PART 2 - MODERATING THE BIOSCI/bionet NEWSGROUPS

BIOSCI Administrator biosci-help at net.bio.net
Thu Feb 23 18:55:48 EST 1995


In Part 1 we explained the advantages of news over e-mail and why you
should make the investment to switch.  Among other things, this makes
it easier to ignore the growing morass of garbage on the net, but it
does not eliminate it.  This message deals with that challenge.

Moderating the newsgroups would mean changing them so that only
preapproved messages would be distributed.  This raise a number of hot
issues immediately:

(1) Do readers even want the newsgroups moderated????
(2) Freedom of speech!!!  This proposal sounds like fascism on the net.
(3) Who will do the moderating?  More importantly, who has the time??!!!
(4) What will be the criteria used to approve messages for posting??
(5) How will this change be implemented without causing network
    problems?

First, if we go ahead with this proposal, we will probably seek
blanket approval to moderate all of the bionet newsgroups, but allow
each group the option to bow out if the discussion leader believes
that it is the consensus of the group to stay completely open.

Numbers 2, 3, and 4 can be addressed by an idea first brought to our
attention some time ago by one of our helpful readers, David Steffen.
*NO ONE* will do the moderation!!  It will be done by machine and
elimnate the need to find people to preapprove/edit messages.  The
only criterion will be that one has preregistered to post to the
BIOSCI newsgroups.  Messages posted or mailed in to the newsgroups
will first be sent for checking against the registration list and then
approved for distribution automatically or rejected automatically.
There will be no editorial interference with people's opinions.

Such a system will immediately eliminate SUBSCRIBE postings (but not
UNSUBSCRIBE postings unfortunately) and avoid ads posted by people who
are not part of the system (unless they are devious and override the
moderation mechanism).  Ads posted by registered users would be
grounds for immediate revocation of posting rights to the groups.
This action could be taken promptly.  Currently we are limited to
joining a chorus of time-wasting protests to
postmaster at foo.bar.nowhere which sometimes do not work.

The registration process could be automatic, although offending
addresses could be blocked.  One hopes that if new users can master
the registration process via an e-mail server, then they should also
be able to subscribe correctly to the newsgroups.  If they can't do
either, then they would have to seek help at the tech support
addresses.

On the other hand, the registration process could be more stringent,
requiring users to actually give some kind of proof that they were, in
fact, researchers, and not just curiosity seekers.  This topic could
be the subject of intense debate, I'm sure 8-).

On the administrative side, the drawback is that every potential
poster has to be listed and the address in the listing would have to
be current.  From lengthy experience running the mailing lists, we are
aware that this will increase, not decrease, our workload.  It is hard
to know by how much since we don't accurately know the number of
"lurkers" on the net who might sign up and then change their addresses
without updating their entries.  In any event, the time spent dealing
with these issues will be more than compensated for by the user time
saved in a reduction of noise postings and the elimination of a need
to have a person approve messages for posting to moderated newsgroups.

Finally, changing currently unmoderated newsgroups to moderated
newsgroups presents some technical challenges, but we believe these
are solvable if done in cooperation with other news administrators on
the net.

Please do not assume that it is a foregone conclusion that we will
proceed with the plan above.  This idea is being floated for public
comment, but we anticipate a favorable reaction, particularly if
individual BIOSCI/bionet newsgroups have the option to remain
unmoderated.

The resource issue, however, is the main reason that we have not
proposed this earlier and is the last item to be addressed.  It is the
topic of our last message, PART 3 in this series.

				Sincerely,

				Dave Kristofferson
				BIOSCI/bionet Manager

				biosci-help at net.bio.net



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