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[The most recent version of this document is posted periodically in several newsgroups, including news.newusers.questions, news.groups, and news.announce.newusers. It can also obtained by anonymous FTP as ftp://rtfm.mit.edu/pub/usenet/news.answers/finding-groups/general. If you do not have access to anonymous FTP, you can retrieve it by sending email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the command "send usenet/news.answers/finding-groups/general" in the message.] There are thousands of Usenet newsgroups, and it is sometimes difficult to find the right newsgroup to ask a question or start a discussion. This document gives some general methods of finding the right newsgroup or mailing list for a topic. Resources for new Usenet users Things that should not be posted to Usenet Understanding the Usenet hierarchies Finding the right newsgroup Binaries (images, executables, sounds, etc.) Crossposting to multiple newsgroups Choosing a good Subject: header Finding FAQs and other Periodical Postings Finding public mailing lists Starting a new Usenet newsgroup About this post Appendix: Anonymous FTP Subject: Resources for new Usenet users If you are new to Usenet, you should take the time to read the posts in news.announce.newusers (n.a.n.) carefully -- if they are not available in your newsreader, they also available by mail server or anonymous FTP (see below) in rtfm.mit.edu:/pub/usenet/news.announce.newusers/* A few that are most likely to be immediately helpful are: A_Primer_on_How_to_Work_With_the_Usenet_Community Answers_to_Frequently_Asked_Questions_about_Usenet Emily_Postnews_Answers_Your_Questions_on_Netiquette Hints_on_writing_style_for_Usenet Introduction_to_the_*.answers_newsgroups Rules_for_posting_to_Usenet What_is_Usenet? DRAFT_FAQ:_Advertising_on_Usenet:_How_To_Do_It,_How_Not_To_Do_It To get started, send e-mail to email@example.com with the following lines in the body of the message: help send usenet/news.announce.newusers/Introduction_to_the_*.answers_newsgroups The server will mail you information on how to retrieve the other archived postings mentioned in this article. Another place you can look for helpful postings, or post general questions, is the group news.newusers.questions. Some of the useful articles regularly posted there are: Anonymous_FTP:_Frequently_Asked_Questions_(FAQ)_List FAQ:_How_to_find_people_s_E-mail_addresses FAQ:_International_E-mail_accessibility Internet_Services_Frequently_Asked_Questions_&_Answers_(FAQ) Welcome_to_news.newusers.questions!_(weekly_posting) rn_KILL_file_FAQ (Available at ftp://rtfm.mit.edu/pub/usenet/news.newusers.questions/* ) Subject: Things that should not be posted to Usenet 1) Requests for help with your local system or software When posting requests for help to Usenet, remember two things: people on your local system can probably help you better and faster, and people on the Net do not know what your local configuration and problems are. You should always try to access local help (the 'man' command on Unix systems, type 'man program' for help with a specific program, or 'man -k keyword' to find out what program to use), or sending mail to your system maintainers/consultants (try 'usenet', 'news', or 'postmaster' on most Unix systems), before sending your question out to hundreds of thousands of people using dozens of system types. (By the way, on many Unix systems, the Pnews command posts news articles. You could have found this out yourself by typing 'man -k post'). On some systems, you may also have local newsgroups, which are good places to ask site-specific questions about systems and software. If you have an AOL, Prodigy, Compuserve, or NetCruiser account, then you should be able to get local online help about your system - it's part of what you are paying for. Usenet news is not centrally controlled or distributed. It trickles around from one machine to another, at varying speeds. The rate at which news gets to your system, and the order of the articles you see, are determined by the way your system and its neighbors handle news. 2) Commercial Advertisements The general rule of thumb is that you need to take the time to learn where your advertisement is appropriate before you post it. If you are not sure where your advertisement is appropriate, don't post it. Another good rule of thumb is that unless the group's charter or FAQ specifically mentions that some limited types of advertising are welcome, you should assume that no commercial postings are allowed. Most Usenet users strongly disapprove of business advertising in non-business-related groups. In particular, anything that looks like a pyramid scheme or chain letter will draw floods of critical e-mail to both you and your machine administrators. Posting about a few items for sale, or a job opening, in an appropriate newsgroup (such as misc.forsale.