The following is a brief history of the Dinosaur Mailing List to help you understand something of who we are and how we got here. It is intended to help you get a feel for the list, so you are encouraged to read it prior to submitting any messages for dissemination. If you choose not to read it carefully, at least read the section "Exclusions." You *will* be held to the policies stated therein whether you've read them or not...
If you'd like additional insight into the nature of the list, please feel free to browse the archives. They are housed at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History's web site:
The list was created in 1993 by John Matrow at NCR. The purpose of the list was to promote exchanges on scientific issues relating to dinosaurs. The list was housed on NCR computers and managed "by hand" during 1993. Near the end of that year the list had grown to the point that John was not able to continue managing it, so he asked the subscribers if anyone would be willing to take over administration. At the time I (Mickey Rowe) was a Neuroscience graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania. For my own work I was administering an RS6000 in the Penn psychology department, and that machine could easily handle the e-mail traffic. I volunteered to manage the list. I installed a public domain version of listproc and officially took over the list on February 1, 1994. At the time there were about 250 subscribers, and we were getting a few messages per day, mostly from interested "amateurs."
Some of the subscribers to the list were professional paleontologists, however, and they began to spread the word. By the fall of 1994 the list had over 500 subscribers and was now sometimes getting as many as 30 messages per day -- still mostly from amateurs, but a fair number were from our small cadre of professional paleontologists. By the fall of 1995 the list was approaching 700 subscribers, some of whom were quite prolific. As traffic sometimes exceeded 100 messages per day, the demands on my RS6000 were becoming too much for it to bear even though we started losing subscribers who weren't able to keep up with the traffic. In the spring of 1996, I felt something needed to be done to rein the list in, so I held a vote to see what people thought of the idea of my moderating the list. Although it wasn't a landslide, the vote went in favor of moderation. In the summer of 1996, however, knowing that I would soon be leaving the University of Pennsylvania, I found another home for the list at the University of Southern California. I asked Sam McLeod to host the list because he was the owner of VRTPaleo, the vertebrate paleontology mailing list also at USC. Since USC also runs listproc for mailing list management, I felt this was a good place to house the list.
Concurrently with the machinations to move the list to USC, I began looking for someone else to run the list. Like John Matrow before me, other responsibilities were making the list a difficult burden for me. Given the overlap between their interests and ours it seemed that the Dinosaur Society (which has since ceased operations) was a natural group to contact. I felt that they would be the group most likely to have an organization in place to see to the long term health of the dinosaur mailing list. They did have the will, but their resources were stretched thin. They also didn't want to have someone spending the amount of time that I had been spending with list maintenance, so we began a new experiment and the list again became unmoderated.
For the past couple of years, the list has been at a dynamic equilibrium of around 600 subscribers from around the world. Although not everyone on the list is a professional paleontologist, we do have some extremely well-informed amateurs and enthusiasts who keep the discussion at a fairly high scientific level. New members of the list are strongly urged to read the archives and current posts for a while before sending a message to the list.
What this means for you
First off, although the list is not moderated now, I'll ask that you try to self-moderate. The rules I used for deciding whether or not a message should be distributed were mostly straightforward netiquette. However, if you intend to submit messages to the list you are strongly encouraged to familiarize yourself with those rules. They can be found at:
USC uses the commercial version of listproc which has features I didn't have available to me with the public domain version I built at Penn. A big one is the list-specific message quota. Listproc has many ways of making sure that mailing loops (i.e., a message goes out to the list; one of the addresses on the list sends a bounce report back to listproc; listproc distributes that message back to the list; the problem address sends back another bounce report in response...) do not occur. The list-specific message quota ensures that a given list receives a limited number of messages per day so that in case none of the other mailing loop detectors catches a developing loop, that one will. Therefore, what's counted as a "received" message may be a bounce report that listproc does not send to the list. As a result, on most days you will receive fewer list messages than the dinosaur list's quota (currently set at 50 messages per day). The list owner can reset the counter, though, (which may be necessary if there are a lot of error messages on a given day), so on rare occasions you may receive more than 50 messages per day. In any case, you may look at the quota in two ways: one is that it will ensure that your mailbox isn't flooded. Two is that when traffic gets high any message that you send may potentially mean that someone else's message won't go out that day. I state the latter to instill in you the idea that bandwidth is precious. Please use it wisely! But do not fear that the quota will cause messages to be lost. When additional messages come in they are held in queue to be delivered the next day and counted as part of that day's quota.
We have generally been a congenial group, and nobody has ever been forcefully removed for abuse of the list (although two people were removed by request after disciplinary action was taken against them, and another person has had his ability to submit messages to the list permanently revoked after repeated violations of the rules). However, since we are in an unmoderated format, removing subscribers and instructing listproc to ignore their mail is our only means for dealing with problems. Since we have been congenial I don't expect this to become a problem. However, there is one infraction that will cost you to lose all dinosaur list privileges. That infraction is using the list as a means to advertise for the purpose of selling or buying fossils. All of us involved in list maintenance feel quite strongly that the list's resources should not be used for that purpose. If you advertise a fossil for sale (even if you're not the one who'll be collecting the money) you may be removed from the list without warning. If you pass along a message that is not explicitly an advertisement but serves to alert others of a location where an advertisement can be found (for example, giving a url to the site) -- even if you're mentioning the advertisement only to lament its existence -- you will be warned not to do so again. If you repeat such an infraction you will be removed from the list.
Please note that the above refers explicitly to the sale of fossils. Other *dinosaur relevant* advertisements (as long as they're short and preferably in the form of instructions for how to obtain more information) have traditionally been accepted. Advertisements for the sale of *replicas* of fossils are also permissible.
Off topic advertisements (e.g. spam) are also explicitly forbidden, though I suspect that spam would get you thrown off of *any* list. The list will also only allow messages from subscribed addresses as an attempt to prevent the occurrence of spam.
Our apologies for the length of this message. Thank you for taking the time to read through it. If you have any questions not already answered in this document or at the URL: