Table of Contents
What is Usenet?
What is a moderated newsgroup?
What is netiquette?
How to join a Usenet group
Fear and Loathing @ AOL.COM
What's a newbie? Is that bad?
What else is there to know about posting and Netiquette?
What do I call my post?
What should my posts look like?
How should I respond or follow-up? Who do I respond to?
Where do I put my John Hancock?
Mind my manners? Eat me!
Troubleshooting: Welcome to alt.test
Troubleshooting: Meet your Systems Administrator
But I'm not at a college or large business!
Usenet is a distributed bulletin board system that is not limited in scope to the network of networks we call the Internet. Many on- line services, BBSs and other computing sites have newsfeeds without the benefits of FTP, Telnet, or other functions associated with the Internet.
With over 15,000 newsgroups, Usenet may be the largest body of collective reasoning in the world. Almost every reasonable question gets an answer, unless those questions are asked frequently, at which point they'd be contained in this document.
This document exists as both a reference point and a bandwidth- saver, in that it saves the old timers from hearing questions they have answered a thousand times before...
For an excellent (and decidedly non-technical) primer on newsgroups, and the 'Net itself, check out "The Internet for Dummies" by John R. Levine and Carol Baroudi (Available from IDG Books). It's a lot of fun, pretty informative, and I don't get a nickel for saying so.
And nowadays, you can't swing a dead cat in a bookstore without hitting some sort of Internet book, so do everyone a favor, and flip through one before hitting that send key.
According to the Netnews Moderator Handbook:
'Moderated' means that all postings to the newsgroup go to a mail address (e.g., email@example.com) instead of appearing in the newsgroup directly. The postings are then forwarded via email to a moderator, or group of moderators, or even an automated program, who decides whether to actually inject the article into the newsgroup or to reject it as not meeting guidelines spelled out in the group's charter.
The main purpose of newsgroup moderation is to prevent inappropriate posts to the newsgroup. For example, moderation can prevent discussion or requests for software from appearing in groups dedicated to posting source code. It can also be used to facilitate discussions, to create a forum for announcements, to prevent repeated posts of the same information, or to cut off endless uninformative arguments. Some groups, e.g., rec.humor.funny and some source groups, also use it to control the traffic volume.
Usenet is an anarchic society of people talking about things that interest them. In most societies, the best communication is achieved by speaking and acting in a civil and polite manner. This is not always the case in Usenet.
However, things run more smoothly when people are civil and "play by the rules." There is a counterproductive argument which reasons "This is cyberspace... there are no rules, so fuck you for trying to foist these upon me." This argument is highly counterproductive and does nothing except piss people off.
I am of the belief that netiquette exists because people before us have discovered what works well, and after all, if it ain't broke... But people will always do what they want when they have no fear... we only hope they do what's "right."
Sure, it sounds "square," but playing nice gets so much more done.
It's simple. Just start reading. Read for a couple weeks. This is called "lurking." Feel the place out. Find out what people talk about, see who's who. Every Usenet group has experts... take the time to figure out who these people are. Find a FAQ for the group and read it. Maybe the question you need answered has been answered before. After all this time, you'll make your first post, and you'll be nervous, and if you're lucky someone will answer it. Then you'll make a second, then a third... then you'll know an answer to someone else's question and *presto!* you're a productive member of a Usenet group.
Time was, this section would dissect the reasons why old timers hated posters from America On-Line (AOL.COM). Now, it seems almost quaint as we are faced with webtv.net :-). But here goes:
America OnLine does not seem to hold a special place in anyone's (except maybe Steve Case and its subscribers') heart. Since the PC explosion, people who have no prior computer experience have been flocking to this magical place called "Internet." However, some shrewd entrepreneurs realized that the 'Net operates on a strange language called UNIX... and novices (read paying customers) are intimidated and go away.
This difficultly has long kept the Internet a haven for techno- savvy college students and researchers. A hip club where computer knowledge was a prerequisite for getting in the door. However, a pretty face is being slapped on the Internet, and now all the dreaded "visitors from New Jersey" are arriving by the busload via some place called "America OnLine"
The problems began when people who had no prior computer experience started treading all over "hallowed ground" -- speaking loudly and being obnoxious.
As it happened, many AOLers -- drunk with the notion of "surfing the net" -- haven't taken the time to read this document (or others like it) or pay attention to the "Tips of the Day" that the AOL staff posts before you can enter the newsgroup area. (If you're from AOL, pat yourself on the back for checking this out...)
With a quick click of the OK button, many AOLers just join the fray and make fools of themselves.. almost begging net.denizens to hate them. Now, you may not be this way, but your predecessors were, so AOL (along with many other on-line services) has gotten a pretty bad name.
A reader adds this figure:
Look at it this way: 1,000,000 AOL users. 25% of them read news.announce or a faq or something, That leaves 75% of them clueless. Say half of them each post two stoopid "Hey d00dz, I needz the kewl warezzzzz" messages. That's 750,000 lame messages.And since everyone wants to talk about SEX, our groups often are the first ones to get killed. Hey, that's enough to piss anybody off. :-)
Realize that the Usenet has it's own ethos, culture and consciousness that was around long before AOL came on line. AOL, or any other .com service, doesn't OWN the net, rather they are accessing it like anyone else. Don't complain "I pay for this, therefore I don't want to see this" - it's an anarchy, and the fact that you have to pay per hour for access doesn't mean shit.
