PHOTOSYN as a Newsgroup

David Kristofferson kristoff at net.bio.net
Tue Dec 8 16:32:46 EST 1992


Johnathan Marder requested that I summarize the various issues
involved with transferring the PHOTOSYN list to BIOSCI/bionet and I
agreed to do so.  My understanding is that this discussion arose
because of a perceived need to gain access to USENET news to enhance
distribution of the group.

However, I do so with an apology first to Tony Travis who I just saw
protested this non-biology discussion being held in his group.
Johnathan can forward this response to PHOTSYN and then his readers
should probably continue any debate either in that forum of on
BIOFORUM/bionet.general if they wish to get additional input from
BIOSCI/bionet readers.

I am going to assume first that PHOTOSYN readers have at least a vague
idea of what USENET is since that is one of the main reasons that
motivated the idea of changing PHOTOSYN.  FOr those who don't, please
feel free to contact me and I can send you some information about it.

First let me deal with some issues that have been raised by readers.
I noted that some readers were concerned about changes in the commands
and whether or not charges would be imposed.  Regarding the first
point, we do not use the LISTSERV software here at BIOSCI, so there
would be some changes which I will describe below.  Second, there has
never been any charge for BIOSCI/bionet messages and there is no plan
to start doing so at any time in the future.  This work is non-profit
and is supported by an NSF grant.  The fact that it is being done at a
commercial company is more of a historical artifact at this point (the
old BIONET computing service was here at IG in the 80s) rather than a
reflection of any hidden profit motive, but it is, nonetheless, an
issue which is still raised from time to time.  By allowing Kenton
Hoover and I to work on BIOSCI/bionet, IntelliGenetics retains access
to expertise in the non-BIOSCI fraction of our time which they might
not have had otherwise.

Should PHOTOSYN users decide to join BIOSCI, the mailing list would be
split, depending upon one's side of the Atlantic, and the eastern side
would be adminstered at SERC Daresbury Lab, Daresbury, UK, while the
western side would be administered at IntelliGenetics in Mountain
View, California (in Silicon Valley near San Francisco).  This is done
to minimize trans-Atlantic network traffic and conserve network
resources.  Users would send subscription/unsubscription requests to
one of the following two addresses depending upon their location:

biosci at daresbury.ac.uk (UK)  or

biosci at net.bio.net (California)

No special command structure is required.  Although we will soon have
an automated sign up procedure here, we read and act on simple English
requests.  The volume of subscription mail to BIOSCI is small enough
on most days that processing the requests can be handled through the
use of semi-automated scripts in 15 minutes or less.  We thus spare
our users of the need to remember any special command syntax and
thereby also minimize post like

SUBSCRIBE PHOTOSYN

being sent to evryone on the mailing list.  To post to the newsgroup
there would be created an address such as

photosyn at daresbury.ac.uk

or 

photosyn at net.bio.net

You would pick the one on your side of the "pond" (We at IG handle the
Far East, while Daresbury handles Africa and Central Asia).  In a
nutshell al that you must remember to use BIOSCI is the one address to
post messages to the newsgroup and the one biosci address to
request/cancel subscriptions.  No other command syntax is required.
People are available at the biosci addresses to help you if you have
questions.

BIOSCI follows Internet mailing list standards as opposed to LISTSERV
which means that ***replies to postings do NOT by default go back to
the list***.  You will have to make a conscious decision to include
either of the two photosyn addresses above on your reply (people
usually just choose the closest one to their geographic location) if
you want everyone to see it.  This policy means that you will not see
the same answer to a question many times over as can happen with the
LISTSERV default, but it also means that you may not see any answers
at all to some questions if no one adds the mailing list address to
their reply.  On the Internet it is considered common courtesy for the
person who receives a lot of replies to post a summary of responses
back to the net if the respondents failed to do so.  This is not
enforceable obviously.

One reader raised an issue about USENET opening up the group to random
postings by non-scientists.  This is a potential danger which we also
worried about when we first decided to expand the BIONET mailing lists
to USENET access a long time ago.  Our general finding is that, while
this does happen on occasion if nothing has been posted to a group for
a while, the active groups tend to be largely "self-policing" and we
have not regretted our decision to also allow USENET access to our
mailing lists.  We in fact favor USENET news software to read the
lists because it frees up our personal mail files from mailing list
clutter and keeps the different discussions on different newsgroups
organized for easy reading instead of mixing everything together in
one mail file.

BIOSCI, however, is *not* in a position to serve as a USENET gateway for
a LISTSERV list based elsewhere.  If you want to continue to use
LISTSERV software, but also allow USENET access, then you will have to
investigate obtaining USENET access following standard USENET group
creation procedures through either the bit.listserv or sci.bio
domains.  We have had too many unpleasant experiences in the past
involving LISTSERVs and split administrative responsibilities at a
number of computer sites.  Thus we only take on list maintenance if we
have direct control over both the mailing list and the newsgroup
mechanisms.  If a technical problem develops, then we must have the
necessary access privileges to fix it quickly.

This does not mean that we would interfere in any manner with the
contents of the group itself.  Johnathan and/or anyone else that has
served as group discussion leader in the past would continue in that
capacity.  All that we do is remove the list maintenance tasks from
his/their back(s).

BIOSCI newsgroups are archived for FTP retrieval and also for WAIS
retrieval over the Internet.  Gopher access is currently available to
the archives through Don Gilbert's IUBIO site in Indiana, and will
also be available from us at net.bio.net soon.  E-mail retrieval of
archives a la LISTSERV is not possible at the moment but is part of
the new automated list handling software that we are putting on line
soon.

I hope this outlines the issues involved in your decision.  If I have
overlooked anything or, if you have questions on other issues, please
feel free to contact me.

				Sincerely,

				Dave Kristofferson
				BIOSCI/bionet Manager

				kristoff at net.bio.net



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