Date: Tue, 22 Feb 94 18:24:03 PST
From: RISKS Forum 
Subject: RISKS DIGEST 15.57

RISKS-LIST: RISKS-FORUM Digest  Tuesday 22 February 1994  Volume 15 : Issue 57


Date: Fri, 18 Feb 1994 07:29:28 -0800
From: Dan Yurman 
Subject: Email Courtesy

Bill Fitler ( asks about email courtesy issues in RISK 

Perhaps one disturbing trend as more people use Internet is the practice 
by college students of using subject matter listservs as sources of first
resort for information they should be looking up in their university library.  
Every year BIOSPH-L@UBVM.BITNET, a list dealing with environmental issues, is
flooded with ill-expressed questions that should not be addressed to the list.
These include questions such as "what is hazardous waste," etc.  Another which
came up today was a question which could be answered by using the Statistical
Abstract of the US or any World Almanac, etc.

Last year a hot debate erupted when a graduate teaching assistant at a major,
dare I say, top 10, Eastern university, assigned a class of undergraduates 
to use Internet to seek information on research paper topics.  The TA did not
instruct the students to use the library first and then pose well formulated
questions to the net.  BIOSPH-L was flooded with questions on basic
environmental science.

Both the TA and the students were outraged by the complaints they received
from list readers who objected to being asked fundamental questions that ought
to be dealt with by the students themselves.  The root cause appears to be
neither the TA nor the students had any idea who was at the other end of the
line.  All they saw was a computer that should be giving them answers.

What was said to them repeatedly is this.  The courtesy issue is that traffic
on BIOSPH-L is voluntary. If you want people to take the time to answer your
questions, indicate you have done some legwork on your own and have a genuine
problem looking for additional information.  Otherwise, you are soaking up
volunteer resources which could be better used to meet needs not answered

Also, neither the students nor the TA took kindly to suggestions that if they
absolutely insisted on using computer terminals instead of (gasp) books, that
there are online services which for a fee will gladly give them the
information they want.

Dan Yurman  Idaho Falls, ID 43N112W -7 GMT


End of RISKS-FORUM Digest 15.57