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Submitted by
Miraz Jordan

 
 

Make TidBITS Easier?

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As much as we like to pretend that everything in the electronic world is easy, there are a number of things we could do to make TidBITS easier to get each week. Here are the best of the suggestions.

"A plain text version, as in comp.sys.tidbits (moderated), with articles distributed in batches (as now) and separately." [A Usenet group is a good idea, though comp.sys.mac.digest is appropriate currently. If we ever start doing versions specifically for other platforms as well, it wouldn't be appropriate to use the Mac groups to distribute them. We'll keep it in mind.]

"Well, I suppose if you delivered it to my door...FTP is about as easy as you can get...I don't even have to leave my room." [Ah, if we delivered it to your door you'd have to get up and answer the door and make small talk for a while. FTP is better. :-)]

"A dedicated T1 link between Penguin Things and BAKA." [Sorry, we're waiting for ISDN instead.]

"I am happy with the current configuration and distribution methods. KISS" [Thanks, we're trying to Keep It Simple, Stupid (for those of you who haven't heard the acronym before.]

"I like your method of electronic distribution. The part I dislike is having to unBinHex and unStuff the file to read it." [Yeah, the defunking is a pain.]

"Distribute it by mailing list on the Internet." [We tried that initially and crashed a few mainframes running old versions of BSD mailers that couldn't handle over 200 people on a mailing list. Now everything goes out from our Mac via QuickMail, which isn't smart enough to send a single copy up to the Unix host and distribute from there, so there's no way we could run a mailing list from here. Usenet, local mailing lists (like one at the University of Michigan), and eventually a LISTSERV are better methods of distribution.]

"A fax mailing list. Do you have a fax? Send the paper around. Charge a nominal fee for distribution to cover the cost of the fax and extra phone lines. This came up as a group of us sat around discussing how to distribute electronic newsletters, or Hypermags." [Fax machines are ubiquitous, but ecologically disastrous. For every document, two pieces of paper must be used (one on the sending end, unless you have a fax modem, and one on the receiving end), and most fax paper is not even recyclable. So as much as it would probably be a worthwhile service, we prefer to keep TidBITS off paper as much as possible.]

"Hand delivered by messenger on a Double Density floppy immediately upon release. Silver platter optional." [Is that a single or double density silver platter that you were wanting?]

"I cannot think of anything which would make TidBITS easier to acquire and/or read. Perish the thought that it should be anything other than electronic." [Hear hear!]

"Why not make your text-version of TidBITS easy to manipulate within GNU Emacs? Using Rmail-like features, one could read, search, and ARCHIVE TidBITS on any system with GNU Emacs. Future versions of GNU Emacs are said to have Hypertext features, too. There are probably enough Emacs experts out there willing to help. Also, you could develop a small program of your own (say, written in portable C) to read, search, and archive TidBITS on CRT-based Unix systems. If you carefully and thoughtfully build some "hooks" into your TidBITS text format, maybe some talented TidBITS enthusiasts will do the Emacs/Unix programming for you...(I wish I had the time/talent for this sort of thing...)" [The implicit tags in the text format should be perfect for this sort of thing, though we don't have the time or talent for that type of thing either. Someone will though, and then the Unix world will have an excellent TidBITS reader.]

"A global wireless communication network with 10E12 baud bandwidth, speaking with a pocket-size pocket-weight computer with a 2000 pixels/inch, 48-bit colour screen, gigabytes of non-volatile memory, available to all at no monetary cost. (NB. This is not a joke.)" [No, it's not a joke, and although we agree with you, there's not too much we can do to help make this a reality sooner.]

"FTP source" [Check out sumex-aim.stanford.edu and rascal.ics.utexas.edu.]

"Where is it on CompuServe and how can I set up the Navigator 3.0 to find it, and download it." [I believe it's in the HyperCard section, but I don't know for sure since I don't upload there. For some reason, TidBITS is not very popular on CompuServe. Does anyone know why? Is it merely because no one has particularly noticed it? It seems strange that smaller services like America Online and GEnie should have much larger download counts than CompuServe.

