David Steffen steffen at
Sat Feb 25 16:15:20 EST 1995

1) I am well aware that very harsh language is common on usenet (as
distinct from bionet), but I consider that a bug not a feature (1).  I 
beg everyone to make the effort to maintain the current level of decorum 
on bionet even during debate on issues about which you feel strongly.

2) I agree that there is considerable room for improvement over the 
current system used for news and I agree that we all need to be thinking 
and working on that.  However, I think that we need to make changes 
before any new systems are available and think that that changes proposed 
by Dave Kristofferson can dramatically improve bionet *NOW*.

3) RE: "Having to sign up first will represent an excessive barrier to 
new users".  I absolutely agree that this is a big problem.  However, I 
think that the current low signal to noise ratio is an even bigger 
barrier to both new and experienced users.  I suggest that considerable 
thought be given to easing the "sign-up" barrier.  I think there ought to 
be lots of different ways to sign up so that people can pick that which 
is easiest for them.  Some thoughts along those lines:
A) For an institution like Baylor with a well developed user support
organization (MBCR), this organization should have the ability to sign up
users on their behalf; perhaps long lists of users including many who have
not yet considered using bionet. For those users, no change from the
existing system would be noticed. 
B) For a naive biologist who innocently posts to bionet without signing
up, the the response they receive should include an (*EXTREMELY SHORT AND
SIMPLE*) signup form, and, upon completing and returning it, their first
message should be posted. 
C) Web forms for signing up, updating information (email addresses), 
adding (email) aliases, etc. should be provided.
D) It should be understood that at some point a human moderator will have 
to help out.

4) I think a great deal of diversity between the different bionet groups 
should be allowed and even encouraged.  I believe that bionet.general 
should remain as it is; completely unmoderated.  If I were to run a 
group, I would want it automoderated, but would sign up all comers after 
informing them of the group charter.  Other moderators might limit their 
groups to only members of the National Academy of Sciences :-).  There's 
room for all kinds, I say.


(1) See George Bond's "Commentary" on page 250 of the March 1995 issue of 
Byte Magazine for another argument in support of this position.


David Steffen, Ph.D., C/Si Consulting.
Adjunct Professor, Department of Cell Biology, Baylor College of Medicine.
Voice: (713) 668-3289.  FAX: (713) 668-3453.  Email: steffen at

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