Useful Information about Usenet
- especially within the UK -
Table of Contents
Yes! That means YOU!
Welcome to the great jungle known as Usenet. You are now in Cyberspace, where
things are a little different from the Real World. For a start, there are no
national boundaries here (well, not so you will often notice), so expect to
meet people from all over the world. The fact that most of them will be
Yanks merely reflects that fact that they colonized the place first
:-). BTW, that ":-)" thing was an
nearest thing we have to a facial expression in a world where 99% of what you
see is text. And if you cannot work out what "BTW" means, then be warned that
was just an easy one for starters - there are lots more abbreviations where
that one came from, and people hereabouts tend to use them a lot.
As with other spaces where people live, there are rules of polite behaviour
which one is expected to observe. Collectively, these rules are known as
"Netiquette", and the first rule
is simply this
IGNORANCE OF THE PRINCIPLES OF NETIQUETTE IS NO
I warned you that this was a jungle.
Newsgroups that EVERYBODY should subscribe to
Yes! That still means YOU!
There are several newsgroups that contain regular informational postings.
Note that if you click on any of the following, and if your browser is
really smart, it will automaticlaay subscribe you to those
groups on your own news-server.
- These are the ones you should not be ignorant of. Actually, you do not
need to have read them all, but should be aware of what is there. I give
pointers to the important ones below.
- Anything posted here is important enough that everybody in
Cyberspace should see it. But it rarely gets beyond a couple of announcements
- If you want to know about new Usenet newsgroups that are being proposed,
or want to exercise your vote as to whether they are worth creating, then this
is the group to follow. It averages maybe half a dozen posts per day, so it
does not take long for a quick scan down the list of Subjects to see whether
there is anything in your sphere of interest. Note that this only covers new
groups in the 'Big-8' hierarchies -
news.*, rec.*, sci.*,
soc.* and talk.*.
- This does for the uk.* groups what
news.announce.newgroups does for the Big-8. The UK groups
are your hierarchy. Make sure you know what is going on by taking
Articles that EVERYBODY should read
Or, since they were written a long time ago, perhaps I should have said "should have read at least once". They may seem like history, but "plus ça change ...".
- What is Usenet?
- I'm glad you asked that question/ It is not as obvious as you think (there are
many things it is not - the Internet, for example)/
- Hints on writing style for Usenet
- and for writing in other places too, for that matter.
- Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Usenet
- A big mixed bag, this one, and not necessarily all to do with Usenet/
"What is UUNET?", "Should one write USENET or Usenet?", "How do you pronounce
"TeX"?". All good clean fun.
Netiquette is the oil that should smooth the waters troubled
by those who jump in with both feet without caring who gets splashed. In the
"Real World" there are things that, in Polite Society, are just "not done".
The same in Cyberspace, where correct netiquette should be your guide.
There are many websites that will try to tell you all about 'Netiquette'
(ask Google) but IMHO the best (even though written way back in 1995) is
A Primer on How to Work With the Usenet Community,
which tells how the good citizens of Cyberspace
should treat each other.
And then there is
Emily Postnews Answers Your Questions on Netiquette,
A spoof by an "Agony Aunt" who hasn't a clue what she is talking
about. Unfortunately, you will meet her and her dupes all over Cyberspace.
Another general guide can be found in
RFC 1855 - Netiquette
Well that is a H-u-g-e big question. Even bigger if you want to know what a
particular newsgroup is supposed to be about. Your first port-of-call should
be the newsgroups file which is kept by whichever news-server you
are subscribed to; your news-reader probably has a "subscribe" command which
will provide a list all the newsgroups it can see, with a short
"one-line" description of each.
But worldwide, there may be many groups, even hierarchies, that your
news-server does not keep. So for the full picture you need to look further:
- The Trigofacile Archive
- An Archive maintained by Julien Élie. That link takes you to the "Managed
Hierarchies" and the groups contained within each. There are also links to the
"Unmanaged Hierarchies" (including alt.*, and free.*)
and some other specialized hierarchies. The essential
difference is that the Managed ones are controlled by some organisation with a
PGP Key to ensure that only genuine groups get carried. Sadly, however, some
Managers have gone AWOL and their hierarchies are left running on auto-pilot.
- The Big-Eight Newsgroups
- These (well, 7 of them) are the original Hierarchies which arose from the
of 1987 and enforced at that time by a Cabal (TINC) of the Backbone Providers. The Big-Eight is organized by a Management Board and consists of:
news.*, rec.*, sci.*,
soc.* and talk.*.
Trigofacile List of Big-8 groups
- An independent list of the groups in the Big-8.
- The Archive at ISC
- Here you will find a more accurate (but less readable) list of hierarchies
and groups, and other information in a format intended more for News-server
- Archive of control messages
- You have to be really desperate to fight your way through there, but it
is the only place you will find the actual Charter of most news-groups.
