Zapatistas Online News Project


  1. Overview
  2. Source Address
  3. Programs
    1. deaccent
    2. sorter
    3. unequal
    4. unhex
    5. unhtml
  4. Language Station Addresses
  5. Ship Site
  6. Practice Station
  7. Supporting Email Lists
    1. Reader's List
    2. Editor's List
    3. Language Lists
    4. Technical List
  8. Future Plans
  9. Files
  10. Acknowledgments
  1. Overview

    "Zapatistas Online" (ZO) system, built by John Jacq and Marilyn Davis, is a powerful system of mail sorters, unix accounts and scripts distributed among various machines to allow collaborating editors in any part of the world to produce edited news about events related to Chiapas.

    News is gathered from many sources and selected messages are forwarded to four email lists: -- wide view of the news, all languages -- selected posts, all languages -- selected posts, all English -- selected posts, all Spanish

    The power of the system is held in check by democratic process. There is an eVoted where readers are welcome to establish rules for the editors to follow.

    To produce the four news lists, there are volunteers stationed at four "language stations" on the internet. A language station consists of a telnet-able login where editors read and forward mail; and an eVoted email list, where each station's volunteers meet to coordinate themselves.

    There is also a special language station, the "practice" station for training new volunteers.

    Critical to the scheme are a family of computer programs at the "source address", which prepare incoming news items for publication and sort them by language and then ships then on to the language stations.

    Also, the language stations have scripts that provide a certain measure of security, beyond the password, as they ask the participant to identify him/herself and a message is automatically sent to the corresponding email list that announces who has just logged onto the station.

  2. Source Address:

    All incoming news items are sent to This is an "open" address in that anyone can send messages there. Additionally this address is subscribed to several relevant email lists so it collects lots of news.

    The mail system at has the following alias for chiapas-i:

    chiapas-i: "|/usr/local/majordomo/wrapper unequal unhtml deaccent sorter \
    -er -en -es \
    -it -o sendmail -t", \

  3. Programs

    This directs incoming mail into:

    1. wrapper: Standard majordomo program to change ownership of the process and executes the remainder of the command line.
    2. unequal: Converts quoted printables to 8 bit text and executes the remainder of the command line.
    3. unhtml: Converts html code into readable text and executes the remainder of the command line.
    4. deaccent: Converts a file with accented (etc) letters to 7 bit text and executes the remainder of the command line.
    5. sorter: Sorts the messages by language, strips unwanted headers, revamps the Subject line to conform to a certain protocol, adds a blurb at the top and bottom of the message, and ships it to the appropriate language station according to the rest of the command line:
      -er must be followed by an address where errors should go.
      -en must be followed by the address of the English station.
      -es must be followed by the address of the Espanol station.
      -it must be followed by the address of the Italiano station.
      -o must be followed by the address of the Babel station, where unrecognized languages are sent.
      "sendmail -t" is the command for mailing from the site.

    The processing at happens automatically. No human intervention is required and the time required to accomplish this processing is negligible.

  4. Language Station Addresses

    The language addresses:*, Espanol Station;*, English Station;*, Italiano Station; and*, Babel Station, receive the messages and, at these stations, the messages wait for volunteers to process them.
    (*) Note: The addresses have been changed to preserve their anonymity. The domain names are correct.

    At each language address, volunteers read the incoming mail using Pine. Pine's addressbook is set at each site so that the volunteer chooses one of three possible operations on each message:

    1. Delete the message.
    2. Send to list. (using the "c" address)
    3. Send to and lists. (using the "cl" address)

    At the English station, choosing the "cl" address for a message sends it to the Chiapas95, Chiapas95-lite, and Chiapas95-English lists.

    The volunteer also edits the subject line, adds comments, and, most importantly, edits out the top set of headers so as to not reveal the address of the language station itself.

    Special Case: Italiano

    The Italiano Station has a special arrangement with our Italian editors. Instead of sending the incoming Italian messages to, the Italiano Station, they are sent to, a special list for this purpose. On this list are two people in Italy who collaborate at the same physical site to move the mail along.

