Still Searching... [RE-wrenches]

Michael Welch michael.welch at
Tue May 4 16:29:34 PDT 2004


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Hi Wrenches, sorry to bother you with this stuff, but I wanted to give you an update on the status of the project to get us moved from Topica.

Here are the results of the questions I asked you a couple of weeks ago. I think everyone has had the opportunity to speak up on this. As you recall, we were about to change over to a new listserver with our own domain name etc. when I discovered some warts (see way below for the original message).

The bottom lines from these responses and my assessment of our needs are:
* that I am not feeling as rushed to move the list, though a very few folks are having delivery problems with Topica that I want to fix.
* to many, the ads aren't as bad as the alternative
* I want to end up with a list server that meets our needs better than what is available to us right now.

The results:
2 folks said - Spam not a problem, have to deal with it anyway.
1 - Neither spam or no longer being able to respond online is a problem.
1 - Additional exposure to spam and no online response both acceptable, the ads must go.
1 - additional spam should be avoided at all costs, archives should be maintained. Can live with the ads at Topica.
1 - Dislikes ads, but uses Wrench list exclusively online and does not want to give that up.
1 - Spam no problem, filters work fine, no deal-buster on not having web address. Grrr to ads.
7 - Can live with Topica, ads easy enough to avoid.
2 - Trusts MSW's judgement, no other opinion.
2 - Trusts MSW's judgement if tradeoffs worthwhile, but has concerns about spam.
1 - Spam a big issue, stay at Topica but keep looking for solutions to the identified problems.
1 - Does not need online interface.
1 - Identified problems are definite deal-killer
1 - Wants new list server at any cost for other reasons (see delivery problems explanation below)
1 - Wants neither spam nor ads

The Wrenches have spoken. Very few of you are mad enough at the ads to put up with the warts in the alternatives.

Nobody was in love with Topica. But, it has been fairly reliable for most of us.

I do want you to know that for a long time I have wanted to move the list, and that the ads were just the final straw for me. 

The biggest problem with Topica is a totally different side of the spam issue. Topica is such a huge listserving company that some list owners have managed to use it to send spam, and have added addresses to lists when the persons involved did not want to be added. This has caused Topica to be listed as spammers in some spam databases.

What this has meant is that some of you have been unable to get Wrench mail when your ISP uses those databases. In other cases, it has meant that folks wanting to join the list or to change their addresses on the list have been unable to receive & respond to the invites. I fixed this for most of you by offering a free email address through the non-profit I work with.

Another problem has been delivery time. Sometimes I do not get my own messages back from Topica for several hours.

Another problem is that Topica archive searching works only occasionally. I could go on, but...

Here is where we are right now. I have asked Kurt, who now hosts the new RE-Wrenches domain, to have a look at what others using his same software have done to address these issues. I have also asked him to have a look at some other listerver open-source software that is out there.

Wrench Nik Ponzio reminded me of another free listserver that I had forgotten about, I set up a temporary test list, after going through their rigorous "must be technology-oriented" qualifications process. Their archives hide email addresses, but their archives are ONLY archives, and list members cannot post to old messages or choose to read and reply to messages online. However, they are considering updating to include that feature.

Anyway, thanks for being patient with this project. Eventually we will come up with the listserver that meets our needs.

>Hi gang. Please respond to this **off list,** to me directly.
>I have come up against a couple of things that I am not fully comfortable with, and want to know if any of you feel these are **deal killers** for the new list software or have other things to share.
>I have been preparing about 15,000 past messages to go into the archival mailbox that is associated with our list on the new listserver. (Yes, the RE-Wrenches list has been successfully busy.)
>As I was doing this, I realized a couple of things that are GREAT about Topica which we will no longer be able to do.
>1) The Topica archives HIDE all email addresses associated with the messages, both in the headers and in the message body. If you go to their site and read a message, what you see is an unusable form of an email address, so that spammers cannot mine addresses out of Topica lists. For example, my address shows up as 
>michael- at
>The only way to use those email addresses is to click on them, which brings up a Topica message-sending dialogue box to send to the address without you ever actually seeing the real address.
>So, even though our Topica archives are set up for anybody to see them, they can never get to our individual addresses. This is a fantastic security feature, and has kept spam and other unwanted messages at bay for millions of Topica list members. 
>Unfortunately, with our new listserver the archives fully display the From: email address and any address that shows up in the body of the message. That means that any non-member can see and use our addresses directly. And, if a spammer's address-gathering software manages to find the web home of our list archives, it will be able to parse out every From: address and the addresses in the body of the messages for every message in the archive. Spam address-gathering software cruises the net, following link to link, just as search engine software does. So if anyone ever publishes a link to our archives, we stand a chance of being found.
>What does this mean, in practical terms? 
>As for spam, you **may** notice a very slight increase if your address is already out there on the web somewhere. If you have managed to keep your address private and off of the web, you will probably notice an increase, if and when the spambots find our archives. 
>As for folks that view the archives (here I mean real people, not spambots), they will be able to send you email by grabbing your address and writing you from within their normal email sending methods. So, you may receive more "legitimate" mail from folks real email programs (whether it is unwanted questions from newbies or legitimate potential customers, that is for you to figure out).
>I probably can figure out a way to password protect the archive, though not securely, with a single password that would be available to all wrench list members. But that would mean that non-wrenches won't have access without it. And from what I can tell, many, many folks in and out of the industry use and follow our posts, and I for one believe it is important that they do so. They learn about you and your knowledge and capabilities, and the do-it-yourselfers and non-Wrench dealers learn good stuff as well.
>2) With the new listserver, folks will no longer be able to log onto the web site to respond to messages online or change their settings online. All Wrench list correspondence will have to be done via standard email messages, and all delivery changes (like switching to Digest Mode) will need to be made via commands within email messages sent to the listserver. As far as I can tell, there may be only one or two of you that like it this way, the rest of you are receiving all of the emails.

Michael Welch
"When our children fail competency tests the schools lose funding. When our missiles fail tests, we increase funding." 
                  Dennis Kucinich
Michael Welch, michael.welch at
     Home Power magazine
     To reach me: 707-822-7884
     To reach Home Power: 800-707-6585

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