TBTF Home and Archive --
FAQ and details
Frequently Asked Questions
Who are you?
I'm just this guy, you know, who's been making sense out of
technology for diverse audiences over a 30-year career. I've
worked with networked computer technology and software for all of
those years -- with the Internet for the last 12 -- as software
developer, manager, marketer, writer, editor, and unelected pundit.
I've been consulting / contracting in the Web / Net / technology /
business / marketing intersection for a couple of years now.
In the early 70s I spearheaded what was possibly the world's first
online documentation system for remote, networked computers. More
details are in the
Why are you doing this?
It's my creative outlet. To give back to the Net. To build
reputation equity. As a calling card for my consulting business.
Because I love to. Because I have to. Because it's essential to my
How did TBTF get started?
When I went to Atria Software (now a division of
Rational) as manager of tech
marketing in late 1994, I was the first Net-savvy person in the
marketing group (there were some in engineering of course). The
first thing I said to my boss was "I can't believe this company
isn't on the Web yet," and he said, "Make it so." Atria's site went
live on schedule on 1995-02-01. I had started sending clippings and
commentary to my marketing colleagues to educate them about the
culture, etiquette, and characteristics of cyberspace -- helping
them to figure out, as I figured out, how this new medium could be
enlisted to the service of business. I called the messages "Tasty
Bits from the Technology Front" from the very first. They began to
be passed around the company. By the spring of 1995 it had occurred
to me that there might be a market for these writings outside of
Atria, so I set up a Majordomo list on the World (the world's first
ISP, where I maintain my home address -- I was customer number 128
or so there) and invited some friends and colleagues to sign up.
It's grown from there
without much overt promotion to a subscriber base of nearly 16,000.
Why don't you charge money for this service?
It's not really about money. TBTF creates more value in the world by
circulating for free. Also, many of the obvious ways one can make
money from a newsletter and Web site -- advertising,
micropayments -- are unappealing to me and I won't impose them on
you. Subscriptions are less objectionable but the surveys I've done
(for example, see these results from 1997:
indicate that any mandatory charge would slash the readership to
a small fraction of what it is now. Sponsorship is a possibility,
but I place a high value on my independence, and email from readers
indicates that they do, too.
The solution I've arrived at is to offer TBTF for free but provide a
way for those who want to support it to do so: the
TBTF Benefactors program.
I resell TBTF content to a few print publications, including the
Indian magazine PC Quest.
And the newly opened TBTF store offers fine-quality
tee shirts, and other items, emblazoned with TBTF regalia.
Where do your story ideas come from?
Nearly half come from the TBTF
Irregulars' and other readers' suggestions, with the balance
from the email and Web sources I read
every day, the meatspace media, conversations, and daydreams.
How long does it take to put together an issue?
Usually between 20 and 30 hours, not including the daily sponge-mode
reading and surfing that I do as a matter of course. In an idealized
week I'd spend 12 hours Friday evening and Saturday doing serious
infosurfing, gathering up and researching potential stories
I've put aside (or published in the TBTF Log) over the
previous week. Ideally I'd exit Saturday with a rough outline and
scores of URLs in place. On Sunday I'd spend 12 hours or so
fact-checking, further researching, refining the outline, writing,
rewriting, polishing. The title usually comes last. I write for the
email edition -- in monospaced Ascii 76 columns wide -- and generate
the Web edition from that once the issue is complete and signed. The
new issue is up on the Web before the email goes out.
What does your .sig mean?
Keith Dawson dawson dot tbtf at gmail dot com http://dawson.nu/
Layer of ash separates morning and evening milk.
This page tells the story.
What's with The Lips?
TBTF has a slightly whimsical cast, as you may have noticed; it's
serious but not solemn. The logo characterizes exactly the tone
I aim for. I've discovered that anyone who reacts to that logo
with a raised eyebrow and a little chuckle is very likely a
reader who will appreciate what I do.
For its first 100 issues the masthead of TBTF's email edition sported
a quite cheesy Ascii-art rendition
of a set of lips owing something to Mick Jagger. The email edition was
redesigned beginning with TBTF for 1997-02-11.
The Web edition sported a simpler pair
of lips untiul August 1996, from TBTF go-live until the 87th issue.
This site is designed for viewing with Netscape 2.0+ or Internet Explorer 3.0+.
used. The site does not employ Java nor anything requiring a browser plugin.
With the exception of tables TBTF is Lynx-friendly -- all graphics are
ALT-tagged and sized. There are only two permanent animated
.GIFs on the site.
information anywhere on the site. For subscribers I maintain only a list
of their email addresses, and I do not and will not share this information
with any outside party.
I dislike spam as much as you do, and I don't want to make it easy for the
spammers' address hoovering tools to collect victims' email addresses from
the TBTF home and archive. On the other hand, I want to make it possible
for members of the TBTF community privately to contact people mentioned in
the articles, should they want to. For these reasons I use a convention
of obfuscation when referencing the email addresses of correspondents,
informants, or participants in the stories that appear in this newsletter.
It works like this:
Address as it appears in TBTF: <doyle at cs dot und dot edu>
Actual email address: <firstname.lastname@example.org>
In other words, before sending email to anyone mentioned in these pages,
replace each " at " with "@" and each " dot " with "." -- simple enough?
Before distributing issues of TBTF by email I sign them using PGP for
Personal Privacy 5.5. Here are my public
keys. For reasons of continuity and compatibility I sign using the
older, 1024-bit RSA key, ID = 1FDA25D1, fingerprint = 38 C7 13 05 F3 EF C9 EF
F3 87 15 27 65 BF F4 4C. (Articles in the archive are not signed.)
The archive is living, not static. Here is the policy and history of
Each issue of TBTF is a snapshot in time.
All of the links work when an issue is first published; I try to keep them
working for a few weeks more while readership of the current issue is high.
Over time, though, linkrot inevitably sets in. Online news sources,
newspapers, organizations, and individuals move their pages, rework
their links, re-host their servers, or go dark entirely. I will fix any
broken link that a reader brings to my attention, more quickly if s/he
also supplies the correct URL. But it is not my intention (nor would
it be possible) to assure that all the links in the archive continue
Traffic and growth
Follow this link for details of the trends
in TBTF's subscriber base, Web-site visitor traffic, and international
The archive was initially generated with the help of
hypermail. I maintain
and develop the site using BBEdit and Photoshop on a Macintosh.
TBTF was hosted by
Imagiware from 1996 until 2002,
(Nowadays I host the historical site from my own server.)
These guys are good: they deliver the professionalism and old-fashioned
service you've despaired of finding on Web time. If you
visit, and especially if
you host with them, please tell them TBTF sent you.
The "Pucker" image
was developed from an original stock photo
© Photodisc, Inc., 1996.
TBTF is a Powell's Associate. This means that I get credit if you
buy anything at Powell's Books after following my link there. How
much does this amount to? Well, in the entire time since I switched
over to Powell's in protest of Amazon's patent policy, I have
received not a penny in referral fees.
While TBTF was a going concern my policy was:
if you review a book for TBTF, you get the credit -- at the end of the
current quarter I'll buy you the book(s) of your choice
with any money flowing from your review.
I participated in the
Process Tree Network
experiment in for-pay distributed computing.
(I would have gotten a tiny cash flow from
your membership had the network ever gotten up and running -- but it didn't.)
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Most recently updated 2002-01-06