Ronda Hauben on Mon, 21 May 2001 05:29:26 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> May 23 talk on Usenet, Usenet archives and technical collaboration

I thought those on the nettime mailing list would find this subject of
interest. Once I have a written version of the talk I will make it
available as well. Ronda


                  Usenet and the Usenet Archives 
   The Challenges of Building a Collaborative Technical Community
                              by Ronda Hauben

In 1981, Mark Horton, one of the early developers of Usenet, wrote that
"USENET exists for and by the users, and should respond to the needs of
those users." 

Almost twenty years later, in the Fall of 2000, almost 4000 people signed 
a petition directed to asking them to either maintain the 
archives online that they had compiled of Usenet posts, or to transfer it 
to someone who would continue to keep it online and to provide it with
an appropriate home. 

These two events, separated by almost twenty years, help to highlight
an important achievement and yet a significant challenge for our times. 
Usenet was created as a users's network. What are the implications of this
design principle on the continuing development and scaling process of

How do the contributions and collaborative efforts by the users 
affect Usenet's continued development? The technical collaboration
and support that Usenet provides for people around the world is 
valued, as reflected by the petition to  Yet there are 
problems that develop as Usenet develops, such as the problem of 
archiving Usenet and maintaining that archive and access to it in 
a way that recognizes the concerns of the online community and 
provides a means to respond to these concerns.

As Usenet scales new problems develop. But so too does the body
of experience of how to understand and approach these problems.

Usenet is not only about open source and user developed content. 
It is also an example of user involvement in the administration and 
developing architecture of the network itself. As such, Usenet
is a working model of grassroots development. What are the 
implications of this model toward the broader challenge of 
the continuing development of a collaborative technical 
community? Although focusing on Usenet and its development, 
this talk will also explore the implications of this model 
toward the general problem of the need for the continued development 
of a collaborative technical community.

                Stanford University
             4:15PM, Wednesday, May 23, 2001 
       NEC Auditorium, Gates Computer Science Building B03 


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