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CCP4 Bulletin Boards: a short FAQ

Peter Briggs, CCP4

Amongst other services provided by CCP4 we currently maintain two e-mail discussion lists (bulletin boards), ccp4bb and ccp4-dev. This article is intended to answer general questions about the purpose and use of these facilities.

What is the purpose of

The main bulletin board ccp4bb is intended to host discussions about topics of general interest to macromolecular crystallographers, and provides a lively forum for discussions on a wide range of crystallographic topics. At the time of writing there are over 1,200 subscribed e-mail addresses, so it is a useful way to reach crystallographers all over the world.

Any crystallographic-related item is acceptable, and doesn't have to be directly related to CCP4. In the past questions have prompted (and provoked!) discussions covering all aspects of macromolecular crystallography, from experimental methods and strategy to advice on data processing, refinement and structure analysis.

We are always keen for people to post summaries of advice and information received from the discussions which they have initiated or participated in. This is especially useful since many of the responses do not come to the bulletin board, but instead directly to the person asking the question. This way everyone can benefit from your efforts!

The bulletin board can also be used to request information, and to inform people about job vacancies, new services and the availabilty of new or updated software.

What is

ccp4-dev is the `developers bulletin board', and is aimed exclusively at program developers. Generally it is used for informing interested programmers about significant code changes in the developmental versions of CCP4 programs and libraries, and discussions related to this.

ccp4-dev is more specialised than ccp4bb, and would be pretty boring for most crystallographers without a direct interest in the programming issues.

What material shouldn't I send to the bulletin boards?

Inappropriate content for ccp4bb includes personal messages and abuse, and messages of an unrelated commercial nature. Basically any message that you send should be relevant to as many people reading the bb as possible - use your common sense! Equally, postings to ccp4-dev should be restricted to information or questions about software development.

Also, reports of program bugs (and fixes!) or specific questions about the CCP4 suite etc should be sent directly to the Daresbury staff at, where we will do our utmost to answer promptly.

How do I subscribe to the bulletin boards?

Go to the web page at, which has an automated facility for subscribing and unsubscribing to ccp4bb. Program developers should visit the CCP4 developers area at for details of ccp4-dev. If you encounter any problems then e-mail us directly, describing your difficulty.

Once you have subscribed you will recieve messages directly from the bulletin board as they are posted. Being subscribed also allows you to post messages by mailing to the appropriate address ( for general messages, for messages about program development).

What steps are taken to stop junk mail ("spam")?

Different people have different definitions of what precisely constitutes junk mail, but unacceptable content here includes offensive and/or unrelated messages (particularly of the kind that has recently been filling up many of the crystallographic newsgroups).

Both the lists are moderated, which in this case means that only people subscribed to the list are able to post to it. This is done automatically by software which checks the sender's email address against the list of subscribed addresses, and suceeds in stopping practically all junk mail reaching the end users.

Sometimes this also prevents ``legitimate'' messages reaching the bb - the most common reason for this is posting from a different address to the one with which you are subscribed - so please check! We apologise for any inconvenience this might cause individuals, but believe that it is a small price to pay for keeping the bulletin board free of junk.

As regular subscribers will know, a very small amount of junk mail still gets through. This is because it has been posted by people who took the time to subscribe first. However this is minimal, and in such cases we take steps to remove the offending subscribers from the list at the earliest opportunity.

How can I get old messages from the bulletin board?

The automatic software which administers the bulletin boards also offers a facility to retrieve the old messages which have been posted, and information on how to do this can be found on the web at

The page also carries a link to a web-based archive maintained at Birbeck College London. Please note that this archive (and others like it) are not maintained by CCP4, and we make no promises of their reliability or availability.

(Martyn Winn has also summarised some of the recent discussions from the bb in his article elsewhere in this issue.)

What if I have problems with subscribing/unsubscribing/posting etc. to the bulletin boards?

Send an e-mail to describing the problem and we will do our best to fix it.

September 1999

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