Paleonet: sorry!

Norman MacLeod N.MacLeod at
Sat Jan 9 07:05:05 GMT 2010

Like most mailing-lists, PaleoNet list is run using public domain listserver
management software (currently Mailman) licensed to and maintained by The
Natural History Museum, London, not a custom designed system programmed by
myself. That's a requirement of all lists managed under the NHM domain. The
user options available are those available in the Mailman software (see
summary in the PaleoNet User's Guide, available in as part of the PaleoNet
web site (

All listserver software works passively in the sense that no one needs to
connect to the software itself in order to post a message. The software
accepts incoming e-mails from wherever, compares the return addresses to the
addresses present on a master subscriber list, and if a match is found
resents the messages (subject to certain limits) to the addresses on the
master list. That's all a listserver does.

Under Mailman users can set a fairly wide range of options (compared to
other listserver software systems) to control the form of, type of, and how
often messages are sent to their addresses. But currently there is no option
for the list to accept an incoming message, bounce back and e-mail message
to the original poster asking them whether they really, really, really want
to post that message, instruct the original poster as to how to respond to
the software in an e-mail message indicating their preference in a form the
listserver could understand, interpret the return response, and then take
appropriate action. As I hope you can see, adding this capability is not
'simple enough to do' (people who don't program often think computer
programming is simple) and would result in a very inelegant, intrusive, and
error-prone system that I doubt many PaleoNet subscribers would want to use.

The other option would be for me to run PaleoNet as a moderated list which
would require me to read and approve all messages that come in prior to
their distribution. This, of course, places a substantial burden on the list
owner/moderator, virtually guarantees substantial delay in the posting of
messages, and can lead to disagreements between the moderator and
subscribers as to what constitutes an 'acceptable' posting.

The problem Peter, Dave, and a few others (including myself) have run into
over the years with respect to inadvertently posting messages intended for
individuals to the entire list exists, obviously. However, relative to other
lists this problem really doesn't crop up on PaleoNet very often. Yes it is
embarrassing for those caught out. But life goes on. The bottom line is,
adding this capability to PaleoNet is actually quite a major undertaking
that would result in making the listserver far more intrusive and probably
wouldn't work anyway insofar as most subscribers would opt to turn the
distribution confirmation option off as they would find it needless and
annoying after a short time, all to solve a problem that, contrary to
Peter's assertion, occurs in less that one percent of the messages
distributed by PaleoNet. Because these messages attract disproportionate
interest it might seem as though they are common. But given the amount of
routine traffic handled by the list they are actually quite rare.

It seems to me the best solution is for subscribers to simply think a bit
harder and double-check before pressing that 'Send' button on messages
intended for PaleoNet. Actually, thinking a bit harder before you press that
'Send' button on any e-mail message is probably good advice.


Norm MacLeod

On 8/1/10 23:50, "argo at" <argo at> wrote:

> All too often paleonet is publishing messages not meant for general
> consumption.  As John seems to think that I am the king of gaffes, perhaps he
> and I can impress on Norm to build in an automatic response asking if you
> really want to tell the world how much you despise so and so. It should be
> simple enough to do - too often people are hitting respond unthinkingly.
> Professor Peter D Ward
> Dept of Biology
> The University of Washington
> Seattle, 98195
> 206-543-2962  ( Office )
> _______________________________________________
> Paleonet mailing list
> Paleonet at


Prof. Norman MacLeod
Keeper of Palaeontology
The Natural History Museum
Cromwell Road, London, SW7 5BD

(0)207 942-5204 (Office)
(0)207 942-5546 (Fax) (Web Page)


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