[TUHS] history of community help for unix users everywhere

Dan Cross crossd at gmail.com
Thu Feb 9 07:28:41 AEST 2023

[TUHS to Bcc: and +COFF]

On Wed, Feb 8, 2023 at 3:50 PM Warner Losh <imp at bsdimp.com> wrote:
> [snip]
> The community aspect of open source was there in spades as well, with people helping other people and sharing fixes. But it was complicated by restrictive license agreements and somewhat (imho) overzealous protection of 'rights' at times that hampered things and would have echos in later open source licenses and attitudes that would develop in response. Even though the term 'open source' wasn't coined until 1998, the open source ethos were present in many of the early computer users groups, not least the unix ones.

Don't forget SHARE! Honestly, I think the IBM mainframe community
doesn't get its due. There was actually a lot of good stuff there.

> USENET amplified it, plus let in the unwashed masses who also had useful contributions (in addition to a lot of noise)... then things got really crowded with noise when AOL went live... And I'm sure there's a number of other BBS and/or compuserve communities I'm giving short-shrift here because I wasn't part of them in real time.

The phenomenon of "September" being the time when all the new
undergrads got their accounts and discovered USENET and the
shenanigans that ensued was well-known. Eternal September when AOL got
connected was a serious body blow.

As for BBSes...I'd go so far as to say that the BBS people were the
AOL people before the AOL people were the AOL people.

A takeaway from both was that communities with established norms but
no way beside social pressure to enforce them have a hard time
scaling. USENET worked when the user population was small and mostly
amenable to a set of shared goals centered around information exchange
(nevermind the Jim Flemings and other well-known cranks of the world).
But integrating someone into the fold took effort both on the
community's part as well as the user; when it wasn't obvious that
intrinsic motivation was required, or hordes of users just weren't
interested, it didn't work very well.

I think this is something we see over and over again with social networks.

        - Dan C.

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