COMING CHANGES: BIONEWS/bionet.announce and BIO-CHAT/bionet.gen...

Foteos Macrides MACRIDES at WFEB2.BITNET
Tue Dec 10 13:08:00 EST 1991

>In article <Dec. at>,
> kristoff at (David Kristofferson) writes:
> > Most likely in the first quarter of next year BIOSCI/bionet will be
> > undergoing some extensive reorganization.  As part of these changes,
>Wouldn't it be a good idea to ask the community for suggestions? I imagine
>that the 'use and abuse' of the bionet.general was an expression of the
>(admittedly historical, but not ideal) current hierarchy. [...]
> > bionet.general will officially become a "free forum" where people can
> > chat and brawl to their heart's content.  The e-mail name for the list
> > will probably be changed from BIONEWS to something like BIO-CHAT.
>This is an idea which is worth being discussed, at least. I think that
>the more simple a change will be the better the result - and redirecting
>names but keeping the old for a new purpose doen't likely become a good
> > BIONEWS will be associated with a new USENET newsgroup called
> > bionet.announce which will be a ***fully moderated forum***.  Current
>Wow :-)    Who's going to do that job???
> > e-mail subscribers to BIONEWS/bionet.general will be automatically
> > subscribed to the new BIONEWS/bionet.announce newsgroup, but e-mail
> > postings from the new BIO-CHAT/bionet.general newsgroup will only be
> > sent to people who request e-mail subscriptions.  Anything deemed not
> > appropriate for the moderated bionet.announce newsgroup will not be
> > (shudder) censored but will instead be redirected to bionet.general.
> > This will allow those who subscribed to BIONEWS/bionet.general as a
> > more serious, lower volume forum to limit their receipt of messages to
> > bionet.announce postings.  The new bionet.general forum will give a
> > forum to those who desire one for discussing whatever in biology is of
> > interest to them.  People who subscribe to the new newsgroup will do so
> > with the knowledge that they will be receiving postings on a wide
> > variety of topics.  The other BIOSCI/bionet newsgroups will continue
> > to serve their *specialized* purposes, and we will request that
> > discussions on specialized newsgroups that are "off the topic" be held
> > instead on bionet.general.  Although these requests to shift to
> > bionet.general will undoubtedly still greatly annoy some people, we
> [Please don't use carats for underlining. -- F.M]               !!!!!!
>                                                              who is 'we' ?
> > need to take such actions to avoid annoying the greater number of our
> > readers who don't want to engage in flame wars or
> > stream-of-consciousness discussions, but instead want to read messages
> > about topics to which they have subscribed.
>I had to read that twice (at least) to catch the idea. I am not in favour
>of it. Despite the huge work implied, it is so complicated that the
>'ordinary bench chemist' who usually doesn't deal with NEWS gets confused.
>With respect to the recent discussion on the future f BIONEWS, is that
>affair a reaction to a response from the money-spending agencies?
>Again, I don't think that the newsgroups belong to an individual who
>is authorized to do what he/she wants. This is by no means disregarding
>the effort Dave and all the others have put into it but I doubt that
>this is the right way of improving things. We always had to 'vote' for
>a new newsgroup, and suddenly everything becomes changed just because
>of one single decision?
>Reinhard [Doelz            *     EAN     doelz at]

        My vote would be to keep BIONEWS the way it is, and to add other
forums as required.  By the "the way it is" I mean an UNmoderated forum for
announcements of broad interest to biologists, and OCCASIONAL discussion to
which a "heavy hand" is applied (thought public postings by an assertive
person; WITHOUT actual censureship) if it gets "out of hand."  I can't be sure
of this without doing a survey, but I think the great majority of bionet
readers are "bench biologists" (I include computers as a research bench) who
want to exchange useful information, helpful "tips" and software EFFICIENTLY
with the the "whole world" and not just "colleagues down the hall."

        I have no objection to a BIO-CHAT forum along the lines proposed, but
such forums already exist, I don't read them, and I doubt many other bionet
readers do either.  I did vote for BITCS, which will have the only rule that
"food fights are discouraged," but I doubt it will be what that comment

        It's important to understand the difference between "thought control"
and "etiquette."  Highly motivated people tend to get themselves into
overworked and stressed states, and in at least one culture with which I am
personally familiar, such states make people prone to outbursts of frustration
and excessive defensiveness.  The etiquette of the bionet forums is (should
be) NOT TO RESPOND IN KIND.  Just try to understand what was behind the
outburst or defensive posting, and address its substance in a polite and
constructive manner, perhaps with a bit of jocularity to help break the
tension, e.g.:

>        Gee, willies... Have I set the cat among the pigeons..
>I dare to raise my head. [...]

        What IS sorely needed in bionet is a forum which specifically
incorporates the progressive internationalization of molbio databasing (I'm
hoping that BITCS will start filling that need).

        We also need a mechanism for moving extended discussions from BIONEWS,
and a place to move them, WITHOUT the move coming across as a "put down" to
those who find the topic interesting.  I don't think it would work well to
have a moderator doing this in the background; this can too easily be
misinterpreted, and BIO-CHAT is likely to have a "bad" connotation for most
BIOSCI/bionet readers within the context of recent history here.  Maybe that
would fade, but some name which implies "more detailed scholarly discussion"
might be better.  We could all help out under those circumstance, e.g., I
could post a message to BIONEWS simply saying that I have posted a message to
BLAH concerning rigorously scientific research on menstrual synchronization
and the possiblility of human pheromones (which I've thus far refrained from
posted to BIONEWS because it's the "wrong place" for an extended discussion of
that, to me, fascinating topic).


 Foteos Macrides           Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology
 MACRIDES at WFEB2.BITNET     222 Maple Avenue, Shrewsbury, MA 01545

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