If you have no idea what Usenet is, you can skip the rest of this blog posting.
Twenty-eight moderated newsgroups, four of them in the “Big 8”, died today. Or, more accurately, they died at some point prior to August 13 and they were buried today.
Some background info for those of you who may not know how it all works…
Volunteers at an organization called the Internet Systems Consortium (ISC) maintain a listing of the email addresses of newsgroup moderators. They distribute this mapping to another set of volunteers who host and maintain email relay servers which News servers use to forward moderated newsgroups submissions to their moderators.
When someone posts to a moderated newsgroup:
- Your News server creates an email address by replacing all the dots in the newsgroup name with hyphens and adding “@moderators.isc.org” to the end of it, e.g, “email@example.com”.
- Your News server sends your posting to that email address via its mail server.
- The mail server looks up the mail servers for the moderators.isc.org domain, i.e., the email relay servers mentioned above, and selects one of them to randomly forward your posting.
- The email relay server looks up the actual address of the moderator in the listing it gets from the ISC, and forwards your posting to that address.
I maintain one of the email relay servers for moderators.isc.org, i.e., one of the servers that gets the listing of moderator addresses from the ISC and moderated newsgroup postings from News servers and uses the former to route the latter to the appropriate moderators.
This morning when I woke up and checked my email, I was greeted with the fact that the disk on the relay server I maintain was full. When I investigated, I discovered that submissions for 28 newsgroups with moderator addresses @stump.algebra.com were filling up my disk, because the email server for stump.algebra.com had been refusing mail since at least August 13 (as far back as I have logs).
A bit more background info is needed…
A long time ago, a guy named Igor Chudov wrote a software package called “STUMP” (“Secure Team-based Usenet Moderation Program”) for managing the moderation of Usenet newsgroups. He provided the software for moderators to install and use on their own servers for free, and he also hosted the software for others for a fee. The newsgroups whose STUMP installations he hosted were hosted @stump.algebra.com.
Like everything else related to Usenet, STUMP has been limping around, pretty much unmodified and with a very weak heartbeat, for many years now. Apparently, at some point prior to August 13, Igor decided to pull the plug on stump.algebra.com. I don’t know if he coordinated with the moderators who were still actively using the site. I don’t know if there even were any moderators actively using the site. All I know is that he pulled the plug on it without notifying the ISC, which means that the ISC kept distributing to the relay servers moderator email addresses @stump.algebra.com that no longer worked.
I emailed the ISC folks and Igor today and suggested that we needed to reroute these newsgroups to devnull until either stump.algebra.com came back online or their moderators found somewhere new to host them. Igor responded shortly afterward: “Yes, please devnull them for now, as the project has been suspended.”
The ISC folks have now modified the listings for all 28 of these newsgroups, so that submissions to them will bounce. Any moderators who are actually still active for these newsgroups and want to continue moderating them will have to set up a new moderator email address and then let the ISC (firstname.lastname@example.org) know what it is.
For those who are curious, the newsgroups in question are: