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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 resumé.

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 happiness.

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?

Be a TBTF Benefactor 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: summary, details) 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. shameless commerce

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.


Browser colophon

This site is designed for viewing with Netscape 2.0+ or Internet Explorer 3.0+. Many pages use tables, some with background color in cells. No JavaScript is 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.


TBTF does not use cookies and does not collect any private or identifying 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:   <doyle@cs.und.edu>
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 emendations.


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 to work.

Traffic and growth

Follow this link for details of the trends in TBTF's subscriber base, Web-site visitor traffic, and international distribution.


BBEdit The archive was initially generated with the help of hypermail. I maintain and develop the site using BBEdit and Photoshop on a Macintosh.


imagiware 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 o 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.)


Copyright © 1994-2023 by Keith Dawson. Commercial use prohibited. May be excerpted, mailed, posted, or linked for non-commercial purposes.

Most recently updated 2002-01-06