[dvlug] Smaug Case Study

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Tue Apr 14 10:59:58 PDT 2009

I wrote:

> Along those lines, a lesson that can be learned from BALUG's example:
> That group has a history almost as long as SVLUG's, but you'd never know
> that from looking at their Web site.  Why?  Because, long ago, they got
> into the bad habit of erasing all data about their meetings immediately
> after each meeting occurs.  By contrast, look at
> http://www.svlug.org/prevmeet.php, which has details of every general
> meeting SVLUG's held back to 1998.  (The group existed for ten years
> before that, too -- but that history is lost except for what's written
> on http://www.svlug.org/about.php .)

To amplify on that point:  If you look at
http://lists.balug.org/pipermail/balug-admin-balug.org/, you see the
mailing list's history abruptly start in March 2005 with postings about 
"transitioning some of the mailing list maintenance". 

What happened?  

Cast your minds back to 1996[1] when network consultant Dave Sifry and
his friend Art Tyde launched BALUG, just as they were also starting to
put together their new firm Linuxcare, Inc.  Tyde (the group's founding
president) originally called it SFLUG or SFBALUG, but Sifry created a
Majordomo mailing list called "balug", which then became the name of the
group, and it registered balug.org to point to the virtual-hosted Web
presence on Sifry's server.  They roped webmaster Cydny Fire Eisner and
several other volunteers (including me) to maintain the Web site.  BALUG
started holding monthly speaker presentations at Four Seas Restaurant in
Chinatown, which still occur.

About a year or so later, a new webmaster who didn't like Eisner's taste
for purple "redesigned" the Web site, and in so doing threw away all of 
BALUG's meeting history up to that date.  (Agh!)  Also in that time
frame, the mailing lists were transitioned from Majordomo to Mailman,
and nobody bothered to migrate the cumulative mbox of prior postings.
(Agh!)  Those have been lost completely.

Years passed, with many years of valuable postings going to the Web
archives of the Mailman mailing list.  Linuxcare imploded in 2001
right at the beginning of the dot-com collapse (long story, which cannot
be truthfully told without someone getting sued), and BALUG went mostly
derelict as Sifry and Tyde attempted to do other business ventures.
(Sifry now operates small Web 2.0 outfit Technorati.)  

Around 2005, new volunteers Michael Hubbard, Larry Platzek, and Dick
Verma stepped in and adopted the group.  Nobody bothered to get the
cumulative mbox file from Sifry (Agh!), assuming it still existed, which
I'm unsure about.  So, instead, they simply created new mailing lists
virtual-hosted at Dreamhost, and also a virtual-hosted Web site there.

And recently, one of the new Web volunteers decided to "redesign" the
Web site again, once again in the process throwing away all of BALUG's 
collected history on its pages.  (Agh!)

Volunteer Michael Paoli says he's managed to find practically all (or
maybe literally all) of the former balug-talk mailing list archive in
Web/html format, which is not as good as mbox format, but we might be
able to reconstruct / approximate the mbox after some work using sed and
awk (or Perl, if someone is a Perlista).  So, those years are lost for
now, but maybe not irretrievably.

SVLUG's mailing list archives are complete all the way back to January
1999 when the conversion from Majordomo to Mailman occurred, _and_ 
the Majordomo mbox covering Sept. 1997 to Jan 1999 still exists, too:

I intend to (finally) merge the Majordomo mbox into the Mailman
cumulative one (http://lists.svlug.org/archives/svlug.mbox/svlug.mbox),
when we migrate the group's mailing lists and e-mail systems off the 
legacy box.

Point is:  It doesn't require a lot of effort to avoid losing a group's
history.  It really requires just caring, and making a very modest

[1] Earliest reference I can find is Nov. 1996.  Elsewhere
I've posted that Sifry and Tyde founded the group in 1997.  I seem to 
been off by a year -- but that's the sort of thing that happens when a
group obliterates its own history.

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