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Re: Reducing Usenet Bandwidth

  • From: David Schwartz
  • Date: Tue Feb 12 11:51:26 2002

On Tue, 12 Feb 2002 01:59:14 -0800, Stephen Stuart wrote:
>>Think about it. I post a reply to a question in a newgroup. The more
>>intelligent and interesting it is, and the more my reputation makes people
>>want to read my interesting comments, the more I pay. Does that make any

>You're stuck thinking about users again. This is between sites, as I
>thought I explained previously. This is about my spool having less

	I'm talking about between sites. Why do you think there's a difference? 
Ultimately, supply and demand and the inexorable laws of economics will cause 
the cost of a product or service to track the cost to provide that product or 

>If your post is not a pirated copy of Word, and if you, as a user, can
>be intelligent and interesting and enhance your reputation in less
>than, say, 20 KB per post (you seem to be doing fine in less than 2KB,
>so no worries there), then I don't think the wonderful world of USENET
>should change for you. Not one bit.

	I think it's wishful thinking to expect a change in the cost model not to 
effect the change in the cost of a service. Every example I know of points 
the other way. When ARIN started charging for IP registration, for example, 
ISPs started charging their customers for IP space. The net effect was a 
reduction in the use of IP space that didn't pay for itself. The same would 
happen to USENET.

>On the other hand, I want the site that accepts postings from you to
>incur higher costs if you or your site-mates inject pirated copies of
>Word that take up space in my spool and eat up my bandwidth when *my*
>site's set of users and downstream feeds have no interest in that
>(apparently we lack "human nature").

	So you want to charge for useless content without increasing the costs for 
useful content. You imagine that an automated system that approximates worth 
based on short size will meet this goal. But the obvious collateral effects 
are that:

	1) Worthless or harmful content that is nevertheless short will be 
legitimized. After all, the creator is paying for it.

	2) Useless and beneficial content that is nevertheless long will be 
penalized. Why should I pay to educate you?

>On a private thread that cc'd you, I said this:

>If my server pre-fetched only the articles in the groups that its
>users were known to read, on the whole it would have much fewer large
>binaries than visit its spool every day. Behold, less trash.

	And if you are talking about arrangements within a single administrative 
domain, this won't change the price/cost model but will still reduce trash. 
So you don't have to go to 'sender pays' to get what you want.

>The idea is to make the cost of injecting trash high.

	Fine, when you invent an automated system that can sort trash from treasure, 
you can do this. Otherwise, you'll increase the cost of injecting treasure as 

>If your site
>doesn't tend to inject lots of things that other sites tend not to
>want to carry in their spool (pirated copies of Word, MP3s, and
>pornography are the current set of examples), you - as a site - would
>be rewarded by not having many unicast hits.

	You are now in defiance of reality, I think. I don't have hard data, but I'm 
going to bet that more than 50% of USENET users are in it for the binaries. 
Do you have statistics to show that your view of what is "trash" is anything 
more than your view?

>Note that I consider unicast transfers of articles to take place
>between spools; when a reader asks for an article that is only
>resident as a pointer, the reader's spool would go get it and, in
>theory, cache it for the next reader who happened to want it. Probably
>some unwanted copies of Word would end up in spools this way, but at
>least it would be as a result of some user asking and not just because
>ten other sites decides my spool should have as many copies of Word as
>possible. Number of unicast transfers does not equal number of readers
>of an article; hopefully you'll see some increasing distance between
>what I'm saying and the belief that it would somehow change USENET for

	Again, I have no reservation about this being done between specifically 
consenting sites as a way of providing a more efficient feed between them. My 
reservation consists of expecting A to provide unicast news services to C 
when they have no agreement except through an intermediary B. You can't say, 
"if you agree to feed news to me in this new highly efficient manner, you 
must agree to provide unicast news service at your expense to anyone who 
wants it." This would, as I see it, affect the USENET cost model so 
dramatically as to risk making the content situation even worse.

	Yes, it might make things better for porn and warez. But I worry about what 
it would do to the good content that's still there. You can't think that 
sender pays won't reduce the amount of sending that benefits only the 

>There might be some benefit from an academic perspective in an
>implemention that would allow a news admin to set a knob so that
>articles below a certain size got flooded as currently happens, while
>articles above got "pointerized" (headers plus overview records,
>perhaps) and thus only fetched if actually desired by a downstream

	I agree. that could be a good idea between sites that wish to adopt such an 
arrangement, especially between major hub servers and smaller leaf servers or 
network. And perhaps if a few large news sites agreed only to accept that 
type of arrangement, USENET could gradually get to that point.

>The notion is not to replace USENET with the web publishing model (we
>already have the web for that, and "web forums" and their ilk haven't
>exactly rendered USENET obsolete); if anything it's to augment it with
>some capabilities from that model that are there for site admins to
>use if they choose to do so. If that turns into costs that site admins
>want to recoup in the form of charges for their users, that's left as
>an exercise for the implementors (remembering my opinion stated above
>that I don't think USENET should change for you).

	It may be instructive to think about *why* web forums can't replace USENET. 
If you don't know, it would be a very bad idea to adopt their concepts. One 
advantage USENET has is a more global and consistent namespace, and that it 
would still have. But another is that distribution is inexpensive, even from 
low-bandwidth locations, and changing that could really change things.

	That said, I do realize that USENET has a lot of utter garbage and I'd love 
a good way to reduce that.