This Lesson Describes The Usenet Culture And Customs That Have

This lesson describes the Usenet culture and customs that have developed over time. It is the people participating in Usenet that make it worth the effort to read and maintain; for Usenet to function properly those people must be able to interact in productive ways. This document is intended as a guide to using the net in ways that will be pleasant and productive for everyone. This lesson is not intended to teach you how to use Usenet. It is a guide on how to use Usenet politely, effectively and efficiently.

Communication by computer is new to almost everybody, and there are certain aspects that can make it a frustrating experience until you get used to them.This lesson should help you avoid the worst traps. The easiest way to learn how to use Usenet is to watch how others use it. Start reading the news and try to figure out what people are doing and why.

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After a couple of weeks you will start understanding why certain things are done and what things shouldn’t be done. There are documents available describing the technical details of how to use the software.These are different depending on which programs you use to access the news. You can get copies of these from your system administrator. If you do not know who that person is, they can be contacted on most systems by mailing to account “news”, “usenet” or “postmaster”. Usenet is a world-wide distributed discussion system.

It consists of a set of “newsgroups” with names that are classified hierarchically by subject.”Articles” or “messages” are “posted” to these newsgroups by people on computers with the appropriate software — these articles are then broadcast to other interconnected computer systems via a wide variety of networks. Some newsgroups are “moderated”; in these newsgroups, the articles are first sent to a moderator for approval before appearing in the newsgroup. Usenet is available on a wide variety of computer systems and networks. There are thousands of Usenet newsgroups, and it is sometimes difficult to find the right newsgroup to ask a question or start a discussion. This lesson gives some general methods of finding the right newsgroup or mailing list for a topic.To find what groups are relevant for your subject, you might search through your local list of newsgroups that your ISP (internet service provider) has provided. .

Then subscribe to those groups, and look at some of the recent traffic, to make sure that your question is suitable for the group. (For example, questions about Microsoft Windows belong in comp.os.

ms-windows.*, not comp.windows.*) [The asterisk, ‘*’, means multiple objects (here, groups) are referenced.

] On some systems, your .newsrc file won’t contain the names of newsgroups you haven’t subscribed to. In that case, read the documentation for your newsreader to find out how to add newsgroups, and use the methods mentioned below to find out the names of groups that might be available on your system.On some ISP systems, the ‘newsgroups’ command will show you a file containing a one-line description of the purpose of each newsgroup (the newsgroups file), or longer descriptions of the purpose and contents of each newsgroup (the newsgroup charters.) Ask the ISP news administrator if these or similar resources are available on your system. A way to find newsgroups where your topic is discussed is to use one of the Web search tools, such as http://www.dejanews.com/ or http://www.

altavista.digital.com/ and enter a keyword search for your topic.

As with all search engines, taking a few moments to learn how to compose an effective search will make the results much more useful. Once you have checked local resources, and the formal newsgroup descriptions, if you are still uncertain as to what groups are ‘right’ for your post, you can ask in news.groups.questions – this group is designed for people to ask what existing newsgroup is appropriate for a given topic or sub-topic of discussion. Very few sites carry all available newsgroups (there are thousands).Your local news administrator can help you access newsgroups that are not currently available, or explain why certain groups are not available at your site. If your site does not carry the newsgroup(s) where your post belongs, do NOT post it in other, inappropriate groups. WHAT USENET IS NOT —————— 1.

Usenet is not an organization. No person or group has authority over Usenet as a whole.No one controls who gets a news feed, which articles are propagated where, who can post articles, or anything else. There is no “Usenet Incorporated,” nor is there a “Usenet User’s Group.” You’re on your own.

Granted, there are various activities organized by means of Usenet newsgroups. The newsgroup creation process is one such activity. But it would be a mistake to equate Usenet with the organized activities it makes possible.If they were to stop tomorrow, Usenet would go on without them. 2. Usenet is not a democracy. Since there is no person or group in charge of Usenet as a whole — i.

e. there is no Usenet “government” — it follows that Usenet cannot be a democracy, autocracy, or any other kind of “-acy.” (But see “The Camel’s Nose?” below.) 3.Usenet is not fair. After all, who shall decide what’s fair? For that matter, if someone is behaving unfairly, who’s going to stop him? Neither you nor I, that’s certain. 4. Usenet is not a right.

Some people misunderstand their local right of “freedom of speech” to mean that they have a legal right to use others’ computers to say what they wish in whatever way they wish, and the owners of said computers have no right to stop them.Those people are wrong. Freedom of speech also means freedom not to speak. If I choose not to use my computer to aid your speech, that is my right.

Freedom of the press belongs to those who own one. 5.Usenet is not a public utility. Some Usenet sites are publicly funded or subsidized. Most of them, by plain count, are not. There is no government monopoly on Usenet, and little or no government control. 6.

Usenet is not an academic network.It is no surprise that many Usenet sites are universities, research labs or other academic institutions. Usenet originated with a link between two universities, and the exchange of ideas and information is what such institutions are all about. But the passage of years has changed Usenet’s character.

Today, by plain count, most Usenet sites are commercial entities. 7.Usenet is not an advertising medium. 8. Usenet is not the Internet.

The Internet is a wide-ranging network, parts of which are subsidized by various governments. It carries many kinds of traffic, of which Usenet is only one. And the Internet is only one of the various networks carrying Usenet traffic.

9. Usenet is not a UUCP network. UUCP is a protocol (actually a “protocol suite,” but that’s a technical jargon) for sending data over point-to-point connections, typically using dialup modems. Sites use UUCP to carry many kinds of traffic, of which Usenet is only one. And UUCP is only one of the various transports carrying Usenet traffic.10. Usenet is not a United States network. It is true that Usenet originated in the United States, and the fastest growth in Usenet sites has been there.

