"Normally create without a vote"?

Una Smith una at doliolum.biology.yale.edu
Fri Aug 19 12:45:21 EST 1994


I wrote:

>> Is it a crime to have an opinion that doesn't follow the party
>> line here?  


David Kristofferson wrote:

> Not at all.  How should I put this ...

David, please include attributions when you quote others.

> If I spent a lot of my time in my neighbor's office telling 
> them how they should be doing their job, especially when it
> is in an area that I am not responsible for, they might start
> to resent it after a while.

This is a false analogy.  I am not your colleage, and I am
not interfering with your job.  On behalf of someone else
(who has yet to speak up here), you posted a proposal and
invited comments.  I commented, and you responded with a
note full of personal scorn and denigration.


> I might say that I'm doing it only because I really care about the
> company, and I want the organization to succeed.  They shouldn't get
> upset about such a noble motive, should they?  Would this mollify
> them?  Probably not.  They might take that as a statement of a lack of
> confidence in their abilities to do their job correctly.

David, this sounds like you have an insecurity complex.

To the extent that you've entangled your personal image of
yourself and your administrative role with the thing that
you administer, then frankly I do think there is a problem
in how you do your job.  (Talk about meta-discussions!)


> I think it is best to let people do their jobs with minimal
> interference.  If one wants to put in a helpful suggestion *on
> occasion* it will undoubtedly be appreciated by them; if one did it
> all the time on issues that really are not part of one's job, it would
> probably not be taken too well.

Again, I'm not interfering in your job, David.  The pros
and cons of proposals put to bionet.general are *not*
part of your job.

I do not *always* offer suggestions, and when I do they
are often well-received.  And they are almost always
solicited, not volunteered.

My job, and the job of every other bionet.* reader, is
in part to do what I can to ensure its continued growth
and success.


> I think that the above analogy is reasonably accurate for most people,
> but, of course, I must concede that I might just be hyper-sensitive
> too 8-).

The analogy does not apply to bionet.*.  Yes, unfortunately,
you are hyper-sensitive about this.


> 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 should note, however, that, implications to the contrary aside,
> BIOSCI/bionet is by no means the exclusive playground of myself,
> although I usually function as the spokesperson. ...

You usually speak for the several other people who do a lot of
the behind-the-scenes work to keep the mailing lists and gateways
running, and also help readers elsewhere get their own local
Usenet servers in order.  But I don't agree that you speak for
bionet.*, which I define as the total of all the newsgroups and
(most importantly) the people who participate in them.

> just (net.bio.net and daresbury.ac.uk) have the ultimate responsibility
> for running the system.

This is largely true:  these two sites have far more responsibility
than any others, except the major Usenet nodes, namely uunet.uu.net
and a few others.

> This is not to denigrate the contribution of the
> news system administrators at all of the sites around the net.  Of

Just so.

> course, without all of their efforts the news part of the system 
> 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.


> 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.

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



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