Webhelp: Usenet

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Usenet would be the precursor to the popular web message boards and chat rooms I suppose. It sprang up way back, moreless as a means for geeks to share ideas. Often times it is held to a higher standard of net-etiquette than chat rooms, for example, especially in those newsgroups which have been around awhile. The Jargon File gives a more complete definition of Usenet.

All quotations from the Jargon File are from version 4.4.7 on 2006-01-08.

In the effort of improving awareness of netiquette, I have, at times, posted the article QuickStart Guide and FAQ (in plain text) to the Usenet group alt.html. (Access via Google Groups.)


Articles of Interest

Usenet Jargon

A few words you will likely encounter in Usenet are described briefly below as I understand them, somewhat tuned for news:alt.html. The terms are linked to the Jargon File definitions when they exist.


A message intended to insult and provoke. They are often directed at trolls, but not always. Sometimes the perceived flame may be well intentioned advice from a regular of the group, but has a stern tone.


Someone that appears new to the newsgroup or Usenet in general. Essentially, a newcomer that is naive in whatever the topic happens to be. If you are a newbie, and a regular calls you one, it should not offend you. Just read the FAQs and lurk (don't post for awhile just read and observe).


A regular contributor to the group. Most often understood to mean a constructive contributor that has been participating for a significant time. In general the regulars have an idea of how the group should behave. Recognize the regulars and respect their advice. Flame a regular and the results could be messy or shrugged off depending on their mood; and the mood of other regulars since there's most often a mutual respect among them.


Someone who frequently posts messages intended to disrupt normal discussion. That is, a message intended to attract flames, mislead newbies, or one that presents a known controversial topic.

How to Read Usenet


While you can read Usenet via the web that method usually isn't too good. Google Groups is one such place you can do this. And they now have the largest Usenet archive so it is a great (the only) place to search for past discussion. Netscape™ and M$ Outlook™ can function as news readers. I've never used Outlook but it doesn't seem to be too great for news (or email for that matter, but I digress). Thunderbird can read news and does decent, but is much better at mail than news as of version 1.0.7.

The best bet is a news client devoted to reading news; look for the GNKSA compliance. Such software may or may not provide email ability as well.

I've used Xnews most often. It is GNKSA compliant freeware that uses scoring for articles and has good filtering and searching. While it can send email in response to a Usenet post it cannot function as an email client. One feature to look for is a public and private email address. Which lets you use a 'throw-away' free email account as a public address with no worry of getting extra spam in your private box. The private address is only used for email replies. Xnews is MS Windows only but reportedly works under Wine.

Xnews supports the X-Face header, an ASCII string representing a 48x48 pixel black and white image. Winface can help you create and/or view such a X-Face header on Windows. The image is used in a similar manner as your signature, to add an extra touch of personality.

Modified: 2006-01-08

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