"Availability via a Bitnet LISTSERVer, in plain text if possible, NOT .hqx (ideally a LISTSERV for each format, readers could subscribe to whichever they prefer)" [We hope to set up a LISTSERV once we move to the text format. I doubt we'd be able to get another one for the .hqx format.]

"FTPable up to date archive, with incrementals at the issue, quarter, and annual levels." [The only problem is the file sizes. The TidBITS Archive with all the issues in it will be about 3.5 MB in size, which is a bit much for most people to FTP. We tried monthly archives for a while, but didn't get much positive feedback (actually we didn't get any feedback, positive or negative), so we gave up on the extra work.]

"Text-based distribution, provided that the "import" function is BULLET-PROOF. The novelty is in using the stack as a reader. I don't even like the idea of reading the weekly stack. I'd rather start up the Archive stack, have it ask me if there is anything new to import, and then magically scroll down to the new stuff. Maybe with a "New Stuff" button that gets you there quick." [Definitely a good idea, and one which will be possible with the text distribution files.]

"Upload to GEnie as well. Other than the $5 monthly charge, there is no fee for uploading software (or using mail and certain other services too)." [TidBITS is on GEnie, although since I don't do the uploading, I don't know where offhand. I'm sure it's not all that hard to find.]

"Again, since you asked. If you would fly weekly to Austin, take a cab to my apartment, and read TidBITS to me while I shower in the morning, other than that, it's fine." [Would you like your towel warmed too?]

"Write them in Finnish." and "Write in French!" [Neither French nor Finnish are within our linguistic abilities. Ancient Greek is, but it's awfully hard to write about computers in Ancient Greek, and at the speed I write Ancient Greek, the issues would only be about twenty sentences long each week.]

"Some press releases on networks about it. (It took me some time to find out that it was worth downloading) Perhaps the ECHOMAC moderator would permit a small plug for it. Also, the dating system - using the week starting... format gives the impression that it's a week out of date. Reading something dated 03-Dec-90 on 12-Dec-90 gives a feeling of lateness. Changing to day of publication would help." [If you know of a network that doesn't know about TidBITS feel free to post some informational messages there for us. Alternately, let us know and we'll send you some of the blurbs we've used on occasion. And thanks for the comment on the dates - we changed that for 1991.]

"It would be more timely if it were uploaded directly to the Twilite Clone or passed through Fidonet. At this point I believe that it is passed along by another subscriber." [We were sending a few issues to a Will McLean for distribution on Fidonet, but then a mainframe that delivered the mail to him claimed that nothing was getting through for several weeks. If someone who is well connected would post to Fidonet for us, we'd be grateful.]

"A secretary to download it for me." [Sure you don't want a secretary to download it and defunk it and read it to you when you're in the shower like the other guy?]

"If AOL fixed the damn 2400 line I use to access." [I gather that most of the AOL lines are actually owned and operated by Tymnet and Telenet, so complain to them as well as the AOL folks.]

"An archive server from which I can request back-issues via mail (ain't got no FTP)." [Ah, the "Ain't Got No FTP Blues." Try sending mail with the only line being HELP to LISTSERV@RICEVM1.BITNET or LISTSERV@RICEVM1.RICE.EDU. They run a mail server that shadows sumex-aim.]

"A TidBITS 1-800 number BBS with a complete library" [We've thought about it, but it's too expensive unless a company sponsors it, and it's not really what we do best. We prefer to encourage wide distribution so everyone can get TidBITS easily locally.]

"You might consider creating a LISTSERV list that automatically mailed out new volumes across the Internet, something like the way Info-Mac is distributed. And you could get a better idea of your audience that way by seeing who subscribes." [Precisely! We hope to do just this when we move to text format.]

"I could move to Ithaca." [True, but I have a feeling that physical location doesn't make too much difference with TidBITS, whereas it does with other things in life. Besides, Cornell is constantly under construction, which messes up the place a bit. Nice gorges though.]

 

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