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A Dino List Retrospective

To mark the five year anniversary of the non-violent takeover of the dinosaur 
mailing list by Mickey Rowe (February 1, 1994), and to complement all the 
upcoming PBS specials on the subject, here is a field trip down the 
evolutionary lane of the dino list.  The welcoming and administrivia messages 
have changed through conflict and necessity (punctuated equilibrium?), and 
it is certainly déjà vu all over again when one reads the administrative 
messages through the years.  Posters past and present continue to stray 
from the one true path of dinosaur science, and those &%#@ popular 
threads keep coming back in slightly different forms like Godzilla spawn.

Over the five years, rules and guidelines have been added and amended 
to help keep the list locked on dinosaur science and to make it an enjoyable 
and informative read for all--a dino constitution or charter as it is 
called.  Excerpts and urls from enlightening messages in the archives 
which have set list policy on proper content and behavior are assembled 
below.  Dinolisters are urged to read (for the very first time or returning 
the thrilling days of yesteryear) those messages.

a) Why you shouldn't post on things you don't know much about:
Subject:  Cleaning up. Date: 25 Jan 1999 
And, particularly at times like now when the chatter is high, please try to 
filter your participation. If you don't know a lot about a subject, don't try 
answer questions about it. If a response you're writing is not likely to be 
general interest, send that response to the sender of the original message 
rather than to the whole list. If you find yourself writing to the list 
several times 
in a day, try to remember that the list doesn't exist just to hear your 

b) Reasons why you shouldn't send attachments to the list:
Subject: On not sending attachments to mailing lists. 6 Dec. 1998
I hope everyone will follow that lead. In fact, I'd go further and ask that 
people stop sending attachments to the list period. Many people using
Microsoft Outlook or Netscape Navigator to send mail send us not only 
a text version of their message, but also an html version as an attachment.
Please learn how to use your software to turn this feature off when sending 
mail to a list that is not explicitly set up for the purpose of exchanging 
attachments. The following is from the administrivia message:

| I don't expect to discipline anyone for this, but I do ask that you
| not include attachments (such as files containing images) to
| messages. A large number of people will not be able to read the
| files, and many will not even be able to receive them (believe it or
| not some people have limits on the sizes of messages they can
| receive!). If you wish to transmit an image or other form of
| encoded message please find another place to make it available and
| send to the dinosaur list only an announcement of the file's
| availability

c) Policy on topics that don't belong on the list:
Subject: Back to dinosaur science, please. Date: 20 Oct 1998
Just as a helpful reminder... this list exists to support discussions of 
scientific investigations about dinosaurs. It is not about how bad 
communism is. It is not about the dastardly things people can do with 
telephones (especially when the "warning" is a well-known hoax - if you 
want details about that ask for them someplace else!)

Subject: Some administrative stuff. Date: 9 Nov 1998 
Do I need to send a message once a week telling everybody why this 
list is here? Please, no politics, no Planet of the Apes jokes, no responses 
to spam... If you don't like something you see on the list and your reasons 
for disliking it make you want to say something that doesn't have anything 
to do with dinosaur science then either write to me or to the author of the
message. Leave the innocent bystanders alone! I should say more, but I 
fear I've got other things to worry about and the worst offenders don't 
listen anyways...

Subject: Anyone wanting to unsubscribe please READ this. 
Date: 21 Jan 1998 
It should go without saying that messages sent to this list should have 
something to do with the material described in the list's charter. If you're
thinking of sending a message and it isn't fairly directly related to 
then please decide not to send it, even if you think it contains information 
everybody should know. For instance, messages about computer viruses 
do *not* belong on this list, even if the viruses are real (let alone 
modified warnings about a ten year old hoax...) Thanks for your cooperation.

d) What makes a good scientific discussion?
Subject: Cleaning up. Date: 25 Jan 1999 
The nature of a good scientific discussion is that the subject matter will be 
data and relationships between data. A characteristic of many bad scientific 
discussions is that they revolve around judging a person's argument based 
on their presentation or on your opinions about how wrong the presenter 
was in previous arguments. On this list I think we should all strive to have 
good discussions. No flames of people living or dead...

e) List administration as a topic for discussion:
Subject: Vendors Wanted (forward) and the cat's back. Date: 3 Jan 1999
The thing I want to stress is:  If you have any comments about how this 
document or list management policy could be improved, please feel free 
to write to me (Mickey Rowe) at: mrowe@indiana.edu. I've always tried to 
be quite clear that if you have any problems with the way the list is run, 
should take them up with me directly. One of my most recent amendations
to list policy (specifically section 8h) includes: The purpose of this rule 
to end meta-discussions about what should or shouldn't be discussed on 
the list.

Anyone who's been paying attention would know that I feel quite strongly 
about keeping discussions of list policy off the list as much as possible. Go 
a few rounds with me before *we* agree that it is appropriate to bring your 
concerns out in front of the whole list. 

f) If someone disagrees with your opinion:
Subject: Differing opinions. Date: 10 May 1999
It is not a personal attack if someone posts an opinion which differs from
one's own. Our list includes experts and amateurs with knowledge in an 
amazing variety of fields which can relate to dinosaurs and how they lived. 
This furthers our discussion and helps us learn?. If one is going to argue 
a point, then one should be very sure of his interpretation, or be ready to 
concede to a more informed opinion. That is neither war nor surrender. 
Anyone who is unable to do that with a certain amount of civility can expect
a time-out or more.

g) For some reason, lots of people want to be paleontologists. See:
The Dinosaur Mailing List receives numerous requests for advice on how to 
become a paleontologist and which colleges offer programs in paleontology. 
Rather than have potential paleos write to the list and list members recreate 
answers with each new inquiry, we hope that what has been assembled 
here will simplify the process for both requestors and the list. 

The final exam uncovers this material and will be worth 100% of your 
grade (no pass/no play).

Mary Kirkaldy
Dinosaur Mailing List Co-owner