revised Guide to Humanist (394)

Sat, 4 Mar 89 00:27:00 EST

Humanist Mailing List, Vol. 2, No. 675. Saturday, 4 Mar 1989.

A Guide to Humanist
rev. 4/3/89


I. Nature and Aims
II. How to use Humanist
A. Sending and receiving messages
B. Conventions and Etiquette
C. Borrowing and republishing
D. Distributing files
E. Using the File-Server
F. Other commands and facilities
G. Suggestions and Complaints

I. Nature and aims

Humanist is an international electronic discussion group for
computing humanists and for those who support the application of
computers to scholarship in the humanities. Currently it consists
of about 400 members in 17 countries in North America, Europe,
and the Near and Far East. Its scope is broadly defined to include all
matters of professional concern to its members. Equally relevant
are technical questions about hardware and software, specific
problems in humanistic scholarship, and both the administrative
difficulties and philosophical issues arising from the
application of computing to the humanities. Calls for papers,
bibliographies, and reports of lasting interest are also welcome.
The lingua franca of discussion is English; although
contributions in other languages are welcome, they are
unlikely to be understood by a majority of the members.

Technically speaking, Humanist is a ListServ "list" that runs
under VM/CMS on an IBM 4381 at the University of Toronto. It
makes use of NetNorth, the Canadian equivalent of Bitnet in the
United States and EARN in Europe, and is known as
HUMANIST@UTORONTO. Through the Special Interest Group on
Humanities Computing Resources, it is affiliated with the
Association for Computers and the Humanities and the Association
for Literary and Linguistic Computing. It is open to all
qualified individuals, whether members of those organizations or
not. Within the University of Toronto, it is supported by the
Centre for Computing in the Humanities (CCH) and by Computing
Services. It is edited by Willard McCarty (CCH), with the
continuing assistance of Lou Burnard (Oxford), David Sitman (Tel
Aviv), Michael Sperberg-McQueen (Illinois), Steve DeRose (Texas),
and Steve Younker, our postmaster in Toronto. Several others have
helped on occasion.

Humanist is neither an electronic bulletin-board nor a
conferencing system, since all members normally receive all
contributions within 24 hours of their submission to the editor.
As a result, Humanist most closely resembles a conversational
group, such as a collegial seminar or informal gathering. It
tends toward spirited, desultory, and wide-ranging discussions,
often interrupted by other topics or questions. Activities are
periodically summarized in a report circulated electronically to
all members and printed elsewhere for non-members. In addition,
extended conversations on topics of wide interest are periodically
posted on Humanist's file-server. The report and these topical
collections help bring continuity and a kind of permanence to the
discussions, but Humanist remains essentially a spontaneous
vehicle of the moment.

Because of its spontaneity and relative lack of restrictions,
Humanist is at any one time chiefly what its members make of it.
Much therefore depends on their attentiveness, courtesy, and

Normally the editor publishes contributions without altering
them, though they are commonly grouped according to topic.
However, when in his judgment a contribution is incompetent,
offensive, or clearly outside the scope of Humanist, he reserves
the right not to publish it.

Humanist thus lives in the balance between free-wheeling
discussion on the one hand and decorum on the other. Decorum
consists in participants' regard both for the sensitivities of
fellow members and for the necessarily limited scope of
discussion. Humanists recognize that the application of computers
to the humanities is a revolutionary and only partly understood
activity. It thus requires vigorous and incisive discussion of
basic issues and the challenging of received truths and
established procedures. "The sharp compassion of the healer's
art" is sometimes required. Nevertheless, without
courtesy and respect for the differences of others, the
international, multi-cultural community of Humanists could be
threatened by irreconcilable discord.

By nature Humanist is both informal and scholarly. Thus the
standards of good scholarship generally apply: to encourage
accurate statements, clear attributions, delimited opinions, and
skillful use of language. As is appropriate to the medium,
however, rigor should never be allowed to stifle humor and the
play of the imagination. Mindfulness in whatever form is the
principle thing.

