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Taylor Roberts <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Thu, 21 Mar 1996 21:57:30 -0500
text/plain (186 lines)
I always regret having to post administrative messages to the Forum, but
I've saved up a couple of important messages for this single message.
The first part concerns World Wide Web issues, the second explains a new
policy of semi-moderated list posting, and the third explains how to
sign off the list.


I am pleased to announce that the log files of the Mark Twain Forum
(from March 1992 to the present) are now available on the World Wide Web
via the Forum's home page at the following URL:

Please note that the URL has changed, and so you should update your
links accordingly.  I apologize for the inconvenience, and I assure you
I didn't do it for the sake of change alone; rather, as I added the
Forum's log files to the existing page, I discovered that they were so
large that they exceeded my disk quota.  With the increasing amount of
data that I expect will show up on the Forum's page, it was best to find
a larger and more stable home.  I expect that the above URL will exist
for the next two years or more, which is as much stability as one can
home for when it comes to computers and the net.

The log files are still available in the traditional way from LISTSERV,
but--as several members have already noticed--the database search
routine described in the Survival Guide no longer works.  When the
Forum's host upgraded to the new version of LISTSERV a few months ago,
we got some nice new features (like the digests option), but lost
others, such as database searching, and the filelist.  The author of
LISTSERV, Eric Thomas, has told me that these features will likely
return to later versions, but in the meantime he is giving priority to
developing a Web interface for LISTSERV, since that's where the largest
demand is.

In the meantime, I hope the new Web archive will offer a more user-
friendly way for you to browse the Forum's archives.  You can just click
on each month and do a keyword search on it with your browser, or
download the log files to your PC and search them there.  If you don't
want to download the files, just send me an IBM-formatted high-density
disk and a self-addressed, stamped disk mailer, and I'll gladly send you
a self-extracting ZIP file of the Forum logs.  Alternatively, if there
is demand, I can put the ZIP file on the web page.

I'm currently pursuing a couple of excellent suggestions from Web guru
Jim Zwick about making the log files more easily searchable on the Web,
but by the time I can implement them, the new version of LISTSERV may
well be realized.  Please be patient with me; I also used to use the
database search routine rather frequently, and am finding it
inconvenient not to be able to use it anymore.

Several people have sent me texts of various kinds for the Forum's
filelist.  I have to apologize to them for what must look like
indifference on my part, but--as explained above--the Forum filelist has
unfortunately become dormant with the new version of LISTSERV. The
technical staff at York U have been kind enough to make the old files
available in some unusual way (I don't think it's as described in the
Survival Guide), but--with the help of several members who have kindly
volunteered to be Web page editors--we'll soon start putting files up on
the Forum's Web page.  Again, I apologize to the people who've been so
kind as to donate files.  I do appreciate your effort in sending them to
me, and I hope you'll be patient as I re-organize things around here.

I'm not a big fan of the Web myself, but it's really becoming clear to
me that (like it or not) the Web is going to form a big part of our
lives really soon--not just for Twain things, but just generally.  If
you haven't yet got onto the Web, then, I strongly encourage you to do
so, as I suspect that more and more of the Forum's utility will have to
be delivered via that medium.

If you've managed to figure out some of the esoteric LISTSERV stuff, you
certainly won't have any problem figuring out the Web.  It's quite easy
to use; it's like watching TV, except that it's a bit more interactive,
in that you navigate individual Web pages by pointing and clicking with
the mouse, using a browser program like Netscape or Mosaic.  If you're
at a college or university, it's likely that the Web is available to you
right now.  And I know that many commercial services provide Web access,
too--for a price.  If you're not into a graphical point-and-click
environment, there is a text-based browser called Lynx that you can use
equally well for browsing the Forum's archives and other text files on
the Web.


