PHOTOSYN as a Newsgroup

Dave Kristofferson kristoff at NET.BIO.NET
Mon Dec 7 18:51:34 EST 1992

> ask the SAS-L and STAT-L groups how they like it.  LISTSERVs do work,
> however much some people don't like them.


We are not going to get into a technical discussion here on the
reasons for our viewpoint.  The pros and cons of LISTSERV have been
debated with religious fervor in many places, and I'm not about to
waste time in a biology forum on this issue.  We have reasons for
doing things the way that we do based on over five years of experience
running this system which included using LISTSERV up until about a
year ago.  While I am a physical biochemist by training who did a lot
of computing in the course of his research, the people that have
worked with me in this endeavor over the years are computer scientists
with a lot of background in what they do.

I will repeat my main point once again.  We have no desire to be
responsible for USENET gatewaying of LISTSERV mailing lists that are
maintained elsewhere, period.  If something goes wrong we want to be
able to have easy access to all parts of the system in order to
correct it.  If a group wants to continue to do their own mailing list
maintenance using LISTSERV while gaining access to USENET, then they
should look into doing it via the bit.listserv route or possibly, Una,
you might try to organize them to do it under the domain.
Contrary to your opinion, you *do not* need to start a new domain for
this purpose when is already established.  Just follow
existing USENET procedures and branch off of that, e.g.,

Una, I thought from your taking the time to put together a FAQ that
you were interested in helping out here on BIOSCI/bionet, but I am
coming to the opinion that you have an itch to start your own
newsgroup system.  Some of your postings in various forums have been
either looking for (non-existent) problems [e.g., in ARAB-GEN a couple
of weeks back] or making personal references about me.  Please be my
guest; go ahead and do it, but spare me the veiled personal asides!
If you are unhappy with what we are providing (I recall your
mentioning at one time in the past that you don't think that I "can
see the forest for the trees"), then, please, start a new system and
try to do better.

You mention that USENET functions really well on a volunteer basis,
etc.  My reply is that was developed as a volunteer project
and look at how great it turned out to be.  The bionet groups have
succeeded to the extent that they have precisely because there have
been people actively guiding them along all of this time.  I will
listen to your suggestions about BIOSCI/bionet and accept the ones
that have merit, but I am under no obligation to act on *all* of them,
and, in this case, we definitely are not going back to LISTSERV
despite your "experiences."

> I have never heard of "majordomo".  Is this something written at BIOSCI,
> or is it what other Internet mailing list owners are using?

It is a program that has been used at several other Internet sites
before we adopted it.  We have only made some minor mods for use here.
Kenton will post more on this later.

> There are
> quite a few systems for running automatic list maintenance, most of which
> don't seem to work as well as LISTSERV, in my own experience.

Thank you for sharing that.

> It is very nice that in the Bionet newsgroups there is someone who
> reliably explains how to subscribe to people who send subscription
> requests to mailing list, not biosci at  But this service
> is already duplicated by other people within the Bionet groups (I've
> asked) 

Are we being investigated here 8-)??!!

> and handling such requests is not a problem, no matter who
> does it.  BIOSCI does provide a true service by taking care of all
> subscription requests (that's a real chore, I'm sure!), and I am glad

Actually it isn't, except possibly one day out of the week.  Kenton
put majordomo into place only because it was relatively easy to do and
does provide us an out in the event that readership grows faster than

> to hear that this service will be automated.  But this service comes
> at a cost:  the Bionet newsgroups can only expand as fast and as much
> as BIOSCI is able to find funding to employ individual people to do
> what in the rest of Usenet is done by newsgroup participants for free.

My involvement with BIOSCI has been much more extensive than just
telling people how to sign up.  The whole tone of your message seems
to minimize our efforts (about which you don't know as much as you

> way, no one ever has to do much.  The biggest single administrative
> chore that exists within Usenet is the writing of FAQs.

Yes, this is the single biggest chore if one has a limited volunteer
organization.  FAQs are useful for new comers and also as an
occasional reference piece, but expanding the services on BIOSCI this
year is going to take more effort by a dedicated person than
volunteers are going to muscle up.  That is why I have a 50% time
allotment to this project this year.  By the end of this first BIOSCI
grant year next August you will have definite proof of this point
based on facts, not words.  I will be posting a roster of upcoming
efforts soon on bionet.announce.

> The whole point of domain naming conventions in Usenet is to collect
> groups by topical subject or scientific discipline.  The LISTSERV
> group GIS-L recently became comp.infosystems.gis rather than
> bit.listserv.gis-l, which would follow the standard convention for
> gated LISTSERV groups.  Names are important:  it would be a shame
> to gate PHOTOSYN into Usenet as bit.listserv.photosyn when a better
> domain name exists.

Do it under if they want to retain LISTSERV.  There is
absolutely no need to create a new "bio" domain when anyone who is
unhappy with bionet can create something under  To date,
however, I haven't heard too many complaints other than Una Smith's
and those might be prompted by "competitive" desires.  There's nothing
wrong with competition, Una.  If you want to help gateway LISTSERV
lists into USENET, there is definitely an opportunity waiting here as
the recent posts attest.  On the other hand if the photosynthesis
people want to go with BIOSCI/bionet, we will be happy to assist them
as long as it is done in a manner that we can administer effectively
within the BIOSCI/bionet system, i.e., without LISTSERV.


				Dave Kristofferson
				BIOSCI/bionet Manager

				kristoff at

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