View Full Version : Quis Custodiat Custodes ?

Herman J. Woltring
06-20-1991, 11:03 AM
Dear Biomch-L readers,

During the past few days, I have enjoyed attending the First International
Networking Conference (iNET) in Copenhagen. Thanks to the marvels of Internet
technology, I could `TELNET' into my Dutch account and maintain `business
as usual'.

While most papers were of a technical nature and quite outside the scope of
our list, meeting with so many networking gurus was a useful experience.
Furthermore, there were some very interesting papers of an application-
oriented or meta-networking nature, and I shall discuss one of each.

(1) Florencio I. Utreras from the University of Santiago in Chile (whose
analytical work on GCV-smoothing splines has been essential for my own
programming attempts in this area some 7 years ago) had a presentation about
making the MEDLARS database at the US National Library of Medicine accessible
via batch-mode command sequences over BITNET, somewhat similar (I think) to
the LDBASE procedures of database searches for LISTSERVers. In this way,
international telecommunication costs are substantially smaller than when
using interactive, on-line database searches via telephone dial-up. While
MEDLARS consulting as such is not free of charge (on a non-profit, cost-
recovery basis only), it would appear that there will be possibilities for
free try-outs during July 1991, and I'll come back on this once I have
further details.

(2) David Stodolsky, a psychologist from Roskilde University in Denmark, had
a provocative presentation on networking maturity issues. He discussed the
dictatorial nature of LISTSERVer moderators (including those who, by their
*own* choice, do not excercise any prior, editorial control), and he compared
electronic journals with electronic books, particularly contrasting Bulletin
Boards versus Archives. He depicted Bulletin Boards as providing posters with
the opportunity to establish their name and reputation, and to indulge in
fervent debate; by contrast, Archives are used for retrieving Accumulated
Wisdom. He then went on to advocate postings under pseudonymes in order to
counter the adverse effects of, e.g., ego-tripping posters, and finished with
some New Models for Scientific Societies.

< For an archive-based list like Biomch-L, the above dichotomy is difficult
to maintain, as (most) posters know that their postings are, in principle,
preserved. Accumulation of Wisdom may typically occur via scholarly (I
should hope) debate. Furthermore, there are technical moderation aspects
like `holding' the list if an infinite loop occurs. However, even material
control can be excercised in quite subtle ways, not just before but also
after the fact. From this point of view, Tom Cahalan's posting yesterday is
quite interesting. Should we, at this state of the debate and before the
Montreal Conference, already try to separate the wheat from the chaff?
Practically, I think that the time of the year, close to summer holiday,
makes Tom's proposal somewhat difficult to carry out, and I would propose
at least to wait until the summer period is over. >

At the end of the iNET conference this morning, the establishment of an Inter-
net Society was announced, with annual meetings that will possibly become the
continuation of the iNET conference. Further details are available from

Herman J. Woltring, (back in) Eindhoven/NL.