* or misc.jobs.*) is OK; posting an ad for your business to a hundred groups is not. See also the Usenet Advertising FAQs in news.announce.newusers and biz.marketplace.discussion For a more permanent commercial presence, you can create your own Web page, and announce its presence in comp.infosystems.www.announce, and on the What's New page in the NCSA home page. 3) Any article to a newsgroup you do not read If you do not read a newsgroup, you cannot know what the subject of the newsgroup is, what the standards of behavior are, what the frequently discussed topics are. Usenet does not exist to give you a free research tool. It is also considered incredibly rude to post a question to a newsgroup you do not read, and ask for replies in e-mail - by doing so, you are telling the people you want to answer your question that their issues are not important to you. 4) Surveys Many people post surveys to Usenet. Most of the time, these surveys are only designed to help the poster, for example by providing easy material for a class assignment. Other times, the 'survey' is really only a tool to gather a mailing list for advertisements. Even when the posters take the time to post the collected results on the groups where the survey was posted, the results are rarely of great interest. (In particular, the results are only true for the people who chose to answer the survey, and cannot be generalized to the population as a whole, or even to the Usenet population as a whole.) 5) Chain Letters Just don't. Subject: Understanding the Usenet newsgroup hierarchies Usenet newsgroups are arranged in a hierarchical structure. Related groups start with one or more identical components. For example, the many groups whose names start with rec.music are all about various facets of music, which is in itself one facet of recreation. Some of the hierarchies you probably have available are: comp: Computer hardware, software, systems, languages, and theories sci: Pure and applied sciences soc: Social issues, socializing, and various cultures talk: Discussion and debate of unresolved issues news: The Usenet news network and news software misc: Other topics, such as employment, children, and consumer issues rec: Recreational topics - sports, hobbies, music, games, etc. humanities: Literature, fine arts, and other humanities alt: An anarchic collection of serious and silly subjects Other widespread hierarchies your site may choose to carry include: bionet: Topics interesting to biologists bit: Redistributions of popular BitNet LISTSERV mailing lists biz: Business products and services clarinet: Online daily newspaper, from wire services (available for a fee) gnu: The GNU project of the Free Software Foundation hepnet: High-energy physics research info: A collection of serious gatewayed mailing lists k12: K-12 (primary and secondary) education relcom: Russian-language newsgroups vmsnet: Topics of interest to VAX/VMS users In addition, your site probably carries local groups, such as yourcountry.*, yourcity.*, yourorg.* (Some large sites choose to carry local news hierarchies from many places.) Subject: Finding the right newsgroup To find what groups are relevant for your subject, you might search through your local list of newsgroups (your .newsrc file on most Unix systems; use the command grep <pattern> .newsrc), to see which group names seem related. Then subscribe to those groups, and look at some of the recent traffic, to make sure that your question is suitable for the group. (For example, questions about Microsoft Windows belong in comp.os.ms-windows.*, not comp.windows.*) [The asterisk, '*', means multiple objects (here, groups) are referenced.] On some systems, your .newsrc file won't contain the names of newsgroups you haven't subscribed to. In that case, read the documentation for your newsreader to find out how to add newsgroups, and use the methods mentioned below to find out the names of groups that might be available on your system. On some systems, the 'newsgroups' command will show you a file containing a one-line description of the purpose of each newsgroup (the newsgroups file), or longer descriptions of the purpose and contents of each newsgroup (the newsgroup charters.) Ask your local news administrator if these or similar resources are available on your system. For widely-distributed newsgroups, you can also find the one-line descriptions in the following news.lists postings (also archived at ftp://rtfm.mit.edu/pub/usenet/) List_of_Active_Newsgroups,_Part_I List_of_Active_Newsgroups,_Part_II Alternative_Newsgroup_Hierarchies,_Part_I Alternative_Newsgroup_Hierarchies,_Part_II The 'List' posts describe newsgroups in the comp, humanities, misc, news, rec, soc, sci, and talk hierarchies. (Often referred to as "The Big 8") (The humanities.