[Nanog-futures] Fascist police force or team of gardeners?

michael.dillon at bt.com michael.dillon at bt.com
Tue Nov 27 14:34:16 UTC 2007

Looking at the recent drop in list traffic which coincides with Martin
Hannigan's campaign of stern warning letters to various people, I wonder
whether things are heading in the right direction.

Will NANOG become a better list with a team of fascist police officers
scrutinizing every posting?

Or would it flourish better with a team of gardeners intent on
cultivating a healthy discussion?

I remember a session that I attended back at ONE ISPCON in 1996, the
first ISP conference that Jack Rickard operated. There was someone there
from Prodigy, a very successful social networking blogging service
although they didn't call it that. They had many forums, each one
focussed on some area of interest, and people participated by reading
and posting in these forums. Each forum was managed by one or more
sysops (what we would call moderators today) and the site's revenue
depended on having healthy traffic levels. Prodigy put a lot of effort
into building up user participation at a time when the huge buzz and
marketing push of the Internet did not yet exist.

The ONE ISPCON presenter was telling us their secret of success and that
was the fact that they CULTIVATED sysops and those sysops CULTIVATED
users. They actively attempted to ensure that there was a sufficient
volume of relevant discussion as well as blocking abusive users. In
other words, they approached their forums as a team of gardeners.

I think that the current NANOG SC et al. are unfortunately headed down
the path of policing which may very well reduce the weeds in the garden,
but will not necessarily increase the garden's yield. When you damage
the roots of your crop by forcibly yanking out weeds, then yield
suffers. When you make it hard for weeds to grow by nipping them in the
bud early, and gently, then yield prospers. Note that the NANOG Program
Committee does seem to take the approach of cultivating in managing the
NANOG meetings. This makes the contrast with the list all the more

Again, I don't have any answers. I'm just asking questions.

But I'm curious whether anyone has considered this analogy as an
approach to the issue, or whether anyone has looked to other historical
reference points when developing the plans for managing the NANOG list. 

--Michael Dillon

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