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News Groups Reorganization

© October 1999 Tony Lawrence

This was written in early October of 1999. By the time you read it, the SCO related newsgroups may already have been reorganized. I am adamantly opposed to this.

Why reorganize?

As this is being written, a problem does exist: SCO has two distinct product lines: Openserver and Unixware7. Presently, most UW7 discussion takes place in comp.unix.unixware.misc, which was originally formed for discussion of the Novell Unixware products.

The proponents of reorganization feel that the volume of UW7 posts added to OSR5 posts is too much for comp.unix.sco.misc to handle. Indeed, they say that .misc already has too much traffic. But mostly they just don't want Unixware posts in the OSR5 newsgroup.

So, behind your back, they've been planning how they want it reorganized. Yes, behind your back, in a secret mailing list. I was once on that list, but because of putting this page up, they have thrown me off. It's OK: I wanted nothing more to do with their scheming. Gosh, that sounds awful, so lets try it another way: secrecy is not my style, and I don't want to be a part of secret mailing lists that make plans for public groups.

I don't want to make this sound like an evil conspiracy. It IS a conspiracy, but the people behind it have good intentions- they think they are doing the right thing. I just don't think that it is right to plan something like this in secrecy, no matter how well intentioned.

Eventually, of course, they have to make this public. But the plan was to do that AFTER ironing out all internal differences. That isn't fair to those who might disagree because they are caught unprepared, suddenly facing a united front of people committed to one goal. That's intimidating and truly unfair- the dissenters don't have time to organize their arguments, it looks like all the "important" people are of one mind, so it's railroaded through. Unfair play, in my opinion.

I personally intend to fight against this. You may agree or disagree, but whatever your feelings are, I think you have a right to know about it, and not to have secret discussions withheld from your comment.

What do they want to do?

What they want to create is:

What's wrong with this?

There are a number of problems.

First, the injunction against crossposting to .misc will be ignored. In actual practice, people do NOT read charters, and will be confused by the newsgroup names, so to be safe, they will crosspost (if .misc is removed, then this is obviously not as much of a problem).

Again because no one reads charters, posters are not going to understand that a Merge or Vision post should not go to .misc, and that is exactly where they will put it (assuming it is kept at all, of course). Some percentage will crosspost to their base OS group also.

Next, product names as newsgroup names is dumb. Although "Openserver" and "Unixware" are meaningful today, those names will not be useful in years to come. Openserver will be gone, Unixware may be renamed, and then the confusion just gets worse. Where should one post discussions of the new "Scoware 2000" product? In comp.unix.sco.misc, of course, which brings us full circle- unless .misc is gone, and then you have posts in a newsgroup name that doesn't relate to the discussions- time for yet another reorganization!

If you feel you must cut traffic (and I believe that is always doomed to failure), be generic in your names: comp.unix.sco.os is an intelligent name. Perhapes we need a comp.unix.sco.os.old, where 3.2v4.2 and Xenix would be discussed now, and eventually OSR5 would join them. That would work forever- products would cycle into there and eventually disappear entirely. Personally, I don't think this is necessary, but at least it makes sense.

I am also not of the opinion that Unixware and Openserver should be separated. If Unixware is the "upgrade" path that SCO expects people to follow, it seems obvious that these should be discussed in ONE group (though if the os.old convention were adopted, OSR5 would soon be moving out). By the way, this isn't because I want the convenience of reading one group. At the present time, I don't read the Unixware group at all, and I am on the fence as to whether I will even be "doing" Unixware: at the present time, I think Linux is much more likely to be the "upgrade" that OSR5 users will take when SCO drops the line. So Unixware posts in the Openserver group hold no personal value for me; I just think it is incorrect and confusing to separate them.

Response from Bela Lubkin, <belal@sco.com>

The above commentary by Tony Lawrence addresses an earlier version of the SCO newsgroup reorganization proposal, before we had considered some of his very concerns.

The current proposal (1999/10/08) calls for the removal of the ".misc" group. More precisely, it calls for it to be renamed. The entire proposal includes detailed charters, etc., which I will not copy here (I didn't write them and will not be responsible for publically releasing someone else's words which he's not finished with).

However, in sum, the proposal is:

  rename comp.unix.sco.misc      -> comp.unix.sco.openserver
  rename comp.unix.unixware.misc -> comp.unix.sco.unixware
  rename comp.unix.xenix.sco     -> comp.unix.sco.xenix
                             retain comp.unix.sco.programmer
                             retain comp.unix.sco.announce

These renames are intended to clarify the purpose and relationship of the various groups.

Most importantly, it is to clarify where UnixWare 7 should be discussed. The authors of this proposal feel that UW7 is much more similar to UW2 than to OSR5, and should be discussed together with UW2.

Tony (I paraphrase) argues that since UW7 is the future of SCO Unix products, and is the forward path for current OSR5 users, it should be discussed in the OSR5 group.