Several weeks ago I quietly introduced a new policy for list postings to
the Forum, which has been made possible with the new version of
LISTSERV.  As long-time members know, occasionally someone signs on here
and posts an irrelevant advertisement (a "spam"), and other times
someone asks a question that should be addressed at the library.  Some
members have wondered whether the Forum should be moderated in order to
prevent these kinds of messages.

I, and most members, feel that the list should _not_ be moderated, since
this allows the fastest exchange of messages.  The policy has always
been that the members themselves must exercise self-control, and this
policy works better on the Forum than on any other list I know of.  But
we still get the spams occasionally; those posters aren't Forum members,
and so they're unaware of the etiquette that prevails here.

Starting a month or so ago, all new members have their subscriptions set
by default to REVIEW mode, which means that any postings that they send
to TWAIN-L are automatically forwarded to me for approval.  From the
person's initial message, I can see whether the poster is aware of
what's going on here; I approve their posting, and set their account
forevermore to NOREVIEW, which means that they can henceforth post
directly to TWAIN-L without my intervention.

This policy seems to be working quite well, since it offers what I think
is a nice middle-ground between wholesale moderation and a free-for-all.
As you all know, people are signing on to the net in increasingly huge
numbers, and many people are using the Internet for basic research,
which--in days not long past--would have been done at the library.  When
messages like this are posted by new members, they now come to me first;
many of these messages are from high school students and new university
students who, while having good intentions, aren't aware that many Forum
members rightly feel that the most basic requests should be researched
with traditional methods (which usually provide the best answers,

Since implementing this new policy, I've already had several such
queries.  If I'm able, and if I have time, I try to answer the poster's
question directly--rather than posting it to the Forum--and/or suggest
avenues for research.  In all such cases, I suggest that if they are
unable to find an appropriate answer, they are welcome to post a second
message, explaining what avenues of research have already been pursued.

Too frequently, the person posting such a question has not even done a
preliminary bibliographical search.  One of the most popular questions
is: "What has been written on _Huck Finn_ and race?"  I think that many
of us do not wish to see such queries posted to the Forum, until the
question can be considerably refined--at which time, it would be more
than welcome for discussion here (whatever more specific question is
ultimately posed).

Before anyone posts a query on the Forum, it is important to check first
whether the answer may be found in Rasmussen's _Mark Twain A to Z_ and
LeMaster and Wilson's _Mark Twain Encyclopedia_.  These resources are
excellent sources of information, and so it would be helpful if all of
us made an effort to take advantage of them.

I just wanted to let everyone know that I have implemented this
semi-moderation policy.  Although it presents more work for me, it saves
our nearly 400 members the hassle and frustration of dealing with spams
and messages that contain the most basic kinds of requests.  There is a
"Suggestions for Researchers" section in the Survival Guide, but many
newbies are too impatient to read it, and I don't think that long-time
members should have to have their own patience tested because of others'
impatience.  If we can continue to encourage Twainian research in a
friendly and productive way, I hope that we can promote the kind of
atmosphere on the Forum that many members have told me they would like

I have no opinion about the occasional forays about beer; the
participants in such discussions have been here long enough, and know
each other well enough, to do so once in a while, I think, since it
would go against the spirit of the Forum to become suddenly
hyper-formal.  As I've said for quite a while now: the Forum is in the
hands of the members, and is only as good or bad as we make it.  For
that reason, if there is a strong objection to my approving the initial
messages of new members, I will gladly restore the former NOREVIEW
default setting.  I would appreciate hearing your comments, positive or
negative, at <[log in to unmask]>; the reply-to tag in the above message
header points directly to my address, and so you can probably reply to
this message and have your reply come straight to me, rather than to the


Finally, if you'd like more information about the Forum, please send a
message to [log in to unmask] (note: not to TWAIN-L) containing the
single line:


The signoff command is simply:


which again should be sent to listserv, not to TWAIN-L.

If I may answer technical questions, please feel free to send me a

Taylor Roberts <[log in to unmask]>
Coordinator, Mark Twain Forum