David Kristofferson kristoff at GENBANK.BIO.NET
Tue Apr 30 13:37:36 EST 1991

Tom Schneider writes:

These bionet groups are the only news groups that regularly have these
problems.  If there is no technical reason that prevents people from switching
to a pure usenet system, then how about making a reasonable deadline for the
switch?  After a certain date news would no longer be sent by mail, perhaps
with the exception of a few 'hardship' cases.  Because of these problems, we
all have to read a lot of junk all the time and it's wasting people's time,
especially yours Dave!  If you can't set a deadline because of a bionet
then change the charter.  If you set a deadline, everybody will suddenly be
interested... :-).


        The reasons that these problems persist is because BIOSCI has
remained a collaborative effort between us and three other sites in
Europe.  About two months ago a similar incident caused Rob Harper to
resign in frustration from IRLEARN because he didn't have access to
everything that he needed there.  I frankly could solve most of these
problems if we simply terminated the collaboration and ran the mailing
lists and newsgroups from here.

I am sorry to say that since reporting the looping problem to IRLEARN
last Friday evening I have received absolutely no response from anyone
there even though the weekend is long past.  I eventually resolved the
problem myself by contacting the person at Ohio State over the weekend
and getting them to signoff from IRLEARN.  I have also attempted at
length to get the UK node to take steps to resolve some of the issues
with their mailing system, but progress here has also been very slow.

You may logically ask why have I put up with this for so long.  The
reason is that many people on JANET in the U.K. do not seem to know
how to reach some of our addresses in the U.S.  Even some novice
BITNET users in this country still have problems mailing to Internet
addresses.  Our goal has been to make this system as easily accessible
to as many biologists around the world as possible.  We want to get
wide coverage to convince people that this resource *is* worth their
time and effort to learn.  This unfortunately leads to the problems
and incoveniences that bother our more experienced networkers.

So what is to be done??

In many respects it pains me greatly to mention this because BIOSCI
has been a fairly successful collaboration overall.  Over the last
year however, as evidenced by the increasing frustration and eventual
resignation of Rob Harper from IRLEARN, the enthusiasm seems to have
waned at the other sites.  Therefore I feel that I must put the issue
of our future out to our readers.

I contend that we could run these lists more efficiently if all of the
mailing lists were maintained here at (I'll comment
about the transition to USENET further below).  The amount of
resources devoted to BIOSCI at the other sites has just not been as
great as those available here unfortunately.  Currently if I find a
problem on a Friday evening (the worst possible time) I have no way of
resolving it often over the entire weekend if it is on a mailing list
somewhere else.  Although this could be resolved by giving me access
to IRLEARN as Rob Harper had previously from Finland, this is not a
solution that I find attractive.  Delays on BITNET can sometimes be
substantial and can make a 10 second fix that I could do right here
take ***literally hours***.  LISTSERV, the software used at IRLEARN,
does not follow Internet standards, and we have gone through several
rounds of discussion about overcoming these incompatibilities behind
the scenes, most of the time with little to show for them.  I realize
that LISTSERV is still extremely popular on BITNET, but I firmly
believe that this is the wave of the past, not the future, and that
it's inclusion in BIOSCI makes it necessary for us to make compromise
solutions instead of those that are technologically best.

How would we make this switch in mailing list maintenance?  Either the
other three BIOSCI nodes could simply give us the lists from their
sites for inclusion here or the readers themselves could request to
switch their subscriptions by canceling at the other nodes and signing
up here.  The relevant addresses are:

Address                               Location        Network
-------                               --------        -------
biosci at                 Ireland         EARN/BITNET
biosci at                U.K.            JANET
biosci at                      Sweden          Internet
biosci at                U.S.A.          Internet/BITNET

HOWEVER, BEFORE ANYONE DOES THIS, we need to get a feeling of our
readers' desire for such a change.  PLEASE send me a message, either
supporting or opposing the transfer of the mailing lists, to

biovote at

This in itself will be a good test of our readers' ability to reach
this address.  If you can not get through you may have to resort to
using one of the other addresses below, but, PLEASE, ask your systems
manager first how to reach the above Internet address instead of
simply taking the path of least resistance.  If you can get through
then the inaccessibility issue will be laid to rest.  If significant
numbers of people still need to use the following forwarding addresses
then we will have to consider other measures (the mailing lists could
still be maintained here and forwarding addresses could be kept on
other networks).

                     Biovote Forwarding Addresses
                        (these all come to me)
Address                               Location        Network
-------                               --------        -------
biovote at                Ireland         EARN/BITNET
biovote at               U.K.            JANET
biovote at                     Sweden          Internet
biovote at               U.S.A.          Internet/BITNET

Having devoted the last five years of my life to this project, I am
dearly concerned about the future success of BIOSCI and the continued
use of electronic networks by biologists.  I hope that this move will
strengthen the service instead of damaging it, but, regardless of the
outcome, it is definitely clear that more effort needs to be devoted
to BIOSCI than has been in the recent past.  To date we have ***merely
been lucky*** that a bigger mailing loop problem has not affected us,
and, I do not believe that we can continue in our current ineffectual
mode of action.  I do not take this action lightly.  Rob Harper and
the others know how patiently we have been negotiating over an
extended period of time.

It was and always will be extremely important to me to maintain the
international character of BIOSCI because some of the finest examples
of BIOSCI's utility have come from scientists in a number of contries
helping each other solve problems.  However, we owe it to our users to
provide them with better service than they are currently receiving,
and I believe that the above proposal to consolidate the mailing lists
at will achieve that end.


                                David Kristofferson, Ph.D.
                                GenBank Manager

                                kristoff at

P.S. - Tom, the idea of simply announcing a deadline by which people
have to convert to USENET does have certain attractions to it, but
from the feedback that I continue to get each time USENET has been
mentioned, this is still premature.  Currently we have between 40-50%
of our readers accessing BIOSCI through USENET.  When we get up to the
70-75% range then we may be in a position to contemplate this.  Our
main concern has always been to serve our users and a forced switch
particularly at this time would not be good service.

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