Nowadays, however, Usenet extends worldwide. The heaviest concentrations of Usenet sites outside the U.S. seem to be in Canada, Europe, Australia and Japan. Keep Usenet’s worldwide nature in mind when you post articles.

Even those who can read your language may have a culture wildly different from yours. When your words are read, they might not mean what you think they mean. 11. Usenet is not a UNIX network. 12.Usenet is not an ASCII network.

13. Usenet is not software. There are dozens of software packages used at various sites to transport and read Usenet articles.

So no one program or package can be called “the Usenet software.” Software designed to support Usenet traffic can be (and is) used for other kinds of communication, usually without risk of mixing the two. Such private communication networks are typically kept distinct from Usenet by the invention of newsgroup names different from the universally-recognized ones.Well, enough negativity.

WHAT USENET IS ————– Usenet is the set of people who exchange articles tagged with one or more universally-recognized labels, called “newsgroups” (or “groups” for short). There is often confusion about the precise set of newsgroups that constitute Usenet; one commonly accepted definition is that it consists of newsgroups listed in the periodic “List of Active Newsgroups” postings which appear regularly in news.lists and other newsgroups.

A broader definition of Usenet would include the newsgroups listed in the article “Alternative Newsgroup Hierarchies” (frequently posted to news.lists). An even broader definition includes even newsgroups that are restricted to specific geographic regions or organizations.Each Usenet site makes its own decisions about the set of groups available to its users; this set differs from site to site. (Note that the correct term is “newsgroups”; they are not called areas, bases, boards, bboards, conferences, round tables, SIGs, echoes, rooms or usergroups! Nor, as noted above, are they part of the Internet, though they may reach your site over it. Furthermore, the people who run the news systems are called news administrators, not sysops. If you want to be understood, be accurate.

) DIVERSITY ——— If the above definition of Usenet sounds vague, that’s because it is. It is almost impossible to generalize over all Usenet sites in any non-trivial way.Usenet encompasses government agencies, large universities, high schools, businesses of all sizes, home computers of all descriptions, etc, etc. (In response to the above paragraphs, it has been written that there is nothing vague about a network that carries megabytes of traffic per day. I agree.

But at the fringes of Usenet, traffic is not so heavy. In the shadowy world of news-mail gateways and mailing lists, the line between Usenet and not-Usenet becomes very hard to draw.) CONTROL ——- Every administrator controls his own site. No one has any real control over any site but his own.The administrator gets her power from the owner of the system she administers. As long as her job performance pleases the owner, she can do whatever she pleases, up to and including cutting off Usenet entirely.

Them’s the breaks. Sites are not entirely without influence on their neighbors, however. There is a vague notion of “upstream” and “downstream” related to the direction of high-volume news flow. To the extent that “upstream” sites decide what traffic they will carry for their “downstream” neighbors, those “upstream” sites have some influence on their neighbors’ participation in Usenet.But such influence is usually easy to circumvent; and heavy-handed manipulation typically results in a backlash of resentment. PERIODIC POSTINGS —————– To help hold Usenet together, various articles are periodically posted in newsgroups in the “news” hierarchy.

These articles are provided as a public service by various volunteers.They are few but valuable. Among the periodic postings are lists of active newsgroups, both “standard” (for lack of a better term) and “alternative.

” PROPAGATION ———– In the old days, when UUCP over long-distance dialup lines was the dominant means of article transmission, a few well-connected sites had real influence in determining which newsgroups would be carried where. Those sites called themselves “the backbone.” But things have changed.Nowadays, even the smallest Internet site has connectivity the likes of which the backbone admin of yesteryear could only dream. In addition, in the U.S., the advent of cheaper long-distance calls and high-speed modems has made long-distance Usenet feeds thinkable for smaller companies.

There is only one eminent site for transport of Usenet in the U.S., namely UUNET. But UUNET isn’t a player in the propagation wars, because it never refuses any traffic. UUNET charges by the minute, after all; and besides, to refuse based on content might jeopardize its legal status as an enhanced service provider.THE CAMEL’S NOSE? —————– As was observed above in “What Usenet Is Not,” Usenet as a whole is not a democracy. However, there is exactly one feature of Usenet that has a form of democracy: newsgroup creation.

A new newsgroup is unlikely to be widely propagated unless its sponsor follows the newsgroup creation guidelines; and the current guidelines require a new newsgroup to pass an open vote. There are those who consider the newsgroup creation process to be a remarkably powerful form of democracy, since without any coercion, its decisions are almost always carried out. In their view, the democratic aspect of newsgroup creation is the precursor to an organized and democratic Usenet Of The Future.On the other hand, some consider the democratic aspect of the newsgroup creation process a sham and a fraud, since there is no power of enforcement behind its decisions, and since there appears little likelihood that any such power of enforcement will ever be given it. For them, the appearance of democracy is only a tool used to keep proponents of flawed newsgroup proposals from complaining about their losses.

So, is Usenet on its way to full democracy? Or will property rights and mistrust of central authority win the day? Beats me. Never Forget that the Person on the Other Side is Human. Because your interaction with the network is through a computer it is easy to forget that there are people “out there.” Situations arise where emotions erupt into a verbal free-for-all that can lead to hurt feelings.Please remember that people all over the world are reading your words. Do not attack people if you cannot persuade them with your presentation of the facts.

Screaming, cursing, and abusing others only serves to make people think less of you and less willing to help you when you need it. If you are upset at something or someone, wait until you have had a chance to calm down and think about it. A cup of (decaf!) coffee or a good night’s sleep works wonders on your perspective. Hasty words create more problems than they solve. Try not to say anything to others you would not say to them in person in a room full of people.

Don’t Blame System Admins for their Users’ Behavior. Sometimes, you may find it necessary to write to a system administr …