Protocol Databases (was Re: [icq-devel] Offline messages info)

Zoe Smale skyerat at
Mon Dec 2 19:56:09 CET 2002

I'd just like to add my views on this database vs. mailing list debate. I
think the databases are a nice idea and I applaud the efforts of the people
that have put them together, but they aren't the be-all and end-all for
information dissemination. The nice thing about the mailing list is that
just about anyone can access it. It's simple plain-text, that can be
retrieved at your leisure and read offline if need be. For all we know,
there could even be people reading this list that receive it via a
paper-mail forwarding system. :)

In order to access the databases, though, you need to be online and have a
decent connection speed between yourself and whatever server is hosting the
data. This is simply not the case for a lot of people - not everyone has a
high-speed, always-on connection to the internet. I don't go to the
databases very often anymore, but I remember the first one (Douglas' I
think) was often unavailable, or very slow for me to access. And the new
one, from what I've been reading, has been difficult for a lot of people to
use because of problems with their browsers.

For somebody compiling new information that they wish to share with the
community, it's a simple matter to cut and paste their docs into an email
message and post it for everyone to read. Entering it into a database isn't
nearly as easy though. First you have to figure out how it works, then you
have to try and squeeze your data to fit whatever format the database
accepts. And half of your information will always be lost in the process,
because explanations of dataflow and information interchange just don't fit
neatly into databases.

How do you explain to the database the sequence of packet exchanges that
take place to achieve a specific function in the protocol? How do you
explain to the database that you're pretty sure that a certain item means
something, but you're not positive? How do you explain to the database, that
SNACs 01/0F, 01/10, 02/06, 02/14, 03/0B, 03/0C and 04/07 all share the same
user info structure? All of these things are easy to do in an email message
and other users of the list can easily respond with elaborations or
corrections. When you post something new to one of the databases, nobody
even knows it's there (except maybe the database maintainers).

If you're running a database and you want to add information to it that has
been shared on this mailing list, go right ahead. I certainly wouldn't mind
if you used any of my info, although some credit would be nice. But it seems
a bit of a cheek to demand that other people update your database for you,
and criticize them for distributing their data any other way (which may be a
whole lot more convenient for them) and at the same time telling them that
you don't care whether they can even view your site or not.

Sorry for the length of the message, but I felt that these were things that
needed to be said.


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