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Archive-name: best-of-usenet-humor
Posting-Frequency: semi-monthly
Maintainer: Shane Travis <>
Last-modified: January 20th, 2002

See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge Frequently Asked Questions

Submissions go to:         
Questions for the moderators go to:

New to this update:
- Q3 and Q4 modified to take into account the new Q14.
- Q6: Added Information for decrypting posts in Netscape under Mac-OS,
   Messenger Pro, and Pluto; in addition, pointed to a website that
   contains a rot13 decryption tool.
- Q7: Added some historical clarification.
- Conflated two questions ("Q8: Is there an e-mail distribution or FTP
   archive?" and "Q9: Can I read by gopher or WWW?") into a single item
   ("Q8: How can I read a.h.b-o-u if I don't have access to Usenet?"),
   because; a) gopher is pretty much a dead issue, and b) the last FTP
   archive we knew about died in 1997. Also added better URLs for Google
   and some information on reading news through e-mail to this section.
- Renumbering of some points to take into account the removal of Q9.
- *New* Q14: What do the moderators do if someone is abusing the system?
- Q15: Added explicit clarification that it is acceptable to use a
   spam-blocking e-mail address when submitting.
- Added explicit disclaimer and contact information.
- The usual clean-up and rewording to make things better.

Herein lie the answers to the following questions:

Q1: What is about?
Q2: How do I submit an article to
Q3: Post <x> wasn't funny . . . why was it posted?
Q4: My contribution wasn't posted to  Why?
Q5: Why do moderators encrypt articles?
Q6: How can I read an encrypted post?
Q7: Why the disclaimers in the header and the signature?
Q8: How can I read a.h.b-o-u if I don't have access to Usenet?
Q9: How often are articles processed?  How are they processed?
Q10: Which moderator posted a given article?
Q11: Why are some articles posted multiple times?
Q12: What if I don't want my writings posted to
Q13: Why does spam show up in
Q14: What do the moderators do if someone is abusing the system?
Q15: What other things do the moderators think readers should know?

Q1: What is about?
The newsgroup is for the re-posting of original
Usenet articles from other newsgroups which the submitter believes to be
humorous, and representative of the best of Usenet humor.

Some moderated newsgroups have a description like "what the moderator
thinks is funny"; this is not true for a.h.b-o-u.  The group is moderated
to minimize the number of reposts, followups, and unrelated posts.  For
specific rejection criteria, see Q3 and Q4.  Note that a.h.b-o-u is
moderated by a team of moderators.

Q2: How do I submit an article to
One way to submit an article is to post it directly to the newsgroup.
Save the original article to a file and start a new post to a.h.b-o-u,
including the article in your post.  The article should not be posted,
but should instead be automatically mailed to the moderator submission
address,  If your post actually appears in the
newsgroup, it is likely that your Internet Service Provider does not have
a.h.b-o-u listed as a moderated newsgroup.  (See Q13 for more information.)

If your news-posting software doesn't handle posts to moderated newsgroups
correctly, or if you prefer using e-mail, or for whatever other reason,
you can mail posts directly to  This is the same
address as that to which news software automatically forwards all
submitted posts.

Please do not use tin's "x"post feature; use "m"ail instead.  "x"post
munges the headers a lot, and sometimes cuts out parts of the original
poster's name, depending on your tin options.  If these parts are missing
your article will fail acceptance criteria.

Do not trim headers or perform any other formatting changes when you
submit an article, even just to 'clean it up'.  While we appreciate the
thought, you might accidentally remove a needed header or some information
in the body of the article, either of which could cause your submission to
be rejected (Q4, #3).  Furthermore, such trimming is unnecessary since the
script used to process submissions does a good job of extracting relevant

Q3: Post <x> wasn't funny . . . why was it posted?
Unlike rec.humor.funny, is not tightly moderated,
nor does the moderator-team's judgment about a post's humor affect whether
or not it gets posted.  On the other hand, the group should reflect what
the contributor believes to be the BEST of usenet humor, not just "a
sort of funny post".

