RFC: Bionet <=> LISTSERV gateway

David Kristofferson kristoff at net.bio.net
Wed Apr 21 18:38:49 EST 1993

smith-una at yale.edu (Una Smith) writes:

>Furthermore, It is my understanding that the NSF grant now supporting
>BIOSCI is intended as a startup grant;  a stimulus to growth, not maint-
>enance support.  This support will (and should) cease, unless BIOSCI can
>come up with other, novel things to do.  The Internet clearly can support
>both mailing lists and newsgroups without any direct financial support,
>and I wish that BIOSCI would stop taking over tasks that others do now,
>and instead concentrate on things they can't do, like petitioning more
>publishers to provide TOCs, like promoting the Internet, like building a 
>FAQ archive for science groups, helping biologists write FAQs, building
>an abstracts service, helping biologists outside the developed countries
>get access to the Internet...That's what the precious NSF grant money
>should be used for, not to replace the work of dedicated volunteers. 

There is an implication that we are not doing all of the above but
instead simply squeezing out "dedicated volunteers" and wasting money.
This is a total distortion of the truth.

Furthermore, I have made no public statements about how NSF views the
BIOSCI grant, i.e., startup versus maintenance, etc., so this
"understanding," while correct, means simply that the information must
be reaching Una because of her private queries into our grant.

I said yesterday that I would not respond to further postings, but I
did not expect such blatant misrepresentations of our work.  This is
one of the saddest examples of unmoderated newsgroups running amok
that I have seen in the last six years with the possible exception of
some of the charges leveled against GenBank on one particular occasion
in the past.

Many of you recall when the IRLEARN LISTSERVer went out of control a
couple of years ago how Rob Harper tried valiantly to shut it down
remotely but did not have the proper privileges to bring it under
control.  The abuse that he took from readers at that time convinced
Rob that he wanted nothing to do with mailing list maintenance ever
again.  He quit in disgust and, despite several attempts on my part to
bring him back, he has never resumed his former role, much to
everyone's loss.

I have no intention of giving Una Smith the pleasure of forcing me out
by trying to undermine faith in my work and my grant.  If that is her
goal, she will not succeed.  If the BIOSCI readership as a whole does
not wish me to continue, I will gladly bow out, but I am not going to
be coerced by what strikes me as nothing other than low-blow pressure
tactics by someone who has a single-minded goal of trying to alter the
nature of bionet and/or possibly usurp it.

I told Una privately and then later publicly that she could gateway her
mailing lists by creating a sci.bio domain instead.  She has never
responded to this but persists in beating upon the door to admit these
lists to the bionet hierarchy.  Why aren't these other USENET domains
run by "hardworking volunteers" good enough for her??

It is not, and never has been, my goal to take over all of these other
mailing lists.  I have simply stated that if they want to join bionet
then we want to be in control of the mailing list for a number of
reasons that have been listed in these forums previously.  We are not
trying to force out any hardworking volunteers.

Also, contrary to Una's assertion, we do *not* read every message on
the newsgroups.  This would clearly be a waste of our time.  I do
quickly scan headers once or twice a day looking for subscription
requests.  I read BIOFORUM/bionet.general (Why?  I am beginning to
wonder myself.) and watch that the employment group conforms to our
regulations.  On normal days this is a pretty quick task when I don't
get sucked into defending myself against distortions.

Una's non-BIOSCI mailing lists can be gatewayed into USENET through
the current bit.listserv domain or through a new sci.bio.listserv
domain.  Una can initiate this herself on USENET and does not have to
deal with me.  Una's proposal to add LISTSERV lists to bionet will
destroy the simplicity of the BIOSCI subscription process.  I
mentioned this before along with several other objections.  She
doesn't reply but instead simply ignores my comments and continues to
resort to tactics such as the message above.

I apologize to our readers if this message strikes you as a lack of
professionalism on my part.  Unfortunately I have seen too many
examples during my scientific career of people who get shafted because
they try to be professional while less scrupulous people take
advantage of them behind their backs.  These forums have the virtue,
at least, of being open and allow the possibility of unfettered debate
even if it is not always pleasant for the parties involved.
Unfortunately all of our human institutions have their weaknesses and
the weakness of the newsgroup mechanism can be glaring upon occasion.
That's the price that we pay for "freedom" and many people can
reasonably ask whether perhaps this price is too high.


				Dave Kristofferson
				BIOSCI/bionet Manager

				kristoff at net.bio.net

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