BIOSCI Administrator biosci-help at NET.BIO.NET
Fri Aug 19 03:10:47 EST 1994

I have been asked recently on bionet.general why I always react so
heatedly to comments from Una Smith.  I was going to avoid answering
this as I did not want to inflame things further.  However, this
evening, just when I was finally ready to call it a day, I discovered
something on news.groups that really made my blood boil.  news.groups
is one of the very high volume USENET newsgroups for administrators
and others interested in USENET workings that (because of its volume
and my lack of interest in USENET graduate student wars) I rarely
peruse carefully.

The reason for my anger, in a nutshell, is that many readers never see
the "clever" behind-the-scenes maneuvers of Una that prompt my public
reaction.  Here is the latest example - a serious one if one takes
USENET antics seriously.

The relatively brief message given in full below is nothing other than
a blatant attempt to sabotage the USENET distribution of the newsgroups.

This attempt follows an earlier similarly hidden attempt by her to
violate our voting procedures to nullify the proposal prior to its

Why she wants to block these newsgroups at all costs when very few
other biologists thought ill of the idea is speculated on further

In summary, Una Smith in her message below tries to talk to other news
system administrators in a calm, reasoned, authoritative tone (they
may or may not know what her connection is to bionet).  She tells them
about how bionet supposedly works and how it would be O.K. *not* to
create the newsgroups because there are also mailing lists attached,
so news sites downstream from the administrator's site will not be
harmed if the group is not created!!!  All said very matter-of-factly,
almost off-hand, like it would be no big deal if they didn't want to
create the groups.  It is curious in this light that in a recent RFD,
Una justified her duplication of by citing the
supposed "low propagation" of the bionet groups!  Then she turns
around and post messages in places where biologists will not tread to
ensure that the propagation of bionet groups stays low???!!!

And you readers were wondering why new bionet newsgroups are not
showing up in your newsreaders???  There are other more probable
reasons, of course, like news administrators just failing to act on
newgroup messages because of their sheer volume, but messages like
Una's clearly do not help.

Point number one:   Una Smith has no authority to be making these
                    statements to other USENET administrators!!

Point number two: This attempt (I speculate that she probably thought
that no biologists would see it) follows ANOTHER earlier attempt by
her to stuff the ballot box against the prof-society groups proposal
by issuing a similar appeal to news administrators IN DIRECT VIOLATION
of our voting procedures of not going outside the bionet hierarchy on
a call for votes.  She feels free to violate the agreed upon
procedures, claims ignorance when called on it, but Fote Macrides
countered her on that claim of ignorance by extracting one of her own
postings from our archives a short while ago and posting it on
BIOFORUM/bionet.general.  In that posting she was in direct support of
the very rule that she later violated!  She might, of course, have
forgotten about the rule in the interim.  However, the sum total of
events make all of these excuses sound less convincing.

Point number three: She makes the statement that "These latter
discussion forums may or may not be voted on, depending on the
preferences of the individual proponents." which makes the whole process sound arbitrary and obviously distorts the
clearly written AND voter-approved policy for the prof-society groups.
To those familiar with news admin issues, this kind of false statement
is clearly designed to gain further sympathy among the news admin
crowd and convince them not to propagate the newsgroups.

In summary, Una Smith continues to use every trick that she can muster
to try to get her way and impact the bionet newsgroups.  I replied
heatedly to her message of a day or two ago in which she asked to
reopen the prof-society issue.  I reacted that way because I was
pissed off by her earlier vote stuffing violation, and now even more
grounds have been given for censure.  She, of course, replied that she
was unfairly wounded, unjustly accused, had been away on field work,
didn't know where to look for the posting, etc., despite the fact that
most self-proclaimed experts on bionet would know readily that the
results are always announced on bionet.announce (she clearly realizes
this in the posting below).  The writer of the Internet Guide also
knows where the archives are.  Nonetheless, this plaintive plea
brought some readers to her defense.

What is the big issue over the prof-society groups???  The
prof-society newsgroup policy was adopted to give large professional
societies access to the network to distribute their announcements via
moderated USENET newsgroups without having to subject the societies to
the usual USENET drivel that often goes on during the discussion and
voting procedures.  This initiative came about after I met last
November with several FASEB society executive directors who expressed
interest in using the net.  I thought that if we create groups after
getting just 80 YES votes, it seemed reasonable to allow a
professional society with >= 500 members to create a newsgroup without
going through the voting process each time.  The BIOSCI readership
also agreed to this by 120 YES votes to 16 NO votes.

In light of these recent voting violations I am thinking increasingly
about proposing to the readers that we change the way that newsgroups
are created.  We are under no obligation to adhere to the standard
holy "USENET way," and, if this incident is a reflection of its
merits, then it leaves something to be desired.  We should be helping
biologists get onto the network, not honing our skills in stupid
USENET political struggles.  It may make more sense simply to start
each group off as a mailing list and then convert it to a newsgroup
when it reaches a certain size and usage level instead of trying to
debate in advance whether the group has merit or not and whether or
not it will be used.  In this method the list users would "vote" in
essence through their participation and all of this political nonsense
would be over.  I will probably put out a proposal to this effect
sometime in the near future after discussing its implications more
with the other BIOSCI staffers.

Everywhere that I have spoken about the network I have always had to
counter the negative image that USENET has among many serious
scientists - how can we win this battle and get established scientific
groups like the professional societies to take this seriously if they
have to submit to the scrutiny of every student on the net before they
get access to a resource that was fully intended to be used for
research and education purposes??  The arguments that Una made earlier
about wasting disk space and bandwidth in the proposal discussion
period are bogus, and, I believe, hide the more probable motives which
are simply to enhance her influence at our expense.

I have really had it with the behind-the-scenes tactics of Una Smith
followed by the "Oh, I'm so innocent, why do you always beat me up
when I care so much about bionet, etc., etc." public excuses.

This kind of interference in BIOSCI has got to stop!!  It does not
mean that readers can not express opinions in opposition to mine, of
course.  Everyone is free to speak their mind.  I think, however, that
the difference between honest debate and this particular situation is
pretty clear.


				Dave Kristofferson
				BIOSCI/bionet Manager

				biosci-help at

Path: biosci!agate!!!!gumby!yale!!!una
From: una at (Una Smith)
Newsgroups: news.groups,news.admin.misc
Subject: bionet.* policy change
Followup-To: news.admin.misc
Date: 18 Aug 1994 06:11:27 GMT
Organization: Department of Biology, Yale University
Lines: 28
Sender: Una Smith <smith-una at>
Message-ID: <32uu2f$gs7 at>
Xref: biosci news.groups:51338 news.admin.misc:20539

As of this summer, newsgroups within the bionet.* hierarchy
are not all voted on before creation.  This applies to* newsgroups, of which there are already
several, moderated, for the distribution of occasional
official news from professional societies to their members.
Several more are proposed that would carry discussion among
members.  These latter discussion forums may or may not be
voted on, depending on the preferences of the individual

When voting procedures are used, they resemble "mainstream"
Usenet criteria *in part*:  at least 80 YES votes, and at
least twice as many YES votes as NO votes.  All proposals
are submitted by the moderator of bionet.announce, who also
collects, tallies, and reports summaries of the votes (the
indivudal votes are not revealed). 

These newsgroups are all gated to mailing lists, so should
you decide not to carry them at your site, due to lack of
interest or the extremely topical nature of these groups,
you won't be depriving any down-stream users of the chance
to use these resources.

	Una Smith			smith-una at

Department of Biology, Yale University, New Haven, CT  06520-8104  USA

More information about the Bioforum mailing list