I hereby resign...

Groucho Marx is alleged to have said he'd never join a club that would accept someone like him as a member. I know how he feels.

Groucho Marx is alleged to have said he’d never join a club that would accept someone like him as a member. I know how he feels.

For a brief moment in time I actual had warm feelings towards the Internet Society (ISOCNZ). Between the Society and its Satan-spawn Domainz a lot of copy was generated last year. I myself covered the embarrassing spat between Alan Brown, manager at Manawatu Internet Services and then Domainz CEO Patrick O’Brien which culminated in O’Brien suing Brown for defamation and the Society paying O’Brien’s bills.

What fun, I thought. Then came the annual general meeting and something of a coup as standing councillors were voted out in a Filipino-style sweeping of the decks. The people voted and the council was elected with a clear mandate — to be open and accountable in their actions and to sort out the whole registry-registrar schism that had formed. In order to keep tabs on what was going on I bullied my editor Anthony into ponying up for a membership for me. Suddenly I was receiving email on the “members only” email list and generally paying attention to a collection of exceedingly boring email conversations. The Society, it seems, is made up of many working groups, not all of whom can report in on time. So far, so ho-hum.

The problems really started when I received an email about the government’s Crimes Amendment Bill. The Society, it seems, has an Internet Surveillance Working Group, formed under the ISOCNZ Legal and Regulatory Affairs Committee. No, really. The working group had put together a draft position for the Society members to have a look at and tweak as they see fit. Great, thought I, someone else is saying what I’ve been saying and they’re making a submission on it.

So I wrote a story about the draft proposal. That’s when the trouble started.

It seems the Society has an acceptable use policy (AUP) on the matter of re-posting stuff off the members-only list. You can’t do it without the permission of the author and unfortunately I did. I apologised for it and will do so again if need be, but apparently in the Society that’s not enough. You have to be subjected to a weekend barrage of personal insults, professional attacks and abuse, culminating in a blinding lack of communication from the Society hierarchy that quite frankly left me breathless with anticipation. What could possibly come next, I wondered?

It seems I’ve not only breached the AUP but also parliamentary convention and Standing Orders. This was a draft submission to a select committee, you see, and “submissions to Select Committees are privileged until Public Hearings” according to the Society’s executive director Sue Leader. Actually, I don’t know that — as I write this Sue has yet to contact me about the matter. Sue, you have my email address. This comment I took from the archive for the list — a list that was open for all to see. It's closed now - all part of the Society's great move towards open and full accountability. You could have read the AUP and marvelled at the rules about not attacking people in the list. "Play the ball, not the man" is a common cry. This apparently only applies to other people.

Ah well. I'll find a way to access the archives online and if not someone within will surely leak the material to me. I'll read all about the inner workings of the society if I so choose. I need never attend a single meeting or read another email about the ethical quality of journalists in New Zealand or debate connotation against denotation ever again. I hereby resign my membership and if I never write the words Internet Society again I shall be a happy man.

Brislen is a Computerworld journalist. Send email to Paul Brislen and letters for publication to Computerworld Letters.

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