This means the following might be submitted and subsequently posted:
(1) Posts that someone thought were humorous, even if not everyone gets it.
(2) Posts that aren't particularly funny, or are in very bad taste.
(3) Posts that, while humorous, may be offensive to women, ethnic or
    racial minorities, small rodents, or cartoon characters.

Remember, there's no particular difficulty or honor involved in getting
your post into, so it's not necessary to keep
submitting articles until one is accepted.  Choose the best.

Feel free to comment on posts in e-mail to the submitter.  You may also
make yourself heard by posting in, the
companion discussion group for a.h.b-o-u, which is read by all moderators.

If there are numerous complaints from several parties about the quality
of submissions from one specific poster (either directly to the moderators
or in a.h.b-o-u.d), or if it becomes obvious that someone is abusing the
non-judgemental nature of a.h.b-o-u moderation, the moderators reserve the
right to blacklist a submitter. For more information on blacklisting,
refer to Q14.

Q4: My contribution wasn't posted to  Why?
The following will not be posted (well, sometimes the moderators slip up):

 (1) Articles sent to any address other than, or
     an alias (like, the old submission address) that
     points to it.  IN PARTICULAR, articles posted to the moderator
     contact mail address ( will not be posted.

 (2) Articles that don't arrive with the original 'From:', 'Subject:',
     'Newsgroups:' or 'Message-ID:' headers.  The absence of any of these
     required headers is considered grounds for rejecting the article.

 (3) Articles that are not submitted in their entirety.  Any submission
     that is found to have been modified by the submitter in any way
     (including editing for humor value) may be rejected.  If only a small
     part of the post is funny, then either it's not worth submitting, or
     you should include a "Submitter's note:" indicating where in the post
     the humor can be found.

 (4) Articles asking for reposts of old articles.  Such requests are best
     handled by a post to or by using one of
     the usenet-related search-engines.  If you submit them they go into a
     black hole.

 (5) Commercially published articles.  Dave Barry's "Fish Tale" about
     blowing up the whale is one such example.

 (6) Copier humor. Examples include (but are not limited to):  "Super High
     Intensity Training", "Standardized Bonehead Reply Form", "Mouse
     Balls", and "Administratium".  These are the sorts of things that get
     hung by the photocopier at work, and everyone who thinks they are
     funny takes a copy for themselves.  They are not original, did not
     originate in a newsgroup, and therefore don't qualify.  Besides,
     they've probably been posted to rec.humor in the last month.

 (7) Urban legends--the $250 cookie recipe, for example.  Submissions from
     alt.folklore.urban are fine, but the humor should be in the post
     you're submitting, not the many-times-circulated legend that started
     the topic.

 (8) Articles that have been badly mangled by newsreaders, so that the
     original formatting has become illegible.  This includes saving a
     thread of articles to a single file, without editing of any sorts,
     and submitting them as one article (see Q15).

 (9) Articles submitted only because the .sig is humorous.  If the .sig is
     really stupid and it's bigger than 4x80 (the accepted maximum size
     for usenet .sigs) you can post it to instead, as
     long as you make fun of it when doing so.  The FAQ for a.f.w. is at and should be read before
     posting in that group.

(10) Articles from people who have been blacklisted. See Q14 for details.

Generally, the moderators don't send non-acceptance notices, but if the
moderator that gets your submission has questions they'll write back.

Q5: Why do moderators encrypt articles?
Moderators of a.h.b-o-u do not edit articles for content (except for ads
and addresses--see Q9).  All modification to submissions are done for the
purposes of readability and uniformity.  As a result of this policy, some
articles are rot13-encrypted because the moderator feels that they may be
offensive to certain groups.  These articles are usually preceded by a
disclaimer from the moderators advising that the article may be offensive.

Posts are encrypted for the same reason that a bookstore owner might put
offensive material on a higher shelf--as a courtesy to the customer.  Each
moderator makes individual decisions on which articles to encrypt (tending
to err on the side of caution after the "Barney the Nazi Dinosaur" incident;
see Q7).

Numerous moderators makes for numerous standards of what may or may not
be considered offensive.  Generally, moderators try to encrypt articles
based on previous experiences with the tolerance levels of the cyberspace
community.  If you found an unencrypted posting to be offensive or did not
understand why a given post was encrypted, please contact the moderators
via the mailing list so that we can take your opinions into consideration
for future postings.

