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A huge listserv. Each day, only one random person can write to it. (thelistserve.com)
140 points by ifthenecho 1811 days ago | hide | past | web | 83 comments | favorite

Seems like one of the people behind this, joshbegley, is hellbanned on HN. His comments on this page so far are just showing up dead.

Any ideas as to why this is? It makes me wonder about entering my email address on his site.

Edit: If you don't have showdead on, he says that plus signs are now accepted in email addresses[0], and that they won't be serving ads, and are looking for an inexpensive way to send mail[1].

[0]: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3824420

[1]: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3824434

apologies if this is a dumb question, but what does 'hellbanned' mean? i understand folks' concern about dubious intentions, but if it's any consolation, this is merely a class project from Clay Shirky's Designing Conversational Spaces class at NYU.

Hellbanned means the poster sees his own comments as normal, but no one else can see them. Someone who is hellbanned typically does not know they are banned until someone tells them (or they eventually get suspicious of no one commenting on their comments or up/downvoting).

Frankly I find the idea of hellbanning childish, but it has a long history on the internet.

It's not childish, it's used to defeat trolls. If you ban a troll, they'll realize it next time they try to log in and it says "YOU HAVE BEEN BANNED."

But if you hellban them, then they'll log in just fine, they'll post just fine... but no one will respond to their posts. Eventually they'll get bored because they can't get a rise out of anyone and they'll leave.

Similarly, some sites use "discouragement," where the site will run fine, but on their machine it'll behave slowly and sometimes fail completely (bad page loads, excessively long waits then nothing happens, etc).

Sometimes I wonder if PayPal is using this approach.

Fair point. I guess it's easier to hellban than block them off the site or keep removing their new usernames.

Easy to block a single account. Very time consuming to continually block the same person over and over and over again - especially on a large and very active forum where the admins don't read every post on every thread.

> Frankly I find the idea of hellbanning childish

That's not too surprising, since the name (though possibly not the practice?) originated at SomethingAwful, and SA bans are pretty deliberately intended to be a mixture of serious and prankish, with a bit of arbitrariness thrown in.

You mean for people like Losethos?

I'm not familiar with Losethos...mind explaining? A particularly egregious user?

He wrote a 64 bit OS from scratch where the shell uses C as it's scripting language, and I believe everything runs in Ring 0. Also no protected or virtual memory. So if you go over on an array index, well you could screw up some of the kernel memory space. Brilliant, but crazy. See above, and read some of his comments. He seems to be some sort of fundamentalist christian, and IIRC his comments were about saving everyone though Jesus or some such thing.

> Brilliant, but crazy. See above, and read some of his comments. He seems to be some sort of fundamentalist christian, and IIRC his comments were about saving everyone though Jesus or some such thing.

This isn't the whole picture. He's, unfortunately, schizophrenic. Read [http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3642308] and [http://qaa.ath.cx/LoseThos.html].

Take a look at his comment history (turn showdead on first)[1]. He's a somewhat eccentric character.


I thought the same thing. I find it shameful.

Poor guy, I used to be like that. That's a type of brain washing only Reddit/Athiesm/ and 4chan/b/ can fix.

That's called "shadowban" in my neck of the woods.

I've also seen it called a "ninjaban".

I think it should be called ghosting.

He dropped a hard J, so we ghosted him on the spot.

Email with a "+" sign still not working as of 12:00 Wednesday morning.

Tried to enter an email address with a '+' sign in it: "Email address is invalid".

No it's not.

Around 20% of the web still tells me my dan@dangrossman.info e-mail address is invalid.

.info domains have been around for 11 years now, and I can't work around these sites by removing a character.

It will get fixed once companies start to use custom top level domains, at least for anyone wanting to support such custom domain names.

More realistly there will be unmaintained sites running old email validation coed for decades.

I have heard personally from many Abuse email admins that .info domains are no longer a threat anymore.

You cannot be penalized in any way for sending email from a .info domain, so why don't so many websites accept them still?

It's just bad code, not a conscious decision to block any specific e-mails. Here's the code of a local construction project's e-mail subscription form:

  validationexpression = "^([a-zA-Z0-9_\\-\\.]+)@[a-z0-9-]+(\\.[a-z0-9-]+)*(\\.[a-z]{2,3})$";
It assumes all e-mails end in 2 or 3 letters after a dot.

