The Text Based Internet
Part 4a: About Newsgroups
There is an old saying that goes, "People come to the internet for the
e-mail, but they stay for the news groups."
Like I said, it is an OLD saying. Now a days, people come and stay for
the web. I'm not delusional. I can face that. However, there is nothing
on the net, or even in the tangible world, that can produce and
harness the sheer energy, anarchy or vigilantism that the Usenet has.
The power of these small communities can be awing to the on looker, but
you have to look. This is not your vehicle for research or advertizing or
free pics, this is a group of communities, and it is very easy to get on
it's bad side.
That is why I'm going to make you sit through some guidelines before
telling you how to get on. Sit down. Listen. No skipping ahead.
Read this first
Here is a list of things that you should do before you take that bold
step and post.
- Read the FAQ. The person who spends the time compiling the Frequently
Asked Questions list does it for a reason. Almost every group has one,
and they are usually posted once a week to once a month and most likely
are available on a web site or through FTP. These are
important because people get tired of being asked the same questions over
and over again.
- Lurk. Lurking is the act of reading the posts in a news group for an
extended period of time before your first post. I recommend spending at
least a few weeks, if not a month or two, getting the hang of what the
group is about, what would be distasteful, etc. Although this is VERY
IMPORTANT, there are reasons to break the rule. For example, if someone
asks about something you know and no one else has answered yet, by all
means type a way.
- Remember to shut up. A lot of people go onto news groups thinking
that after one insightful post they have either proven thier worth or are
best friends with everyone there. Neither is true. Nor should you be
offended or pissed if people don't respond to your post. These feelings
are bad and should be put out of that little head of yours.
- DO NOT USE ALL CAPITALS. EVERYONE, AT ONE POINT OR ANOTHER, DECIDES
THAT THEY WANT TO USE ALL CAPITALS TO SET THEMSELVES APART. THIS IS CALLED
SHOUTING AND IS CONSIDERED VERY RUDE. or sometimes people decide to
use all lowercase, like e. e. cummings. this is considered hard to read,
and also rude. If you want to set yourself apart, do it with what you
type, not how you type it. You will be surprised how people can still
stand apart, even when thier text looks like everyone else's.
- Don't ever, ever spam. Spamming is trying to sell something through
e-mail or the newsgroups. Do not do this.
This will have
horrible consequences, possibly
including you being shunned by the usenet community and getting kicked off
The only exception is if you post one, non-crossposted message to a group
specifically for selling, such as a marketplace group.
- Don't troll, either. Trolling is spam's evil little sibling.
Trolling is when someone posts something very unrelated to the original
post. If you
post something, PLEASE make sure it is related to the group you are
I did not cover everything that you shouldn't do on newsgroups. You
should see The
Seven Don'ts of Usenet for more info.
News Group Hierarchies
News groups are organized in a hierarchy of sorts. Lets look at a
typical news group name:
The alt is the top level. There are several, including alt,
sci, comp, and many for countrys, companies and ISP's.
The second section is the general area of discussion-- books. When you
see a news group like
alt.books you can usually assume it's
pretty general. In the example, people discuss books: books they are
reading, books they are writing, best places to buy books on the web, etc.
Very general stuff.
Then it branches off to authors and types of books.
alt.books.pratchett is for the discussion of books by the
author Terry Pratchett. But, wait, there's another one...
This group is for the fans of Terry Pratchett. What's the difference?
Many people will read one
and not the other, causing many differences in the messages that
are posted. The only way to tell which one you would prefer is to read
the groups and figure it out yourself.
There are some more Terry Pratchett news groups like:
This is a group for general announcements about Terry Pratchett, like
book signings, books being released, awards he has won, newsgroup
pic-nics, etc. Generally, you should not post to this group, it is
just there for informational purposes.
After the name of the group, you will usually get a description of what
the group is about. This, usually is used for informational purposes,
such as saying that the news group is for author Terry Pratchett, and not
one of the many other Pratchetts in the world. A lot of times, especially
in news groups who's name can not be confused for something else, it tends
to be less informative.
88 194 alt.hardcore Like a peach. Or the
Also, if they are trying to redirect people to another group, they may
put something like this:
16 3642 alt.parenting.solutions Use misc.kids.*
There are a few reasons for redirecting groups. The main one is that
they got tired of spam and decided to move it to a part of usenet that
gets less. The alt.* groups inevitably gets the most, so the moved it to
misc.*. This does not mean that there is no more discussion on
alt.parenting.solutions. You should regard it as you would any other
multiple groups, and read them both and see which one you like best.
However, you should keep in mind that the powers that be left the
original group for a reason.
With that out of the way, it's time to check the news with tin.
- You can check your mail through Pine.
- You may want to download some files with ftp.
- While you're at it, you should fiddle around with some miscellaneous commands and programs.