Useful Information about Usenet
- especially within the UK -

Table of Contents


What EVERY Usenet User should know

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 "Emoticon" the 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 EXCUSE.

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.

news.announce.newusers
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.
news.announce.important
Anything posted here is important enough that everybody in Cyberspace should see it. But it rarely gets beyond a couple of announcements per year.
news.announce.newgroups
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 - comp.*, humanities.*, misc.*, news.*, rec.*, sci.*, soc.* and talk.*.
uk.net.news.announce
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 this group.

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

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 Guidelines.


What newsgroups exist?

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.
Trigofacile List of Big-8 groups
I.e. comp.*, humanities.*, misc.*, news.*, rec.*, sci.*, soc.* and talk.*.
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 Administrators.
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 group.

What about Moderated Newsgroups?

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 '-'s, 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 '-request@usenet.org.uk' (this adding of '-request' has been chosen to be similar to the convention for contacting the administrator of a mailing list). So, for example, to contact the moderator of

uk.foo.moderated
you would send your email to
uk-foo-moderated-request@usenet.org.uk

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).


More about Writing Articles

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).

Creating a new newsgroup

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.
DON'T!

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 go in

  1. a 'Big-8' hierarchy - comp.*, humanities.*, misc.*, news.*, rec.*, sci.*, soc.* and talk.*
  2. your very own uk.* hierarchy
  3. an alt.* group.
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 Votes (CFV).

Creating a 'Big-8' group

The 'Big-8' has its own website where its whole modus operandi is set out.
Big-8 Usenet hierarchies
Intruduction to and History of the Big-8.
How to Create a New Big-8 Newsgroup
The basic rules for the RFD, Discussion and Decision under which the 'Big-8' groups operate.
Newsgroup_Creation_FAQ
Lots of further niggles and detaails..
Naming Newsgroups
A brief lesson in taxonomy and the merits of hierarchies. There is a separate UK-specific version for the uk.* groups.

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.
RFD-Maker
A ready-made template and other goodies to help you to create a well-structured RFD.

Creating an alt.* group

Alt.* 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!

Net Abuse

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 UsnetIsAFreePlaceWhereYouCanDoAnyThingYouLike AndNobodyHasTheRightToStopYou (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, particularly
news.admin.net-abuse.usenet
news.admin.net-abuse.email
news.admin.net-abuse.misc
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".

Technical Stuff

How It All Works

How the Usenet News Protocols Work
An introduction by Jacob Palme.
News_Service_Providers
Where to get your news from.
Newsreaders
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.
INN
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).

Standards

RFC 5322
Specifies the format of Email messages; RFC 5536 is based on this.
RFC 5536
Specifies the official format of Usenet articles.
RFC 5537
Specifies the Architecture and Protocols for propagating Usenet articles.
RFC 3977
Specifies NNTP, the Network News Transfer Protocol.
RFC 1153
Specifies the digest format that some moderated groups use.

Miscellaneous Stuff

Google
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.

Commonly used Abbreviations

AFAIKAs Far As I Know
AIUIAs I Understand It
BTWBy The Way
C&CCoffee and Cats (meaning "Put your Coffee in a safe place and shoo the Cat off your lap before you ROTFL")
CFVCall For Votes
FAQFrequently Asked Question
FTPFile Transfer Protocol
HANDHave A Nice Day
HTHHope This Helps
IANALI Am Not A Lawyer
IIRCIf I Recall Correctly
IMHOIn My Humble Opinion
IOWIn Other Words
ISPInternet Service Provider
LARTLuser Attitude Readjustment Tool (for adjusting "Spammers")
LOLLaugh Out Loud
NNTPNetwork News Transfer Protocol
OTOHOn The Other Hand
RFCRequest For Comments
RFDRequest For Discussion
ROTFLRolls On The Floor Laughing
RTFMRead The F****** Manual
TINCThere Is No Cabal
WWWWorld Wide Web
YMMVYour Mileage May Vary

Comments and Suggestions

This page is brought to you by Charles Lindsey. Comments and suggestions for future editions to chl@clerew.man.ac.uk please.

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