Harpham gives up on internet society

An elder statesman of the IT industry, Perce Harpham, is to quit his membership of InternetNZ, citing few benefits and insufficient debate on issues.

An elder statesman of the IT industry, Perce Harpham (pictured right), is to quit his membership of InternetNZ, citing few benefits and insufficient debate on issues.

Harpham, who has been in the industry for three decades, has accused the internet body of providing members next to no benefits, ignoring the views of all but a small cabal and overmanaging the domain-name space. After three years as an active member of the organisation, Harpham will leave when his subscription next falls due.

The two advantages of belonging to a society, he says, are “what they can do for you and what you can do for them”. On the first front there are essentially no benefits accruing to members, Harpham says. InternetNZ runs few events outside its AGM and at some of the rare forums organised, members have been charged for entry.

Another potential benefit of belonging to a society, Harpham says, is the opportunity to exchange ideas with fellow members. These have been severely limited, not only by the paucity of forums but by InternetNZ’s insistence on not releasing members’ contact details to other members — though any member can go to the organisation’s offices and examine those details, or scan email headers on the organisation’s discussion lists.

Harpham has campaigned for the release of member details. Other societies, like the NZ PC Association, to which he belongs, release details as a matter of policy, he says. There are privacy issues involved, he acknowledges; so anyone should be free to request that their details be excluded from the database, as they are with a telephone directory.

On making a contribution, Harpham says he has stood as a candidate for the ruling council several times, and attempted to become involved with committees, but has always been rebuffed. The society really only listens to and caters for the small group of members at the centre, he says.

“There has been conflict and war in the society,” he says. “I was hoping this would change with the coup [the election of council members with radically different views at the 2000 AGM]. It has to some extent, but some of the ideas that engendered it are still there.”

InternetNZ has “a council of 20, a profit-making company to run the DNS, a domain name commissioner, and all to do what Peter Mott does on his own”.

Mott’s company, 2day Internet, is a major registry. “Well, the comparison is not exact,” Harpham admits, “but it’s close.”

Another irritation was the refusal of the InternetNZ hierarchy to entertain his suggestion of scrapping the second level of the domain-name structure (.co, .net, .govt and the like) and having names like “bloggs.nz”. This proposal, he notes, has resurfaced in the past few weeks.

Harpham was head of SPL International, a thriving business of the 70s, which helped develop the still-used “Wanganui” law enforcement system. Renamed Progeni, the company, with Harpham as a strong personal champion, tried unsuccessfully to get a New Zealand-built computer, the Poly, accepted by government for widespread school use.

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