Gasnet Podcast Episode 1: A History of the Gasnet Email discussion list
Recorded live at the Australian Society of Anaesthetists Annual Scientific Meeting in October 2014
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“Hello and welcome to the Gasnet Anaesthetic Podcast with me, Allan Palmer.
Gasnet as an email discussion list has been around for nearly twenty years, and has seen both highs and lows. Yet, it survives as a vibrant online community. In this, our first podcast, we’re going on a trip down memory lane and revisiting some of Gasnet’s more memorable moments.
This presentation was recorded live at the Australian Society of Anaesthetists National Scientific Meeting, which was held on the Gold Coat Australia in earlier October 2014. Typical of a live recording we had some audio issues and the sound whilst understandable, is not perfect. What you are about to hear was the first segment in the session the socially enhanced Anaesthetist that I chaired. Other sections covering the blogosphere, public social media services, twitter, gasexchange, and metajournal, will be released a separate podcast episode over coming weeks. Our main presenter today is Associate Professor John Loadsman. John is a senior staff specialist at the Royal Price Alfred Hospital, and conjoined Associate Professor with the University of Sydney. John is one of the editors of the Australian Journal Anaesthesia and Intensive Care and he has been active on the Gasnet Email discussion list since the early 1990s.”
“Gasnet was the name given to a new website, and is short for the Global Anaesthesia Server Network, and it was set up by a fellow in Yale called Keith Ruskin with help from a bunch of other people in North America like John Doyle and Tom Engle, who are all still around, in fact I am going to be meeting Tom Engle in New Orleans next week.
But as part of that, Keith also set up an email discussion list, which I guess was the very early form of a chat room. It was called the Anaesthesiology discussion list although most people now just refer to it as Gasnet. The younger audience members may not remember or know what an email discussion list is so I’ll just quickly talk about it.
Essentially, it is a list server or program running a service somewhere in the world and the list has a list-serve address to which you send emails for distribution. In order to subscribe to the discussion list, or change your settings or unsubscribe or whatever there is an alternate address – but you don’t use that one very often and most of those sorts of things are nowadays handled in a graphic interface on a website. So you know, rarely would you use an email to do join up to these things anymore.
More importantly, what they have is a thing called the list address which is an email address that you send a message to and once it gets to the server it is then distributed to everyone who is currently a subscriber to that discussion list.
Now, as I said, this Gasnet one was started in about 1993 I think, and at about the same time, the early 1990s there were a number of other Anaesthesia and Critical Care Lists started. One of which was started here in Queensland by Phil Cumpston, associated with Allan Palmer who was looking after the Gasbone server. Phillip’s list server was called Anaesthetisa and Intensive Care. Now my recollections are a little bit thin, but that one didn’t really last all that long I don’t think by virtue of the fact that most of the Australians who Phil and Allan I think thought would be interested in having a local discussion were more interested in being heavily involved in the international list. So, Gasnet got used a lot and the Anaesthesia and Intensive Care list here didn’t, so it sort of just died by attrition.
Another one that started about the same time was a Critical Care Medical, or CCML, discussion list, which was started by a fellow called Dave Cripman in the University of Pittsburgh. Now I joined all three of those on the same day, the day I got my 280CMacintosh Laptop. May 29, 1995, so a little bit after Allan I think. Being like I am I very quickly became a rather vocal smartass and regular contributor to those discussion lists. But more importantly, what I found was that I was developing very quickly, a large number of international friendships, which was for me quite remarkable because I had never really stepped foot out of Prince Alfred Hospital. So it was a little eye-opener in many ways so I got lots and lots of virtual pen pals I suppose.
Gasnet itself, despite a few early and somewhat recurrent flame wars, that came up more often than not as a result of arguments between Nurse Anaesthetists and Medical Anaesthetists in the United States, and various other things, Gasnet very quickly became a highly cohesive community and in which people found much intellectual, clinical and social value. So it was very active, you know, there would be often hundreds of posts a day going backwards and forwards around the Gasnet community. For me intellectually, really over the last twenty years or so I’ve actually found Gasnet to be more useful than just about any journal I’ve ever read, any textbook I’ve ever read, and clinically as well, more useful than most conferences I’ve ever been to because you can talk to people about problems almost in real time and get responses from them and ideas about how you should do things.
Socially for me, it’s just been an absolutely amazing thing. It has just resulted in two visiting professorships, more social than academic I suppose. Either alone or with my family, I’ve stayed around the world with lots of Gasnetters in Toronto, Halifax, London a couple of times, Adelaide, Radovan, Utrex, Connecticut, and quite a few other places. We’ve had lots and lots gatherings of Gasnet members over the years, mostly at meetings, like this. There have also been some quite big ones, one of the first was organised by Mike Bookalil at the World Congress in 1996, and it was a big ‘yum-cha’ event with a large number of people filing up the room. And this still goes on. Next week I’m heading off to New Orleans for the ASA and there are going to be at least two small meetings of Gasnet people at that event. I’ve done some pretty amazing things with some Gasnet people. I went hiking in California and visited the Palamara Observatory with a fellow called John Weistan from Toronto. In 1996 I went to Taronga Zoo and Anaesthetised an Elephant with a fellow called Martin Piercon who was then on Gasnet, but unfortunately was killed recently in a bike accident. This was interesting because I actually met him and his office was fifty yards away form mine. I met him through Gasnet. I’ve been fishing for Salmon and shooting skeets up in the bush in Navasota, visited the Catacombs of Paris with Renee Haganow from Rottadam, been to Niagara Falls with some other people. A few years ago I went to a symphony in New York with Renee Haganow and his wife again, flew a helicopter with John Martin from Cairns, and a bunch of other absolutely wonderful experiences all over the world that I would never have had a chance to be involved if it wasn’t for Gasnet.
