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OT = Outta There

The 3000 community has been knit together over the past 13 years through the threads of the Internet. I mean threads in a literal-technical sense, because a mailing list and newsgroup — 3000-L, or comp.sys.hp.mpe — has spanned those years and served thousands in your world with news and views.

There's too much of the latter of late. Much of the time, this communication channel has been overturned like a box of apples and used as a bully pulpit for half its traffic. If you've ever tried to find out something about the 3000 using this group, you'll be stepping around steaming piles of opinion and "facts" and unfettered banter about killing a newly elected President. (I kid you not.)

See, the Internet has no filters for such fetid stuff. But to see it rife in a reasonable community's channels is reason enough to set your own filters beyond stun. As in "Erase without reading," now that the US had an election and there's reason to complain. Generous community members who share skills also spare us no foam from rabid opinions. The lone bit of civility is to slap "OT" for Off Topic on their subject lines. Perhaps it's just me, but asking "So no comments about the price of fuel?" seems a waste of someone's time, unless this passes for social discourse.

Good and helpful and seasoned 3000 people have sworn off this channel over the years, some leaving the 3000, others leaving the rough trade of epithets, slurs and puffery. Few of these doing the posting would say the same things in your community at, say, a user group meeting, face to face. The Internet makes rebels of us all, hidden behind the safety of that screen.

The help from the 3000-L, in providing a communications channel, was a big factor in starting our newsletter in 1995 that expanded to this blog. I started getting these messages by e-mail, and 544 other people take in this chatter the same way. There's nothing harmful in any message without an OT, and much to be learned. But this week I'm setting my filter differently for the OT. On my system I already store more than 14,000 OT messages from 2001 onward, all of which are never backed up. Every one, for good or ill from the past and into the future, is getting flushed today. Unless your skin is thick, your time ample, your social network thin, or your sense of humor brooding and prone to insult, I'd advise that you shift all the OT to Outta There.

Of course, what else could we expect from subjects like "Sarah Palin Baby Name Generator" or the latest, "So who won the election?" The former pretends to humor while the latter has sparked a schoolyard mudfest. It makes me wonder who's paying for all these minutes of mayhem and the too-rare chuckle. Probably the independent 3000 veteran, one unfettered enough to suggest an assassination will happen, ought to before January 20 — and not have another human say, "What are you doing in there, hon? Promoting anarchy?"

See for yourself if you must, but this is the end of OT for me. So as of today, I'm setting my e-mail to "Direct to Trash" when any OT post comes in, so that I need never see the clever savagery of schooled minds. If I get a dose of insanity, I can always read this stuff on the group's newserver, still dutifully maintained by the saintly Jeff Kell of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Kell keeps out of the fray and should never be associated with this traffic; he's been maintaining an interstate route where highwaymen prowl. He's also among the doers of good, dispensing tested network lore. First Amendment rights extend to the Internet, of course, so no one should be deterred by this rant from posting their views, short of any capital crimes they wish would be committed.

Sad to say, reading through these howls of opinion has driven away help for this community, a greater loss than the undesired result of any election. People unsubscribe or stop reading altogether, then can no longer help on a 3000 problem, in a world losing its expertise already. You cannot ban OT. Yes, you can, however, stop reading it.

There's enough to do in this community in the coming two years without reading this stuff, even with an accidental glance. Luckily, the pile of OT messages on my disc, toxic as any nuke-you-lar waste, can be flushed with a single mouse drag and one key combination. Let the disintegration commence, while our 3000 Country creates wellness and health for our futures together.