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Basic USEnet Guidelines

USEnet is a complicated place and not something that anyone can easily boil down into just a few sentences. I have been using it actively for about five years now and in the areas where it excels, it is unequaled in its ability to provide you with useful information. I plan to eventually write a more comprehensive guide to using USEnet, but for now, I would recommend the following as basic use guidelines:

  • Read the Newusers Guides: If you are new to USEnet, the first thing you should do is open up the newsgroup news.announce.newusers and read all the articles within it. If you do this, and you follow the directions in those articles, you will immediately be a better USEnet participant than probably half the people out there who can't be bothered to learn how to employ USEnet properly.
  • Search For and Read FAQs: The term "FAQ", to my knowledge, originated on USEnet. "FAQ" stands for "frequently asked questions". Over time, newsgroups tend to have posted the same questions over and over again, year after year, as newcomers join the group. The established users of these groups end up answering these questions over and over, which gets tiresome, so many groups now have FAQ lists (usually just called "the FAQ"). Read the FAQ before you post, to see if the answer is already there. If you ask a question on one of these newsgroups that is in the FAQ, the responses will range from the polite "please read the FAQ" to flaming, moans and groans. When you start reading a newsgroup, search first for "FAQ" in the subject headers, to see if you can find one. Many FAQs are also posted to news.answers. Finally, there is an FTP site that acts as a repository for FAQs.
  • Read Before You Write: It is tempting to jump right in and start posting questions to USEnet, but this is probably the worst way to do things. If you start posting to a group you have never read before, chances are high that you will end up annoying the participants, asking a FAQ, or posting to the wrong group. I recommend reading any new group for a few days to get the feel of it before posting.
  • Don't Spam: "Spamming" refers to posting many repetitive messages to USEnet. (It comes from the old Monty Python routine--"Spam, spam, spam, spam...".) If you post your question once and don't get any answers, consider that maybe you have worded poorly or posted it to the wrong place. Then try again a couple of days later. If you rapid-fire multi-post every 6 hours to a newsgroup I can guarantee you will get some rather unpleasant responses.
  • Take Your Grain of Salt: Be careful what you read on a newsgroup. I'm sure you know the old saying about opinions being like various body parts that we all have, etc. The point is that anyone can post to USEnet (unless the group is moderated). I have seen people ask questions in PC newsgroups that were answered by those who appeared to know what they were doing, but the advice was totally, completely wrong. It is best to confirm USEnet advice with other sources, or wait to see if the responses to your postings are themselves responded to (with either corrections or confirmations). Do not rely solely on USEnet for information.
  • Watch Out for Kooks: There are some rather odd people on USEnet. There are those whose primary goal is to bother other people, those who have agendas, vendettas, products to sell, who like to just argue for argument's sake, you name it. For example, there's one character who likes to hang around on alt.comp.hardware.pc-homebuilt (where I like to hang out) who for months and months repeatedly spewed incorrect information over and over despite being corrected regularly by at least a dozen other people. So be careful out there. :^)
  • Use Deja: One of the most excellent resources on the Internet is Deja. Is it a USEnet or a WWW resource? It's both. Deja is a web-based archive of all the USEnet articles posted to the various newsgroups. It is enormous, and it lets you find information very quickly without requiring you to even know where it is. You can do keyword searches on basically any topic. I use Deja literally on a daily basis.

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