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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) For Usenet


What's The Difference Between Usenet and Newsgroups?
Newsgroups are forums containing messages posted by anybody who cares to contribute. There are literally tens of thousands of newsgroups in existence. Usenet is the collective term for the vast network of systems that contain the newsgroups.
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Who Runs Usenet?
No one person or organization runs or controls Usenet. Anybody with access to it can post and read articles in newsgroups. That being said, most Internet Service Providers have a Terms of Service statement that customers agree to adhere to when signing up for service. Your Internet Service Provider may terminate your account if you abuse the service (i.e., spamming newsgroups).

This means that everybody has a right to post their thoughts and opinions on Usenet, whether somebody else may disagree or think it offensive. People from many countries with many ideas post to newsgroups. It is your right to not subscribe to newsgroups that you are not interested in.
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How Are Newsgroups Organized So I Can Find One I Like?

Newsgroups are grouped by hierarchy, starting off with a category, and then branching off into other categories. Hence a newsgroup's name reflects these categories in order of branching, separated by dots. There are eight main branches in the hierarchy, sometimes referred to as the Big Eight:

comp
humanities
news
misc
rec
sci
soc
talk

Then there is the alt category, which contains newsgroups that may not fit in any of the above.

SectionDescriptionExample
alt Alternative subjects, ranging from the serious to the unconventional alt.fan.letterman
comp Computer-related subjects comp.infosystems.www
humanities Arts and Literature humanities.lit.authors.shakespeare
misc Miscellany like jobs, items for sale, etc. misc.invest.canada
news Information about newsgroups themselves news.groups.reviews
rec Recreational topics -- hobbies, sports, the arts, movies rec.outdoors.fishing
sci Science, discussions about a vast variety of scientific topics sci.space.shuttle
soc Society, history, culture soc.genealogy.britain
talk Discussion and debate groups talk.environment

 

There are many more categories, but these are the main ones that most newsfeeds carry. We recommend that new users read news.announce.newusers and news.answers to get a feel for what Usenet is like and how newsgroups operate.
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Can I Create A Newsgroup?
It is not recommended for new users to attempt to create newsgroups. Creating a newsgroup is a slow and complex process: It is only taken seriously when no other avenue of discussion for a topic is available, and there is sufficient interest from other parties. If you have a good newsgroup idea, then read the news.groups newsgroup for a while (six months, at least) to find out how things work. You will usually find, after becoming familiar with the Internet and Usenet, that a place of discussion for your topic already exists.
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What Is Netiquette?
Netiquette is a commonly agreed-upon set of rules and etiquette for the Internet and Usenet. Violators of netiquette may be ignored by fellow posters or get "flamed" (your post will be replied to critically by other posters).
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What Are The General Rules Of Netiquette?
TRY NOT TO SHOUT. Typing in all capital letters is hard on the eyes, and rarely will most people bother to read it.

Avoid excessive cross-posting. It is possible to post your message to more than one newsgroup at a time, but make sure it is both necessary and relevant to the newsgroups you post to. If it is unwelcome or off-topic, others may consider it to be spam.

Do not reply to an article just to say "Me too".
You will notice that there is a lot of traffic on usenet. If you agree with what somebody says but have nothing additional to say, reply by email to let them know you agree. This cuts down on the number of posts that everybody has to download.

Try to keep your signature file at four lines of text or less.
Some people configure their newsreaders to include a few lines of text at the end including their email address or a witty saying or both. Signature files, if excessively long, make the post take longer to download - and may make others avoid your posts.

Don't post HTML or files to non-binary groups.
There are specific newsgroups where posting files and the resulting heavy traffic is welcome. An example of this would be the mp3 hierarchy -- alt.binary.sounds.mp3 is one. If it doesn't say binary in the newsgroup name, then don't chance it. Most people's newsreaders are not set up to read HTML, and it takes longer to download than plain text.

"Lurk" a while in a newsgroup before posting.
If you don't understand what the newsgroup is about or have other questions even after lurking for a while, post a message asking if there is a FAQ for that newsgroup that you can refer to. Although people may answer your questions, regulars frequently get tired of answering the same questions over and over from "newbies". However, if your question is not answered in the FAQ for that newsgroup, or they have no FAQ, don't be afraid to ask. It's better to know the assumed rules than to unwittingly step on feet.

