Re: Future of Flash/archive's egrep function

Bart De Pontieu (BDP@MPEPL)
Sat, 25 May 1996 00:51:56 +0100 (CET)

John Pike wrote several very interesting comments:

>>I would like open a discussion about the future of Flash, the newsletter
>>for quite some time now Flash has been largely filled by stuff that
>>appeared on the net first (esp. SeeSat-messages) and is thus loosing its
>However, it is in a format that is far easier to access than is the case with:
>>all old SeeSat-L messages are
>>archived on our e-mail archive server. You can search this archive for 
>>keywords by sending a message with Subject "archive"
>Although I have not attempted to use this feature in this case, in other
>cases where I have done such things I was not too happy with the result. Let
>me at least suggest consideration of the use of some sorta Hypermail
>implementation for archiving the listserv traffic, such as we have done at:
>along with an easily implemented search engine, such as we have done at

I haven't been able to take a look at the examples you've implemented 
(reacting from at home now), but I should say that SeeSat-L messages are
archived in the e-mail archive, the ftp-archive and also the WWW-archive.
The latter is at
and presumably very similar to what hypermail does. Admittedly a search
engine is lacking, and your suggestion to use hypermail is a good one.
Neil Clifford has suggested the same. I was a bit reluctant so far,
because I had written the software to html-ize the archive myself, and
one never likes to kill one's own baby :-)
But I don't feel like writing a WWW search engine, so ...

>>Flash is printed on paper (imagine that :-) and sent to about
>>70 subscribers, of which I estimate about 1/3 is on Internet
>So the question is what is to be done with the ~50 folks who are net.lagged?

Force them to get Internet? :-)
Seriously, I'm not sure all 50 of those net.lagged people would consider it
a major disaster if Flash were to disappear. I don't want to go into many 
detail here, but many are member of the VVS (Belgian Astronomical Society,
of which we are a working group), and just try out Flash for a year or so.
But undoubtedly there will be some (two dozen?) that are highly interested
in Flash and would lose the information offered in it. 

>>Support for such a publication should also go further than 'yes, that's a
>>good idea', the real question is whether enough articles will be produced to
>>make it worthwhile. 
>Well, it depends on what you mean by "such a publication." it seems that
>there is already some non-trivial traffic from seesat-l that could be
>archived in the "magazine" format, though through the online implementation
>this archiving could take place in near-real time, that is, one could just
>have a WWW URL that contained the significant stuff from that bimonthly
>period, added as they show up, and then start the process all over again
>every two months, perhaps mailing a hardcopy of the resulting product to the
>net.lagged in the community.

This is a really good suggestion and more up-to-date than my idea of having
a magazine-like publication. There is no real need for collecting articles
for 2 months and releasing them only every 2 months to the Internet-community.
Your suggestion makes more sense.

>>the question then becomes : "Do you see a future
>>for an english-language magazine devoted to visual satellite observing ?".
>I certainly see a future for an english language compilation of major
>analytical pieces related to and derived from visual satellite observing.
>Whether one would call such a thing a "magazine" relates both to the extent
>to which this is a useful metaphor for an online implementation, and whether
>there would be a hardcopy counterpart. These are issues that the rest of the
>universe of publishers are grappling with, so it should not be surprising
>that this issue would be perplexing in this context as well.
Good point again. It may be interesting to hear someone from the Satellite
Times editorial staff comment on the problem John mentions in the above.
I guess there is a substantial difference between taking the approach:
let's collect whatever long, thorough articles are offered, put them on the
Web, and make a hardcopy every 2 months. Versus the approach: let's try to
fill and publish a magazine every 2 months. I've always been stuck in 
the latter approach, which dictated a minimum number of pages, etc...
But the former approach is more laissez-faire and appeals more (to me at
least :-)
>>way our archive is structured, and esp. how one can search through it. The
>>latter is a very powerful option, and it is only used by a few people.
>I think that part of the problem here is that this is such an unusual [at
>least in my limited experience] implementation that most folks [aka me] are
>a bit concerned about unleashing something that might mailbomb there email

Well, it's a standard feature of SmartList. If I remember correctly, the
maximum number of messages you will receive is 16, unless you remove the
upper limit or set it at a higher level. So, mailbombing is out of the
question, unless you decide to bring it on yourself (there's been one
case in the 18 months of SeeSat's existence, which also mailbombed my
account with about 100 bounces when that person's mailbox was full :-)

>I don't know just what the geek quotiant is at your operation, but

Hmm, well I don't know. Without knowing of the existence of Hypermail,
I had programmed my own version of Hypermail 
(though admittedly nowhere near as powerful) using procmail. I figure
installing Hypermail should pose no problem. I can always ask a friendly
system manager, can't I Neil ? ;-)
To be continued soon. I'll have a go at it during the next days. One thing
we shouldn't forget though is that not everyone has WWW-access yet (believe
it or not) esp. in Europe, where Internet-access is not as general as it
is in the US. Furthermore, WWW can be painfully slow, and an e-mail filter
does, in certain cases, provide a more user-friendly way of achieving
certain things on Internet.

Thanks for your reaction, it was much appreciated. I'm looking forward
to other suggestions.

Bart De Pontieu --  Max-Planck-Institute for extraterrestrial Physics, Garching --
            Join us at Eurosom 2: October 22/23 1996, Ghent, Belgium
BWGS-coordinator -- Flash editor -- SeeSat-L administrator -- would-be-observer
        "Nobody told me there'd be days like these" -- JOL (1940-1980)