II. How to Use Humanist
A. Sending and receiving messages

Although Humanist is managed by software designed for
Bitnet/NetNorth/EARN, members can be on any comparable network
with access to these, for example, Janet or Arpanet. Submissions
to Humanist are made by sending electronic mail as if
to a person with the user-id "HUMANIST" and the node-name
"UTORONTO". Mail to Humanist is automatically sent to the editor,
who reviews and normally groups messages by subject area before
sending them to ListServ for distribution.

Mail may also be sent directly to the editor, MCCARTY@UTOREPAS, but
should be marked as intended for distribution to all Humanists.

The volume of mail on Humanist varies with the state of the
membership and the nature of the dominant topic, if any. Recent
experience shows that as many as half a dozen messages
a day may be processed. For this reason members are advised to
pay regular, indeed frequent attention to their e-mail or serious
overload may occur. A member planning on being away from regular
contact should advise the editor and ask to be temporarily
removed from active membership. The editor should be reminded
when active membership is to be resumed.

The editor also asks that members be careful to specify reliable
addresses. In some cases the advice of local experts may help.
Any member who changes his or her userid or nodename should first
give ample warning to the editor and should verify the new
address. If you know your system is going to be turned off or
otherwise adjusted in a major way, find out when it will be out
of service and inform the editor. Missed mail can be retrieved,
but undelivered e-mail will litter the editor's mailbox.

[Please note that in the following description, commands will be
given in the form acceptable on an IBM VM/CMS system unless
otherwise noted. If your system is different, you will have to
make the appropriate translation.]

B. Conventions and Etiquette

Conversations or asides restricted to a few people can develop
from the unrestricted discussions on Humanist by members
communicating directly with each other. This may be a good idea
for very specific replies to general queries, so that
members are not burdened with messages of interest only
to the person who asked the question and, perhaps, a few others.
Members have, however, shown a distinct preference for
unrestricted discussions on nearly every topic, so it is better
to err on the side of openness. If you do send a reply to
someone's question, please restate the question very briefly so
that the context of your answer will be clear.

[Note that the REPLY function of some electronic mailers will
automatically direct a user's response to the editor, from whom
all submissions technically originate, not to the original sender
or to Humanist. Thus REPLY should be avoided in many cases.]

Make it an invariable practice to help the recipients of your
messages scan them by including a SUBJECT line in your message.
Be aware, however, that some people will read no more than the
SUBJECT line, so you should take care that it is accurate and
comprehensive as well as brief.

Use your judgment about the length of your messages. If you find
yourself writing an essay or have a substantial amount of
information to offer, it might be better to follow one of the two
methods outlined in the next section.

All contributions should also specify the member's name as well
as e-mail address. This is particularly important for members
whose user-ids bear no relation to their names.

C. Borrowing, republishing, and use of the membership list

Material that appears on Humanist may freely be published
elsewhere as long as the author, place, and date of first
appearance are clearly stated. All contributors to Humanist
implicitly agree to such borrowing unless a note to the contrary
is appended to each contribution.

Members are themselves responsible for the accuracy of the
material they cite and for conformity to the conventions of the
sources they use.

The editor agrees not to circulate Humanist's membership list
beyond the membership itself and asks that other members likewise
refrain from publishing it.

D. Distributing files

Humanist offers us an excellent means of distributing written
material of many kinds, e.g., reviews of software or hardware,
calls for papers, notices of conferences, and bibliographies.
Although conventional journals remain the means of professional
recognition, they are often too slow to keep up with changes in
computing. With some care, Humanist could provide a supplementary
venue of immediate benefit to our colleagues.

There are two possible methods of distributing such material.
Highly specialized reports should be reduced to abstracts
and posted in this form to Humanists at large, then sent by the
originators directly to those who request them. The more
generally interesting material in bulk should be sent to the
editor, who will both distribute a brief notice to all members and
arrange for the entire file to be stored on Humanist's central
file-server, from which it can be fetched by any Humanist automatically
at any time. See the next section for details.

