David Steffen steffen at
Wed Dec 11 16:53:44 EST 1991

I had been planning a brief YESYESYES response to the division of
bionet.general into an unmoderated discussion and a moderated
announcement group, when

kristoff at (David Kristofferson) writes:
>> Hang on a bit and BIO-CHAT will be up and running. :)
>In effect BIONEWS has already been driven by "popular vote" into a
>direction different from its stated purpose.
>sheet month after month for years now:
>BIONEWS                      General announcements of widespread
>                                interest to biologists
>This has resulted in many UNSUBSCRIBE notices coming in to me...
>Since so many people signed up for a lower volume announcements newsgroup,
>we still need to provide the forum that BIONEWS was supposed to be,
>thus the new bionet.announce newsgroup.
>If I was perhaps inappropriately facetious about the use of the name

Actually, I personally don't mind the bio-chat name at all.  But if
this name trivializes the newsgroup, then let's loose it!

>it is because I am still a bit disappointed that, with all
>the extremely interesting mainstream scientific problems that people
>could be discussing on electronic newsgroups, only the
>MOLECULAR-EVOLUTION newsgroup has come close to fulfilling its promise
>(METHODS and other more general groups are, of course, functioning

I'm not sure what you are saying here.  The methods group is by far
and away my favorite of all the groups.  bionet.general is a clear
(but distant) second.  What isn't happening that should?

>It seems like it has to take an undergraduate English major
>asking questions about menstrual cycles to get people exchanging
>information on other scientific specialty newsgroups.

I would include this particular discussion among the several recent
discussions that I would consider inappropriate.  The reason I
consider it inappropriate is that it is an example of a
non-professional asking the group "Hey y'all, what do you know about
..."  That is a type of question I believe belongs in, not in
a bionet newsgroup.  I would like bionet to be reserved for
discussions between biological scientists.

>Why does it takE SOMEONE WHO IS NOT EVEN IN OUR FIELD to ask a
>provocative question that then necessitates an exchange of ten or more
>messages over whether the question is really serious or not AND THEN

Because general questions by outsiders is not the best impetus for
productive scientific discussion.

>[Good discussion of desirable interchanges deleted]

My perception of why we don't get better discussions is that a
critical mass in most areas is not present.  Because techniques span
many disciplines, the methods group is beginning to work; e.g. we are
approaching a critical mass.

Solutions?  More warm bodies.  Perhaps forming a group primarily from
nonusers in the right area rather than from the existing user
community might help.  To that end, the right kind of announcement
in paper journals might be used.  At Baylor, several of us are working
to get graduate students involved.  This would represent, IMHO, and
excellent topic of conversation on the biochat group.

P.S. I would suggest to the future moderators that 1 message a day
with a 14 day expire might be a good level to shoot for in the
.announce group.

David Steffen
Department of Cell Biology, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston TX 77030
Telephone = (713) 798-6655, FAX = (713) 790-0545
Internet = steffen at

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