Q6: How can I read an encrypted post?
Some articles are rot13-encrypted, and most newsreaders have the decoding
built-in.  The encryption itself is very simple, every letter is shifted
by 13 alphabetical positions, i.e., a->n, B->O, M->Z, o->b, etc.
Non-letters are untouched.

Thanks to the various readers that have submitted the following instructions:

rn/trn: ctl-x
tin: d
nn: D
slrn: ESC-r
vms vnews: x
gnus: C-c C-r  (also: W r)
anu-news: read/rot13
Yarn (offline reader): x
WinVN: ctrl-r
FreeAgent: ctrl-r
Agent (version 1.5 or newer): ctrl-3
Agent (older than v1.5): ctrl-r
ProNews/2 (an OS/2 newsreader): ctrl-t
NewsWatcher and variants (MacOS): Edit Menu-->Rot-13
Most MS-Windows newsreaders: ROT13 from one of the menus
Messenger, Messenger Pro, or Pluto (RISC OS newsreaders): ctrl-o
Netscape (Mac, 4.5 or newer): control-click on message, choose from menu

The website has a web based
rot13 script for people whose newsreaders don't support it or who can't
figure it out in their newsreader.  (Thanks to Kevin Allegood for this

If all else fails, pipe it through a script like this (or use this as the
base for a program of your own design, in whatever language/OS you prefer):

#! /bin/sh
tr 'abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyzABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ'\

(For the purists that say I should've used 'a-zA-Z' instead, remember
that some "popular" systems don't have the letters as consecutive values.)

Q7: Why the disclaimers in the header and the signature?
Because the moderators hope to not be forced to resign moderating--or to
resign their job--under duress, because of postings submitted by others.
If you think that we're overreacting, or that this couldn't possibly
happen, go look through Google's archives of a.h.b-o-u.d for January 1994
and witness the furor that resulted from Doug Sewell posting a submission
titled "Barney the Nazi Dinosaur".

Q8: How can I read a.h.b-o-u if I don't have access to Usenet?
Over the years, many people have asked if they can receive a.h.b-o-u
through e-mail, over the web, or by an FTP site.  While the moderators do
not provide these services themselves, other organizations do strive to
make Usenet more accessible.

FTP: There is no known FTP archive site of a.h.b-o-u articles at present.
Anyone hosting (or knowing of) such a beast is requested to contact the
moderators with the information.  Those desiring older articles will
probably have the best luck using usenet-archiving services such as Google
Groups; a recent search there showed what seemed to be a complete list of
articles going back to late July of 1993.

E-mail: It is possible to receive posts from a newsgroup directly to your
inbox via a service provided by  You will need to register;
go to to and sign

Web: One of the few remaining no-cost Usenet-to-web portals is Google.
In addition to providing an archive of posts to Usenet, they also allow
users to read current postings to most newsgroups.  Following this link
<">> will
take you directly to the a.h.b-o-u newsgroup.

Q9: How often are articles processed?  How are they processed?
An article is delivered in a rotating fashion to one of several group
moderators for  The length of time from delivery
to posting is dependent upon the recipient; each moderator does articles
as they have time, and some clean out their queues more frequently than

To prepare the articles for posting, most of the original post's headers
are removed, and the submitter's headers are edited down to the 'From:'
line and the original 'Subject:' line, which is edited to contain a
reference to one or more newsgroups where the post was originally found.

Finally a script is run that tacks on the remainder of necessary headers
and the disclaimers, and the article is posted.

Any .sig files and sign-offs may be removed from the submitted post at the
discretion of the posting moderator.  A particular moderator may choose
to leave these in if, in his estimation, it adds to the humor value of the
submission.  If you don't want to leave things to chance, make sure to
include a note saying that the .sig should be kept and explaining why.

Moderators remove or XXX out e-mail, snail-mail and website addresses
contained within submissions, to protect both themselves and the subject
of the submission.  This removal is routine where the addresses are
intended to advertise or solicit, and at the discretion of individual
moderators in all other situations.  Submissions which contain multiple
instances of such addresses may be rejected at the moderator's discretion.

