Keith Robison robison at
Fri Feb 24 07:58:36 EST 1995

BIOSCI Administrator (biosci-help at wrote:
: In Part 1 we explained the advantages of news over e-mail and why you
: should make the investment to switch.  Among other things, this makes
: it easier to ignore the growing morass of garbage on the net, but it
: does not eliminate it.  This message deals with that challenge.

: Moderating the newsgroups would mean changing them so that only
: preapproved messages would be distributed.  This raise a number of hot
: issues immediately:

: (1) Do readers even want the newsgroups moderated????
: (2) Freedom of speech!!!  This proposal sounds like fascism on the net.
: (3) Who will do the moderating?  More importantly, who has the time??!!!
: (4) What will be the criteria used to approve messages for posting??
: (5) How will this change be implemented without causing network
:     problems?

: First, if we go ahead with this proposal, we will probably seek
: blanket approval to moderate all of the bionet newsgroups, but allow
: each group the option to bow out if the discussion leader believes
: that it is the consensus of the group to stay completely open.

: Numbers 2, 3, and 4 can be addressed by an idea first brought to our
: attention some time ago by one of our helpful readers, David Steffen.
: *NO ONE* will do the moderation!!  It will be done by machine and
: elimnate the need to find people to preapprove/edit messages.  The
: only criterion will be that one has preregistered to post to the
: BIOSCI newsgroups.  Messages posted or mailed in to the newsgroups
: will first be sent for checking against the registration list and then
: approved for distribution automatically or rejected automatically.
: There will be no editorial interference with people's opinions.

: Such a system will immediately eliminate SUBSCRIBE postings (but not
: UNSUBSCRIBE postings unfortunately) 

Why not?  I've long wished that there was automatic filtering out of
subscribe and unsubscribe messages (they follow relatively simple
patterns, as well as empty messages.  While I do read with a threaded
newsreader, when enough of them pile up its annoying.

: and avoid ads posted by people who
: are not part of the system (unless they are devious and override the
: moderation mechanism).  Ads posted by registered users would be
: grounds for immediate revocation of posting rights to the groups.
: This action could be taken promptly.  Currently we are limited to
: joining a chorus of time-wasting protests to
: postmaster at which sometimes do not work.

: The registration process could be automatic, although offending
: addresses could be blocked.  One hopes that if new users can master

You could invert the approach -- simply have a list of offending 
addressess which cannot post.  Of course, most of the "spamming"
seems to be of the one-shot, hit-and-run variety, but the only 
conceivable mechanism capable of dealing with that is human 

: the registration process via an e-mail server, then they should also
: be able to subscribe correctly to the newsgroups.  If they can't do
: either, then they would have to seek help at the tech support
: addresses.

: On the other hand, the registration process could be more stringent,
: requiring users to actually give some kind of proof that they were, in
: fact, researchers, and not just curiosity seekers.  This topic could
: be the subject of intense debate, I'm sure 8-).

Keith Robison
Harvard University
Department of Cellular and Developmental Biology
Department of Genetics / HHMI

robison at 

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