I have
loathed for years now the (management's-tr) focussing on ever increasing
numbers of so-called inhabitants who were merely making use of a free e-mail
facility. I am far more interested in a DDS as a meeting-place where you can
make things together, where you can dialogue and discuss, indifferent what my
e-mail address address is and where my home page is hosted. The only part of
the 'Flintquete' that I find to be of any import is where one is asked to
choose (1 option only!) between freedom of speech, privacy, security, more
disk-space, public domain, or innovation.

It says something about Joost Flint's mindset that he only can think in terms
of radio- buttons.  

So what will be the brief of the Association if DDS (Holding) indeed becomes a
puny little ISP and keeps the system to itself, thank you very much? Are we
going to become a true citizen's interest group and get into the action mode at
last instead of wheeling and dealing?"


Additions & corrections to my previous post:

The worst mistake was of course the mouse. *SHE* roared?

And may be something need to be said about the other statutory issues
discussed, besides amending the statements to make the protection of users
right paramount (a). There had been a lot of discussion on the Association's
mailing list about the aims and perspective of a future DDS, when and if it had
been divested from its current commercial dispensation. In the end, the
following aims had been laid down in the provisional statutes as they were
brought to a vote:

(b) the conservation of Digital city is it has evolved till now (as a so-called 
'Internet Historic Monument).
(c) the upkeep and extention of communities as exits on the DDS system (eg the 
'Metro',  certain 'cafes' etc.)
(d) the furtherance of innovation and experimental projects in the DDS domain.

These propositions were adopted without discussion, but with quite some amount
of abstentions and even votes against. But even in the absence of substantive
discussion during the assembly (and the somewhat haphazard nature of the same
on the mailing-list) it can be expected that developments about to occur in a
very short time - negotiations between the Association's board and DDS'
management, the Holding's suspected desire to turn itself into a ISP, and a
tendency within the Association to follow up on its change of name ('Open
Domein') and simply break away from the current DDS impasse if not from its
historical heritage - all this will probably much influence and transform those

cheers, patrice (and Diiiino! of course...)

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