Useful Information about Usenet
- especially within the UK -
Table of Contents
What EVERY Usenet User should know
What newsgroups exist?
What about Moderated Newsgroups?
More about Writing Articles
Creating a new newsgroup
Commonly used Abbreviations
Comments and Suggestions
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
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, it will simply connect you to those
groups on your own server (assuming your browser is properly set up for the
- 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
Here are direct pointers to the most important articles in
- 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 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.
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
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
Another way is to go to
Usenet Info Center Launch Pad.
- Containing a browser and search engine for the major hierarchies.
Now for the official newsgroups file entries for the
Big-8 groups (comp.*,
news.*, rec.*, sci.*,
soc.* and talk.*).
- 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.
List of Active Newsgroups, Part I
- comp.* and humanities.*
List of Active Newsgroups, Part II
news.*, rec.* and sci.*
List of Active Newsgroups, Part III
- soc.* and talk.*
Alternative Newsgroup Hierarchies, Part I
Alternative Newsgroup Hierarchies, Part II
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
A Guide to Social Newsgroups and Mailing Lists
- Pointers to a somewhat limited set of groups for people with a variey of
Introduction to news.announce
- All about the news.announce.* sub-hierarchy.
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)
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 '
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.
FAQs: A Suggested Minimal Digest Format
- Every FAQ should be at least in this format, to facilitate browsing by
- 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
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
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
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.
(temporarily moved to
A ready-made template and other goodies to help you to create a
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!
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,
The Net Abuse FAQ
- This lists most of the abuses, and suggests what you should (or more often
should not) do about them.
- 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".
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.
- Specifies the format of Email messages; RFC 1036 uses this.
- Amends RFC 822. Also deals with telnet, FTP and DNS.
- Specifies the official format of Usenet articles.
Son-of-1036 (Text version)
Son-of-1036 (Postscript version)
- Henry Spencer's draft of a successor to RFC 1036 that attempts to
document and explain all subsequent enhancements and existing practice as
implemented in the newer news systems.
- Specifies NNTP, the Network News Transfer Protocol.
- Specifies the digest format that some moderated groups use.
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).
- 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
- As Far As I Know
- As I Understand It
- By The Way
- Coffee and Cats (meaning "Put your Coffee in a safe place and shoo
the Cat off your lap before you ROTFL")
- Call For Votes
- Frequently Asked Question
- File Transfer Protocol
- Have A Nice Day
- Hope This Helps
- I Am Not A Lawyer
- If I Recall Correctly
- In My Humble Opinion
- In Other Words
- Internet Service Provider
- Luser Attitude Readjustment Tool (for adjusting "Spammers")
- Network News Transfer Protocol
- On The Other Hand
- Request For Comments
- Request For Discussion
- Rolls On The Floor Laughing
- Read The F****** Manual
- There Is No Cabal
- World Wide Web
- Your Mileage May Vary
This page is brought to you by Charles Lindsey. Comments and suggestions for future editions to