At present the following files are kept on the server:

- the monthly logbooks in which all contributions to Humanist are
stored. These are named HUMANIST LOGyymm, where "yy" represents
the last two digits of the year and "mm" the number of the
month. The log for January 1989 would, for example, be named
HUMANIST LOG8901. Only logbooks for the last 12 months are kept
online, however. Earlier logbooks are stored in the Text Archive
at the Oxford University Computing Service; inquiries should be directed
to Lou Burnard, (on Bitnet/NetNorth/Earn)
or (on Janet).
- the files of biographies. These are named BIOGRAFY x, where x
ranges from 1 to the number of the latest supplement.
- occasional summaries of activity. These are called METASUM x,
where x = 1, 2, .... n.
- various bibliographies, e.g., on hypermedia.
- calls for papers from various conferences. These are named
confname CONFRNCE, where confname is some abbreviation of the
name of the conference.
- the brief listing or "snapshot" of the contents of the Oxford
text archive.
- topical collections of discussions on Humanist, named
topicnam TOPIC-n, where topicnam describes the subject matter and
n is the volume number
- notes and other material of various sorts.

System software imposes a fixed limit on the amount of data that may
be fetched from the file-server at any one time. The logbooks frequently
approach this limit.

See the following section for instructions on how to download
material from the server.

E. Using the File-Server

Two separate but very similar operations will usually be
required: (1) to discover what files the file-server has to
offer; and (2) to request one or more of these. What you do will
depend on the kind of system you are using and the network to which it
is attached.

Note that in the following what you type is in caps; all
semicolons and periods are not part of the commands to be typed;
and addresses expressed as USERID AT NODENAME may have to be
entered as USERID@NODENAME. Note also for interactive procedures
that if at any particular time you cannot get through to UTORONTO
from your site (normally you will be alerted to a problem by some
error message) you will have to try again later; interactive
commands are not preserved by the various systems and
automatically retried.

A. If you are on Bitnet/NetNorth/EARN and use an IBM VM/CMS

- for (1) send the interactive command:


- for (2) send the command:


where fn = filename, ft = filetype (of the file you've chosen)

B. If you are on Bitnet/NetNorth/EARN and use a Vax VMS system,
you may be able to use

1. the following interactive procedure:

- for (1) type:


you should get the prompt:


then type:


- for (2) repeat the above but substitute GET fn ft
Humanist, where fn and ft are as above.

2. or the following:

- for (1)


- for (2) the same, replacing HUMANIST FILELIST with fn ft

C. If you are on Bitnet/NetNorth/EARN but don't use an IBM VM/CMS
system, or if you are not on Bitnet (e.g., JANET, arpa, uucp),

- for (1) use your mailer of whatever kind, e.g., MAIL, to send
an ordinary message to LISTSERV AT UTORONTO and include as
the one and only line,


This should be on the first line of mail message. In other
words, there should be no blank lines preceding this line.

- for (2) repeat the above but substitute for the first line GET
fn ft HUMANIST, where fn and ft are as above.

D. As an alternative to B, use whatever command you have to send
a file, e.g., SENDFILE, to LISTSERV AT UTORONTO, the first and
only line of this file being again,

for (1):


and for (2)


If you have enduring material of interest to Humanists,
please consider submitting it for storage on our file-server.
Send a note to the editor describing what you have. Since space
on the server is not infinite, we need to exercise some

If you have problems getting files from the file-server and have
tried the various alternatives suggested above, please contact
David Sitman, A79@taunivm (on the Israeli branch of Bitnet/NetNorth
EARN), for help. He is Humanist's ListServ guru.

F. Other Commands and Facilities

ListServ accepts several commands, for example to retrieve
a list of the current members or to set various options. ListServ
commands are described in the document named LISTSERV MEMO, which
I mentioned above. This and other documentation is available to
you from your nearest ListServ node or from Humanist's

G. Suggestions and Complaints

Suggestions about the running of Humanist or its possible
relation to other means of communication are very welcome. So are
complaints, particularly if they are constructive. Experience has
shown that an electronic discussion group can be either
beneficial or burdensome to its members. Much depends on what the
group as a whole wants and does not want. Please make your views
known, to everyone or to me directly, as appropriate.


Willard McCarty, editor
Centre for Computing in the Humanities,
University of Toronto