PART 2 - MODERATING THE BIOSCI/bionet NEWSGROUPS

Dan Zabetakis dan at cubsps.bio.columbia.edu
Mon Feb 27 19:25:05 EST 1995


In article <3io6l8$f8k at gazette.bcm.tmc.edu>,
David Steffen <steffen at bcm.tmc.edu> wrote:
>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.

  Thank you for putting the case against so concisely. I can already hear 
you forming the automoderator's reject letter: "The language [soon to be
"idea" or "opinion"] you used in your article is unsuitable. Please refrain..."
Procedures advocated on the basis of controlling the _way_ people express
themselves are a particular hazard.
   But you'll say "I would never censor people based on thier language." 
I want to know how it would be made _impossible_ to do so within the new
proposed rules.

>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*.

  It's very important that we not agree to grave changes in the protocol
of bionet just to be polite to Dave. The problems that are going to be 
addressed by the new rules need to be more clearly explained, and the
effect of the new rules needs to be more clearly thought out. For example,
it is unlikely that automoderation and registration will stop serious spam.
Yet they will make it harder to post, and will add an appreciable delay to
the news flow (particularly when net.bio.net is down).


>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. 

  This seems hardly practical. Either bionet has to maintain hundreds of
lists containing thousands of IDs (can you say "delay") from differnt
organizations. Or else the organizations must survey thier users to find out
who might be interested in bionet. (And we all know how efficient user
surveys are).

>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. 

    ... days late. 2 out of 10.

>C) Web forms for signing up, updating information (email addresses), 
>adding (email) aliases, etc. should be provided.

   0.0001% of net users.

>D) It should be understood that at some point a human moderator will have 
>to help out.

   You usually need human intervention only for news-mail gateways and 
for formally moderated groups. That you would expect to need a human manager
shows how much additional complexity you are thinking of adding.

>
>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.

  Limiting groups based on who can post in totally insane. It goes against
the tradition of the net, the purpose of bionet, and very likely equal
opprotunity laws.
  One group mentioned was bionet.plants. I lloked there, and yes, there were
a lot of questions that might better belong in rec.gardening. But I saw only
one person suggesting a poster post to rec.gardening, and then they 
answered the question anyway.
  Now, if plant researchers are unhappy with the content of the group, there
are other ways to control it without formal and complex machinations. Have
someone post a regular FAQ message that redirects people to rec.gardening
or other groups. (If someone is doing this, I didn't see it). Or create a 
new group like bionet.molbio.plants or bionet.plants.methds-reagnts for
purely technical questions.


DanZ

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