Editorial license in bionet

Dave Kristofferson kristoff at NET.BIO.NET
Tue Jan 19 14:48:51 EST 1993

I was hoping that this whole affair would just go away, but, since Una
has decided to raise this to the attention of the public, I have no
choice but to expend my time and respond.

> In "BIOSCI FAQs will be changed", bionet.announce, 13 January 1993,
> David Kristofferson wrote:
> 	"BIOSCI/bionet will no longer be distributing the FAQ
> 	composed by Una Smith at her request (BIOSCI FAQ I)." 
> I objected when the article "Bionet (BIOSCI) FAQ I" appeared two weeks
> ago in bionet.announce, under my name.  It was not posted by me. 

Una's FAQ was posted as part of the regular automatic posting of FAQs
to bionet.announce.  I also note that this automatic posting occurred
the month before.

> David and I had discussed making my FAQ a periodic posting together with
> his own regularly posted documents.  During the holidays he informed me
> of his plan to distribute an edited version of my FAQ.  I responded that
> I would consider adding his changes to the current version of the FAQ when
> I returned from vacation, but that I did not want him to distribute it. 

This is not what was said to me precisely.  The exact message said:

"Please un-install the automatic distribution that you mention.  I have
extensively changed the FAQ since the last time I posted it, and in any
case it is no problem for me to post it regularly myself."

To which I replied:

"I would rather that you send me your updated copy so that I can
include it with the other postings.  Several messages go out together
and they all refer to each other, so posting yours separately will
create problems."

I sent Una the copy of her FAQ with my additions for her review on 21
December.  Her reply to me was dated 30 December and I replied to her
message about three hours later on the 30th.  The mailing goes out
after midnight at the end of each month.  There was nothing in the FAQ
that was derogatory or reflected negatively on anything or anyone; it
was simply an informational piece for users of the system, so I saw no
harm, if Una did not get back to me before the 31st, in making the
changes in the February mailing.  While I appreciate the fact that
many people take vacations, I had to take a portable computer with me
on mine to ensure that the network continued to run while everyone was
out of the office.  I had just finished writing the second FAQ on the
21st and made a number of cross-references between FAQ II and the info
sheet to Una's FAQ I.  My reply to Una stressed the fact that I could
not turn off the distribution of her FAQ.  If I did I would have had
to go back and rewrite several sections of what I had just completed.

> David replied that it would be more convenient for him to distribute the
> FAQ as he had indicated he would.  When David did not get a prompt reply
> from me (I was away), he assumed that I consented to his plan.

No, I did not assume that Una had consented to a plan, but I assumed
that if she had any changes to make in the copy that I sent her for
her review, then she could do it after she got back from vacation and
we could resolve any remaining issues.  When I added extra material to
her FAQ, I thought it was being done as a public service to our
readers and that I was **giving her the credit** for a lot of work
**that I had done** since the FAQ was under her name.  I had no idea
of the reaction that was to follow!!!

> David changed most instances of the word "Bionet" in my FAQ to "BIOSCI".
> He and I have argued publicly over whether these are equivalent.

This change was made simply because the name of the system *is* BIOSCI
("bionet" only persists because we could not easily rename the
previously created USENET newsgroups to "biosci"), and Una had agreed
some time back to enter into a *collaboration* on writing a FAQ for
us.  It made no sense to me to use different terminology between the
three official documents that went out in the monthly mailing.
However, while I was trying to standardize the documents, it appears
that Una is trying to make a ***political*** (i.e., newsgroup
politics) statement.  This was *not* my intent in trying to bring the
three documents into harmony.

> I argue
> that there is an important difference, which revolves around whether the
> "BIOSCI/bionet" hybrid that David and we have created will grow according
> to the conventions of "owned" mailing lists or "public" Usenet newsgroups.

And I am getting extremely tired of "arguing" this point.  Too many of
my interactions with Una have started out with snide comments such as
"Are you listening, Dave?" or others such as Dave "can't see the
forest for the trees."  The fact of the matter is that the USENET
newsgroups AND the mailing lists are part of a ***single system*** and
attempts to separate them are not being made for the good of the
readership at large in my opinion.

