Archive-name: uk/naming
Last-modified: Sun Jul 12 17:06:39 BST 2015

Guidelines on uk.* Newsgroup Names

This document is intended to be a primer for use by those wishing to create new NetNews (Usenet) newsgroups in uk.*, the specific hierarchy for the UK which is managed by committee@usenet.org.uk, & for which uk.net.news.config is the appropriate place to discuss new newsgroups. It has been adapted from the document "Guidelines on Usenet Newsgroup Names" originally written by David.W.Wright@bnr.co.uk.

Netnews news group names are structured, hierarchical, taxonomic but not definitive. They are intended to help users find what they want and news administrators manage their systems, to the benefit of their users. By understanding each of these concepts, you can understand how to select suitable names for new news groups.

Structured

Newsgroup names are structured into parts separated by dots, for example "uk.rec.sheds". Each part should consist only of *lower case* letters, digits, "+" and "-", with at least one letter; in the past there was a 14 character limit imposed for each naming component, which is now 20 characters due to improvements in newsgroup server software; however, it is still *recommended* that if possible you keep to the old limit to ensure good propagation of your group on older servers.

Hierarchical

Names fall into clear hierarchies - for example all computer-related groups are in uk.comp.*; each may be sub-divided into second, third, and lower level hierarchies, such as uk.comp.os.linux, by adding more parts to the basic name. The first part is the most general (comp), the second more specific, and so on. The last part completes the actual group name. As each part implies a further level, words at the same level are included into one part using a hyphen - e.g. uk.education.schools-it rather than uk.education.schools.it, which would imply that it was a type of school. A hyphen should also be used where multiple words would in normal english be seperated by a space - this is clearer than concatenating words together, as in 'science-fiction' rather than 'sciencefiction'.

Understand that the hierarchical system of newsgroup naming does *not* reflect the 'importance' of a newsgroup, nor does it say anything about how many groups are now or in the future 'underneath' that top level hierarchy. It is purely about organisation of newsgroups into similar related subjects - more of which below.

There are (in comparison to the so - called 'Big 8') quite a broad range of top level hierarchies in uk.*, & the current definitive list of these (along with their hierarchy charters) is regularly posted to the newsgroup uk.net.news.announce, which is a low traffic group that it is recommended that all readers of uk.* newsgroups subscribe to. It may also be inspected at <http://www.usenet.org.uk/hierarchy.html>.

Taxonomic

Taxonomy is the science of classifying things - for example species in biology, or books in a library. Group names classify subjects into areas and hierarchies. Getting these right is not easy, for you have to fit in with those already there, and also allow for likely future growth. This second point is especially important; of course, nobody can truly predict the future, but be guided by those who have long & not so long experience on uk.net.news.config, who have seen the growth of uk.* over the years & thus have a 'feel' for what other possible groups your group might inspire.

It must be remembered that there is often no single 'correct' taxonomy for a new newsgroup - for instance, many people regard radio as part of the 'media' whereas others regard what's on the radio as an example of 'art'. Where should a radio newsgroup be - uk.media.radio or uk.culture.arts.radio? If its going to be a completely new newsgroup, then let your gut feelings (plus of course the advice of uk.net.news.config regulars) be your guide. See below for what to do if there are already newsgroups on similar topics.

Please also note that Big 8 guidelines compelling 'miscification' of newsgroups are *not* being enforced in uk.* at this present time, although usually it is a good idea to do so anyway.

Not definitive

Newsgroup names are inclusive rather than definitive. That is to say, a group name defines an area in which a message may be posted if there is no other group with a better name fit. The name does not define exact limits to the group, eliminating subjects which do not exactly match the name, rather, it gives the user a guide as to the nature of the intended content of the group.

Helping users

The group name is often the only clue the user has about the group without reading a selection of articles from the group. There are currently over 350 newsgroups in uk.*, with more being created every month. It isn't possible for users to read every group to find out which are of interest to them. Similarly, even a very popular group will only be read by 1% of all netnews users, so the name has to make sense to the 99% who are not reading the group. It should be clear enough to avoid users posting "what is this?" articles, and to ensure that those who *would* like to know more about the subject do recognise the group's purpose and start to read it and join in.

Also, bear in mind that uk.* is propagated globally, & not everybody will know (for example) that a TVR is a type of classic British sportscar. An early example of a badly named newsgroup in uk.* was uk.lifts, which frequently had people posting about vertical personal transportation devices, when in actuality the purpose of the group was for people to organise getting lifts off each other - after the First Great uk.* Renaming of 1995 the newsgroup was renamed to uk.transport.ride-sharing.

All this leads to some strong guidelines about choosing names:

Helping news administrators

No site now has the disk space to carry 50,000+ news groups and keep all their articles for weeks. So news administrators have to be selective in which groups they carry and how long they keep the articles of each group (expiry times). Yet with so many groups, they cannot manage each one separately. So they make use of the hierarchic property, and control news in hierarchies. For example, one may keep comp articles longer than rec, another may decide not to take any comp.sys.ibm.* groups as none of their users reads them. This is the other reason hierarchies are so important, and why a new group should always be fitted into an existing hierarchy if at all possible (& in uk.*, the creation of a new top level hierarchy, whilst still possible, is a purposely more involved process than creating a new group). Some new group proposers think it does not matter if their group does not fit in to this scheme, assuming that news administrators who don't want it can select it out individually: this is a mistaken view. Every group that a site gets that its users do not read, makes less disk space and so shorter expiry times for the groups they *do* want.

In addition, much news server software stores the articles for the newsgroups in directories corresponding to the hierarchy components - for example, article 218 of uk.music.folk is often stored in the directory tree as ~/uk/music/folk/218 (which incidently is why you cannot have numbers-only as newsgroup name components), which makes for a nice tidy hard drive - can you imagine how difficult it would be to find files on your computer if there were no directories, & everything was in c:\ ?!!

What's next?

Think about these guidelines before naming your new newsgroup; remember that naming mistakes made in the past when netnews was much smaller, or now in uncontrolled parts of the net like alt.* or free.uk.*, are no reason to make more mistakes now in uk.* (as one uk.net.news.config mantra states, "the practices of other hierarchies are not our concern") - - so do not use these mistakes as excuses to make other mistakes.

And if you still need advice, ask committee@usenet.org.uk, or control@usenet.org.uk.

Comments

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