Q10: Which moderator posted a given article?
All posts to a.h.b-o-u should contain following header line:

X-Posting-Moderator: John Doe

This header may contain a name, an e-mail address, a spam-blocking e-mail
address, an IP address, etc., but it will be unique to each moderator and
consistent across all posts by that moderator.

Q11: Why are some articles posted multiple times?
When articles are submitted, they go into a queue and are forwarded to one
of the moderators in a round-robin style (see Q9).  If many people submit
an article, or the same person submits the same article multiple times,
then it is likely that several different moderators will get copies of
that article to format and post.

We try and catch the duplicates by reading the newsgroup before posting
submissions, but we are only human and occasionally make mistakes.  Also,
moderators reside in both North America and Europe; propagation delays
of several days have been observed between the posting of an article on
one continent and its arrival on another.  This sort of thing makes it
impossible for even the most careful moderator to catch all the mistakes.

To reduce duplication, the 'Message-ID:' header from the original message
is now required with each submission.  This header, prepended with the
string 'ahbou=' becomes the new 'Message-ID:' header for the article when
it is posted to a.h.b-o-u.  This means that if an article is posted twice
by different moderators, the identical 'Message-ID:' headers will ensure
that the duplicate is thrown away automatically as it reaches each site.

Q12: What if I don't want my writings posted to
In an attempt to remain compliant with the wishes of the original author
of a submission, moderators will not approve any submission which has
any of the following:
- Inclusion of the googlegroups-blocking 'X-No-Archive: yes' in the
    headers or body of the article,
- Inclusion of the a.h.b-o-u-blocking, 'X-No-ahbou: yes' in the headers or
    body of the article (capitalized in any fashion), or
- An explicit message in the .sig which clearly states the author's desire
    that the article not be reposted.

If either 'X-No-Archive' or 'X-No-ahbou' appears in the body rather than
the header, it will only be recognized as a block if it is formatted as a
header--that is, on a line by itself and flush against the left margin.

The major drawback in this policy is that it relies on the integrity and
complicity of the submitters.  If the relevant header or portion of the
signature is removed from the submission, through either ignorance or
malice, then unless the recipient moderator locates the original article
(which is neither required nor always possible) he has no way of knowing
that it was ever there.  Thus, while moderators agree to do the best job
they can to enforce this scheme, there will always be those submissions
that fall through the cracks.

Q13: Why does spam show up in
The newsgroup is moderated, which means that only
approved postings should appear in the newsgroup.  Unfortunately, some sites
have reported seeing non-moderated postings in a.h.b-o-u.  Unapproved posts
can take many forms: submissions which were not forwarded to the moderators,
follow-up articles commenting on a post in a.h.b-o-u, and (most annoyingly)
spam of all sorts.

It has been suggested that these posts appear in a.h.b-o-u as the result
of bribes paid to the moderators.  The moderators are insulted by this
insinuation and would like to make it especially clear the amounts offered
so far have been pitifully insufficient.  Realistic proposals only may be
sent to <>.

Unapproved postings in a.h.b-o-u result from a site-specific breakdown in
the moderation/approval system for moderated newsgroups.  The system has
two parts:  (1) When a user attempts to post an unapproved article to a
moderated newsgroup, it is instead diverted to the moderators' e-mail
address; (2) When an unapproved article is offered to a server by a remote
location, it is rejected.  Obviously the system is subject to misadjustment,
failure and forgery.

If you are seeing unapproved spam in a.h.b-o-u on a regular basis, you may
wish to take the matter up with the System Administrator of your Internet
Service Provider.  You can usually reach them by directing an e-mail to
root@[your ISP name] or news@[your ISP name] or postmaster@[your ISP
name].  Politely let them know that this group is moderated, and have them
make any inquiries to the moderator mailing list (
If, on the other hand--and this is comparatively rare--the article carries
forged approval, you may wish to point it out to the originating ISP as the
user could be in violation of his 'Terms of Service' agreement.

