Obscure FAQ

This list of Frequently Asked Questions attempts to address common issues and concerns about The Obscure Organization.

Users and Members

Technical Help

Organizational, Legal, and Tax Issues

Random Q&A

Why would I want to be an Obscure User?

Obscure Users have direct access to the computing and communications resources that the organization maintains. As a User, you can have an account on the computer server (a machine running the Linux operating system) that we maintain for the benefit of the community. This account has a rich set of tools available to help you share your creativity with the world. As an Obscure User, you might use the account to achieve some of these goals:

  • Publsh your (non-commercial) creative works on the Web
  • Maintain an Internet presence for a charitable organization
  • Use the email facilities provided (including anti-spam tools) to manage your interactions with the community
  • Write free software using the development tools available on the server
  • Manage an email discussion list that helps glue your community together

It's important to note that you'll need to get Internet access from an Internet Service Provider (ISP). Obscure is not an ISP.

How do I request an account and become an Obscure User?

Send a polite email to <account-request@obscure.org> asking for an account. Please detail how you plan to use the account in your request. We will send you additional information on becoming a User.

How do I become an Obscure Member?

Donate at least $20 to Obscure. Yearly dues are currently set at $20. See our donation page:


If you become an Obscure Member, but you are not an Obscure User, but would like to be, please indicate this and we will set you up as an Obscure User. You will then receive your membership card and a welcome package.

What's the difference between a User and a Member?

A User is an active participant in the Obscure community who has an account on the Obscure computer server. A Member is an active financial supporter of the organization, who pays annual dues to support the activities Obscure provides. You can be a User without being a Member, because Obscure does not require payment of dues to maintain an Obscure account, but almost all Members are also Users.

What changes if I remain a User?

Nothing! If you are a current Obscure User (you have an obscure.org account), you will still have access to your e-mail account and your web space. However, you won't have a chance to vote on Obscure's future and we might remind you every once in a while to consider becoming a Member.

How can I change my password?

You can change your password using the web mail client. Login using your current user name and password, go to the "Options" page, then go to the "Change Password" page.

Alternately, login to Obscure using a terminal emulator, and issue the passwd command.

How can I start a web page on Obscure?

See Obscure's Web page self-starter guide.

How do I configure my mail client to send and receive mail through Obscure?

Obscure supports POP3 and IMAP4 for retrieving mail, and SMTP for sending mail.

Use mail.obscure.org as the mail server name for POP and IMAP. While Obscure listens for unencryped POP3 on port 110 and IMAP4 on port 143, we strongly recommend using the encrypted, SSL-enabled versions of these services (POP3S on 995 and IMAPS on 993). In Mozilla mail, you would check the "Use secure connection (SSL)" box in the mail server configuration to enable this.

To send mail, you may either use your local ISP's SMTP server, or use mail.obscure.org as your smtp server, as long as you enable authentication ("Use name and password" in Mozilla) and a secure connection (SSL). mail.obscure.org supports SMTP AUTH with TLS on port 25 and 587, and SMTPS on port 465.

If you have trouble configuring your mail client, you can always use the webmail client or use a host-based mail program such as mutt or pine after logging in using SSH.

How can I get rid of spam and filter my mail?

See Obscure's mail filtering setup guide.

Are donations to Obscure tax-exempt as charitable contributions?

Yes. The Obscure Organization is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization. The IRS made a final ruling on our tax-exempt status in March, 2007. In their letter to us on June 5th, 2003 they stated:

Donors may deduct contributions to you as provided in section 170 of the Internal Revenue Code. Bequests, legacies, devises, transfers or gifts to you or for your use are deductible for Federal estate and gift tax purposes if they meet the applicable provisions of sections 2055, 2106, and 2522 of the Code.

Donors may deduct contributions to you only to the extent that their contributions are gifts, with no consideration received.

Is The Obscure Organization a 501(c)(3) publicly-supported charity?

Yes. The IRS has made an final ruling that we are a 501(c)(3) organization.

What are allowed and prohibited uses of Obscure resources?

Obscure resources, including accounts and web pages, are restricted in that they may not be used for for-profit purposes. This restriction sets us apart from commercial service providers, and ensures that the organizations operates only for tax-exempt purposes.

Our bylaws spell out what is allowed and not allowed:

The resources of this corporation are not to be used for creation or maintenance of a for-profit business. The following are prohibited uses of obscure.org: use of obscure.org as the primary e-mail account for a for-profit business; use of the obscure.org e-mail address on business cards, business letterhead, or business advertising used by a for-profit business; posting advertising for a for-profit business to newsgroups from an obscure.org account; and maintenance of web pages on obscure.org advertising a for-profit business. The following are permitted: maintenance of a resume on the obscure.org server; use of an obscure.org e-mail address for job searches, or on a resume; use of the resources of this corporation for scientific and technological research intended to benefit the general public; use of the resources of this corporation for the creation, development and promotion of works of literature, music, visual art and performance art (not including works of art offered for sale by or used in the promotion of a for-profit business); and links from a personal web page on obscure.org to a business web page on another server.

How can I contribute money to The Obscure Organization?

You can donate online with a credit card:


You may also send a check to:

The Obscure Organization
300 S Jackson Street
Arlington, VA 22204.

You will receive a receipt for your contribution along with our many thanks! Because Obscure is a publicly supported charitable organization, contributions are tax deductible to the extent permitted by law.

Who is on the Board of Directors and what does it do?

A five-person board of directors oversees the management of The Obscure Organization. They choose officers who run the organization on a day-to-day basis.

The duties of board members and officers are explained in our bylaws. More information on the duties of directors and officers can be found in the Nonprofit Directors and Officers FAQ entry on the idealist.org site.

The current board members are:

  • Richard Lunson Bullington-McGuire, President
  • Jean Stoner, Vice President
  • Shawn Ferry, Treasurer
  • Karen Hoofnagle, Secretary
  • Christopher Masters

The membership has a chance to elect a new board in the fourth quarter of each year.

When are the regular Member meetings and can anyone attend?

Currently, Obscure will have at least one regular meeting per year, in the fourth calendar quarter of each year. The board chooses the date and announces the meeting by mail to the members. Anyone may attend a meeting, but only members may vote.

How can I help?

You could volunteer to be a mentor. You could offer to donate computer equipment, network connectivity, or system administration help. You could volunteer to write a tutorial. Please contact help_us AT obscure DOT org if you want to contribute your skills or equipment.

Who wrote The Author's Voice Uncovered; Stage Directions in Modern English Drama?

Erin Nelson wrote this thesis. Please contact her by email for queries related to this thesis.