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Over the years of tracking Y2K news, advices, conjecture and generally, all things Y2K related, I've come to an inescapable conclusion. List server postings (e-mail lists), without an easily excessible archive for quick reference, are in a practical sense, useless for what has to be known by the general populace just waking up to the harsh reality of Y2K liabilities.
Microsoft has quietly done extensive surveys trying to gauge when and if the general public will grasp the Y2K issue and begin to act. Their conclusion was that sometime in September, more people will start the personal quest for answers, consider doing some preparations for disruptions and move Y2K from the back burner onto the front of 'things to do' this year. As a result, Microsoft has started an email campaign to an estimated 60 million customers to make them aware that they have got to upgrade their hardware, install remediation patches, upgrade to Windows '98, Windows 2000 or migrate to the Windows NT system.
Why I mention this timing of customer Y2K awareness, is that if Microsoft is correct that people just weren't too concerned about it up until now, more people than ever before will really 'get it' within the next few months and start searching for data. Data on what's going on, where are the reputable sources of information and what can they do about it. They will want to communicate to others in their area to see if they have the current situation on where their community is at in remediation and contingency planning.
Much has gone down on the email lists. More than everyone can keep up with or even tolerate in the way of information gathering. I've seen so many valuable tid-bits of information, contingency ideas, better ways to do things and soon-dead links going to great articles throughout the years. Unless a web master of a Y2K site copies and makes them available on their sites, the data can be lost forever. Many of you have tried keeping the best by sending them to appropriate files created on your hard drives but I think, most of us have had a difficult time maintaining the administrative tasks required.
Has email volume been a problem for most everyone who subscribes to a few prominent Y2K email lists? I think so. I've had people reply to a message I sent them weeks ago, saying they've only recently found it although I write my notes with the word 'Private - .......' in the subject heading. Some have read the note then had it buried within their Inbox after a few days, or forget to reply till only after doing a look-back through their hundreds of messages. I've been guilty of this as well.
Thus the reason for this post. I would like to suggest a few solutions that would assist those subscribing and posting to email lists and help the novice as well so they aren't overwhelmed trying to separate the gems from the noise.
First, email lists have been and will remain a great collaborative tool where ideas can be kicked around, 'official' statements may be critiqued or people can let others know what they're doing and what seems to be working for them or get a question answered. Almost like a large group meeting on a 24 hour basis, where regular posters gain prominence, people contribute what they can, lurkers lurk seeking clues and drawing their conclusions privately.
There is one horrible drawback. The informations not available to people subscribing next week....or tomorrow. It's gone for them. I've had crazy system crashes where the only alternative was to format my hard drive thus losing valuable information. Or lacked the time or incentive to dig 800 messages back for an answer to some later inquiry.
I suggest that people increase the power of utility tenfold of their list service and create a web site with archives that later participants can go back into to see what has gone before. Categorize the info if you can. I've seen the re-invention of the wheel when it comes to Y2K solutions, contingency planning, technical and prep advice too many times to count on most every Y2K issue there is. How many times have you read someone say, "We went over that last year." on a list? Sometimes there resides an elitist attitude amongst the long term participants. ISPs usually give space for a web site on their server and there are numerous companies (Microsoft for one) who are giving 10 or 12 Megs of free server space for web sites, if only you'd tolerate the product pop-ups which isn't too bad considering the benefits.
Next, I'd like to put forward the idea of people taking responsibility for their field of expertise and make it available to all. A specialization, if you like, of what you are particularly well informed about, willing to track the progress of and archive for others to share. This they can do on an existing forum on a prominent web site like this one at Millennium Salons or one of our sister sites or one of the others not connected to this network. Create one yourself with Phil Greenspun's forum software or somewhere else.
The idea is to keep and maintain a record of what is being done for others to discover when they come looking. I think it's such a waste to see a brilliant piece that someone has taken a lot of time, research and thought into creating, only to have it buried or disappear.
Please use the forums available or create one yourself for what you know. Let us know here that it exists. Continue the collabrative work on the list servers but archive the postings for later participants otherwise you do a disservice to those who've recently gotten onto the internet and discovered all isn't so rosy in Y2K land, unlike what the mainstream media have been telling them. Make the information easily excessible.
Bill Dale has a wealth of Y2K reference knowledge. Have a question? Bill can provide you to more links than one thought existed before. Cynthia Beal is our resident food expert. I have advised governments on Y2K contingency and social issues and will be writing more as that particuler aspect of Y2K comes onto people's radar screens. You can join us with what you know and want to share. You're welcome.
As for personal email messages. Perhaps put the word 'Private-' or 'Personal-' in front of your email headings so your recipients don't miss it in the daily avalanch.
Please take a day to dig out your saved gems and put them on a web page and let us know or post them on a forum. Let's make the information more available with longevity.
Of course, continue to write on the lists to explore all sides of an issue but save the gems to post on the forums or at the least, an easily excessible list server archive.
Thanks, Gary Allan Halonen
-- Gary Allan Halonen (email@example.com), September 18, 1999