There are more rules of Netiquette, but the best way to learn them is to lurk around Usenet a while and get the feel of how things work.

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Somebody Has Flamed Me, Or Is Posting Material I Find Offensive.

The solution is not to flame this person back. The Internet is literally a free community, and no one organization or entity oversees or polices Usenet. The best thing to do is either ignore the offending party and/or add them to your killfile. Forté Agent has a killfile function for hiding posts based on criteria such as the sender's name, as does Outlook Express. This way you can control what posts you do and do not read. Remember, everybody has the right to say what they want on Usenet - but only you have the right to choose what you do and don't read (or respond to).
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I Posted A Message, But Don't See It Listed On The Newsgroup Yet.
Your message will not show up until the next time you retrieve headers for that newsgroup. Also, posting is not an immediate process: it may take a few minutes for your post to show up on the newsgroup you post it to. So to avoid multiple copies of the same message, simply wait about five minutes and retrieve headers again instead of trying to re-post the article.

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I Tried To Reply To Somebody By E-Mail, But My Message Got Returned. Why?
Most likely they have placed a spamblock in their e-mail address. This is also known as munging. On Usenet, people will frequently munge their e-mail address so that spammers who scout Usenet searching for e-mail addresses will not be able to e-mail them. This can be done by placing a word or phrase in your e-mail address settings after the "@" symbol, like this:

johndoe@rpa.net.invalid

It is recommended that if you munge your e-mail address, you should place the spamblocking phrase or word after the "@" symbol, and not before it. This cuts down on unnecessary traffic hitting the mail server (and keeps your service fast)! You may want to mention at the bottom of your posts what people can remove from your address to reply by e-mail. This is normally safe, since spammers use "bots" to search Usenet for anything resembling an e-mail address, instead of searching messages individually one by one.

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I Want To Learn More About SPAM (Unsolicited Commercial E-Mail) And How To Stop It.
You may want to visit the CAUCE (Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial E-Mail) homepage at http://www.cauce.org. This is a grass-roots non-profit organization with a comprehensive website on what UCE is and how to avoid it.
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How Do I Keep My Posts From Getting Archived At DejaNews?
Dejanews is a great resource for research and catching up on threads that you missed. However, if you don't want your articles to be archived, you can type the following string in the first line of your messages:

X-no-archive:yes

This string must be present in either the headers of the message, or on the first line of the message. In some newsreaders such as Forté Agent (full version, not Free Agent), you can configure this in the program settings to be included in your headers. However, in Outlook Express and Netscape, this will have to be typed on the first line of the message. Also, this will only keep your initial post from being archived; any replies to your post will be archived unless the author also uses the X-no-archive function.

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Whoops! I'd Like To Cancel A Message I posted.
For whatever reason, if you post a message that you later wish to cancel, you can do so provided the following:

1. You are dialed into the same ISP and using the same news server that you used to originally post the message.

2. Your newsreader is set up with the same e-mail address and other settings that you posted the message under.

These are important because nobody can cancel your message but you. If the above conditions are not met, you may get an error that you cannot cancel a post that is not yours. If the above conditions are true, then you can cancel your message in the following ways:

In Outlook Express, highlight the message that you wish to cancel. From the text menu, click on Message > Cancel Message.

In Netscape Collabra, highlight the message that you wish to cancel. From the text menu, click on Edit > Cancel Message.

If your message has already expired from the server and you are wishing to cancel it in Dejanews, you will need to visit Dejanews' home page to read their guidelines and instructions for canceling an article from their archive.
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I'm Trying To Access RPA's News Server From A Different Dialup Account, But I Can't Read Or Send Posts.
RPA members are lucky in that our newsfeed is provided by Newsguy. Newsguy News services are well-known among the most demanding Usenet users who appreciate their complete list of newsgroups, reliability, and speed. Newsguy is normally a pay service -- but RPA members enjoy redundant Newsguy newsfeeds as part of their regular dialup account! This means that you don't need a username and password to log onto the news server -- your IP address identifies you as an RPA customer. If you are dialed into another dial-up service, there is no way for Newsguy to authenticate your identity, and you will not be able to read or send posts.
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