BIOSCI newsgroup creation/termination policy - LONG!

David Kristofferson kristoff at
Thu Feb 27 14:00:43 EST 1992

> My $0.02 worth on changes in creation/destruction policy for bionet groups:
> (My summary of Rob Harper's summary of Dave Kristofferson's message
> interspersed)
> >>Point One: Do we have a quorum on BIOFORUM?/have the Bitnet people
> >>had time to subscribe?
> I think this is two questions; I did not infer the second from Dave's
> message the way that Rob did.  The second question I have sympathy
> for, but can any reasonable case be made that the Bitnet people
> haven't had TIME to subscribe?  I assumed the issue that Dave raised
> was that the Bitnet people haven't chosen to subscribe, but can we get
> on with it without them?  To this latter question, I answer a
> resounding YES!  I have no complaint if people don't care to be
> involved in the discussion, but I then think it is appropriate that
> those of us who do choose to get involved get to make the rules.

David, you win the prize for the correct translation of my previous
message 8-).  Rob's overall summary was useful though.

> >>Point Two: Increasing the number of required YES votes to 80
> >>Point Three: Terminate groups with less than one message a week
> I have mixed feelings about these proposals.  On the one hand, I think
> that these rules are not THAT different from the USENET standard, and
> that there would be virtue in trying to abide by the USENET standard.

I think that there is still confusion on the proposal here.  I was not
proposing that we accept YES *and* NO votes.  Frankly I find the NO
vote concept a bit ridiculous, i.e., if people don't want a newsgroup
they don't have to subscribe to it.  If there are 80 people that want
a group and 1 that doesn't, why should that one be able to nix the
wishes of the other 80 (assuming that we were using a "difference of
80" voting policy (i.e., #YES - #NO >= 80).  FOR BIOSCI/bionet, I'm
only proposing that a newsgroup receive a minimum of 80 YES votes with
NO votes being irrelevant, i.e., those who vote no simply don't
participate in the newsgroup.  I think that this is somewhat easier
than the standard USENET policy and I proposed this because I think
that we would have troubles creating anything under USENET regs given
our lower volume.  This issue will probably be up for reconsideration
again in another couple of years though.  I'd be the first to admit
that I'm going on "gut feel" here, so my estimates on the suitability
of the 80 YES vote rule versus the USENET standard (excess of 100 YES
votes over NO votes) may turn out to be completely incorrect.  For
some previous proposals, however, collecting an extra 20 YES votes
would probably have been an insuperable hurdle.

> On the other hand, I see the aggresive termination policy as an
> IMPROVEMENT over the USENET standard (which, as far as I know, has no
> standard way for removing groups, e.g. comp.sys.northstar).
> I will abide by Dave Kristofferson's wisdom on this issue; I would

Wisdom 8-)?  You flatter me!  Just your friendly "neighborhood"
postman here 8-).

> vote YES on his proposed change, if it is submitted as such.  However,
> during the discussion, I would ask him to comment on the following
> points:
> Is it really true that there is a significant difference in the number
> of groups that would be created at an 80 vs 100 vote level?  (I

Based on past votes, I think we will find that 80 may be a bit
stringent but my hope is that it will prevent groups that turn out to
be "sleepers" from being formed.

> The
> advantage with being compliant with the rules is that we would then
> not have to exclude campaigning on other groups.  The discussion of a
> plant group has already spilled over to, and thus under Dave's
> proposed rules any voting on a plant group would have to be
> invalidated.  Further, one of the points made on is that many
> sites don't get the bionet groups, so people at these sites were
> campaigning for sci.plants instead of bionet.plants.  Would be be
> accepted at more sites if we abided by the USENET standard rules?

You raise a good point about the spillover to, but there is no
prohibition to any site getting the bionet newsgroups.  They are
already received at over 1300 sites on USENET (probably more since our
last survey) and any site can arrange to get a feed if the users there
pester their systems manager.  If they already get other USENET
newsgroups then getting bionet should not be a substantive issue.  We
at have offered to assist with bionet newsfeeds on
many occasions.

Regarding the spillover, however, I was reacting to a couple
of previous incidents in which, for example, a request to vote for one
newsgroup wound up being posted to other newsgroups such as
"soc.culture.vietnamese!"  I would never have seen this except for the
fact that a "polite gentlemen" informed me that the voting deadline
which was mentioned in my message expired the previous year (I
accidentally typed 1991 when I should have put 1992 in my
bionet.general posting which was forwarded by someone else to other
newsgroups.).  I agree that discussion of alternatives on other
related USENET newsgroups such as would be unreasonable to
prevent, and so I guess that I'd have to modify the proposal by saying
that the "call for votes" message will be posted only on
bionet.announce and the message itself should not be forwarded.  I'll
also include an appeal against lobbying outside of the bionet
newsgroups and hope that people proceed in that spirit, but
seems like a closely related newsgroup and so it would be unreasonable
to prevent discussion there.

Regarding the desirability of bionet.plants versus sci.plants, I think
that the botanists will eventually wind up being deluged with
questions about house plant maintenance if they go with the sci.plants
option instead of bionet.plants, but they may choose that fate if they
wish 8-).

> Finally, there are several, broader issues deserving of discussion,
> probably after this discussion is finished:
> (1) Would it be better to have fewer, larger groups than we have now?
> for example, how 'bout combining the genbank and embl groups into one?

I have pondered this one myself at times, but currently on the genbank
newsgroup alone we often have to decide internally whether IG or LANL
should respond to a particular posting. It would compund things
further to combine the two newsgroups, but I'm open for comments from
both LANL, EMBL, and NCBI on this issue.  We did previously combine
the SWISS-PROT and PIR newsgroups into PROTEIN-ANALYSIS, but got away
with this because both groups agreed and the volume was very low.

> (2) Are there better paradyms for what the newsgroups try to
> accomplish.  I read many groups other than the bionet ones, and they
> have indicated to me the kinds of problems that will develop has use
> of the bionet groups increase.

I'm afraid that you need to elaborate here.


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