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    Re: [Nav-l] Missing messages
    From: George Huxtable
    Date: 2006 Apr 14, 10:01 +0100

    This is another of those messages, about Nav-l and its recent problems, not about navigation at all.
    So if those problems don't interest you, look away now, and press "delete".
    Dan Hogan has just written "I have contacted Andy Finkenstadt at webkahuna.com. I am waiting a reply."
    That's good news.
    I've been pondering about the recent bizarre behaviour of the list, in which 
    some members have not received certain messages that
    have reached others, and then they have arrived later, sometimes months later.
    Please be aware that I know little or nothing about the mechanisms behind 
    emails and mailing lists. I may not use the right words,
    and there'e much speculation in what follows. Bear with me, though. I will ask 
    a number of questions, which are mainly "rhetorical",
    in that I am not expecting detailed answers; just suggesting lines of enquiry, to stimulate thought.
    There seem to be two problems. One is the missing-messages, referred to above. 
    The other is that some members have been
    disconnected, without requesting it. These have included Fred Hebard, and also 
    the chap who assembles the Nav-l archive at irbs. Are
    those problems connected, I ask?
    Mailing-lists need to have a way of handling the situation when members die, 
    change their address, or fail to renew their ISP
    subscription for some other reason. It would be futile to continue shooting 
    off messages to those addresses for ever, clogging up
    the ether. On the other hand, sometimes messages sent to members may bounce 
    for a more transient reason; perhaps because an inbox
    has clogged full, or perhaps because of a failure in the transmission system, 
    such as happened after Katrina, or a local temporary
    failure at their ISP. Somehow the permanent failures, and the temporary ones, 
    need to be distinguished; only in the former case
    should a member be "struck-off". Otherwise, a temporary hiccup would result in 
    the permanent loss of a member, to nobody's benefit.
    How does Nav-l, or its webkahuna host, make that distinction? Are a certain 
    number of re-tries allowed, at intervals, before
    messages to those members get discontinued? Can that setting be adjusted by 
    the list-owner, and is it presently set at too much of a
    hair-trigger, so that unwanted and unnecessary disconnections occur, perhaps 
    at times of poor email communication? When they happen,
    does anyone get to know, or is the action completely automatic, behind the scenes?
    If a member has been disconnected in such a way, how can he be reconnected 
    again? Does that necessarily involve the list-owner, or
    can it happen automatically? It might be sensible (for example) to arrange 
    that if any posting arrives from a member who has been
    disconnected, then his existence at the correct address has thus been 
    confirmed, and he gets reinstated straightaway. If that was
    the case, it could happen that frequent-posters might have got disconnected, 
    then reconnected, perhaps several times, for short
    periods at a time, without them, or anyone else, even being aware of it. On 
    the other hand, subscribers such as the chap at irbs,
    whose traffic is entirely one-way, would never be reconnected again, except as 
    a result of administrative action by the owner. Does
    that picture seem plausible, or does it only show my ignorance?
    Next question: when a member has been disconnected, what happens to mailings 
    that would otherwise have been sent to him?
    As an aside; I seem to remember that it's possible for a member to request 
    suspension from receiving list messages until further
    notice, during an absence, though I have never used that arrangement. Am I 
    right in remembering that you have a choice, of asking
    for messages to discarded during the absence, or accumulated to be sent after 
    reinstatement? In which case, there would have to be
    some sort of pigeonhole opened for those members, to hold those messages.
    What I am suggesting is that, when messages could not be sent to a member, for 
    one reason or another, they have been put into just
    such a pigeonhole, opened for that purpose, so that re-tries can occur until 
    communication gets re-established. But then, if a
    member has been disconnected and later reconnected, it may be that those 
    messages do not get downloaded and cleared from that
    pigeonhole, but remain there indefinitely.
    What then caused that accumulation of old messages to be suddenly cleared out, 
    in a cloud of dust, and distributed months late, as
    seems to have happened to many members recently? I have no idea. Perhaps some 
    buffer-space has been overfilled, and therefore
    flushed out, before starting to accumulate again. Perhaps someone, at nav-l or 
    webkahuna, has keyed in some new setting, which has
    had that inadvertent effect. Only someone with a good knowledge of the inner 
    workings of the webkahuna host will know.
    We may be in the grip of a computer program, of such devilish cunning and 
    complexity that nobody understands its details. Unless we
    try to analyse the symptoms, there's little hope of arriving at the cause, and fixing it.
    contact George Huxtable at george@huxtable.u-net.com
    or at +44 1865 820222 (from UK, 01865 820222)
    or at 1 Sandy Lane, Southmoor, Abingdon, Oxon OX13 5HX, UK.

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