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Another (unpleasant) fact of usenet newsgroup life...

BIOSCI Administrator biosci-help at net.bio.net
Mon Dec 15 14:01:45 EST 1997

I should also alert you to another unpleasant fact of life of usenet
newsgroups, though one which diminishes over time: 

The usenet is a highly decentralized or distributed network of
computers. For instance, there is no one biosci or bionet server which
is the single point to which everyone in the world goes to in order to
use their newsreader or browser to look at bionet messages. Instead,
for efficiency and reliability, there are many news servers around the
world. When you use a newsreader, you specify which news server you
will use (e.g., the nttp server option in a web browser).

A mail message sent to an "unmoderated" group is automatically posted
to every news server immediately, without passing through a central
bionet moderation mailbox. By contrast, a "moderated" group's message
is sent by any news server first to the bionet moderator for that
newsgroup, and then only approved messages are distributed back to the
news servers. When a newsgroup is converted from unmoderated to
moderated (as we did to control spam), special control messages are
sent out to the multitude of news server computers scattered around
the world which serve as relays or depositories for the usenet group
messages, telling them to not post messages directly but to send them
on to the moderator mailbox, and to only accept specially authorized
messages for that newsgroup.  However, such a distributed changeover
process is highly imperfect; while many system administrators quickly
convert their mail alias file, some don't. 

What's the consequence? If some spam operator happens to send a
message to a usenet server which has not changed its mail aliases for
the now moderated group, the spam message will get into its files, and
anyone who happens to read the "moderated" group's mail from that news
server will see the spam message.  We at biosci, however, will not
know of this problem unless an outraged reader sends us a copy of the
message, wondering (as one reader of mycology did last week) why this
junk is still getting through a supposed moderated group.  With a copy
of the spam message, we can contact the culprit news server
administrator and plug that particular hole.  So please let us know if
obvious junk slips through.

Serge Taylor
Biosci Administrator

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