* hierarchy was added in April 1995; you may still see references to "The Big 7" in some places.) The 'Alt' posts describe newsgroups in the alt, bionet, bit, biz, clarinet, gnu, hepnet, ieee, inet, info, k12, relcom, u3b, and vmsnet hierarchies. They will not describe groups that are available only in your region or institution. (These posts also available in ftp://garbo.uwasa.fi/pc/doc-net/) Another way to find newsgroups where your topic is discussed is to use one of the Web Usenet search tools, such as http://www.dejanews.com/ or http://www.altavista.digital.com/ and enter a keyword search for your topic. As with all search engines, taking a few moments to learn how to compose an effective search will make the results much more useful. Once you have checked local resources, and the formal newsgroup descriptions, if you are still uncertain as to what groups are 'right' for your post, you can ask in news.groups.questions - this group is designed for people to ask what existing newsgroup is appropriate for a given topic or sub-topic of discussion. Very few sites carry all available newsgroups (there are thousands). Your local news administrator can help you access newsgroups that are not currently available, or explain why certain groups are not available at your site. If your site does not carry the newsgroup(s) where your post belongs, do NOT post it in other, inappropriate groups. Subject: Binaries (images, executables, sounds, etc.) There are many newsgroups dedicated to posting various sorts of binary files, such as images, computer software, etc. These are gathered under the alt.binaries.* and comp.binaries.* hierarchies. (There are also some local binaries hierarchies, such as de.alt.binaries.*) These groups are the only places where you should ever post a file that is not directly human-readable, such as pictures, software, or even Microsoft Word files (which are not readable unless you have a copy of Microsoft Word on your computer.) For more information, please refer to the FAQs in alt.binaries.pictures.d These groups were set up so that sites could easily choose whether or not to accept binary traffic, or perhaps to keep binary posts around for a different length of time than non-binaries. The average binary file is many times larger than the average non-binary post, and many sites and users do not want to devote resources to storing these files. Do not post anything other than plain text in non-binaries groups. If the group does not have the word 'binaries' in its name, do not post binaries there. Subject: Crossposting to multiple newsgroups Think very carefully before crossposting to more than one, or perhaps two, newsgroups. It is considered highly inappropriate to broadcast your message to a wide selection of newsgroups merely to have more people read it. Note also that many people automatically ignore articles posted to more than two or three groups. Follow the general rules of Netiquette (Usenet etiquette) described in the news.announce.newusers postings above. Often, even when an article is appropriate for multiple newsgroups, it is desirable to redirect all followup discussion into one particular newsgroup. You can do this by adding a Followup-To header line that lists the single newsgroup where further discussion will go. (You should also mention in the body of the article that you have redirected followups to that group, so that people interested in following the subject can find it.) For example: Newsgroups: rec.pets.cats,misc.consumers.house Followup-To: rec.pets.cats Subject: Need product to remove cat odor from carpets [Followups redirected to rec.pets.cats] Text of article Subject: Choosing a good Subject: header Many people scan the Subject lines of newsgroups, and choose to only read articles with a Subject line that is of interest to them. (This is the '=' command in rn - check the documentation of your newsreader to see if this ability is available to you.) If your Subject line does not contain useful information about the contents of your post, relatively few people will read it. For example, you are more likely to get useful replies with a subject of "PC-Write to WordPerfect file conversion" than with a subject of "Help!". (In particular, many people ignore any message with a Subject of "please read this" or similar