RFC: Bionet <=> LISTSERV gateway

Una Smith smith-una at yale.edu
Tue Apr 20 18:47:58 EST 1993

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

>> So the LISTSERV <=> Usenet gateway does work.  The question is:  do we want
>> it to work in bionet?  I say yes:  it would foster a sense of community
>> and make life simpler for many administrators who now keep track of the
>> alt.*, bit.listserv.*, and sci.bio.* hierarchies as well as bionet.*, just
>> to follow all the biology research groups.

Foteos Macrides <MACRIDES at SCI.WFEB.EDU> replies:

>   Could you give us an idea of the listserv groups you have in mind, and
>whether or not they already have a gateway to a usenet group (i.e., are you
>anticipating a lot of shuffling of groups from alt, bit and/or sci into
>bionet, or just an additional hierarchy option for lists that are not
>presently gatewayed)?


The latest version (1.2) of my FAQ lists the relevant newsgroups and
mailing lists, and indicates which already have gateways.  There are a
*lot* of those.  In addition, there are several dozen or so mailing
lists that would be good candidates for gateways into the bionet domain
(ie, would probably pass in a bionet vote).

>   Would the groups be placed in a bionet.listerv.* sub-hiearchy, with
>relative autonomy on the part of the list maintainers, or be subject to *all*
>the regulations associated with regular bionet groups?

The word "listserv" need not appear.  Consider that Usenet readers don't
need e-mail subscriptions and e-mail subscribers, by definition, already
know how to subscribe.  People who don't read Usenet or subscribe via e-mail
tend not to know what's what anyway, so such distinctions are lost on them.
Why can't we just mix in the gated lists?  From the Usenet end everything
looks and behaves seamlessly.  From the mailing list end it's generally
helpful that there be subscription instructions for each and list, however
redundant those instructions are.

I think list owners should continue to have full control over their lists
(and thus relative autonomy), including the right to remove or control the
direction and location of a gateway should it prove displeasing in any way.
This includes the absolute right not to have a gateway to Usenet.  I think
the relevant Usenet domain (readers and administrators) should also have a
say over whether to permit a gateway.  This is modeled on existing Usenet

The point is that if the administration of mailing lists were left in the
hands of the present owners AND gateways were created into bionet groups
(either existing ones or new ones), the bionet domain could grow far more
quickly than BIOSCI can.  That is, faster than Dave Kristofferson and Kenton
Hoover can drum up fresh grant money to pay for more man-hours.  In addition
to handling bounced mail, subscriptions etc., and miscellaneous queries,
they also read *all* the groups, looking out for mis-directed subscription
requests, etc.  This is the proper job for a mailing list owner, but not
for the sole owner of now 10s and potentially 100s of mailing lists.  Let
the present list owners keep their lists if they want them.

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. 

It is great that BIOSCI is willing and able to take over the ownership of
worthy lists whose owners request this service.  But to make this a
*condition* of inclusion in the bionet domain strikes me as a mistake. 

I suggest we remove this condition.


      Una Smith      Biology Department       smith-una at yale.edu
                     Yale University
                     New Haven, CT  06511

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