From the October,
1998 PC ALAMODE Magazine:
|Usenet is a distributed discussion system on the Internet that predates
the World Wide Web by many years. It's basically a giant bulletin board
divided into tens of thousands of newsgroups arranged into hierarchies
according to topic. Some of the main topic groups are:
Rec (recreation, hobbies, sports)
Soc (sociology, culture)
Talk (political and issue-oriented topics)
Alt (a catch-all for miscellaneous topics)
Usenet works like a giant bulletin board. You can post a message, and it gets forwarded to Usenet servers all over the world. Anyone who sees your message can respond, and the responses will be grouped in "threads" - ongoing discussions of a specific subject. For example, suppose I'm a regular reader of the newsgroup comp.os.ms-windows.nt.misc (that is, Computers/Operating Systems/Microsoft Windows/NT/Miscellaneous), and I have a problem configuring my modem. I could post a message containing a description of my problem and any answers would be "threaded" under mine, that is, they're grouped together based on who responded and in what order. This might look like:
"Re: Problem with modem" - Anne
Now some specific advice about using Usenet:
Search the archives - Dejanews (http://www.dejanews.com) archives all the traffic on Usenet so you can search through past discussions. This can be a great resource for finding information, and it will keep you from posting a new message about a topic that's been covered extensively in the past. It's a good idea to search DejaNews before you post a question because you might find a quick and easy answer.
Stay on topic - most FAQs will contain a charter that defines what subjects the group is designed to address. Even if you haven't read the charter, the group name and the ongoing discussions should give you a hint about what is appropriate. Posting off-topic is pointless because the rest of the group may not be interested in your subject. It's also annoying to the other readers and clogs the system with useless traffic.
Limit crossposts - this is related to staying on-topic. Most newsreaders will allow you to post a message to multiple newsgroups. Make sure your message is appropriate for every group you're posting to. If you're cross-posting to more than a couple of groups, you're almost certainly off-topic for some of them.
Use meaningful subject line - if you're posting a question,
use something specific like "Frontpage installation error" rather than
"Really hard problem". Especially in busy newsgroups, many people scan
the subject lines for topics that interest them and they may skip topics
which don't catch their eye.
Don't send test messages - nothing bogs down a newsgroup faster than a slew of "Just testing, please ignore" messages. If you want to test your ability to post or see how your messages are going to appear, use a group set up for that purpose like alt.test.
Don't get mad if you don't get the response you want -
if you don't get a response to a question, it's likely that your question
was either off topic, too hard (no one has an answer), or too easy (it's
a FAQ and no on is going to bother answering it yet again). Think through
your message and see if you can fine-tune it before you feel ignored.
For more info on Usenet, visit http://www.faqs.org/usenet/ If you don't currently have a newsreader, you can use an online service like DejaNews' MyDejaNews or download a shareware program from Tucows (http://tucows.alpha1.net/news95.html). I like both FreeAgent and News Xpress. You'll also need the domain name of your ISP's NNTP (net news transfer protocol) server to configure your newsreader. In the meantime, here's a thought to keep in mind during your forays into Usenet:
Those who have never tried electronic communication may not be aware of what a "social skill" really is. One social skill that must be learned, is that other people have points of view that are not only different, but *threatening*, to your own. In turn, your opinions may be threatening to others. There is nothing wrong with this. Your beliefs need not be hidden behind a facade, as happens with face-to-face conversation. Not everybody in the world is a bosom buddy, but you can still have a meaningful conversation with them. The person who cannot do this lacks in social skills.Michael Coon is a founding partner of both MC2 Studio, Inc. (formerly MC Squared) and Active Technologies, Inc. (MC Squared's Internet division, spun off in 1998). These two firms are involved in Internet consulting, software development, graphic design, multimedia production, and CAD drafting. He can be reached at his offices in San Antonio at (210) 824-4106 or on the web at email@example.com.