longer discussions

Jack Kramer - Biophysics kramer at bionette.cgrb.orst.edu
Tue Jul 23 13:53:38 EST 1991

In article <9107230040.AA17853 at alw.nih.gov> CZJ at CU.NIH.GOV writes:
>I just returned from a week combining a US-EC taskforce on
>biotechnology and a three day vacation in Amsterdam.  Logging
>onto my e-mail I found 248 messages from the various bboards.
         ^^^^^^         ^^^
This article illustrates an important point on "longer discussions".  Much 
of the argument on volume of traffic on bionet.general seems polarized
between those who want wide open vs. restricted contents.  From the 
comments in the arguments I feel that the method of locally reading the
bulletin board or newsgroup is the primary influence in biasing to
one extreme or the other.

Basically there are two main ways that users process the news and
electronic conferencing.  Mailing lists and USENET news.

Mailing lists use electronic mail programs.  Each article is forwarded
to the individual local mailbox of "ALL" recipients.  When read with a 
"mail" program, ALL articles from ALL subscribed groups are scrambled into 
ONE large incoming message index.

When used for mass distributions and electronic conferencing the mail
list system presents many problems.  This includes all the "my 
mailbox is flooded with 900 garbage messages" comments.  Frustration
can mount to the point of lashing out at posters of articles and even
those who spend untold volunteer hours maintaining the lists.  Some
commit the cardinal sin of unsubscribing to throttle the deluge - a loss
to all involved.

But even more serious are the behind the scenes problems due to all the 
extra network bandwidth, duplicated local storage, and extraordinary
administrative overhead required.  Many problems are self exaserbating,
such as when mail list distributors inlclude each other in the list
and ping-pong loops cause large numbers of duplicate messages.  This is 
more and more inevitable as the number of forwarders maintaining
mailing lists increases.  Adding, moving, reorganizing or otherwise
changing mailing lists can take the manual coordinated participation of 
hundreds of list administrators, many unknown to the others.  Mailing 
lists have admirably served their purpose but like many other any 
successful endevours sometimes collapse under the weight of their 
own success.  This threshold has arrived on BIOSCI.

USENET was invented specifically for mass distributions and conferencing
by addressing many of the failings of mail lists - both from the user
and administrator point of view.  Articles are not directly mailed to
individuals but rather to a local repository (e.g. one computer/campus)
where everyone can access the single copy.  This greatly reduces the
distribution tranmission volume and duplicate storage problem.  Even 
more important for the user are the FREE "newsreader" programs
available which bring the processing of large volumes of articles
efficiently under control.  The articles remain categorized in defined 
groups.  The "reader" selects the groups to process.  Within groups it 
is very easy to "kill" any unwanted articles by author or subject so that
they don't have to be seen at all - forever.  It is not necessary to
throw out the baby with the bath water or prohibiting bathing.  USENET 
programs are continually improving and getting much easier to use.  Best 
of all they are available for almost all types of computers for FREE!

The solution for those overburdened by volume is NOT to censor the
content of groups/lists but to get the proper software which allows
individually configured and controlled participation as they would like it.
I want to see all sides of all discussions and make the decision myself
about whether to read articles.  USENET readers give this control to
the individual reader without any abroggation to a "higher" authority.
There can be no such thing as too much communication or too many ideas.

If you are using a mail program with subscriptions to mailing lists
to access BIOSCI ask your system manager to show you how to use
one of the modern news/conferencing programs.  Try it, you'll like it.
Your mail will then be reserved for the smaller volume of inter
personnal communications it was designed to handle.  You will be
able to participate effectively in conferencing as your own time
and inclinations dictate with your own customized news program.  You 
can do this without restricting others rights to do the same.

See the next copy of Dave Kristofferson's monthly BIOSCI posting for
the equivalence of mailing lists and newsgroups.


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