The thing that makes Gasnet so strong and resilient is the community that surrounds Gasnet. There is a large group of regular contributors many of whom have been subscribed for the twenty or more so years that Gasnet has been around and because of that community and friendship that we have all developed over the years, I think that it has actually survived two near-death experiences in that time.
In 2008, Yale I think possibly for what they perceived to be security reasons, essentially forced Keith Rustan to close down the server that was sitting in his office in the Yale University Medical School. It all happened suddenly and none of us knew what would happen and we all went into withdrawal, and people started asking each other questions and eventually Dave Crippen of the Critical Care List resurrected Gasnet on the Critical Care Server which was no longer based in Pittsburg but was to be run out of a server in Missouri, called the Missouri Freenet, which was looked after Leef Terrenson, who was an interesting character, a cyberpunk who is quite well-known. However, he came to like the Gasnet community and liked the way they interacted with each other and thought that they were a good group of people. Not long after Gasnet was resurrected, he had a bit of an argument with Dave Crippen and the Critical Care List was actually ‘chucked off’ the Missouri Freenet server but he liked Gasnet so much he kept the server running without charging Gasnet any money, which was very generous of him. And then, in June 2011, remember when a whole bunch of tornados went through Missouri and wiped out towns like Joplin, also took down the Missouri Freenet server. And again, we all went into withdrawal while we were wondering what was going on as we couldn’t talk to each other anymore. Fortunately for us, Allan, had already set up a potential alternative server in 2010 after one of the Missouri routers had a problem and Leef had to wait a few days for a router from Australia, oddly enough. So Allan had this little email discussion list server set up and ready to go so when the tornados took down the Missouri Freenet Server. Allan got it started up again very quickly. And so that has become Gasnet’s new home, that’s where it still resides, and Allan looks after us all and keeps us very happy chatting to each other.
Can I just maybe jump in there, you mention several of the other email discussion lists: CCML, has just had its own little crisis that I think it has weathered, and there are several other Anaesthetic Email Discussion Lists. We are starting with email because it is probably the easiest to use. You literally send an email to an address, get an acknowledgement, and from then onwards it delivers it’s contents to you. We’ve both been involved with some of the other lists, and yet we all seem to think of Gasnet as home. Do you just want to expand on that a little bit more? Your thoughts as to why?
I’ll give you a very touching example of why that is. And that, was the response to Michael Bookalil’s death in 2003. He had been a very active member of the Gasnet community for many years, as he did in real life he had a bit of a tendency to polarise opinions. He was nevertheless widely appreciated for his insight and intelligence, and after he died, and I had notified the Gasnet community that he had died quite suddenly, the tributes that were received from all over the world were just absolutely extraordinary and I was able to give those to his family which meant a lot to them. But it became really clear to me at that time that Gasnet was really more of an extended family for a lot of us in a way rather than just a discussion list.
And its interesting because just before I came in here, a guy who I think is in Brazil, called William Fanstone who Michael Bookalil liked to call ‘Silly Billy’ because he did funny things, and now basically calls himself ‘Silly Billy’ on Gasnet, actually mentioned Michael Bookalil so that was probably twenty minutes before we came into the room, so what’s that, more than eleven years after Michael’s death people still talk about him on Gasnet. So you know, I think that really answers the question.”
Thank you John. Any Anaesthetists who would like to subscribe to the Gasnet mailing list, the easiest way is to head over to www.gasnet.tv and click on subscribe for further instructions. That’s gasnet.tv.
You have been listening to the first episode of the Gasnet Anaesthetic Podcast.
Again, a huge thanks to my co-conspirators at the Australian Society of Anaesthetists International Meeting who made this happen. John Loadsman who you heard today, Bill Crozier, Michael Blackburn and Daniel Jolly from whom you’ll here in future episodes.
The Gasnet podcast is released under Creative Commons attribution non-commercial no derivatives 4.0 international licence. This means please make copies, and share it with your friends, just don’t change it or sell it, or use it in commercial products without permission from us. Presentations recorded during the Australian Society of Anaesthetists Meeting are reproduced with the permission of the organisers.
In the next podcast episode, we will look at what the humble blog has to offer Anaesthetists. Until then, please send your feedback via the social media channels listed on www.gasnet.tv or via email to email@example.com.
I’m Allan Palmer, until next time, thanks for listening, Goodbye.