PaleoNet Listserver User’s Guide

 


Introduction


  1. PaleoNet represents an experiment in establishing a higher level of personal interaction among paleontologists of diverse specialties and experience. This type of interaction was characteristic of paleontology during most of its existence, but has declined due, in large part, to its own success. Today paleontology is far more diverse than it was 20 or even 10 years ago; encompassing everything from descriptive systematics and biostratigraphy to remote sensing and biogeochemistry. In addition, paleontology has been subdivided into the professional sectors of industry, academics, museums, and government to the extent that paleontologists in some sectors feel they have little in common with their colleagues who have found employment elsewhere. The re-establishment of connections between paleontologists of all types is PaleoNet's primary goal.

    PaleoNet's operating model falls somewhere between an informal electronic journal and a very large social gathering of paleontological professionals (including students) convened to discuss current events in the field. As a subscriber, you can expect to find wide variety of information posted through the list at any time. These include ongoing informal conversations about papers, ideas, techniques, requests for information, announcements, etc., set against a background of more formalized contributions such as editorials, meeting reviews, book reviews, software reviews, and the like. The purpose of these exchanges is to put you in touch, and keep you in touch, with what is happening in paleontology.

    The key concept that makes PaleoNet work is participation. Since PaleoNet is primarily a forum for public communication within the paleontological community, all postings to PaleoNet should be made to the entire subscriber list and not to individuals. Anyone who receives a reply to his or her PaleoNet message through a private e-mail posting is encouraged to make the posting public along with their response. PaleoNet would also like to make a special request for participation by graduate students. I know that during both my MSc and PhD programs I often felt isolated because there were few people on my campus who were interested in the research problems with which I was grappling or had expertise/experience in the fields my research demanded. This is natural, but that realization does little to ease one's sense frustration. PaleoNet is offered to you, as a practical means of finding knowledgeable people with which to discuss your research problems. Moreover, PaleoNet offers a means whereby you can participate in discussions of direct relevance to your future careers side-by-side with interested paleontologists from a wide variety of backgrounds and at all stages of their own career development.

    PaleoNet is not affiliated with any professional paleontological society but seeks to serve as a clearinghouse for any information of relevance to any form of paleontology. Additional information about PaleoNet is available on the PaleoNet Web Site.


    Subscription


  1. Joining PaleoNet is easy. If you wish to become a subscriber all you need do is type the following address into your web browser …

  2. http://mailman.nhm.ac.uk/mailman/listinfo/paleonet

  3. … and submit your e-mail address. You can also select a PaleoNet password and a digest option from this page, but those operations are optional. If you don't select them a random password will be generated and sent to you on acceptance of your subscription. As for the digest option, that will be discussed in more detail below. The important thing is to subscribe. You must be a subscriber to post messages to other subscribers.

    All e-mail lists are basically computer programs designed to accept e-mail messages from senders and route those to the list subscribers. Based on past experience there are a few subscription-related matters that need to be covered here. Let's consider how the PaleoNet listserver software works. When you post an e-mail to the above address the NHM e-mail server routes it to a computer program (currently Mailman) that is used to manage the list. Mailman accepts the e-mail and then compares the return address to a master list of current PaleoNet subscribers. If the return address exactly matches one of the addresses on the master list, the software re-addresses the message to the entire set of list addresses and sends it back out. Ultimately this will result in everyone on the list receiving the original e-mail. If, however, no matches are found for the return address, the Mailman software decides the original author is not a member of the list and block distribution of the e-mail.

    That all sounds pretty straight-forward, but think a moment. If you are a subscriber you are identified to the list by your e-mail address. Most of us have been assigned more than one e-mail address by employers, ISP providers, etc. Also, to make matters even worse, local system operators often link cryptic e-mail addresses with easier-to-remember e-mail addresses using the UNIX 'alias' command. For example, my own official NHM e-mail address is nm@nhm.ac.uk. For improved readability though, I usually list my aliased NHM e-mail address - N.MacLeod@nhm.ac.uk - on correspondence. If anyone sends me an e-mail at my alias address the NHM e-mail server will automatically route it to my official NHM e-mail account. No problem there. The (potential) problem comes when I have to decide which of these addresses to use as my PaleoNet address. The choice matters. If, for example, I choose to use N.MacLeod@nhm.ac.uk as my PaleoNet address, I must ensure my incoming e-mails also use this as my return address. So long as these match, there won't be any problem. If, however, my return e-mail address was set to nm@nhm.ac.uk, then my PaleoNet subscription and e-mail return addresses would differ and I would not be able to post messages to the PaleoNet list.