I disagree on several grounds: OSR5 is not going away any time soon; UW7 is not "merged OSR5 and UW2" (SCO stopped saying that back in 1996); the products are substantially different, to the point where advice based on one can have disastrous results on the other. Current practice agrees with this: UW7 discussion currently occurs mostly in comp.unix.unixware.misc, with only a few stray articles in comp.unix.sco.misc.

Perhaps most importantly, there's no way to legislate what Tony wants. As long as a group exists with "unixware" in its name, many UW7 discussions will land there.

Sometimes Tony says that what he really wants is to merge all of it into one group -- OSR5, UW7, as well as UW2 and earlier.

Actually, no, I don't say that- I think Unixware 2.x posts should remain just where they are. It's true that SCO briefly did put out 2.1 releases, but those are so radically different that they should stay where they are- Tony

That would presumably involve eliminating comp.unix.unixware.misc. I know that UnixWare users would strenuously object to this -- rightly so. Even if it went through, it would leave older UnixWare users looking for a home. The proposed home would be comp.unix.sco.misc (or perhaps some other name, Tony has mentioned "comp.unix.sco.os"). I don't think those would be satisfactory to users of pre-SCO UW releases. They would be asked to live in a group which names neither the vendor (Novell or Univel) *nor* the product (UnixWare) they want to discuss.

Regarding some of Tony's other points:

He writes "By the time you read it, the SCO related newsgroups may already have been reorganized." Well, that's true. He might still be making this page available in 2050, for all I know. The implication, however, is that this reorganization is somehow going to happen "behind people's backs".

Not so. Any creation, removal or other reorganization of USENET newsgroups has to go through a long, painful, very public process. The first stage of this process is the writing of an RFD: Request For Discussion. This is a fairly formal document whose creation and purpose are regulated by the people who run the USENET group "news.groups", and the newsgroup creation mailing list "group-advice".

IN THE PAST, and I really do not know whether this is still true today, group-advice has insisted that a group which intends to raise a proposal must first hammer that proposal out internally. Tony was a witness to that process, which he characterizes as an secret conspiracy.

Well, whatever. It's part of the process. The very same process occurred long ago, when the original biz.sco.* groups were created; and again a few years later, when those groups were reorganized as comp.unix.sco.*. In each case, a private group worked out an initial proposal; it was brought public; discussion ensued; some of which lead to changes in the proposal.

The proposal that Tony witnessed being discussed *will* be brought public and *will* be discussed publically, and probably changed, long before anything actually happens.

After the public RFD -- probably several months after -- and only if some sort of public consensus has been reached -- we'll eventually reach the CFV stage: Call For Votes. Eventually. There is no possibility of changes being "railroaded" on members of the groups. Whatever happens (if anything) will be the result of a 4-6-month-long public process.

Tony opposes naming groups after products. The thing is, names are the only handles we have with which to describe things. Names are names. He proposes ".os" for all SCO operating systems, and perhaps a ".os.old" for "old" SCO operating systems. There would be a severe problem separating groups on this sort of basis. What's "old" to one person is "new" to another. I see frequent posts from people asking questions about installing SCO Unix 3.2v4.2 -- it's apparently "new" to them. Meanwhile, someone who has just received OpenServer 5.0.6 may think that 5.0.5 is now "old". The names do not provide an obvious guideline to the casual observer. They also invite crossposting -- which is one of Tony's bugaboos. Any time someone's unsure (hmmm, is OpenServer 5.0.0 "old" or "new"???), they're likely to crosspost to both groups.

The proposal that he's arguing against suggests three clearly delineated groups: "xenix", "openserver" and "unixware". There are of course still some points of unclarity. Where should SCO Unix 3.2.x be discussed? The intent (and the charter would say) is, in "openserver". But it's true that a casual observer might fail to be guided correctly. Likewise, where should the future "Monterey" project be discussed? That's a lot less clear. But it's also a question for the future.

If naming after products is "dumb", what could be done? We could create groups named after "technologies": "svr3" (for SCO Unix 3.2.x and OpenServer), "svr4" (for UnixWare 1.x and 2.x) and "svr5" (for UnixWare 7+). But these, also, are after all just marketing names. They're also a lot more obscure, so that again, the casual observer would not be guided correctly. We'd end up with a lot of confused crossposting, arguments about whether UW7's "svr5" base is really enough different from "svr4" to merit separation, and so on.


Finally, this is both premature and the wrong venue for this discussion. A public RFD will be forthcoming. Web pages are a lousy place for a discussion. Tony is the publisher of this page. He offers to place my comments on it; we'll see how that works out. But certainly we cannot have a dynamic discussion here -- the page can only be updated as often as one person, Tony Lawrence, has time and inclination to do so. Whether or not he intends it, history has shown that single-party ownership of the printing press tends to lead to suppression of unpopular (to the owner) opinions.

<Bela Lubkin< 1999/10/08 Not speaking in any official capacity for SCO.

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