A Criminal's Plea

I’m starting to think that somewhere along the line, we lost sight of what the Internet is.

Obviously, I don’t mean the spam, the commercialism, the “get your free sample Viagra” or even the porn (as much as I may enjoy the latter).

More that we, in our zeal to quell the undesirable, have officially forgotten that the Internet was created by rogue minds; forged by renegades. Everything that today’s “world wide web” can be traced back to people exploring what technology could do, and how it could aid the exchange of ideas and information on a scale never before known, imagined, nor understood.

And yes, these are the words of a criminal.

I admit: I violate the terms of service of my broadband connection.

Hard. Core.

According to my broadband provider’s TOS, I am unable to run any services on my own computer(s) that would provide content. Meaning, I should not be running this server that you are currently connected to; this server that you are currently reading content from. As I provide this content. From said server.

This affects a gathering of friends who rely on the ability to have a centralized area to communicate. Yes, I’ll admit it, I run a forum for a group of friends who play an online MMORPG. Geeky? Yes, of course. But without this software, this server, these friends would have no way to coordinate, communicate, or share their life experiences with each other.

At this moment, we as friends are able to communicate across the globe that a friend has accepted a position as a new legal assistant at a posh law firm, the wife of another friend has given birth to their first child, and another will be getting married to the mate they never thought they’d find, and wanted their closest friends to know about it.

This communication is enabled primarily by the forum system I, with the development talent of a few others, have created.

Playing by the rules, my friends would have never known about these wonderful events. We would have no “water cooler” in which to enjoy each others’ company. Nor would we ever be able to coordinate social gatherings, game-centric events, or even just enjoy each other’s quirky wit. We’re all working stiffs; we cannot afford the costs to pay to have these services “professionally” hosted for us.

I happen to have old computers laying around. Would you encourage me to throw it away? Contribute to the largest waste-producing industry? I’d rather not–those old computers are still completely useful. I, nay, everyone I know have perfectly good machines to submit as examples: we continue to use our old machinery to power our futures: file storage, web servers, email servers, would-this-even-f*ing-work-at-all-machines (they tend to call those beta-testing machines). Why should we not be allowed to use antiquated machinery for what we damn well please: we paid for it, and we maintain it; and in my case with completely open source solutions (read: FreeBSD, suckas!).

I, personally, enjoy the challenges laid out by running an active web server. Plus, it provides my ego with plenty of fuel. But I don’t see why this is something that should be regulated by internet providers. Why? Let me count the ways. I have no desire to be the victim of a DDOS (distributed denial-of-service) attack against my internet provider: that would take down my ability to browse the internet, provide needed services for my friends and family, and anger me to absolutely no end. I also have no desire to initiate similar attacks. Why would I? I took months to code this system to keep everyone in touch and happy, so now I’m going to bitch-slap it off the web?


Email bombing? Same defense: why would I want to attack my own server? I want my email. I use it.

Spam? Well, gee. All you email providers can’t handle it either. Obviously.

Which brings me back to internet technology.

How did a network system that grew primarily through the open source movement (BIND, sendmail, NNTP, SMTP, POP…I’m sure the list could continue), being all about sharing and collaborating on a world-wide scale, degrade to this point?

I understand it’s to counteract spam/phishing/virii and the like.

Notice how successful it’s been.

I can bet anyone reading this today has received at least 5 spam emails within the last week. Most of the forums you frequent have probably been defaced by someone trying to sell discount drugs. Telling you that you could meet the mate of your dreams. In leather. With a whip. If you like that sort of thing.

Obviously these controls to stop spam and whatnot are working perfectly. With no problems whatsoever.

How, exactly, is the revoking of our online rights helping the struggle against illicit and/or irritating content?

The simple answer is: it’s not.

I want to run a forum system for my friends.

I want to run a blog on which I can write my thoughts.

I want to send email out of my own email server.

I want to serve my community.

I want to because I have the knowledge.

I want to because it helps my friends.

I want to because I’m not a h4x0r.

I want to because I can.

The same way the internet was created.