Jim Dixon writes:
SDShad, your story about how you took your forum underground is fascinating. I wonder if a group of music lovers could do the same thing with Mudcat?
Pretty much categorically, no, Jim. I wasn't telling that story for someone to think I was proposing it as a solution for the Mudcat, but only by way of explaining why I'm convinced replying to trolls accomplishes exactly nothing. Don't skip over the part where i wrote: "[b]ut consequently our membership has dwindled to next to nothing, and the place is now just a minor hangout for a very small group of old and devoted friends." Is this a fate we wish for the Mudcat? Can we continue to be a companion site to the DT if we try to hide our existence? Or are we to hide the DT to all but the unitiated as well? No, I don't want the Mudcat to go to that extreme of exclusivism of which some of the more lame trolls have accused us.
[Since, as previously mentioned, I'm protecting the anonymity of this other place, I'll just refer to it as The Place, so my pronouns don't get confused between it and the Mudcat.]
It wasn't a good solution to begin with in the original circumstance, but it was the only solution available. We did it out of desparation, and I would not want to do it again. Its negative impact has been considerable. I don't remember The Place getting a new member since 1996. I'm sure it's happened, but it's been by invitation only, and you can probably count 'em on one hand.
Secondly, and this is a large part of why it was the only solution available, many of the circumstances are radically different. The Place is, and has always been, much smaller than the Mudcat. At no point, even during its heyday in the early 1990s, did regularly-logging-in membership exceed 100. Probably less, especially if you want to pare it down to those who also actually posted regularly. These days, I'd say the regulars number fewer than 15. I'll still keep going to The Place until the day I die if it's still available, because some of those 15 are the dearest of friends, on the Net and in 3D World. I've crashed in their living rooms, been picked up at the airport for conferences by them, met them for lunch and dinner in far-flung areas of the continent, and offered them the hospitality of my own home. Some of you think the 'Cat has an intimate vibe (which it does)? Ain't got nothin' on The Place in that regard.
The Place began life as a private dial-up BBS in a midwestern city in the 1980s, and moved to the Internet as a student project in 1991. Many of my best friends there were, like me, outsiders who wandered in from an entry in a list of telnettable BBSs on the Internet--and that's another crucial difference, since the interface was and is a terminal session, not a web page. We blocked telnet access to the troll's site, but he/she/it just found another telnet account and came in from there. I don't know if web-browsing anonymizers allow people to post to the Mudcat, not having tried it, but the underlying principle still isn't the same.
Finally, the functionality and purpose of the Place were far different. It began and ended its public life on the Internet as an insider's toy where outsiders happened to be provisionally welcome (which, GUEST accusations to the contrary, the Mudcat is not). There were 13 statically-created message boards, and if you had something to say, it went on one of those 13. No threading, little archiving (except for the Poetry board), and no resources page or associated database. And rather than being a public forum for the discussion of folk and blues (and the perpetuation of the DT database), it was general in topic scope and essential parochial in focus (although its membership included citizens of other countries). It was a home-town BBS writ large. The Mudcat is something much larger and purposeful, another thing altogether, and to retreat the 'Cat into anonymity would certainly be its death--unlike the Place, I wouldn't follow the 'Cat into exile, out of protest. I'd keep the friends, but I'd drop the membership.
Because I am, philosophically at least, in agreement with John Perry Barlow's Cyberspace Declaration of Independence. I don't want access to large public Net resources to be available to only the initated and approved few. I don't want "absolute anarchy" as you have suggested some do in your post, but I do recognize that the Net was, and could only be, born out of a sort of slightly-moderated anarchy, and I'm still enough of an old-style Net anachronism that I'm still resisting the Pinks' efforts to impose meatspace Law and Order on the Net. I don't want authoritarianism on the Net in general, and even less on Mudcat.