A newbie is a person who is new to the 'Net. It is not bad in and of itself, I mean, you have to be new before you can be old, right? However, there are some things you can do to make being new not so bad. While some people use the term as a epithet, most people use it to describe someone new.
For instance, take the time to lurk around a group (read things for a week or so, but don't post to get the feel for what is going on). Catch the scene, then post.
It's kinda like being a freshman again. In a few years you'll rule the school, but at first, you'll feel pimply and awkward. Fortunately, things happen much faster here. You'll be an old-timer in a matter of months.
You'll probably see reference to this document, and you'd get it and read all about us, and feel good knowing what you're in for. If you don't see a reference to this document, then this sentence is quite rather a paradox, isn't it?
A few things will help you on your way down the Usenet highway.
Here are some things mentioned in the document Request For Comment 1855 that you may find helpful:
He retains his copyright, and I make no claims on it at all. It's his. All his. Except the funny parts. They're mine. (I'll mark them with a :-) so you remember to laugh)
Every message needs a subject. Nothing is more frustrating than seeing messages in your newsreader as having "No subject" as a subject. So, title your messages, and make them mean something!
Communication is pretty dull if only one person does all the talking. So, we interact with each other. And, like all forms of social communications, there are some rules regarding replies.
Always use a signature if you can: make sure it identifies who you are and includes alternative means of contacting you (name and e- mail are usual). In many systems, particularly where mail passes through gateways, your signature may be the only means by which the recipient can even tell who you are.
Keep your signature short - four to seven lines is a handy rule of thumb for maximum signature length. Unnecessarily long signatures waste bandwidth (especially when distributed to lists) and can be annoying.
Always preface your signature with two dashes "--" This tells certain software packages that whatever follows is a signature and can be ignored when following up, etc.
Some gateways trim .sigs down to three lines, so don't be surprised if you're forty line message gets chopped by the time it gets to Phoenix... or if your newsreader refuses to post your message because your .sig is too long
Some mailers (and newsreaders) allow you to add random strings to your signature: this is well and good and can add character if done carefully.
You should consider the following basic rules though:
We were taught to be nice to people when we were young, and we all too often forget when we are old. In RAME, the more vicious or useless or flamey material will be rejected out of hand.
But, just in case, Here are some reminders from Emily Post -- OK, OK, its David Harris again...
Since there are so many groups in the Usenet hierarchy, some readers get upset when topics irrelevant to the subject at hand are posted to the group. Sometimes these messages are intentionally placed in the newsgroup to generate a flame war. Other times they are posted as a means of drumming up business for a commercial venture... if they don't have to do with sex movies, they are inappropriate.
RAME moderation does a pretty good job at stopping this stuff before it hits the group. Occasionally an article may sneak thru either by accident or by forgery. You can do the moderation team some help by forwarding any offending article WITH HEADERS to firstname.lastname@example.org
Any message posted to more than 20 groups is spam. Most spams are off- topic commercials. Please ignore spam or send e-mail to the poster and/or to the system administrator from which the spam was posted but do not post a public reply. If you cannot resist the urge to post a public reply, which will annoy as many readers as did the original post, please at least remove phone numbers and addresses so you don't give more publicity to the original post to which you are objecting. Many spams will be cancelled but your reply with quoted material will not be, insuring that the offensive ad remains longer than it otherwise would have.
Though spam takes more system resources (diskspace) and is hated by system administrators for that reason, velveeta or inappropriate crossposting is more disruptive to newsgroups. Particularly, the posting of provocative messages to diverse or antagonistic newsgroups (e.g. alt.cat.lovers and alt.animal.haters) tends to provoke flame wars and argumentative threads that seem to go on forever. Try to ignore velveeta and inappropriate crossposts. If you respond to a crossposted message, pay attention to the groups in which it is posted and remove those in which you do not wish your reply to appear. If you don't you may find yourself flamed from a group you never heard of before.
Thanks to George Shaffer for this section.
Something's wrong. But what? Could it be your newsfeed is down? Or maybe you're doing something wrong. So, you post message to alt.sex.movies or rec.arts.movies.erotica saying TEST - PLEASE IGNORE. And you get flamed or rejected. Why?
alt.test is a newsgroup dedicated to test messages. As alt.sex.movies is dedicated to discussing porn flicks, and alt.flame is dedicated to flame wars -- alt.test is dedicated to making sure your mailer works. rec.arts.movies.erotica is a moderated group, the fact that you got a rejection notice should tell you all is well.
People don't want to see your test postings in their newsgroups, and this goes for any newsgroup, not just asm. So post to alt.test. And use a wacky re: line, or you'll never find your post.
If you are connected to the net through a college or other large organization, you probably have more than one of these people running around. They are system administrators, and they take care of your network, and know how everything works.
Seek them out. Make friends. Bring them cookies or Fritos, and they will help you out. You don't have to be embarrassed asking for help, and you don't have to say you're looking for info on porn stars. Tell them you're trying to post to rec.music.beatles, and they'll think you're just a music fan, instead of thinking you're some sort of deranged deviant who keeps a raincoat close at hand (not accurate, but it's what they'll think...)
So, make friends with your SysAdmin and watch your net troubles go down the drain!
And remember to say "Thank You" and "Please" a lot. And don't forget the cookies.
Then you probably are accessing the net though a BBS, local provider or large online service. These people have tech support help at your disposal. America OnLine, Compuserve, Prodigy and Delphi have special forums for people who are having problems, as well as having people at one end of the phone to give you a hand as you need it. Use these resources. BBSs are a potluck arrangement, so I can't comment on how their support is handled.