The fact that moderated alt.* newsgroups are relatively uncommon makes it
all the more likely that an administrator is unaware of the Moderated
status of a.h.b-o-u.  There is always the possibility, however, that your
ISP--for reasons of idealism, laziness or law (to support its claim to
be a common carrier and thus not responsible for what it transmits)--
chooses not to recognize the principle of newsgroup moderation.

Q14: What do the moderators do if someone is abusing the system?
In the past, there have been small, isolated abuses of the system by
individuals sending in many articles with little (or no) humorous value,
but a few well-placed e-mails and a small application of the clue-by-four
were usually enough to do the trick.  Also, most perpetrators soon tired
of the game; when everything you submit gets posted, it's not exactly a
challenge, and they move on to other forms of entertainment.  Sadly, some
people remain impervious to hints both subtle and blatant, and continue
to send a voluminous deluge of non-humorous submissions to the moderators.
In an effort to remain a repository of the *best* (i.e. most humorous)
postings on Usenet, while also remaining true to the guiding principles of
not passing judgement on the humor of any given submission, the moderators
of a.h.b-o-u hereby explicitly reserve the right to implement a blacklist.

In order for someone to be blacklisted, their transgressions must be
either drastic or prolonged; several posts of dubious value within a
couple of weeks is not enough.  Furthermore, inclusion on this list will
be guided by comments from readers, whether they are received to the
ahbou-mod mailing address, or read on the a.h.b-o-u.d discussion group.
Seldom (if ever) will someone be blacklisted solely on the decision of
the moderation team.

If someone is blacklisted, all posts from that person will be immediately
rejected, unread.  It doesn't matter if the submission in question is
the funniest thing ever posted to Usenet; by being on the blacklist
the submitter has lost all rights to tell us about it.  This fulfils the
internal (and FAQ-stated) requirement that submissions not be judged on
humor value.

When someone is placed on the blacklist, they will be contacted in e-mail
explaining the situation and the duration of the blacklisting.  If there
is no viable e-mail address for the submitter, a post will be made to
both a.h.b-o-u and and a.h.b-o-u.d with similar information.  Placement
on the blacklist will last for a period of six weeks, after which time
the restriction will be lifted and that person's submissions will again
be recognized by the moderating team.  If it becomes necessary to place a
person on the blacklist a second time, such a measure will be permanent.

Carlos the Beatific, this one's for you.

Q15: What other things do the moderators think readers should know?
(1) Submissions that contain more than one article are a hassle.  The
    ideal way to submit these is to save the best two or three articles
    of the thread to a file and separate each article by a line of dashes
    or equal signs. If you trim the headers, be sure that you do not
    remove any of those which are mandatory, or the whole submission
    may be rejected.

(2) Posts that use mime base64 encoding, uuencoding, rot13 encoding and
    the like are a pain.  Please use standard octet-stream encoding.

(3) If a post is from a commercial source, please inform the moderators
    ( and one of them will cancel it.  We try
    to catch these, but are not always successful.

(4) It's not necessary to PGP-sign your posts.  The moderators cut this
    out anyway.

(5) It's perfectly acceptable to use a spam-blocking e-mail address when
    making submissions.  All we ask is that you make it decipherable by a
    human so that someone wanting to contact you about said submission can
    do so.

(6) There exists an unmoderated group with a function similar to a.h.b-o-u
    called alt.usenet.reposts.  Postings to this group are not restricted
    in any way, and may be merely 'interesting' as opposed to humorous.

(7) The culture of some newsgroups may be such that most regulars would
    prefer that posts from that newsgroup not be submitted to a.h.b-o-u.
    It is requested that submitters be familiar with these requests and
    try to honor them.  Reading the FAQ of the group in which you saw the
    post you're submitting is usually enough to be sure.

The URL links listed in this FAQ are deemed to have been correct at the
time of the latest update, but are not under the control of the a.h.b-o-u
moderation team and may change at any time.  If you find a broken link,
please contact us at the address listed below and let us know so we can
fix it.

Mentioning the existence of a service does not constitute endorsement
of that service or its owners/operators by any member of the a.h.b-o-u
moderation team.

The moderators as a group may be contacted by sending e-mail to  Submissions go to

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