SERIALST List Administrivia: Questions & Answers Birdie MacLennan 09 Feb 1996 20:47 UTC

On Fri, 9 Feb 1996 13:45:09 +0000 (GMT) Rosalee McReynolds wrote:
>   I'm a little confused about where I send messages in reply to queries
>posted on SERIALST.  I recently sent a message about Chem Abstracts to
>, and got a reply from the L-Soft list server
>at UVMVM that it was being forwarded to the list moderator:
>SEREDIT@UVMVM.BITNET.  Is this where messages should be sent? Or should
>they go to you personally? Please unconfuse this e-mail neophyte.

Rosalee, I hope you don't mind that I am taking some liberty in copying
SERIALST in my reply to your message, as this question has come up
on more than one occasion, so I suspect others may be confused, as well!

First of all, the correct address for submitting a message SERIALST is

SERIALST, as a moderated discussion list (running under the L-Soft
mailing list software application, also known as LISTSERV) is configured
to route incoming mail to an editors' sublist called "SEREDIT".  SEREDIT
essentially allows for collaborative moderation of SERIALST in that
it enables all of SERIALST's (3) moderators to review incoming mail
simultaneously.  Mail that is approved by the moderators (per the
SERIALST Scope & Purpose document) is then forwarded, by the designated
moderator, to the list of subscribers.

What you, and presumably all SERIALST message-senders receive prior
to their posted message, is an automated acknowledgment (or "reply")
from the listserver -- the same acknowledgment that you note above --
that your mail is being routed to the list's moderator(s) via the
SEREDIT function.  (and BTW, I note that your message re. Chem
Abstracts was posted to SERIALST subscribers on Wed, 7 Feb.)

Another question that has emerged in recent days is in regard to
fluctuations and various discrepancies in the "from" line in the
headers of messages posted to SERIALST.  Why does some mail appear
to come "from" the original sender of the message and other mail
come "from" one of the SERIALST moderator's personal address(es)?

This has to do with the way the moderators' three different local
e-mail systems interact with the SERIALST listserver configuration.
The UVMVM mainframe's IBM/CMS L-Mail system allows mail to be
forwarded to SERIALST while preserving the original message-sender's
name in the "from" line of the header, while the Vax and Unix
mail systems used to distribute messages forwarded by SERIALST's
Associate Moderators (Ann Ercelawn and Marcia Tuttle) replace
the original message-sender's name(s) in the header's "from" line
with that of the moderator's (this is also true for digested messages
forwarded from me via the local UVMVM mainframe).  While we realize that
discrepancies in the "from" line occasionally cause confusion
for subscribers, we generally include original-author's names in
"subject" lines of messages when the "from" line is replaced by the
name of the moderator.   This is just one of the behind-the-scenes
technicalities that we haven't been able to address with consistency
as we moderate the list from different geographical locales and with
different e-mail systems.

Finally, the question of why we take the time and trouble to moderate
SERIALST was recently asked (this came up in private correspondence
regarding a subscriber's confusion about the discrepancies in the "from"
lines of SERIALST's mail headers).

In a nutshell, we moderate for two reasons:
(1) to keep the list on-Scope (per the SERIALST Scope & Purpose document);
and (2) to make optimal efficiency of the computer resources available to
us.  Consider, for example, an average mail volume of between 80,000-
100,000 messages per DAY on one mainframe computer supporting a half dozen
listserv applications ... routing mail to thousands of individual recipients
while also being busy supporting a number of other important, non-listserv
-related applications.  Consider the additional cost and burden (not to
mention irritation and embarrassment) of needless e-mail distribution
(2350+ subscribers on SERIALST alone) of the occasional mis-directed
message and the more frequent kinds of "SPAMS" (i.e., mass e-mail distributed
messages, generally asking network users to buy something) that SERIALST's
LISTSERV software generally filters (with a moderated check) on an
average of once a week.  ...  One could say, in short, that we moderate
to digest like-messages and conserve bandwith -- and, of course, to
ensure that the focus of the discussions remains with "serials in libraries"
and/or announcements and concerns related to SERIALST's "serials in
libraries" constituents.

Is it worth the time and trouble of moderating?  Some may not think so ...
some of you *told* me in the SERIALST subscriber survey that was sent
out last fall that you do not think so ... However, more of you said that
you liked and preferred the moderated format and appreciated the effort
that went into it ... I think that I can safely say that the moderators
and the person catching the error message returns (bane of listowner!)
think so, too ... or we wouldn't be doing it.  (For more information
about Internet discussion lists and computer resources, I highly
recommend an article that appeared in the _Chronicle of Higher Education_
(Nov. 3, 1995) p. A34-A36, "Burden on Computers Causes Concern Over
Internet Discussion Lists" by David W. Wilson).  <soap box off>

Sorry for running on.  I know this is more than Rosalee inquired about.
However, her question elicited thoughts about various questions that have
appeared in my mailbox this past week regarding generalities about why
some things are the way they are on SERIALST and I thought I'd post a
reply to the list, in the event that some of these questions and concerns
are of more general interest.


    Birdie MacLennan
    SERIALST Listowner/Moderator
    University of Vermont