    How do you find out what your return e-mail address is? Usually you set that up when you set up your e-mail software. Getting the right address should simply be a matter of setting up a e-mail message to send you and looking to see what address is listed as your return address. Use that address for your PaleoNet subscription and everything should work just fine. Of course, if your return e-mail address changes for any reason (e.g., you change jobs, universities, or ISP providers) you'll need to change your PaleoNet subscription address. I'll cover how to do that below.

    One last point about subscription addresses. Unless you want to receive multiple PaleoNet postings to different accounts you are restricted to using only one e-mail address as your PaleoNet identifier. That means you'll always need to send messages to PaleoNet from that address. This can become a problem if you use different e-mail addresses for e-mails you send from home and from work. There are usually ways to get around this, but that's a matter for you to work out locally. So far as PaleoNet is concerned it's 'one address, one subscriber'.


    Addresses


  1. The e-mail address that can used by subscribers to post messages to the PaleoNet list is as follows.

  2. PaleoNet@nhm.ac.uk


  3. The other e-mail address that PaleoNet subscribers should take note of is that of the PaleoNet list-owner:

  4. N.MacLeod@nhm.ac.uk

  5. If you have any questions, concerns, suggestions, or are having any technical difficulty subscribing, unsubscribing, sending messages to, or getting messages from PaleoNet, please feel free to contact me.




  6. Unsubscription


  1. Terminating your PaleoNet subscription is called 'unsubscribing'. This operation amounts to asking the Mailman software to delete your subscription address from the PaleoNet master subscriber list. In order to unsubscribe from PaleoNet you'll need to use your web browser to access the PaleoNet Info Page at:

  2. http://mailman.nhm.ac.uk/mailman/listinfo/paleonet


  3. Go to the bottom of that page and enter your subscription address into the appropriate textbox. This will take you to a 'PaleoNet List: Member Options' from which you can unsubscribe at the (virtual) touch of a button.




  4. PaleoNet Passwords


  5. One new feature of PaleoNet's recent migration to the Mailman list management software is the ability of subscribers to have much more control over setting their own subscription options. Under Mailman you can tailor your PaleoNet experience to your own needs and situation. The secret to all this is the PaleoNet password.


  6. When you subscribe you can either select or will be issued with a PaleoNet password. Take note of this and keep it in a safe place. You;ll need to use it to gain access to your personal PaleoNet Member options control panel.




  7. PaleoNet Password Reminder


  8. We all lose track of passwords from time-to-time and your PaleoNet password will be no different. Since you need that in order to change your subscriber options and perform certain other subscriber tasks you might even need to use your password on occasion, which means you need to know what it is. If you've misplaced your PaleoNet password you can easily instruct the Mailman software to look it up and e-mail it to you. Simply use your web browser to access the PaleoNet Info Page at:


  1. http://mailman.nhm.ac.uk/mailman/listinfo/paleonet


  2. Go to the bottom of that page and enter your subscription address into the 'edit options' textbox. This will take you to a 'PaleoNet List: Member Options' from which you can touch a button and have your current password sent to you.




  3. Reply Default


  1. PaleoNet's reply default is set to send standard replies back to the entire PaleoNet list. If a subscriber wishes to send their reply directly to the person who posted the message they must manually type or copy that person's e-mail address onto the "To:" line of their e-mail program. There is no way for individual users to change this feature of PaleoNet.




  2. PaleoNet Archives


  1. PaleoNet policy is to make an archive of all messages posted to the list and maintain this archive for reference purposes and for the use of the global palaeontological community. While much of the traffic on PaleoNet is fairly routine material will a short 'shelf life', not infrequently material of more lasting value is posted. Subscribers don't need to save these postings for they are automatically saved and available for browsing by anyone (not just PaleoNet subscribers). At least, that's the policy.

    Reality is somewhat less tidy. PaleoNet is a large list and an old list (est. 1993). Through its early history PaleoNet had a number of problems with archives of its postings. Moreover, as the list has migrated through different host institutions and different listserver software packages the software used to manage and retrieve the archives has differed. At present the PaleoNet archives can be found at two locations.

    For pre-November 2006 postings: http://jerwood.nhm.ac.uk/archives/paleonet/

  2. For post-November 2006 postings: http://mailman.nhm.ac.uk/pipermail/paleonet/

    Links to these online archive repositories can also be found on the PaleoNet Web Page: http://www.nhm.ac.uk/hosted_sites/paleonet/

    Searching and browsing tools are available at each of the sites. If you have any questions about the PaleoNet archives please contact me (details at the end of this document).