- Listing of Newsgroups in UK.*
- Within the uk.* hierarchy, things are somewhat better
organised. This is a full listing of the UK part of the
newsgroups file, complete with links to the Charter for each
Why are some newsgroups Moderated? Is it Censorship? How does Moderation
work? How should I propose a Moderated Group, and how should I Moderate it?
All this, and much else besides can be found in
Moderated Newsgroups FAQ.
Within uk.*, the moderation submission address for posting is
the name of the group, with '
.'s replaced by '
followed by '
@usenet.org.uk' (or by
@moderators.isc.org'), but that is usually taken care of
automatically by your news-reading software. If you want to contact the
moderator(s) by email (as opposed to posting an article), then take the same
thing (after the '
-' replacement) followed by
-firstname.lastname@example.org' (this adding of '
been chosen to be similar to the convention for contacting the administrator
of a mailing list). So, for example, to contact the moderator of
you would send your email to
In addition, there is a special newsgroup uk.net.news.moderation which is for the
discussion of all matters relating to the moderation process (whether in
general, or for particular moderated groups).
This section is for experienced posters. And especially for would-be
experienced posters :-).
- Copyright Myths FAQ: 10 big myths about copyright explained
- You do not have the right to infringe people's Copyright on Usenet.
- Advertising on Usenet: How To Do It, How Not To Do It
- Usenet is paid for by its users, and they did not pay to receive unwanted
advertising. OTOH, short and discrete announcements of products truly relevant
to a particular group can be quite useful. If you are tempted to advertise,
read this first.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
These are regular postings, maintained by willing volunteers, usually
associated with a particular newsgroup and usually crossposted also to
news.answers as well as some other *.answers
group. For FAQ associated with the groups in uk.*, we also
have our own uk.answers (see below).
- FAQs about FAQs
- A complete primer on writing a FAQ.
- Introduction to the *.answers newsgroups
- If you want your FAQ to be acceptable to the moderated
*.answers newsgroups, there are further formatting and
procedural rules to be obeyed. Once you have passed these hurdles, to the
satisfaction of the moderators, you will be permitted to Approve these
postings yourself. Moreover, they will automatically get archived at several
sites worldwide, such as
Sun SITE Northern Europe for FTP access.
- Charter of uk.answers
- All writers of FAQs for uk.* groups are invited to submit
them to uk.answers. To do this, format your FAQ as outlined
in the paragraph above (because it will automatically be going to
news.answers as well), but submit it to
the uk.answers moderator
instead of to the news.answers moderators and, if it all
seems in order, he will negotiate with the news.answers
moderators for you (and they will then give you instructions for Approving
the actual postings).
So you want to create a brand new Newsgroup to discuss your favourite hobby
horse? Remember first Mr Punch's famous advice to those about to get married.
So you really want to create a brand new Newsgroup? Then be warned!
It is hard work. You have to persuade people. You have to argue your
position. You have to be prepared to make compromises. You have to prepare
written proposals, only to have them torn apart in public discussion. And you
have to find an acceptable name for your new group which, believe it or not,
is usually the hardest part.
So you still want to create a brand new Newsgroup? Then read on.
Note, firstly, that the methods differ according to whether your group is to
The procedures for uk.* are based on those for the 'Big-8',
so it may be necessary to read some of the 'Big-8' documents as well as the
more specific UK ones. Basically, you have to submit a Request For Discussion
(RFD), have it discussed, and then (usually) have it submitted to a Call For
- a 'Big-8' hierarchy -
news.*, rec.*, sci.*,
soc.* and talk.*
- your very own uk.* hierarchy
- an alt.* group.
Creating a 'Big-8' group
The 'Big-8' has its own website
where its whole modus operandi is set out.
Big-8 Usenet hierarchies
- Introduction to and History of the Big-8.
How to Create a New Big-8 Newsgroup
- The basic rules for the RFD,
and Decision under which the 'Big-8' groups operate.
- A brief lesson in taxonomy and the merits of hierarchies.
There is a
separate UK-specific version for the
Creating a uk.* group
Guidelines for Group Creation within the UK Hierarchy
- This is the basic set of rules which you need to follow; it was derived
from the rules which were formerly used in the 'Big-8'. The same rules are also
applicable to such things as changing the charter of an existing newsgroup, or
even changing the Guidelines themselves.
Voting Procedures within the UK Hierarchy
- Often, it is possible to avoid a formal vote to create a
uk.* group. But if you do need to go to a full
CFV, this tells you all about it.
Uk-Voting Home Pages
- The UkVotetakers, established to implement the Voting Procedures are quite
independent of the Committee. On this page they speak for themselves.