I run into it all over the place. I can't redeem reward points on my Visa card because the redemption 'shopping cart' requires an e-mail to notify you when the rewards ship, and says mine isn't valid. I was blocked signing up for a checking account online because of my "invalid" e-mail, but opened the same account at a branch with the same e-mail address, where they now e-mail my statements.

I emailed them and they said they're fixing it. But for now, they manually added me - TheListserveProject@gmail.com.

thanks, ifthenecho. should be fixed now.

I just tried again, it's not fixed. Giving up.

You're right, it's not, but maybe people are wising up to the username+spam_source@gmail.com trick.

Wising up? Whenever I have an address like this rejected I usually attribute it to ignorance and an inability to read rfc5322.

If that were the case they'd accept it and just remove the +spam_source before selling the address.

Likely the email-checking regex just doesn't include that character

Exactly this. Just a few weeks ago, I noticed that this was the case for an application I'm maintaining at work.

Let's start off by seeing how long the name lasts:




This is why people call them 'mailing lists'.

That's why my first thought was that this whole service is a hidden marketing capaign for L-Soft. The only time I ever heard the word 'listserv' was when I was working in a place that managed mailing lists for academia using LISTSERV. It's a total mess, by the way.


Lawyers ruin everything.

In this case, as in most cases where this accusation is thrown around, the lawyers are merely agents of the people actually doing the ruining. Also, trademarks are not bad things.

>the lawyers are merely agents of the people actually doing the ruining.

And without lawyers, trademark laws would likely not be of the scale or complexity that they are now. But that's another rant :)

>Also, trademarks are not bad things.

In this case, I tend to disagree. Especially as "listserv" should be genericized by this point.

> Especially as "listserv" should be genericized by this point.

Have you read the history? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LISTSERV

It appears as though the author of the software decided to commercialize it and now you fault him for trademarking it? I think you're kind of baseless in your argument here.

Update: I don't fault the guy for taking some software, re-writing it and then commercializing it. If the original authors didn't want to trademark the name or even protest the trademark application, then that is their fault.

Sorry, but have you?


The original LISTSERV software, the BITNIC LISTSERV (1984-1986), allowed mailing lists to be implemented on IBM VM mainframes and was developed by Ira Fuchs, Daniel Oberst, and Ricky Hernandez in 1984.

In 1986, Eric Thomas developed an independent application, originally named "Revised LISTSERV"

LISTSERV was freeware from 1986 through 1993 and is now a commercial product developed by L-Soft, a company founded by LISTSERV author Eric Thomas in 1994.


Eric Thomas started a competing product years after the original LISTSERV, and trademarked the name. He didn't trademark Revised LISTSERV - just LISTSERV. He wasn't the first to use it, but will now be the last. I absolutely do fault him for that (I don't know where that stands legally, but I do know I wouldnt want to get sued to find out).

>If the original authors didn't want to trademark the name or even protest the trademark application, then that is their fault.

Taking advantage of a situation like this still makes you a colossal jerk, regardless of how legally in the right you may be.

It's "Listserve", not "Listserv." The HN title is incorrect.

This is not going to end well. Mark my words.

Temptation to game an access to a 1 mil opt-in mail list is very real. From auctioning a chance to write, to product placements, to ads, to god knows what else. That's not to get into messages on highly controversial subjects.

FWIW, I pretty much solely signed up to see what "interesting" emergent behaviors get displayed. I _want_ it to be creatively gamed. So long as the list sticks to it's "one mail per day" claim, I'm perfectly happy to sign up for "one creative possible spam email per day".

If it turns out dull, I'll just unsubscribe (and, if it turns out dull _and_ malicious about not unsubbing, I'll just filter it like all the other spam)

Good points. I read upthread that it's class project.

Let's see what happens. It will be fascinating. I, for one, expect good things from this.

(I signed up).

It took 3 days to blatant advertising. Good call, I laughed heartily. I copied it to pastebin. Just a warning, it is about feminine hygiene. http://pastebin.com/A99zWncj


Question: Will there be a publicly viewable archive of said listserv?

http://play-fame.com is a similar premise for Twitter.

As recommendation algorithms and walled gardens fragment and homogenize our private online bubbles, perhaps these "anti-recommendation"/serendipity apps will help broaden people's horizons.

That's a novel idea. I'd like to see a webservice that keeps track of what I look at and intentionally shows me things that aren't like that.