pleas.) Subject lines that are longer than 40 characters will be truncated on many nonstandard systems, so make sure that your Subject is concise. Some newsgroups have a 'standard' for what information should be contained in the Subject line - for example, postings in misc.jobs.offered are expected to contain the job title and location in the Subject line, and postings in rec.games.board are expected to list the name of the specific game. It is always a good idea to scan the contents of a newsgroup to see if there is a common format in use. If you are following up to another post, make sure that the Subject is relevant to your post, too. If you change the topic away from the original one, you should probably change the Subject line, too. Subject: Finding FAQs and other Periodical Postings Once you decide what newsgroup(s) are relevant to your question, make sure that you're not asking questions that are frequently asked and answered. In addition to looking at recent traffic in the group, check whether your question is included in a FAQ (Frequently Asked/Answered Questions) list. Most FAQs are archived at rtfm.mit.edu, in directory /pub/usenet/your.group.name, if they're not available in your newsreader in the specific group or in *.answers. Many groups also have a periodic introductory post that describes the content and purpose of the newsgroup - if one exists, you should read it before posting. A listing of many of the periodical postings on Usenet can be found in news.lists or its archives, as List_of_Periodic_Informational_Postings,_Part_*_* (As of August 1996, this post is about 800K, in 20 parts. There are a LOT of periodic posts on Usenet.) If you have access to the World Wide Web (using software such as Mosaic, Netscape, or Lynx), you can access the FAQs in HTML format at http://www.cs.ruu.nl/cgi-bin/faqwais or http://www.lib.ox.ac.uk/internet/news/ These FAQs are easy to browse through. If you use gopher, one site for FAQs is gopher.win.tue.nl, port 70. Subject: Finding public mailing lists There are a great many public mailing lists, on a wide range of topics. Some of them cover specific topics that aren't often discussed on Usenet, while others duplicate the topics of one or more newsgroups. A listing of many of the public lists is in news.lists and archives, as Publicly Accessible Mailing Lists, Part */* (As of September 1996, this post is about 916K, in 19 parts. There are a LOT of mailing lists out there...) If you have Web access, one searchable database of mailing lists is at http://www.liszt.com/ Subject: Starting a new Usenet newsgroup If you can't find a newsgroup or mailing list that holds discussion on a specific topic, it is probably a bad idea to start a new newsgroup for it. Most successful newsgroups are started to split off a sub-topic that is already being discussed on one or more other newsgroups. You might try posting an article on the appropriate *.misc newsgroup, and see if there are others who are interested in the subject. If you really think it is appropriate to start a new newsgroup, some general guidelines can be found in: news.announce.newgroups: How_to_Create_a_New_Usenet_Newsgroup news.groups: Usenet_Newsgroup_Creation_Companion alt.config: So_You_Want_to_Create_an_Alt_Newsgroup New newsgroups in the comp, humanities, misc, news, rec, sci, soc, and talk hierarchies are first proposed/discussed in news.groups. New newsgroups for the alt hierarchy should be first proposed/discussed in alt.config. Talk to someone local about starting new local newsgroups - send mail to your local news admin to find out where to start. It is recommended that you have several months experience with USENET and watching the democratic group creation process in action for other groups before you attempt to run your own proposal. In particular, read both news.announce.newgroups and news.groups to see the way proposals are presented and the sort of pitfalls you can stumble into. Also read alt.config if you think you want to start an alt newsgroup. Make sure you have read and fully understand the postings "How to Create a New Usenet Newsgroup" and "Usenet Newsgroup Creation Companion" in news.announce.newusers. If you want to start a mailing list, you should talk to your system administrator about what mailing list tools are supported for your environment. Depending on your environment and the needs of your list, there are a variety of methods available. Subject: About this post Following these suggestions will help not only to ensure that your post reaches its intended audience, but to make Usenet more useful for all of us. The following people have contributed to this article: firstname.lastname@example.org (Jim Jewett) email@example.com (Mark Brader) firstname.lastname@example.org (Juha Laiho) email@example.com (Bob McCormick) firstname.lastname@example.org (Edmund Schweppe) email@example.com (Prof. Timo Salmi) Mark-Moraes@deshaw.com (Mark Moraes) firstname.lastname@example.org (Adam Lieberman) email@example.com (Scott Southwick) firstname.lastname@example.org (G?ran Thisell) D.Morgan@bradford.ac.uk FLAVELL@cernvm.cern.ch (Alan J Flavell) GROBE@ins.infonet.net (Jonathan Grobe) Bill Wohler <email@example.com> firstname.lastname@example.org (Todd C. Lawson) email@example.com (Joachim Astel) many people who pointed me to http://www.liszt.com/ <win your fifteen bytes of fame by helping to improve this article> Questions about the contents of this article, suggestions for improvement, and corrections should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org Please don't ask me to mail you copies of the articles cited here. I'm trying to teach you to find things for yourself. If you can't find them on your news spool, get them through the Web, or by ftp, or by e-mail, then ask your local sysadmin or service provider for help. This article is copyrighted by its author, Aliza R. Panitz (email@example.com). It may be copied and redistributed, in its entirety, for free redistribution. In particular, you are encouraged to save this article and send it to people who post inappropriate material to your newsgroups. All other rights reserved. Subject: Appendix: Anonymous FTP Pretty much everything mentioned here is available by anonymous FTP. FAQ lists cross-posted to news.answers and rec.answers can be gotten from rtfm.mit.edu (126.96.36.199), under /pub/usenet/news.answers or under /pub/usenet/more.specific.group.name "anonymous FTP" is just a way for files to be stored where anyone on the Internet can retrieve them over the Net. For example, to retrieve the latest version of the FTP FAQ, do the following: > ftp rtfm.mit.edu /* connect to the site; a message follows */ > anonymous /* type this when it asks for your name */ > <your email address> /* type your address as the password */ > cd /pub/usenet /* go to the directory you want to be in */ > cd news.announce.newusers /* one level down (no slash). */ > dir /* look at what's there */ > get Anonymous_FTP:_Frequently_Asked_Questions_(FAQ)_List /* get the file; case-sensitive */ > quit /* stop this mysterious thing */ If your FTP program complains that it doesn't know where the site you want to use is, type the numerical address instead of the sitename: > ftp 188.8.131.52 /* connect with numerical address */ If you don't have ftp access, send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with the single word "help" in the body of the message. Getting binary files (executables, or any compressed files) is only slightly more difficult. You need to set binary mode inside FTP before you transfer the file. > binary /* set binary transfer mode */ > ascii /* set back to text transfer mode */ FAQs and other lists are generally ascii files; everything else is generally binary files. When in doubt, use binary transfers, since they will work for all files. Some common extensions on binary files in archive sites are: .Z Compressed; extract with uncompress .tar.Z Compressed 'tape archive'; uncompress then untar or tar -xvf .gz or .z Gnu gzip; use gunzip (ftp://prep.ai.mit.edu/pub/gnu/.*.tar) .tgz Gnu gzip of a tar archive; read the gzip man page. .sit (Mac) StufIt archive .zip (PC) Extract with Zip or Unzip .zoo (PC) Yet another archive/compress program .lzh (Unix and PC) Yet another... .arj (PC) and another... .lha (Amiga) Common archive format. .exe (PC) Self-extracting archives - just execute them. [Note: sometimes non-archived executables are stored.] .uue or .UUE Transfer as text file; use uudecode to convert to binary .hqx (Mac) BinHex format; transfer in text mode Generic help can be found in the FAQs of comp.binaries.<your_system_type> for how to transfer, extract, and virus-check binary files. (At rtfm.mit.edu) If you can't FTP from your site, use one of the following ftp-by-mail servers: email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org For complete instructions, send a message reading "help" to the server. Some FTP sites, such as ftp.cis.ksu.edu, have dedicated mailservers that will send you files only from that site; it causes less network load to use local FTP servers where they exist. If you don't know exactly what you're looking for, or exactly where it is, there are programs and servers that can help you. For more info, send e-mail to email@example.com with the body of the message reading: send usenet/news.answers/finding-sources