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The Twit Filter: The Professional Amateur by Dave Bealer

FidoNet has been the largest amateur e-mail network in the world practically since its inception. USENET has been the largest public research/educational network for many years. Both of these networks were founded with, and have operated for years with, strict non- profit policies. In the early days compliance was not a problem.

Years ago only bit-headed PC communications experts could cobble together a working FidoNet system from the dizzying array of allegedly compatible utilities available. Those who had passed this initiation were unlikely to simply pass the information on, intact, to someone who didn't "belong." While friendlier Fido sysops would lend assistance and advice to newcomers, the newbies were still required to complete the FidoNet utility scavenger hunt before their system was complete.

Early USENET systems ran on UNIX mainframes which could only be afforded by Universities, government agencies, and large companies. Most of the early USENET users were therefore students, scientists, and military/intelligence workers. Not the kind of group that would try to conduct big business in the newsgroups.

Today it seems everyone is trying to cash in on the Internet. An "Internet Business Journal" recently started up to pander to the suits who are invading jeans and t-shirt territory and trying to tame the UNIX command line with their evil GUIs. The Clinton regime hijacked the Internet and has offered it up as the core of their fabulous solve-all-our-problems "Information Superhighway." In the face of all the money being thrown at the Internet, the "professional amateurs" howl piteously about how their precious "free" Internet is being used for evil profit. Apparently these characters never realized that *somebody* was paying for the UNIX mainframes they were using all these years. As Heinlein would say, "TANSTAAFL."

The most avid professional amateurs inhabit FidoNet (sometimes it seems as though the people most avid about *everything* inhabit FidoNet). "Back in the 'good' old days, I used to pay $5,000/month in phone bills to import the echoes for me and my three buddies. Now these damned cost sharing plans and satellite feeds are taking the glory out of it." Sure, paying $50/month for an entire message and file feed may be efficient, but it's just not sexy enough. These guys should go to Las Vegas. With that extra $4,950/month they could buy all the ego, glory, and sex they could ever need or want. The trouble is that what they really need is common sense, which is not something you can buy.

The worst professional amateurs are disgruntled sysops who previously tried to go commercial and failed miserably. Since these guys tried to turn professional and couldn't hack it, they delight in leading witch hunts to root out any evil commercialization of their "beloved" FidoNet. They're as bad as ex-smokers. Eventually all the real pros will venture forth into the Internet and beyond. FidoNet will be left with the true hobbyists, who never had any commercial desires. Also hanging around will be the pitiful professional amateurs, whom the hobbyists will have in their twit filters. {RAH}

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