  3. Subscriber Options


  1. The Mailman software allows PaleoNet uses to implement a much wider range of subscriber options than ever before. These options are managed through a web page all subscribers with a valid PaleoNet password may access. To gain access to this page use your web browser to access the PaleoNet Info Page at:


  2. http://mailman.nhm.ac.uk/mailman/listinfo/paleonet


  3. Go to the bottom of that page and enter your subscription address into the 'edit options' textbox. This will take you to a 'PaleoNet List: Member Options' page where you can enter your password and log into your personal Membership Configuration Page. This page is under to change your PaleoNet membership address, changer your PaleoNet password, and set your personal list options. Activation of these requires that you type information into textboxes and or activate certain switches and buttons. When you are finished modifying your subscriber options be sure to log out of the system using the 'Log out' button located in the upper right-hand corner of the page.





  4. Changing Membership Information

  5. One reason you may want to access your membership configuration details is to change your subscription address. To do this simply type your new subscription address in twice (once to inform, once to confirm) and activate the 'Change My Address and Name' button. The latter designation refers to a name than can be linked to your subscription address, though supplying your name to the list is optional.




  6. Changing Member Password
    If you have been sent a randomly-generated PaleoNet password you may want to change this to something remembered more easily (e.g., postcodes usually work well especially if augmented with the state/country abbreviation). To do this simply type your new password in twice (once to inform, once to confirm) and activate the 'Change My Password' button.




  7. Mail Delivery

  8. As interesting and informative as the postings on PaleoNet are sometimes you need a break. Alternatively, you may be going to be away from your computer for a few weeks/months (e.g., away on fieldwork) and don't want to return to a mailbox full of PaleoNet postings. To avoid this you could use the 'Mail delivery' option to temporary suspend your membership without going to the trouble of unsubscribing. This option can be set by simply selecting the 'Disabled' switch and activating the 'Submit My Changes' button at the bottom of the page.





  9. PaleoNet Digests

  10. Under a normal subscription postings to the list are sent out to the membership singly in the order they are received by the list software. However, the 'Digest Mode' gives subscribers the option of having the software accumulate PaleoNet messages in a single composite file until that file reaches a set size (30 kb at the moment) and then sends this composite file to the digest subscribers. Many find this a more efficient way of keeping track of what's going on in palaeontology. This option can be set by simply selecting the 'On' switch and activating the 'Submit My Changes' button at the bottom of the page.




  11. MIME or Plain Text Digests

  12. Some e-mail clients are able to display MIME formatted text whereas others are restricted to displaying plain text. If your client is able to read MIME (consult your client's User's Guide or Help system to find out) and you wish to receive MIME text simply select the 'MIME' switch and activate the 'Submit My Changes' button at the bottom of the page. PaleoNet's default text delivery mode is plain text.




  13. Own Posts

  14. After posting a message to PaleoNet authors will usually receive a copy of their own posting as a result of being list members. However, that's a little bit redundant since they already know what was posted. Still, many opt to retain this default option in order to confirm the message was indeed distributed to the entire list. It is possible to block messages you send in being resent to you by invoking the 'Own Posts option. To do this simply select the 'No' switch and activate the 'Submit My Changes' button at the bottom of the page. PaleoNet's default option is to send authors copies of their own postings.




  15. Posting Acknowledgement

  16. If you do opt to block your own postings, but want the list to confirm that your PaleoNet message has been distributed to the list, you can arrange for the list software to send you a distribution acknowledgement. To invoke this option simply select the 'Yes' switch and activate the 'Submit My Changes' button at the bottom of the page. PaleoNet's default option is not to send authors acknowledgements of their own postings.




  17. Monthly Password Reminder

  18. The list software can also send you a monthly reminder of your PaleoNet password. To invoke this option simply select the 'Yes' switch and activate the 'Submit My Changes' button at the bottom of the page. PaleoNet's default option is not to send subscribers monthly password reminders.




  19. Address Concealment

  20. Once you subscribe to PaleoNet your e-mail address is placed on a list that can be accessed by other subscribers. If you wish to conceal your e-mail address (and name if that has also been supplied) from the public list of PaleoNet subscribers simply select the 'Yes' switch and activate the 'Submit My Changes' button at the bottom of the page. PaleoNet's default option is not to conceal subscribers e-mail addresses (and names).




  21. Topic Categories

  22. This option is not currently available for PaleoNet.




  23. Avoiding Duplicate Messages

  24. If you have set up you e-mail client to automatically send you a copy of all your e-mail messages this could cause another copy of the message to be sent to you when the Mailman software redistributes your PaleoNet posting. In order to avoid this the default PaleoNet option is to block the redistribution of postings back to the authors if their e-mail address is listed in the 'To:' or 'Cc:' parts of their e-mail. To remove this filter simply select the 'No' switch and activate the 'Submit My Changes' button at the bottom of the page.