A brief history of a-net: 88-93

Algeria-net was born, in the dying weeks of 1988, as an
initiative of Athman Bouguettaya an Algerian student who
felt strongly about the need to unite Algerians, or
anyone interested in the well being of Algeria, through
a distribution list.  I still remember how exhilarating 
it was to read these messages coming from so many people 
I did not even know existed just few hours ago. Athman, in 
particular, impressed me by his willingness to speak and debate 
about everything and anything. I even wondered how he could, 
at the same time, do his work and send so many messages to 
algeria-net! By the way I am still wondering :-).

Athman was also impressive by the fabulous job he did to gather
interest. He actively sought new members not only in the US,
Athman was at Boulder - Colorado and I heard in Australia now,
but also in Canada, the UK, France, or any other place where he
could find some willingness to participate in the enterprise he
had started. Soon the mailing list Athman was maintaining grew,
and it became necessary to help him. Athman and Omar Hassaine
were in charge of the "US-netters", Mourad Allia of the
"European-netters" and myself of the "Canadian-netters".

However, algeria-net growth did not create only technical
problems, but also "human" related problems. As the net grew
the spectrum of opinions grew. Some of them, unfortunately,
had difficulties co-existing. In particular, a battle started
between Athman, and Nabil, a netter from Atlanta who by the
way was hoping to "end up winning the Nobel Prize in chemistry
for discovering the molecular structure of la Chemma".
Athman, who had, at the time, problems controlling himself, and
Nabil, whose best enjoyment was to pull Athman's leg, spent
weeks fighting their differences through the net. This resulted
first in Athman relinquishing the maintenance of the net which
was taken over by one of my old friends Nasreddine Belkheir, and
soon after by Naim Bentahar. Also, after Athman's proposal
of rules (elaborated by Athman and Naim) erupted in a debate on
freedom of expression, another distribution list called algeria-link
was created.  To cut the matter short algeria-link and its rules, and
algeria-net without its rules continued as separate lists, both
maintained by Naim, for nearly a year and a half before being re-united
in early 91 under the algeria-net name and the algeria-link rules!!

Let me come back to the early days and speak a little about some
of our "pioneers". Some of them like Toufik Djemil, the first
president of ANTA (Amaliyyat Naql at-Tiknoulougia ila-Aldjazaa'ir)
a noble enterprise which, alas, did not survive the test of time and of
our political divisions; Mahieddine Djoudi, particularly active in
France; our Palestinian brother Najeh Jisrawi; Omar Hassaine and Karim
Diff two newly elected Rules Committee members; and Rachid Manseur,
who has moved back to Florida from Canada (what a clever man!), are
still members (although often discrete ones) of the net. Many others left
the net for many different reasons.

Athman because he cannot stand it anymore, although he left and came
back, and left ...; Naim, who maintained algeria-net for over 3 years!
because algeria-net was taking too much of his time; Nabil because he moved
and because no-one wants him back after he made of freedom of expression
a joke; Nidhal Guessoum, a man of great vision, because he returned to
Algeria and created the Algerian Scientist Association; Dalila Hattab,
one of our great female contributors, because she also returned to Algeria
to teach at a University level; and Mohamed Merigh, from Morocco, who
helped us maintain the net till his departure for Arizona.

Still, I would like to mention few other netters. Lila Tache, Maia Berkane,
and Samia Benidir, who gave a special touch to our net far from these
chauvinistic, harsh exchanges we males seem to enjoy so much. One of them,
I remember, had the kindness to invite us to a "Couscous" she was willing
to prepare ... in California.

Hocine Ait-Kaci (hak, as he signed) who for few months shared his vast
culture with us. Few foreign friends such as Bruno Poterie and Frederic
Maffray, whose French cartesian minds often challenged some of our
netters lack of analysis; Ergun Akleman, a quiet Turkish from Atlanta;
and Mohib Durrani who taught us everything someone would ever hope
learning about the moon.

Many others have given life to this net, and the list I gave is
far from being exhaustive or representative. It is just a part of
my memories helped by few early files I decided not to delete.

These last two years algeria-net membership has grown tremendously,
bringing new perspectives and views to life. Unfortunately it is too
often the ones who like to talk and not the ones who are interesting
to listen to who take the stand. Only more netter participation can
bring much needed improvements. If only each member could send, let
say every month, a message expressing, even briefly, some of his/her
opinions ... The political situation back home in Algeria has had
also a profound impact on the tone of the messages exchanged in the
net. As violence is becoming an integral part of the lives of too
many algerians, violent verbal messages are now routinely exchanged in
the net. Sitting comfortably before our screens, in heated premises (as
a friend reminded me a couple of years ago in Algiers), we fail too
often to take the time to contribute by sharing our perspectives.
Much too often we instead take pleasure bickering and insulting lacking
the decency and respect our culture is so fond of.

A new Rules Committee has just been elected after the current members
have tried, with courage, to ensure that the rules are respected. But
we should not fool ourselves, this is the job of all of us. Even the
best Rules Committee will lead nowhere if we don't cooperate.

Let me finish this already too long message by thanking Lazhar
Bourennani who has done a great job leading the maintenance Committee,
and all the ones who brought life to this net.
Many of them were outstanding by their dedication and the depth of
their thoughts. All of them are part of algeria-net history.
Happy birthday Algeria-Net, Happy new year to all of you.

Kamel Toubache

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