This is a great social experiment. What happens when you give a normal person a voice magnified far beyond what they are used to. Will the self-promote? Share a social message? Spam like crazy? I for one am interested in finding out.

Or give advertisers a huge audience and tell them 'just write it like you are an average joe'.

A clever enough idea that I decided to sign up, but my question is not on the FAQ. How many have signed up so far?

There's a progress bar right under their video. 2140 just now.

Judging from the comments here it would be 3 people.

The person with the + sign in his email.

The one who wants to know how to unsubscribe.

And you.

Ok, I'm just kidding.

Cool idea. A current count on the subscribers would be nice, so I could have an idea of how much progress has been made towards the initial goal of 10k.

A million people are signed up? How long do you have to wait on average to win a one in a million daily lottery.

Assuming people can "win" more than once and no one else signs up, the expected wait would be 1 million days.

Edit: Guess I need to explain the math since I've been downvoted.

Let X be the random variable representing the number of draws until you are the winner. The probability that X = k is (999999/1000000)^(k-1) * (1/1000000)

From the definition of expected value: E = Sum(n*P(X=n), n, 1, Infinity)

From here it's a simple matter of arithmetic to calculate E. Here's the Wolfram Alpha link since I don't feel like typing up math in this input box (shortened so as not to overflow the layout): http://bit.ly/HzRUUt

True, but the median wait time would be merely 693147 days, or around 1900 years.

1-(999999/1000000)(693147) = 0.5

Half a million days?

I'm about 50/50 sure you're correct.

Depends on how many times you register.

Depends on how many times everybody register :)

Pretty cool... are you planning to switch from Mailchimp, though? It lists $240/month as the fee for 25K-50K subscribers. I'm curious about the business model behind something like this.

"Dear Everyone at the Giant Listserv,

Boy, do I love Snickers! They are my favorite snack, I eat them all the time. Their crunchy texture and silky smooth chocolate satisfies my cravings like nothing else.



PS: eat snickers"

Never saw that coming...

great question. we'd like to. have any ideas for the most inexpensive service? we don't have a business model (and don't plan to serve ads)...we just want to see what happens.

If this thing gets good open rates, advertising is a very viable option. It sounds like they have a delay from when the email is submitted until they send it out. I would think that is enough time to find a relevant sponsor for the topic at hand. Or maybe they have a way to target ads based on the email address of the subscriber.

We did an interview with the Listserve guys at Betabeat: http://www.betabeat.com/2012/04/10/the-listserve-nyu-itp-pro...

Seems like a super cool project.

It is shocking to me that as a reporter, you wouldn't even bother asking why they're using a heavily protected and trademarked word for their name.

What? You find this shocking? While you may be biased towards looking at things from a trademark/copyright perspective, you must at least assume some people look at things from other perspectives. It is more interesting to look at this from a social impact/psychology perspective, rather than to undermine the idea based on a word trademark.

Sorry, but I don't see how getting people to sign up to a mailing list so that they can receive a random email from a stranger once a day is such an amazing idea. It sounds rife for abuse and the fact that the authors didn't bother to check to see if the name they choose was trademarked first shows to me that they don't seem to care what anyone thinks. My guess is that this doesn't end well and your email address gets sold to the highest bidder.

You're taking this way too seriously. "They don't seem to care what anyone thinks" because they're thinking about it at a scale and profundity exactly appropriate for what it is--a one semester class in a grad program that's very big on experimentation, rapid prototyping, and art, but not very big on process, paperwork, or structure. It's a school project. Remember that.

Question for someone who's already signed up: What's the process to unsubscribe?

It's MailChimp, so super easy.

kind of the social equivalent of the million $ website

Very clever idea. However, it sounds much more beneficial to the person sending the email than to those who are receiving it.

It will be interesting to see if it will collapse for this reason, or if some unexpected mechanic of humanity will keep it afloat.

My guess is the same mechanic of humanity that keeps people buying lottery tickets. Maybe, just maybe, tomorrow it will be me!

Interesting gimmick if it's legit. (I mean gimmick in a positive way.)

Signed up with a few mailinator email addresses. :)

Woah. Join our giant spam list. I can't see anything in this which encourages messages to not be a form of spam. Daily spam. No thanks.

But it's just one message daily. It isn't cost-effective for spammers to abuse this, I think.

this takes what I'm working on to a whole new level! I love it. I'm already joined. Check out mailbait.info for another side of a similar coin.

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