Re: Vonage Changes 911 to Opt-Out

Could someone put a brief explanation of :

> OPT- IN > OPT -Out > Thanks, > [TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: 'OPT' means 'optional', and it is the > opposite of 'default', or the way 'things would normally happen'. > In the context of this thread, Vonage has not been normally providing > a working 911 service. To obtain 911 you have to make an effort to > get it, by notifying the carrier. That would be 'OPT-IN' or ask to > be included in whatever the program is. > OPT-OUT (or option-out) is when the 'default' (or the way things normally > happen) is to include you, but you do not want the default to happen, > you want to option yourself out of the program or event being offered. > Again, in the context of this thread, Vonage intends within ninety > days -- probably due to recent government fiat -- to change their > default (the way things normally happen) to be valid 911 service for > everyone. If you do not want what will be the new norm, of emergency > phone service, you will have to take action to be excluded (Opt out) > rather than before when you had to 'Opt in' to use the emergency > program. PAT]

Pedantic nit: PAT does have the _usage_ of the terms entirely correct, but the explanation of "opt" falls in the "not exactly" category.

"Opt" is a real word, in and of itself. It is a verb, meaning "to make a decision or choice", As in "I opted for peace and quiet, and moved to the country." The word goes all the way back to classical Latin. "Opt" traces from the root form in Latin, while 'option' (and thus 'optional') trace from combining forms of that root.

The history of the 'in' and 'out' parts of the phrases _is_ less obvious. Effectively, it comes from the same derivation, as being on the 'inside' of a group, or being on the 'outside' of it. If you 'make a decision or choice' to be part of the group -- to be included in it --, you have 'opted in' to membership in that group. If you 'make a decision or choice' *not* to be part of the group -- to be excluded from it -- you have 'opted out' of membership in that group.

When there is a simple 'binary' decision involved -- where there are only two _possible_ outcomes -- if you fail to make a particular decision, you must be 'on the other side of the fence' from where you would be if you'd did make that particular decision. e.g. if you don't "opt in", you are 'on the outside', or, if you don't 'opt out', you are 'on the inside'. Of course, life gets messier, when the decision choice has more options, e.g. choosing a 'default' Long Distance carrier for your telephone service. You don't just 'opt in' or 'opt out' -- you have to 'opt _for_' a particular carrier to be the default carrier, or expressly 'opt _against_ ' having any default carrier. In this _class_ of situation, there is no clear-cut *single* 'other side of the fence', so the 'failure to make a decision' situation does not have a single 'unambiguous' resolution. Thus, there is a need -- for any _specific_instance_ of this class of situation, to specify what happens if one does _not_ 'make any decision'. In the case of the 'default' long-distance carrier, if you do not express any preference, including not specifying 'no default carrier', somebody rolls the dice, and randomly picks one.

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Robert Bonomi
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