Whether bionet/BIOSCI in the "modern" world?

Una Smith smith-una at yale.edu
Sun Apr 25 12:36:29 EST 1993

Steve Modena wrote:


We do.

>The curious thing is that people with advanced university degrees seem
>to have trouble with and are bothered by the number of extraneous
>messages in their mailbox. [...] the cry is to SUPPRESS the traffic
>rather then to find a mechanism to HANDLE the traffic[...]

Perhaps these people don't really find their subscriptions worthwhile
in the first place.  It's no great loss for them to unsubscribe, then,
especially if they don't ever contribute anything themselves.

The Internet is a very complex place, and it's getting more complicated
by the day.  Steve has identified the issue perfectly:  handling the
rapid growth and diversity of the Internet involves a lot of hard work
on the part of people who care about such things, and it seems on the
surface a lot *easier* to suppress those parts that don't work as well
with our own pet parts as we might like.  But that's a short-term view
of the world.  I am all for working hard now in hopes of reducing work
later, when millions of additional users will be affected.

>Una (and actually, Tony) are quite convinced that what is needed is a
>further spreading of the net.....and that technology (hardware/software)
>will allow it to happen in various guises. Email lists (listservs) are
>but one of those mechanisms.

There are more than just the two of us who feel this way, believe me!
We are all well aware of the flaws of the current mechanisms, both 
Usenet and mailing lists (of all flavors), but more importantly we see
clearly that there is already an over-whelming demand and need for full
integration of existing systems.  This is going on piecemeal everywhere
and we would prefer that it be done in a more systematic manner.  The
more piecemeal we make things now, the harder it will be to change things
later, when the *right* integrated system comes along in a few years.

But there's a lot of resistance toward working out a better way of doing
things now:  too much work, too many challenges to "power".  This is
unfortunate.  This resistance won't stop the changes, it will only serve
to direct them elsewhere.  Even inaction is action.

>For $500 I can buy the ham radio equipment (software/hardware) that
>would allow me, sitting in a tropical forest of Costa Rica, miles from
>running water and commercial electrical generation, to read email via
>ham radio packet forwarding......I could talk with people "back home" via

Steve is right about this.  In fact, I have received e-mail from someone
in just such a position, at a field station on a headwater of the Amazon
in Brazil.  Computers have advanced into the jungle far, far beyond the
electrical grid, thanks to solar panels and car batteries.  Very few
people in "third world" countries will be able to afford full Usenet
feeds for a long time to come, but we have already cobbled together a
paper-clip and baling-wire sort of system that gets e-mail just about
everywhere that a laptop computer can go.  But the happening place is
Usenet, not the un-gated mailing lists.  So naturally I want to get as
many gateways established between the two as possible.

>reason is that there is no gateway mechanism. And even if there were,
>there would be non-stop bitching about the "glitches" that happen so
>frequently in systems that are crudely GLUED together to meet a
>NEED-TO-COMMUNICATE with peers and colleagues ...and who does the
>complaining?  The prestige system users...

Whoops, Steve, the bionet groups all have gateway mechanisms, handled
by BIOSCI on net.bio.net.

No one questions the importance of gateways.  I am very surprised and
disappointed, however, to see the issue of building infrastructure devolve
into a trivial argument about who has the better mailing list software.

>I think bionet/BIOSCI is not YET in it's ultimate optimum configuration
>to serve even the majority's needs.

Yes, but since the bionet groups all have the same kind of mailing list
gateway, and BIOSCI controls them all, we're in a position to get the 
improvements we want.  Some suggestions:

1. Fix the cross-posting mechanism so that cross-posting works properly
   in the mailing lists too.

2. Use Usenet for periodical postings, not the mailing lists, so no one
   has to read the same announcement more than once.  If item 1 is fixed,
   this will follow.  

Anyone have others?


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

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