> David's motives in arguing for strict ownership are good:  he is concerned
> that if he does not exert control, the professional quality of the bionet
> groups will deteriorate.  I appreciate David's custodianship of the mailing
> lists, and I approve of most of what he has done, but I think the bionet
> newsgroups would be even better if they were less tightly controlled. 

I think that we also differ on the degree of "tightness" of control on
BIOSCI/bionet.  While I enforce some network regulations, these are
laid down by NSF, not by me and I enforce them because the government
pays the bill for this operation.  There are many people who I have
worked with successfully on BIOSCI/bionet, including all of our
European collaborators and the many discussion leaders on the
newsgroups.  There have been very *few* complaints about any kind of
autocracy here, except when I try to enforce NSF regulations.
Newsgroup and policy issues have been decided upon by the readership
at large through votes.

> Our argument has apparently made David feel the need to declare himself
> "editor", then edit and post my FAQ.  

Again, Una's desire to "loosen" my supposed tight control of
BIOSCI/bionet is coloring this.  She did make repeated suggestions
that various LISTSERV mailing lists be gatewayed into the bionet
newsgroups a month or so back which we rejected for technical reasons,
and this rejection undoubtedly adds to her feeling that we are tightly
controlling the system.  Several other people not connected with the
BIOSCI management also stated at the time that LISTSERV creates a lot
of problems, thus backing up our position.  I am afraid that if, by
tight control, Una means that we are not allowing a technical mistake
to be made, then yes, we are being tight on this issue because we
believe (not just I, but Kenton Hoover, our UNIX systems programmer and
news/mail expert, and others) that we know what we are doing.  As far
as I am aware Una's background in this area is nowhere near as
extensive as the technical experts who run this network, but she has
persisted in pushing her agenda nevertheless.  If this is how she
intends to make the newsgroups much "better," then I think that we
still differ substantially.  I have no desire to beat this issue into
the ground further as it was already debated to death previously.

> See David's own FAQ, "Consolidated
> BIOSCI/bionet FAQ" (bionet.announce, 18 January 1993), where he writes:
> 	"BIOSCI messages are distributed without editorial intervention
> 	in most cases."

Una's FAQ was part of the collaborative effort with her on the monthly
BIOSCI mailing; it was not a standard announcement posting to
BIONEWS/bionet.announce.  I revised her FAQ (and told her previously
that I would do so) so that it would work together with the other two
BIOSCI documents that all go out together on the first of each month.
She did not tell me flat out "Do not distribute my FAQ." but asked if
I would turn off the automatic mailing which I said I couldn't do
without creating problems.  The FAQ was sent to her 10 days before the
mailing went out, albeit during the holidays.  I put nothing in her
FAQ that was malicious or defamatory or would reflect negatively on
her in any way, but instead expanded on several sections, e.g., adding
more info about WAIS and other features, and tried to standardize the
wording between three documents.  Unfortunately this latter effort
elicited an outraged response.

If, due to her vacation, Una was not able to finish editing the copy
that I sent her for her review, she could have easily changed it
around and sent it back to me for the February mailing.  Instead I was
blasted with a message titled:

"Your un-ethical behavior"

which then proceeded to rage at me and contained a composed message of
public apology for the grave wrongs that I had done to her.  My bet is
that any third party who received her FAQ took no notice of any of the
issues that she got so bent out of shape about.

> After the list of newsgroup names, he adds:
> 	"** Note that newsgroups flagged with ** are moderated, i.e.,
> 	postings are directed to a moderator (editor) who later forwards
> 	messages (possibly edited or condensed) to the newsgroup."
> As far as I know, I am the first person to whom this editorial policy has
> been applied.  

The FAQs are *not* user messages, but part of the official BIOSCI
monthly mailing.  Una was part of this collaboration, and I told her
for some time that I was going to finish up my technical FAQ and
distribute it with hers.

> It goes far beyond the occasional insertion of [bracketed]
> comments at the top of articles.  In effect, David has tried to "resolve"
> our argument by putting his own words in my mouth.  This is a violation of
> my rights as an author and David's authority as a moderator.

As I said I have no interest in continuing this debate which is being
carried primarily by *Una alone against me*.  She would have had an
opportunity in the ten days before the mailing to revise anything that
she didn't like and send it back to me.  She *stil

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