"Normally create without a vote"?

Paul Brandt tcv at seqanal.mi.uky.edu
Fri Aug 19 17:13:09 EST 1994


Una Smith (una at doliolum.biology.yale.edu) wrote:

: David Kristofferson wrote:

[Various personal attacks and cross-attacks deleted]

: > Going back one step, the fundamental philosophical difference between
: > network activists here generally revolve around the point of "central"
: > versus "community" control on USENET.

: True, in part.  This is in turn a reflection of the multiple hats
: problem I mentioned in a reply to another poster.


: > BIOSCI/bionet is an example of the former while the sci.bio domain
: > is an example of the latter.

: Not so.  Bionet.* is not fundamentally different from sci.bio.*,
: in that newsgroups in both hierarchies have mailing lists attached,
: and those mailing lists have administrators.  And both bionet.*
: and sci.bio.* depend for propagation on nearly 200,000 Usenet
: administrators, who keep the hardware and software running to
: make all this possible.  Those wishing to expand both bionet.*
: and sci.bio.* must take these Usenet administrators into account.  


I know I'm going to regret getting involved in this, but:

Una,
   I really think you are wrong on this.  Bionet.* serves a fundamentally
different purpose than the sci.bio.* groups.  As I noted in another post, 
bionet.* is a technically-oriented hierarchy of biological subject matter 
geared to the biological research community.  It is not meant to
serve the general USENET community and therefore its propagation to all
sites is not needed nor really desirable, for the sites or bionet.*. 
Because of its highly-specialized subject matter many sites may not wish 
to carry the bionet.* hierarchy, and segregation of this material into this
hierarchy allows them to easily weed it out when setting up their newsgroups.  
Further, by not being carried at sites that really have no use for it the
amount of extraneous, non-relavent material being posted is maintained at
a minimum.  Again, as I noted in a previous post, any site where biological
research is being conducted could carry the bionet.* hierarchy.  I have
yet to find a site doing serious research that didn't carry these groups.   

   So, while bionet.* might be structurally the same as sci.bio.*, its 
mission is fundamentally different than the sci.bio.* groups and 
site administrators know this.


: > could not function, but, 99% of them have no more of an exclusive
: > involvement with the bionet newsgroups than they do with groups
: > created in any other USENET hierarchy, and many sites are set up to

: My point exactly.  These administrators have no more investment in
: bionet.* than in any other hierarchy, and most of them probably put
: it very low on their list of priorities.  They have little personal
: investment, but they have a *huge* collective impact on how bionet.*
: works.  Their concerns regarding the growth and usage of Usenet in
: general should be taken into account.  That's all I argued for on
: the issue of whether to vote on all new bionet.* newsgroups.

: > simply create new newsgroups automatically when newgroup messages are
: > received.

: Ah, the heart of a thorny political issue.  Local Usenet sites may
: be "slaved" to the decisions of administrators elsewhere.  But this
: is done because those administrators are well-regarded and thought
: to work in the best interests of Usenet.  I know you have the best
: interests of bionet.* in mind, David, but I am concerned that you
: seem to neglect the wider issues pertaining to all of Usenet, that
: affect bionet.* as well.


: > Other USENET hierarchies are generally more decentralized, and the
: > fact that a relatively high degree of centralization has occurred in
: > the BIOSCI/bionet groups has bothered a few people on the net.

: Bionet.* is centralized only in that the BIOSCI mailing lists are
: all run as a group.  In no other way is bionet.* different from any
: other Usenet hierarchy.

: > Others have countered that it makes life a lot easier for biologists.

: Bionet.* is a very cosy place for biologists, since you will do 
: virtually all the administrative chores for everyone, for free.
: But this has nothing to do with centralization.

: >pros and cons of this *control* issue have usually been the underlying
: >fodder of the debate.

: I'm concerned that by (pardon my language) micromanaging bionet.*
: newsgroup creation etc., BIOSCI has begun to develop a sort of 
: welfare state among biologists.  I simply don't believe this is
: good for us now, and I certainly don't think it is stable over 
: the long run.

Bionet.* is meant to be "cozy" for researchers.  Intellegentics is funded 
to provide a resource for the biological researcher, not for the entire
Internet.  However, a great many - probably most, from my experience - 
researchers can barely use a Mac let alone navigate newsgroups.  One of the
goals of the bionet.* groups should be to make this easier for researchers, 
so if Dave makes it cozier that is all for the better in that it initiates 
more people into the use of USENET newsgroups and then the Internet in 
general.  We all had to start somewhere after all. 



: > My belief has always been that, since the sci.bio domain is an example
: > of the standard USENET way of doing business, let those who prefer
: > that structure work within it.  If BIOSCI/bionet was the only game in
: > town, then there might really be a reason to fight over how it was
: > constituted.  It's not the only game in town, however, so I fail to
: > see the need to try to convert it into the image of the other side.

: I'm not trying to turn bionet.* into sci.bio.*.  I merely see some
: global Usenet issues that sci.bio.* responds to and bionet.* does
: not.  I am absolutely sure that this will be to the disadvantage of
: bionet.*, if it is not already.

: I'm not talking about doom here, only degrees of efficiency and
: utility.  I want to make the most of the fabulous opportunity now
: before us all.


: >In fact, I believe that many people, perhaps most, seme to like the
: >way it is run.  I might be wrong, of course, but I hear from
: >supporters far more often than from dissenters.  I would also bet that
: >it's attractiveness is what garners it a lot of this attention too.

: Who doesn't like to get for free what others must pay for?

: Remember this proverb:  "give a man a fish and he will eat for a
: day, teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime"?  I am
: dismayed by the number of fish that BIOSCI hands out -- *not* 
: because I am in the business of selling fish, but because I am in 
: the business of teaching how to fish.  I wish that BIOSCI would
: put more effort into teaching biologists how to do for themselves
: what BIOSCI now does for them:  we would all live better then.


This is exactly what I mean above when I say a "cozier" environment will
allow a smother transition for the neophyte researcher.  If the naive
user can come in, slop around for a while and ask stupid questions 
with a reduced chance of getting flamed and mailbombed they are much more
likely to explore beyond the bionet groups to all aspects of the Internet.

You might call this a "welfare state".  I would call it proper administration
of an NSF grant.  


: Surely *this* is what the NSF had in mind when it funded you?

: From the bottom of my heart,

: -- 
: 	Una Smith			smith-una at yale.edu

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

Paul Brandt
tcv at seqanal.mi.uky.ed



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