Keeping the Community Communicating

PowerTech's open-source security policy designed to be a living document.

PowerTech's open-source security policy designed to be a living document. has never been fancy. Gibbs started with a bulletin-board system (BBS) running on his Compaq Portable II "luggable." A mailing list grew from that.

These days, Gibbs runs much of the operation from his basement, where he has two Linux* technology-based mail servers that run the software and host the mailing-list archives at A couple years ago, the Netshare400 group donated an AS/400* Model 170 to That system hosts the main Web site.

To Gibbs, the daily maintenance of is fairly trivial - he says it doesn't leak into his day job (he's a senior software engineer at the Chicago-area affiliate of MKS Inc., a provider of enterprise technology management solutions). Perhaps his biggest challenge is keeping up with the conversations. Though subscribers sometimes log as many as 200 posts in a day, Gibbs says he tries to read every message.

Gibbs looks to shepherd in subscribers who wander away from the topic - for instance, occasionally a discussion of, say, ERP packages breaks out on the RPG list. On very rare occasions he's had to step in and tell some overwrought posters to tone down the rhetoric.

"Because is a relatively small community compared to some of the wider Internet lists, we can play a little fast and loose with the mailing-list guidelines. But I've got some hard rules: You've got to be civil, and you've got to be a professional," he says.

What's more common is the need for Gibbs to simply point out that everything's fine.

"Some days, when there are only a handful of messages, I'll hear from people saying, 'I haven't gotten any messages today. Is the list broken?' " he notes. "And I'll say, 'No, it's just quiet.' "

Neil Tardy is a contributing writer to IBM Systems Magazine. Neil can be reached at

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