The UK Usenet Committee
- There is an elected committee to oversee the group creation process within
uk.*, with special responsibility to look after group naming.
This document contains its constitution and terms of reference.
Guidelines on uk.* Newsgroup Names
- The UK-specific version of Naming Newsgroups.
- UK Newsadmin's FAQ
- A bundle of miscellaneous information about the uk.*
hierarchy that might help answer some of your less obvious questions.
- A ready-made template and other goodies to help you to create a
Creating an alt.* group
is an even denser jungle than the rest of Usenet. Essentially, anybody can create a group, but unless you first discuss it in
alt.config someone is quite likely
to remove it again. Moreover, creating it is only half the battle. You then
have to hope (pray?) that Sysadmins worldwide will bother to subscribe to it.
So You Want to Create an Alt Newsgroup
- Read this, heed its good advice, and you are then still on your own!
Usenet (indeed the whole Internet) is a jungle. In any jungle you will find
misfits. Some People observe how the system works, and then find cunning ways
to disrupt it by means of Mailbombs, Ping-Storms, Newsgroup-Bombing,
Forged-Control-Messages, and other such Denial of Service attacks. Some People
think this is funny. Some People believe that
(there is a special Kook-of-the-Month award for those people - see
alt.usenet.kooks - and some of them even
publish FAQs which I can only describe as Bogus). Some People see Usenet as a
Great-Commercial-Opportunity and set about plastering the whole place with
their hyped-up advertisements - at your expense, of course. That is known by
the generic name of "Spam". Some People have a lot to learn.
Generally, Spam Fighting is best left to the professionals. To see them in
action, look at the news.admin.net-abuse.* groups,
- although that last one may in time be superseded by the first two.
- The Internet Watch Foundation
- A body set up by the major UK ISPs, with Government
approval, to fight pornography and other unpleasant stuff on
the Internet. Its prime concern is material that would be illegal in this
country, especially material published on the WWW. It is
less likely to be able to do much about Usenet, if only because most of the
unpleasant spam arises from abroad. It may be able to expand its effectiveness
in the future, but in the meantime its purpose seems more to be to convince
the Government that the ISPs are "doing something about it".
How It All Works
How the Usenet News Protocols Work
- An introduction by Jacob Palme.
- Where to get your news from.
- Clients to use on your own machine.
News and Email software
Usenet Software: History and Sources
- Mostly written in the days when Usenet News was only
available at large sites (Universites and the like) usually running the UNIX
operating system, so it is a little short on stuff to run on PCs.
- The most widely used program used by news-servers.
The "Good Net-Keeping Seal of Approval for Usenet Software"
- Nowadays most of Users sit at a PC and get their news from a
commercial ISP. They use all sorts of news-readers and
frankly, the quality of much of this software
is abysmal, so you ought
to read this article and see just how well your present news-reader measures
up against it (mind you, it was written many years ago and could do with an update).
- Specifies the format of Email messages; RFC 5536
is based on this.
- Specifies the official format of Usenet articles.
- Specifies the Architecture and Protocols for propagating Usenet articles.
- Specifies NNTP, the Network News Transfer Protocol.
- Specifies the digest format that some moderated groups use.
- From this archive you can retrieve usenet articles posted months and months ago,
or find every article that a named person has posted over that time, or lots
of other cool stuff. But be warned, all Usenet groups are there, but they are
hopelessly mixed up with lots of other forums that are totally unrelated to
Usenet and finding what you are looking for can be hard work.
Anonymous FTP: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) List
- Many of the links given above use FTP, as opposed to HTTP, This FAQ is ancient, but little regarding FTP has changed since then, and it contains a full description of all the FTP commands available, should you choose to run it from the command line rather than from your web-browser.
|AFAIK||As Far As I Know|
|AIUI||As I Understand It|
|BTW||By The Way|
|C&C||Coffee and Cats (meaning "Put your Coffee in a safe place and shoo
the Cat off your lap before you ROTFL")|
|CFV||Call For Votes|
|FAQ||Frequently Asked Question|
|FTP||File Transfer Protocol|
|HAND||Have A Nice Day|
|HTH||Hope This Helps|
|IANAL||I Am Not A Lawyer|
|IIRC||If I Recall Correctly|
|IMHO||In My Humble Opinion|
|IOW||In Other Words|
|ISP||Internet Service Provider|
|LART||Luser Attitude Readjustment Tool (for adjusting "Spammers")|
|LOL||Laugh Out Loud|
|NNTP||Network News Transfer Protocol|
|OTOH||On The Other Hand|
|RFC||Request For Comments|
|RFD||Request For Discussion|
|ROTFL||Rolls On The Floor Laughing|
|RTFM||Read The F****** Manual|
|TINC||There Is No Cabal|
|WWW||World Wide Web|
|YMMV||Your Mileage May Vary|
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