  5. Ship Site:

    Mail from the stations arrives at the various list addresses at Although the subscription and other administrative requests are handled by majordomo, the actual shipping of messages to the list members is handled by "postit", a program written at the University of Texas.

  6. Practice Station

    The "Practice" station is a special email list and login for new volunteers, so that they can learn the ropes without the pressure of having their mistakes go to the big news lists.

    The Practice address, has a special script that refreshes the messages every time someone logs on. The new volunteer gets an assortment of mail: the fresh mail copied from the English Station early that morning, and some "canned" mail that presents the new volunteer with some common problems.

    When the volunteer "posts" a message, i.e., uses the "c" or "cl" address alias, instead of going to the big lists, it only goes to the Practice list for critique.

  7. Supporting Email Lists

    The whole scheme is supported by a family of special eVoted email lists at eVote allows anyone on the list to propose a poll for the members to vote on.

    1. Reader's List

      Most important among these is the "under-zo" list, where readers are invited to participate in the articulation and ratification of rules for the editors to follow.

      The procedure for establishing rules is given in the info file for this list:

      	This list is for technical and organization issues around Zapatistas
      	Technical/organization changes to the ZO system require:
      	1.  A [-10,10] poll describing the enhancement/addition/correction
      	    requested.  Please choose your subject line carefully as it will
      	    be the key to the discussion and polling on your idea.  Please
      	    start your subject with the keyword, "Request:" so that the results
      	    of the "eVote list" command will be a nice list of pending requests.
      	2.  Polls for requests must be open for at least 2 weeks, gather at
      	    least 3 votes, and have at least 2/3 of the voters voting positively.
      	Then any volunteer, or group of volunteers, who has signed the "I can"
      	poll on the ZO list and who is capable of implementing the request is
      	authorized to do so.
      	When a volunteer claims the responsibility of implementing of the
      	request, the poll is closed.  When the implementation is complete,
      	poll is deleted.  In this way, an "eVote list" command will list all
      	the projects in process as closed polls, and the projects under
      	consideration as open polls.
      	If your poll remains open for 2 months without gaining the required
      	voter approval, please close and drop the poll from the data.
      	Besides being initialized as "Requests:", polls may also be
      	initialized as "Rules:", seeking approval for rules of conduct for
      	people when they are acting as agents of Zapatistas Online.
      	Other categories of polls may develop.
    2. Language Lists

      There are the "english", "espanol", "italiano", "babel", and "practice lists, for the editors of the specific stations to discuss their particular concerns. Whenever someone logs onto the English station, for example, a message reporting that fact is automatically sent to the list. Therefore archives of these lists contain a log of who enters each station and when.

    3. Editor's List

      In addition, there is the "" list, the central discussion list for the editors. Here they discuss the details of their philosophy and editing practices.

      On the zo list are two always-open polls, "I will" and "I can". Before a new volunteer is given a password to a list, s/he must vote "yes" in the "I will" poll, indicating her/his willingness to edit the news "according to the guidelines established by the group".

      Or, a technical volunteer can vote "yes" in the "I can" poll indicating that s/he volunteers to do technical work according to the collective will of the group.

    4. Technical List

      Finally, there is a list where technical details and proposals are discussed.

  8. Future Plans

    We believe it is possible to completely secure this system with the addition of a few more programs:

    1. A filter on the
      1. A common method of attacking an address is to forge the address onto subscription requests to hundreds of irrelevent email addresses. The filter would notice this happening and automatically send an unsubscribe request.
      2. This filter would also place an encrypted time stamp on each message it processes.

    2. A filter on each language station to ensure that only messages from come through. The rest would be sent an message that, to write to the station address, you must send to

    3. A filter on the list addresses,,, etc., that checks for the encrypted time stamp placed in 1.b.

  9. Files

    The relevant program and data files are backed up along with this documentation. They are in the following directory structure. (D) indicates a directory as opposed to a regular file.

  10. Acknowledgments

    We are grateful to,,, and for generously supporting this project with computer resources.