from the LEPS-L listowner

Lawrence F. Gall lawrence.gall at
Sat Jan 12 13:45:15 EST 2002

Hello LEPS-L & subscribers,

A number of you have written back to the LEPS-L/s.b.e.l. list with comments
on Valeria Passoa's posting of 9 January, in which she expressed concern
about the civility of our email, the perceived use of LEPS-L/s.b.e.l. as a 
bully pulpit by some individuals, and related matters.  Three of you have
subsequently offered comments to me privately.  Still others have written
into the list in response to Mark Walker's call for a "vote of confidence"
on his own postings...

First, allow me to repeat the ground rules for LEPS-L/s.b.e.l., which are:

(1) postings should be limited to Lepidoptera-related topics
(2) write courteously & respectfully at all times
(3) write with brevity & clarity at all times
(4) refrain from overtly commercial ("buy/sell") notices
(5) refrain from sending attached files to the list

For (4) and (5), please make off-list arrangements, such as directing
people to a web site where the material resides.  A more detailed
discussion of expectations regarding LEPS-L/s.b.e.l. can be found
at (note in particular
the links from that page to the FAQ sheet).

Second, let me offer some more lengthy thoughts, wearing my listowner hat.

LEPS-L/s.b.e.l. has, by original purpose and design, always been an open
and formally unregulated discussion group.  Anyone is free to post, and
the submissions are not screened prior to being posted (expect that
firewalls at several gateways try their best to weed out commercial spam
and/or virii).  I don't anticipate major changes in this policy, as my
perception continues to be that LEPS-L/s.b.e.l is suitably self-policing.
I am also *truly* grateful to all list participants regarding this
self-policing, since you tend to chime in quickly and rein in runaway
conversations (often before I even have had a chance to analyze these
situations).  In the best spirit of internet lists, I feel that such
self-policing is one of the more desirable outcomes.  LEPS-L/s.b.e.l.
is a diverse forum, and people have quite different ideas on what
constitutes their preferred cup of tea.  I think it would be
counterproductive to attempt formal moderation of the list, both
in the short as well as the long run.

Remember that LEPS-L/s.b.e.l. is a combined forum (a Listproc listserver
plus a Usenet newsgroup linked together), and I strongly urge all
participants to take advantage of this flexibility to suit their own
needs.  This is especially pertinent if you wish to apply your own content
filtering rules to the flow of postings -- and since LEPS-L/s.b.e.l. is
currently unmoderated, I view such filtering as the responsibility of
the individual.  Fortunately, this is not hard to do.  Some of you may
be comfortable subscribing directly to LEPS-L, and reading each posting
as it arrives in your incoming mailbox; some may want to take LEPS-L in
a single daily digest format, rather than having to handle each piece as
it comes in; some may want to read the newsgroup via Netscape; some
want to just occasionally search the newsgroup using; etc.

Each of these methods for reading LEPS-L/s.b.e.l. implies different
options for content filtering.  For example, I follow the posts using
either Netscape's internal newsgroup capabilities, or, since
my incoming flow of other email at work is already rather substantial.
That way, I can choose a suitably quiet time during the day (if and
when such exists) to scan the LEPS-L/s.b.e.l. postings in one sitting.
I use Eudora as my email program, and set Eudora to filter and sort
incoming email into a modest & manageable number of folders, based
on fairly broad content rules (e.g., all inbound peabody.webmaster at
email goes into one folder; all messages coming from listproc at
[these are problem reports from our and other lists] goes into another
folder; etc.).  Most modern email programs allow comparable filtering,
and you should check to see how you can accomplish this, if interested.
This is a straightforward way to screen email by individual senders.
Pressing the delete key, sight unseen, is perhaps less efficient but also 
works (you also summarily miss any nuggets of utility that might be
included in what you've otherwise decided was probably chaff).

A comment regarding people using LEPS-L/s.b.e.l. as if it were a bully
pulpit or personal forum.  The perception of whether someone is indeed
doing so is at least in part in the eye of the reader.  Again, our eyes
are all different, and while I have every sympathy for individual
subscribers' sensibilities, I don't really see any general solution
other than the problematic road of formal moderation.

Lastly, regarding the bully pulpit, I arbitrarily took the last six months'
worth of postings and decided to try to assess the number and diversity
of these postings.  Of the 1,991 pieces of email that were in this
sample, we had postings from 308 different individuals ("From:" email
header) on 728 different topics ("Subject:" email header).  The largest
number of posts by one individual during this period was 186, the next
107, then 88, then fairly rapidly decreasing from there.  And the topics
of the postings ranged all across the board.  I've posted a summary of
this at for those
with an interest.

My own take on the summary is that LEPS-L/s.b.e.l. seems to be alive
and well, although perhaps chafing in January (as we often do) due to
wintertime in much of the holarctic region, and a corresponding relative
lack of opportunity to see live leps.  You'll need to trust me that
these email statistics are not radically different from other periods
in LEPS-L/s.b.e.l.'s long history... I have checked before   :)

Cheers, have a good weekend, and happy posting,


: Lawrence F. Gall, Ph.D.            e-mail: lawrence.gall at  :
: Head, Computer Systems Office &     voice: 1-203-432-9892          :
: Curatorial Affiliate in Entomology    FAX: 1-203-432-9816          :
: Peabody Museum of Natural History   :
: P.O. Box 208118, Yale University                                   :
: New Haven, CT 06520-8118 USA                                       :


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