Gateways, Mailing Lists and Usenet

Mike Cherry 726-5955 CHERRY at FRODO.MGH.HARVARD.EDU
Mon Apr 26 00:25:46 EST 1993


I think its too bad that Una and Dave are fighting again. I can see
both of their positions are valid. However I'm not really sure there
is a problem, other than Una and Dave's ability to be civil in this
forum.  Perhaps we should have a vote to see if its time to change the
focus of Biosci, but I'll get to that in a moment.

Una wants to gateway everything (listserv, fido BBS and ham packet
relay) under the Biosci Usenet/e-mail service. This means both Usenet
and electronic mailing list distribution plus whatever other medium is
already used by the mailing list or BBS. This is a fantastic idea --
basically its at the heart of whats happening in networking today. It
doesn't matter where the information is coming from or going to, it
can be passed around for all to enjoy and to be enlightened.

Dave wants to run a reliable set of Usenet groups that are gatewayed
to reliable mailing lists. This is also a good idea. I personally know
many people that read one or maybe two of the Biosci mailing lists and
don't touch usenet. I think Dave is considering this type of person
when he is concerned about the bounced messages and endless loops that
sometimes happen on mailing lists. Folks that read usenet generally
don't care about these problems because the software they use makes it
easier to deal with a large number of messages. Receiving an e-mail
message needs to use some of a computer's hard disk space for each
user that receives the message.

Okay so what to do when you reach a brick wall -- go around it. There
are many places in usenet which have LISTSERV mailing lists connected
to a newsgroup. Adding a LISTSERV to Biosci adds a new mailing list
that is not really needed because the LISTSERV is a mailing list. If
the goal is to just get the LISTSERV into usenet then there are other
methods available. If you want to read messages via your e-mail then
you can subscribe to the LISTSERV. If you want to read messages via
news you read the newsgroup wherever it is. This does create the need
for a good informative document, like Una's FAQ, to direct potential
readers to the correct newsgroup or LISTSERV.

I believe someone mentioned that the type of person that complains
about a messed up e-mailing list are not worth keeping happy. But I
would assume from the people that I know that the number of people
reading Biosci via e-mail is greater than the number using a
newsreader.

Is it worth protecting the current e-mail users of Biosci or should we
just move ahead and become more usenet oriented? Dave has said many
times that his goal is to move away for gatewaying the messages from
usenet to e-mail. However until more of the biologist of the world
start reading usenet I personally feel it is too soon to sink the
mailing lists. However as soon as the number of usenet readers are
greater than the e-mail list readers it will be time to switch. Maybe
there should be a vote on 1) whether everyone wants all possible
electronic media included within Biosci's distribution and 2) if you
answer yes to 1 would you give up the mailing lists or be willing to
put up with an occasional problem.

Since you can already put LISTSERV's in usenet I believe the only
reason suggested for putting them in the bionet domain is so people
can find them easily. If thats all there is to it then create another
type of conference within Biosci that includes the gatewayed mailing
lists and forgetting the Biosci list for that group as its a
duplication. This does break the current mode of Biosci operation but
new things happen all the time. This would be a third choice in the
vote.

To close it seems no one has come up with a good way to get the others
involved in exchanging information electronically. I guess there are
about 10,000 scientist not reading e-mail or usenet for each one that
is. A big part of the problem is clearly software, more and better
software is needed. Part is also that people have still not been
exposed to what Biosci can do for them personally.

Is this just another meta-discussion that is of little concern -- or
does any one care?

Mike Cherry
cherry at frodo.mgh.harvard.edu



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