"cranks" on Usenet?

Una Smith una at doliolum.biology.yale.edu
Wed Jul 27 11:51:55 EST 1994


Lachlan Cranswick <lachlan at dmp.csiro.au> wrote:

>Ignoring for the moment that (thankfully) bionet is not officially
>part of the Usenet and does not have to follow Usenet "guidelines" -
>that effectively discourage new serious science newsgroups.

Newsgroups on scientific topics are no more discouraged than
those on any other topic.  In fact, I would say the opposite
was true:  sci.* and comp.* newsgroup proposals seem to meet
with far less resistance from the public in news.groups than
do proposals for newsgroups in other hierarchies.

Regardless, I seem to recall Lachlan Cranswick was involved
for a time in the proposal for sci.geo.oceanography, which
has passed smoothly through the administrative steps and is
now being voted on.  If I remember correctly, Lachlan wanted
the name to be sci.oceanography, even though sci.geo.* exists
and has numerous newsgroups already that are not unrelated
to oceanography:  s.g.geology and s.g.meteorology, to name
just two.

The sci.* hierarchy now faces the same problem that bionet.*
will soon face:  hundreds of newsgroups and an ever more
rapidly growing "namespace".  In a small namespace, like a
small library, it doesn't matter how things are arranged,
but when there are more than a few hundred things to keep
track of, the organizing scheme becomes important.  In
Usenet, for now, organization is achieved by the use of
informative newsgroup names that are built in hiearchical
units.  There are a number of mechanisms for discouraging
individuals from imposing their pet newsgroup names at the
expense of all (now 7 million) Usenet readers.

It would seem that this is the source of Lachlan's sense 
of discouragement.

>Were
>the hundered of millions of dollars spent in various countries
>on academic and research networks (i.e., AARNet, NFSNet, JANET,
>etc) so that it could be the playtoy of some individuals with
>the seeming mentality of 5 year olds.

The Internet is not an academic or research network.  And no one
ever paid for Usenet, which is just one of many forms of traffic
on the Internet (and off it).


>Many colleagues in the biological fields praise the bionet ...
>This compares to the Usenet, full of "cranks and wierdos" ...

This is a false comparison.  Usenet, including bionet.*, has
its share of cranks, and its share of praise.  To draw a line
between bionet.* and the rest of Usenet, and then cast all
the cranks on one side and the kudos on the other is foolish.


>... I would think that University chancellors would be embarressed
>to think that their employees or students are spending large
>chunks of time poisoning the ability of international research
>networks to be applied to science and other related fields.

Scientists are entitled to use the Internet as they please,
but others are not, eh?


>I take it the above opinions on why science newsgroups
>should not be encouraged are only an individuals
>opinions and in no way represent any authority implied
>or otherwise (such as Yale Univerisity?) on the 
>"encouraged" use of the internet.

Who are you refering to, Lachlan?  I've seen no such opinions
expressed here.  You certainly can't be refering to me, as I
led the creation of many newsgroups on scientific topics, 
including:

		bionet.general
		bionet.organisms.zebrafish
		comp.soft-sys.sas
		comp.soft-sys.spss
		sci.bio.ecology
		sci.bio.ethology
		sci.bio.evolution	
		sci.bio.herp
		sci.stat.consult
		sci.stat.edu
		sci.stat.math

My department certainly seems to appreciate my Internet activities,
including developing Usenet newsgroups.  I regard it as volunteer
service to the scientific research community.

-- 
	Una Smith			smith-una at yale.edu

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



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