RFC: Bionet <=> LISTSERV gateway

Dave Kristofferson kristoff at NET.BIO.NET
Thu Apr 15 23:07:27 EST 1993

Una Smith has requested comments on her proposal and I will be more
than happy to oblige since she has lobbied me privately about this for
some time and has now decided to "go public" and overrule my private

I have spoken to others and I am reasonably convinced that a gateway
from LISTSERV to the bionet domain such as Una mentions would work
*technically*.  However, I am also convinced that her proposal would
make our life administering these lists more complicated.  This does
not seem to concern her though despite the fact that I raised this
issue to her in my private reply and got no response to it.  I
elaborate on our objections below.

We have tried to get our users accustomed to sending subscription
requests to one of two biosci addresses over the years:

Subscription Address                 Location
--------------------                 --------
biosci at daresbury.ac.uk               Europe, Africa, and Central Asia
biosci at net.bio.net                   Americas and the Pacific Rim

While gatewaying LISTSERV lists into the bionet domain is feasible,
Una's purpose for doing this is so that the mailing lists could
continue to be maintained elsewhere at various LISTSERV sites around
the world.  This means that people would no longer be able to
subscribe by going through the two BIOSCI addresses unless we took on
the additional chore of telling them where to send their misdirected
LISTSERV "SUBSCRIBE" messages (which would probably start cluttering
up the BIOSCI newsgroups once again).

This gateway proposal also raises questions about how to include these
non-BIOSCI groups in our BIOSCI documentation.  We would have to make
yet another section describing that, for these new LISTSERV lists, but
not for the current BIOSCI mailing lists, one must subscribe using
LISTSERV syntax at a variety of different mailing addresses.  We would
have to explain LISTSERV syntax, etc.

I think that it is fairly obvious that this makes the system even more
complex to novice users and would complicate our instruction sheet

***** Our goal on BIOSCI is to simplify communications for biologists. *****

This is done through centralization of the subscription/maintenance
process which unfortunately appears to offend Una's sense of USENET
democracy, but has not bothered many other people as far as mail that
I have received on this issue tells me.

This is not simply a matter of our trying to "hog control" of *all*
biological communications either.  When Una brought this up to my
attention recently I suggested to her that she create a proposal to do
this gatewaying through the sci.bio hierarchy and leave us out of it.
sci.bio is a standard USENET hierarchy, and she could have *free rein*
in a sci.bio.listserv subset.  Again no private answer from her about
this suggestion, and, instead, here is this proposal once again, now
broadcast for yet another round of public debate.  I must confess that
I don't completely understand the intensity of the motivation here.

I suggest publicly that, if Una is gung ho to do this, that she do it
through sci.bio and not make our current workload more difficult.
This latter objection raised previously to her in private does not
seem to deter her from her singleminded pursuit of "opening up bionet"
as evidenced by the fact that she is now attempting to go over my head
and appeal directly to our readers.  Her goal of gatewaying
LISTSERVers is just as technically possible via sci.bio, and it would
***** not complicate BIOSCI ***** and add to our maintenance workload.


				Dave Kristofferson
				BIOSCI/bionet Manager

				kristoff at net.bio.net

P.S. - Regarding the comment:

>While my friend was off conducting a discussion about this in Usenet, Dave
>Kristofferson at BIOSCI and his colleagues set up their own gateway system,
>using an independently written (but identically named) program.  For various,
>now irrelevant reasons, that arrangement did not work very smoothly and it
>was eventually dismantled (in 1990?) in favor of the system we now have,
>where the bionet groups have two custom gateways into mailing lists, one
>on net.bio.net and the other on daresbury.ac.uk.  Meanwhile, my friend did
>create a gateway for SAS-L at UGA, my favorite list, into bit.listserv.sas-l.
>That gateway has been going fine, with no more bounces than we see in the
>bionet groups, since 1987.

I'd like to point out that the reason we phased the LISTSERVer at
IRLEARN out of BIOSCI had nothing to do with any gateway program
written here which, by inference in the above, did not work as well as
the one written by Una's friend.  The LISTSERV at IRLEARN had this
nasty habit of getting into loops when various mailers in the U.K.
sent back error messages to it.  Even if we shut it out from
net.bio.net and the USENET distribution, the IRLEARN LISTSERVer
continued to batter mail addresses in Europe with these bouncers.
This was the reason why we got rid of LISTSERV and yet another reason
why we are not keen to take it up again.  LISTSERV software may have
improved further since that time, but we have not had any reason to
mourn its absence from BIOSCI to date.

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