“That’s the complaints department.”

by Charles Miller on March 12, 2015

Even in the late 90s owning your own domain was something of a novelty. I used it everywhere, even when I posted to Usenet. Which was probably a bad idea since I can also now count eighteen years during which my primary email address has been passed from spammer to spammer like an increasingly quaint heirloom.

At the time I had also discovered that Telstra offered wholesale dialup Internet. For the low entry fee of pretending to be a real company, you got a 24/7 dialup connection with as large a statically-routed IP block as you could justify by emailing them to tell them what you were planning on using the addresses for (a /29, was more than enough for me). The bargain rate was the same they charged ISPs for backbone traffic: 19c per megabyte downstream.

Yes, in modern terms that's a lot. For an Australian student in the 90s who was mostly using the connection for IRC and Usenet, and whose primary browser was lynx, it was actually pretty cheap. And it meant on months I was broke I could get away with barely paying anything. Also, because it was a dedicated connection there was zero modem contention and you never got kicked off.

Around the same time I was also volunteering on the K:Line desk of an IRC network, and even as late in the history of the Internet as 1997 there was still the assumption that when you sent an email to the abuse@ address of a domain, a human being would read it and at least tell you why you weren't important enough to care about.

Anyway, during that time I annoyed someone on Usenet enough that they decided to email my Internet Provider to complain about my terrible behaviour. By the above-explained strange twist of fate, that Internet Provider was me.

Sadly I don't have a copy of my response, but from memory it was something like this.

To: complainer@some.isp.example.com
From: abuse@pastiche.org
Subject: Your complaint.

This is in regards to your contact about the behaviour of one of our subscribers on Usenet newsgroup alt.irc.

I would like to reassure you that we consider it important to be good Internet citizens, and take complaints about our subscribers seriously. I would like to thank you for reporting this incident to us.

Having reviewed the material of your complaint, we agree that this behaviour should not be tolerated.

We have identified the user responsible, and had him taken out and shot.


The Pastiche Abuse Team.

The complainer, sadly, didn't reply.

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