The official WOB-L Histor
y as Recollected
by Jon Freivald

To really understand the character of the WOB-L mailing list, you have to know a bit about it's history. Where did it come from? Who are it's members? What does WOB-L stand for?

This is the history of the creation and evolution of WOB-L as recollected by me, the list creator and maintainer, with a little help from my friends...

My name is Jon Freivald. Back in 1989 I was an active duty Marine Staff Sergeant who became the Network Manager for the 1st Marine Corps District. Through various circumstances, I became best friends with Tim Millis. At the time, Tim worked for Trellis Network Services as a Banyan Engineer. This was wonderful for me because in late 1989 we were going through a conversion process from 3Com's 3+ to Banyan VINES. Tim was the one who convinced both me and my superiors that the cost of attending the ABUI (Association of Banyan Users International) conferences would be money well spent. I attended my first ABUI conference in Orlando Florida (April 1990?).

At this ABUI, Shirley Rogers (University of Akron) announced that she was creating an e-mail discussion list to allow Banyan users to carry on near real-time conversations about VINES. I was one of the first subscribers to the new list. This technical discussion list was an absolute boon to the Banyan user community. LOTS of good information was shared there - Banyan would make announcements there - you could ALWAYS get a question answered - even at 3am in the middle of a server upgrade! People have stipulated, and I tend to agree, that the Banyan-L mailing list is one of the best things to happen to the Banyan community.

The Banyan-L grew to a very large subscriber base. In the course of my travels to my remote offices I was able to meet a few (such as Bob Brydia, who worked in State College, PA, and Kari Larson and Mike Punsky, who both worked in Boston). Over the years of going to ABUI conferences I was able to meet more. (It was customary to have a "Banyan-L night" at one of the local watering holes during each ABUI.) Many friendships were formed (Pat Salmon, Debbie Dickerson, Mike Mandulak, Kris Holloway, Shirley Rogers, Jim Fralix, Steve Wolfe, Paul Beaver and many others...). Herein lies the problem...

As people on Banyan-L got to know each other personally, there tended to be a lot of "chit-chat" type messages, jokes, and other non-Banyan related messages going out to the list. People started to complain...

After a while, the whiners forced a bit of a compromise: Any message that wasn't specifically related to Banyan would have a subject prefaced by "Off Topic", and messages that weren't computer related at all would have a subject prefaced with "WOB", standing for "Waste of Bandwidth." This seemed to work for a while.

As time passed, the "crew" of friends on the list grew, and the "chatter" intensified. It wasn't long before the number of WOB messages outnumbered the legitimate Banyan related messages. People started complaining again... Discussion (to put it politely) ensued. A LOT of discussion ensued... Pretty soon, between the WOB's and the talk about WOB's, there was a signal-to-noise ratio so low that you really had to hunt for messages that were within the original charter of the list..! Things started to get ugly. (If any of you knew about or can recall, it was reminiscent of the GT Power network "Turkey Wars"!)

Shirley stepped in. She effectively banned WOB's. This lasted for a while, but then the WOB's started reappearing. Feelings had been hurt in the previous "discussions", so now people were REALLY complaining. Several people gave up in disgust and left the Banyan-L. Things were getting ugly (again).

I went to another ABUI (ironically, again in Orlando - April of '95), and had a long chat with Shirley. She was really frustrated with the situation - so frustrated that she was contemplating an announcement shutting down the Banyan-L! I expressed my sincere distress, and she agreed to give it a little more time for a solution to appear (her emphasis on little time!). I discussed the problem with my friends Mike Mandulak and Kris (then Holloway, now Jacobs). It was agreed that what was needed was another forum for all of the friends to move their chit-chat to -- another mailing list...

Since this isn't the kind of thing that anyone's company would likely be willing to devote resources to, it basically came down to me... At that point in time I had an Internet connection at home, was running a UNIX host, and already had list management software going because of a couple other private lists I was hosting. I informed Shirley of my intent, and she agreed not to kill Banyan-l. She asked what I was going to name the new list. We had tossed around some ideas, but had not come up with a name. Shirley jokingly stated that since it was a list for all the WOB messages, we ought to call it the WOB-L. I loved it! The name stuck... (It was, after all, my list..!)

As soon as I got home from ABUI, I set up the list and got Mike, Kris and Bob Brydia signed up to test things out. As soon as things were running smoothly, I announced it to the Banyan-L. We got a dozen subscribers in the first week, WOB traffic on Banyan-L dropped to near zero (there's still an occasional WOB out there, but not enough for anyone to complain about any more), and life was good again...

The original subscribers to WOB-L were also subscribers to Banyan-L. It continued this way for a while. We didn't really have a "charter" (other than to move the WOB's off of Banyan-L!), and my only rule was that I wouldn't tolerate any abusive behavior. As the repoir of the list members grew, and the character of the list formed, several people mentioned that they had friends or acquaintances that were not from the Banyan community that they thought would "fit in" with the existing group. Our consensus was that Banyan-L membership wasn't a prerequisite to WOB-L membership (though, to this day, the majority of the members of WOB-L either are or were members of Banyan-L). And the list grew... Today we even have members on the list that aren't even in the computer field (I "met" Ann Harrell on the Zaurus forum of Compu$erve where she was always getting hounded by the sysops for posting her jokes..), and it continues to grow in diversity. The list is full of personality, and is not for the "feint of heart" or those easily insulted or offended, but is a whole lot of fun. You even see an occasional technical question - a real WOB!

In the winter of 1996, a few of the "WOBbers" got together and went on a ski trip to Vermont. It was a great success and allowed several of the members to put faces to names and have a great time in the process. It was hosted by Kari Larson at her family's cabin.

Over Labor Day 1997, Kris Jacobs hosted a get-together (dubbed "WOBCon II") at Schlitterbahn in New Braunfels, Texas. Many more WOBbers attended, and this, too, was a great success with a wonderful time being had by all (except, perhaps, those whose undies ended up in the freezer!). Such a great time was had, that a pact was formed by those present that this should be repeated each year over Labor Day weekend. It was also the means to share the many photos and stories that was the original reason to dedicate a web site to a mailing list!