Readership Report

Daniel Zabetakis dan at cubmol.bio.columbia.edu
Wed Feb 17 18:50:13 EST 1993


In article <1luav9INNehs at MINERVA.CIS.YALE.EDU> smith-una at yale.edu (Una Smith) writes:
>
>
>  I would expect most universities to partici-
>pate in the Usenet arbitron survey, so despite the low percentage
>of Usenet sites carrying bionet groups, I suspect there are very
>few biologists who have ready access to Usenet but not the bionet
>groups.


    I don't think this is true. I think only a very very small minority of
sites participate in arbitron. That's why the figures may be very very
innaccurate.
   Computers are becoming more and more common in bio departments. Things
like the c elegans database (running on a sparc) are providing the drive
for this. Workstations are cheap and gettting cheaper. 
   The problem is that even if you have a bunch of computers you very likely
have noone experienced enough at usenet to set up news service. There's no
solution to this problem.

>
>Another reason for leaving things alone:  to become "formally"
>accepted in Usenet, the bionet domain would have to satisfy
>certain procedural conditions.  Although I favor implementing
>those conditions, they would involve more public meta-debate
>about the role of bionet than we already have, and many readers
>may not want to tolerate that.  As it is, David Kristofferson
>does things for us that we would, as proper Usenet newsgroups,
>have to discuss and do for ourselves repeatedly.

   The rules for usenet groups are not very good in my opinion. Bionet 
rules are very similar, but since this is a much smaller audience, more
voices get heard. Only those who care about bionet get it. There's no
reason to involve outsiders in it's maintainance. Do we want bionet group
debate in news.groups? I don't think anyone would suggest that.

>
>Reasons for "formal" Usenet identity:  as scientists I believe
>we have certain responsibilities, including the avoidance of
>an overly elitist culture, an obligation to perform our work
>in public as much as is practicable and to explain what we do
>and what our research means to curious lay people.  I reject
>the notion that "noise" would be a direct and unavoidable
>consequence of wider distribution of the bionet newsgroups.

   I think you reject this at your peril. Noise is the one threat to
newsgroups that can be deadly. Try reading soc.women or alt.feminism. Those
groups are so noise filled as to be unsuitable for any real discussion.
I won't even mention alt.sex (oops)


>And I think it is often quite educational for biologists to
>face the questions of non-biologists (many of whom are scien-
>tists or at the very least college-educated).
>
   A _very_ good reason to read sci.bio and answer questions.
   But there are also reasons for technical groups. Look at comp.unix.wizards
which specifically is _not_ for non-experts. 
   I don't read sci.bio, but I presume there is nothing stopping someone from
posting an article along the lines of "Since fags cause AIDS shouldn't
we just kill them". If someone posted that to bionet.general we could 
legitamately complain that that doesn't belong here. Complaints about
innapropriate articles will carry much more wieght if bionet is a technical
hierarchy.

DanZ


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