Andy Lee wrote in response to Larry London's pass-along of Jeff
Hall's request for information on how to start an e-mail list server
for people interested or participating in college farms:
>Jeff, this is an excellent idea and I would like to participate. My
>suggestion is to broaden the scope a bit to include college farms that are
>not organic, yet use sustainable methods. One possible way to start a list
>is to go to www.onelist.com which is a huge master list for many different
>topics. For example, this is the home of email@example.com and
>firstname.lastname@example.org, and so on. If you or someone you know can serve as
>moderator I'm sure there will be plenty enough interest to keep a list
>active. Let me know if I can help further.
I wanted to issue a word of warning to Andy and others. Be very
careful with organizations like ONElist.com, and make sure you know
what you're getting yourself--and your potential subscribers--into.
There are no free lunches...nor free list servers.
Organizations like ONElist.com are basically commercial Internet
enterprises that provide basic e-mail, list server, or other
capacities in return for studying the Internet usage habits of their
subscribers, the better to figure out what kind of advertising, at
what rate, to cultivate on their sites.
In order for you to use their "free" Internet service, you will be
shown many advertisements for various goods and services that the
advertisers tailor to get you to buy stuff. It's a form of
commercialization where they reassure you that they're protecting
your privacy by NOT releasing individual information about you, only
"demographic" or "aggregate" information.
However, your surfing and buying habits, in the aggregate, are much
more valuable to potential advertisers. What they want is your
attention, because they know that, on average, once the have the
attention, for 3-5 seconds, of a given number of people in a certain
demographic, they'll make X dollars in sales. They also get to plant
the seeds of certain kinds of consumerism--awareness of trends, of
products, of needs you never knew you had till the advertisers told
So, in effect, organizations like ONElist are basically market
research firms, who use your Internet activity to sell information
about you and others to advertisers. They don't even have to go out
and collect the data anymore; they sit back and watch you surf.
advertising and analyze site activity.
"A cookie is a text file that sits on your hard drive. Cookies are
used to store and retrieve information on the client side of a
computer connection. Cookies, by themselves, cannot be used to find
out the identity of any member. You have the option to eject the
cookie, but if you do so you won't have access to private areas of
the site (i.e. subscribing or posting messages to a community).
"Cookies help us determine what content members view, how much time
they spend on the site, and what services members use. The
information is collected an analyzed in aggregated form so that the
identity of any member remains
"5. Demographic information will be used only to provide better, more
targeted advertising to our members.
"This information will be shared, only in aggregate form, with only
select 3rd parties. ONElist will never release any individual's
information to 3rd parties unless subpoenaed or ordered by court of
So, in return for their hosting a list server, they use your surfing
information to figure out how to make more money by selling targeted
ad space to advertisers. While claiming that they're providing YOU
with "better, more targeted advertising." See #5, above. What
chutzpah; I mean, the last thing on this earth that I want is better
advertising. If they were promising me a Sox/Mets World Series, I
might be intrigued...but otherwise...
Anyway, this concerns me because enterprises like sustainable
agriculture are not--as the /New Farm/ learned the hard
way--primarily commercial or consumptive ones. We're about something
that is, in effect, distinctly anti- or non-commercial.
So one could argue that we could use ONElist with impunity, and say
to ourselves, well, heck, we're not buying much of anything anyhow,
so they're not making money off of us, nyeah.
My take is a little different. No matter what I choose to buy,
advertisers are in my face. The emerging commodity of importance in
the mass-marketing economy is YOUR ATTENTION. One of the most
important aspects of advertising and public relations these days is
not what you buy, but what you're aware of. The engineering of
For example, water purifier, electrical generator, and bunker-food
companies have always tried to make money off of people by scaring
them with various potential catastrophes. But it wasn't till a group
of very savvy Internet consultants engineered the Y2K scare--and
wormed it into everyone's consciousness--that it generated a mass of
commercial activity. That is, folks buying their Y2K rations.
Or look at the engineering of consciousness that has gone into making
people think they need Suburban Assault Vehicles--"safety," for
instance. I won't even go into that.
My view is that if advertisers want my attention, let them pay me for
it. I prefer not to surrender my consciousness for free. And if they
or market research firms want more information about me, let them pay
me for that, too. After all, they all are so gung-ho about the "free
market" and the "information economy," and making us consumers pay
for everything, let them get used to paying consumers, rather than
the other way around for what we've got that they want: attention and
dollars. Fine, gringos--you've figured out what you need? We're happy
to sell it to you at the going market rate. Have a nice economy!!!
This is the reason that I have the "cookies" feature on my Web
browser turned off at all times. When I run across a Web site that
absolutely requires me to use that feature, I either decide I don't
need the information, heh, and notify the Webmeister that I've
removed their site from my bookmarks and won't be accessing it or
linking to it, ever. Or I create a phony user profile in Netscape,
get the information I need, then get out of there, and destroy the
user profile. When I was on campus at UW, there were a few computers
set up with cookies enabled, and I'd get my information from those.
They were cooperatively used computers, you see, so that any
information that came from their IP (unique Internet identification
number) address was an aggregate of various people around the office.
You want aggregate info? You got it. :^>
It's a small form of resistance. But there you have it. If you choose
to use services like ONElist, that's up to you. I would say, however,
that if you create a list for these services to host, you're morally
and ethically obligated to let your subscribers know that in return
for their ability to use a particular information service, which
appears free, they're giving away crucial market research information
to who-knows-who. This is why my ongoing advice to sustag and organic
ag folks who want to create information services is for them to go
through organizations that have not commercialized their Internet
info flows or their users' activities in this way.
Center for Integrated Ag Systems, UW-Madison
UW voice mail: 608-262-8018
Home office: 415-504-6474 (504-MISH)
Home office fax: Same as above, phone first for enabling
Maybe at night in the stable, the horses stand around asking each other,
"What the hell does 'giddyap' mean?" --Dave Barry
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