Useful Information about Usenet
- especially within the UK -

Table of Contents

  • What EVERY Usenet User should know
  • Netiquette
  • What newsgroups exist?
  • What about Moderated Newsgroups?
  • More about Writing Articles
  • Creating a new newsgroup
  • Net Abuse
  • Technical Stuff
  • Miscellaneous Stuff
  • Commonly used Abbreviations
  • Comments and Suggestions

  • 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 a "Smiley" 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, it will simply connect you to those groups on your own server (assuming your browser is properly set up for the purpose).

    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

    Here are direct pointers to the most important articles in news.announce.newusers.
    Welcome to Usenet!
    The basic introduction, posted thrice weekly, and containing pointers to all the others.
    A Primer on How to Work With the Usenet Community
    The basic guide to "netiquette". How the good citizens of Cyberspace should treat each other.
    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.
    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)/
    What is Usenet? A second opinion.
    A bitter-sweet commentary on the above, written in sorrow rather than anger, and pointing out how many of the ideals of Usenet never quite worked out as intended.
    Rules for posting to Usenet
    Now we come to the serious business of posting articles. Lots of basic information and good advice on netiquette here.
    Hints on writing style for Usenet
    and for writing in other places too, for that matter.
    How to find the right place to post (FAQ)
    An excellent guide to finding your way around the Usenet namespace, and how to post (or not to post) your stuff when you have found the right place.
    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.

    Several pointers to good netiquette have already been given above, namely A Primer on How to Work With the Usenet Community and Emily Postnews Answers Your Questions on Netiquette.

    Another general guide can be found in RFC 1855 - Netiquette Guidelines. Also, for the benefit of those finding themselves accused of posting articles in HTML, there is Configuring your news reader to post to uk.* which explains just why Usenet is a "plain text" medium, and how to configure your newsreader to ensure it stays that way.


    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 every machine which carries a full news-spool (either a machine on your site, or at your ISP). This contains the names of all the newsgroups known to that site, with a short "one-line" description of each. Your newsreader should give you access to this file, or some means to search through it, or something.

    Then again, if you want to know more, each group has a Charter, established when the group was created. Unfortunately, there is no single repository of these, but a good place to look is the

    Usenet Info Center Launch Pad.
    Containing a browser and search engine for the major hierarchies.
    Another way is to go to
    The archive at ISC
    where you will find complete(-ish) worldwide Active and Newsgroups files and, more particularly:
    an archive of control messages
    but you have to be really desperate to fight your way through there.
    Now for the official newsgroups file entries for the Big-8 groups (comp.*, humanities.*, misc.*, news.*, rec.*, sci.*, soc.* and talk.*).
    List of Active Newsgroups, Part I
    comp.* and humanities.*
    List of Active Newsgroups, Part II
    misc.*, news.*, rec.* and sci.*
    List of Active Newsgroups, Part III
    soc.* and talk.*
    Alternative Newsgroup Hierarchies, Part I
    Introduction
    Alternative Newsgroup Hierarchies, Part II
    alt.*
    Alternative Newsgroup Hierarchies, Part III
    bionet.*, bit.* and biz.*
    Alternative Newsgroup Hierarchies, Part IV
    clari.*, eye.*, gnu.*, hepnet.*, ieee.*, inet.*, info.* and k12.*
    Alternative Newsgroup Hierarchies, Part V
    relcom.*, u3b.* and vmsnet.*
    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.
    A Guide to Social Newsgroups and Mailing Lists
    Pointers to a somewhat limited set of groups for people with a variey of outlooks.
    Introduction to news.announce
    All about the news.announce.* sub-hierarchy.

    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. Alternatively, if you really want all the gory details (for example, if you are about to become the moderator of a group) then The NetNews Moderators Handbook is the place to look.

    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.
    FAQs: A Suggested Minimal Digest Format
    Every FAQ should be at least in this format, to facilitate browsing by newsreaders.
    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

    Guidelines for Big Eight Newsgroup Creation
    The basic rules for RFDs and CFVs under which the 'Big-8' groups operate.
    How to Write a Good Newsgroup Proposal
    I haven't located an archive for this one yet, but it is posted regularly to news.announce.newgroups, so you will have to read it there. Nevertheless it is required reading on account of the excellent advice it contains.
    How to Format and Submit a New Group Proposal
    It tells you exactly how to construct an RFD, including a Model RFD Template. It is also mostly applicable to creating a uk.* newsgroup, modulo a few obvious differences.
    Guidelines on Usenet Newsgroup Names
    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, corresponding to How to Create a New Usenet Newsgroup for 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 Guidelines on Usenet Newsgroup Names.
    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 (temporarily moved to www.4theweb.co.uk/rfdmaker) 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.
    The Net Abuse FAQ
    This lists most of the abuses, and suggests what you should (or more often should not) do about them.
    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

    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.
    UNIX Email Software Survey FAQ Part 1
    UNIX Email Software Survey FAQ Part 2
    UNIX Email Software Survey FAQ Part 3
    This is Email rather than Usenet. It deals with Transport Media (UUCP, SMTP, etc), Mail Transport Agents (Sendmail, MMDF, etc) and User Agents (the actual interface that the user sees). And yes, it explains what all these terms mean.
    The "Good Net-Keeping Seal of Approval for Usenet Software"
    Nowadays a large proportion of Users sit at a PC and get their news from a commercial ISP down their telephone line. They use all sorts of newsreading packages, often the one supplied by their ISP (in fact, with many ISPs, it is difficult to use anything else). Frankly, the quality of much of this software is abysmal (why, there are even people out there under the delusion that Netscape is a newsreader). If you are under any such delusion, then you ought to read this article and see just how well your present newsreader measures up against it.

    Standards

    RFC 5322
    Specifies the format of Email messages; RFC 5536 uses 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.

    Networks

    How to Get Information about Networks
    How to get connected (but really only for US-based folk).
    How to become a Usenet site
    How to become a real Usenet Site (not for quiche eaters).

    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.
    FAQ: How to find people's E-mail addresses
    Anonymous FTP: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) List

    Commonly used Abbreviations

    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")
    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

    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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