PART 2 - MODERATING THE BIOSCI/bionet NEWSGROUPS

Richard E. Depew red at redpoll.mrfs.oh.us
Sun Feb 26 13:19:26 EST 1995


In article <3ij6so$rog at net.bio.net>,
BIOSCI Administrator  <bioforum at net.bio.net> wrote:
[...]
>Moderating the newsgroups would mean changing them so that only
>preapproved messages would be distributed.

     Not if you permit the use of retroactive moderation as an
alternative to preapproval moderation.

     Retroactive moderation is moderation through the removal of
inappropriate articles *after* they have been posted.  The current
model is the "tit-for-two-tats" version in which the first off-charter
article from a given poster draws an admonishment (and a copy of the
newsgroup charter) and any subsequent off-charter posts are rejected
(by a cancel or supersedes message).  The mechanism by which retroactive
moderation achieves an improved signal/noise ration is by discouraging
authors from posting off-charter articles in the first place.

>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.

     I would like to suggest that the option of retroactive moderation
also be offered as a "middle ground" between "central control"
moderation and a completely open group.

>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.
[...]

     Numbers 2, 3, and 4 are addressed somewhat differently by
retroactive moderation.  The moderators duties' are little more
difficult than reading the group and admonishing or removing the
occasional off-charter posting (functions which can be done from
within trn with the help of the proof-of-concept scripts.)  If someone
has time to read the group, they have time to moderate it.  And,
moderation can be distributed among any number of moderators... the
retromod control messages use message-id conventions similar to those
used in spam cancels to prevent more than one admonishment or
rejection from acting at any particular site.  Thus it is volunteers
from among the readers and posters in the newsgroup community who set
the standards for how that newsgroup will interpret its charter.

>Finally, changing currently unmoderated newsgroups to moderated
>newsgroups presents some technical challenges, but we believe these
>are solvable if done in cooperation with other news administrators on
>the net.

    Yes, but this is not a problem for a retroactively moderated
group because it remains marked "y" in active file... people may post
directly to the group rather than through a moderator or
moderator-bot.

>Please do not assume that it is a foregone conclusion that we will
>proceed with the plan above.  This idea is being floated for public
>comment, but we anticipate a favorable reaction, particularly if
>individual BIOSCI/bionet newsgroups have the option to remain
>unmoderated.

     Moderation is the "wave of the future", but so is
decentralization.

>The resource issue, however, is the main reason that we have not
>proposed this earlier and is the last item to be addressed.  It is the
>topic of our last message, PART 3 in this series.

     Yes, the "central control" registration and moderation procedure
would require considerable administrative effort... this is another
advantage of retroactive moderation - it is a distributed effort with no
need for registration or even a single "choke-point" for posting.  It
will be as robust as, but less noisy than, an unmoderated group.
Retroactive moderation is also suitable for groups that are gated to
mailing lists.  The admonishment and rejection messages should be
filtered out of the mailing list stream.  Those who get the mailing list
will derive their benefits from the decreased rate of off-charter
posting that retroactive moderation will gradually achieve.

Best wishes,
Dick
P.S. for more information send the single line "index retromod" to
     "archive-server at redpoll.mrfs.oh.us"
-- 
Richard E. Depew, Munroe Falls, OH    red at redpoll.mrfs.oh.us (home)
``Every time history repeats itself, the price goes up.''  Old saying



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