History

This section is meant to collect the known history of Collective Houses in Boston.





Copied with permission from email with Adam Rosi-Kessel:

Were you a founder of the BCC?

Adam:  Yes, I was a founder of Millstone; the Centre Street Coop (later Beaufort Street, now I think "The Fort"); and the first president of BCC.

A little history on bostoncoop.net: when we started Millstone in the late 90's, there was very little communication between Boston area co-ops. No one even the names of all the then-extant co-ops, and all information was conveyed essentially by word-of-mouth. We found someone with a typed list of Boston area co-op houses that was last updated in the 1980's and thought it was important to establish better communication and connections between the houses. I don't think any co-op house had a website when we started; indeed, many of them had no Internet connectivity at all (we only had dial-up for a while at Millstone until we got MIT to pay for a broadband connection based on one member's need to communicate with a satellite from home overnight). So we started a monthly in-person meeting, often at the Beacon Hill Friends House but also rotating to other co-op houses, and called it the Boston Co-op Network. The monthly meetings continued for several years, although now I think that organization is defunct as anything other than a mailing list (currently about 600 people).

A lot of us were also quite interested/involved in Linux development. We found some old hardware, I think free from Harvard, and installed a box in the Millstone voluptuarium room (not sure if it's still called that) which becamebostoncoop.net (the "net" was for "Boston Co-op Network," not "Internet"), and envisioned it as a free cooperative resource for all the Boston area houses. We offered free hosting, email, shell accounts, full set of code development tools, etc. 

In 2004, I moved out of the Beaufort Street house, and the bostoncoop.net box came with me and continued to be a basement server. Ultimately, running an ISP out of basement wore me out -- having to rush home when there was hardware failure, etc. -- so we acquired a box in a secure climate-controlled redundant power/network colocation facility in New York City (via RIMU). We still control that entire box, which has never had hardware issues, and now host about 100 domains on the machine (many of them barely active, though). There is some value to owning the entire computer rather than being one of many accounts on some bigger system, although that value has shrunk over time.

Over the past 13-14 years, the ISP/hosting world has, of course, changed dramatically. It used to be that many people paid for their email and web hosting accounts; now everyone has gmail and other free services. Having a free resource is less needed now, and also admin work is much more painful than it once was due to spam and various random attack vectors. (99% of the email that the bostoncoop.net box processes is spam, and it's a lot of work keeping up with the latest attacks.) Ultimately, the vision of having a radical/cooperative ISP has fallen away as perhaps unnecessary. Part of the original idea was resisting association with commercial entities like Dreamhost (which probably didn't exist at the time), but it may not be worth the struggle to continue to do so.


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