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Naming Guidelines For uk.*


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Archive-name: uk/naming
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Last-modified: Sun Jan 14 11:02:13 GMT 2001


		Guidelines on uk.* Newsgroup Names



This document is intended to be a primer for use by those wishing to
create new NetNews (Usenet) newsgroups in uk.*, the specific hierarchy
for the UK which is managed by committee@usenet.org.uk, & for which
uk.net.news.config is the appropriate place to discuss new newsgroups.
It has been adapted from the document "Guidelines on Usenet Newsgroup
Names" originally written by David.W.Wright@bnr.co.uk.

Netnews news group names are structured, hierarchical, taxonomic but not
definitive. They are intended to help users find what they want and news
administrators manage their systems, to the benefit of their users. By
understanding each of these concepts, you can understand how to select
suitable names for new news groups. 

Structured

Newsgroup names are structured into parts separated by dots, for example
"uk.rec.sheds". Each part should consist only of *lower case* letters,
digits, "+" and "-", with at least one letter; in the past there was a
14 character limit imposed for each naming component, which is now 20
characters due to improvements in newsgroup server software;
however, it is still *recommended* that if possible you keep to the old
limit to ensure good propagation of your group on older servers. 

Hierarchical

Names fall into clear hierarchies - for example all computer-related
groups are in uk.comp.*; each may be sub-divided into second, third, and
lower level hierarchies, such as uk.comp.os.linux, by adding more parts
to the basic name. The first part is the most general (comp), the second
more specific, and so on. The last part completes the actual group name.
As each part implies a further level, words at the same level are
included into one part using a hyphen - e.g. uk.education.schools-it
rather than uk.education.schools.it, which would imply that it was a
type of school. A hyphen should also be used where multiple words would
in normal english be seperated by a space - this is clearer than
concatenating words together, as in 'science-fiction' rather than
'sciencefiction'.

Understand that the hierarchical system of newsgroup naming does *not*
reflect the 'importance' of a newsgroup, nor does it say anything about
how many groups are now or in the future 'underneath' that top level
hierarchy. It is purely about organisation of newsgroups into similar
related subjects - more of which below.

There are (in comparison to the so - called 'Big 8') quite a broad range
of top level hierarchies in uk.*, & the current definitive list of these
(along with their hierarchy charters) is regularly posted to the newsgroup
uk.net.news.announce, which is a low traffic group that it is recommended
that all readers of uk.* newsgroups subscribe to. It may also be inspected
at <http://www.usenet.org.uk/hierarchy.html>. 

Taxonomic

Taxonomy is the science of classifying things - for example species in
biology, or books in a library. Group names classify subjects into areas
and hierarchies. Getting these right is not easy, for you have to fit in
with those already there, and also allow for likely future growth. This
second point is especially important; of course, nobody can truly
predict the future, but be guided by those who have long & not so long
experience on uk.net.news.config, who have seen the growth of uk.* over
the years & thus have a 'feel' for what other possible groups your group
might inspire.

It must be remembered that there is often no single 'correct' taxonomy
for a new newsgroup - for instance, many people regard radio as part of
the 'media' whereas others regard what's on the radio as an example of
'art'. Where should a radio newsgroup be - uk.media.radio or
uk.culture.arts.radio? If its going to be a completely new newsgroup,
then let your gut feelings (plus of course the advice of
uk.net.news.config regulars) be your guide. See below for what to do if
there are already newsgroups on similar topics. 

Please also note that Big 8 guidelines compelling 'miscification' of
newsgroups are *not* being enforced in uk.* at this present time,
although usually it is a good idea to do so anyway.

Not definitive

Newsgroup names are inclusive rather than definitive. That is to say, a
group name defines an area in which a message may be posted if there is
no other group with a better name fit. The name does not define exact
limits to the group, eliminating subjects which do not exactly match the
name, rather, it gives the user a guide as to the nature of the intended
content of the group.

Helping users

The group name is often the only clue the user has about the group
without reading a selection of articles from the group. There are
currently over 350 newsgroups in uk.*, with more being created every
month. It isn't possible for users to read every group to find out which
are of interest to them. Similarly, even a very popular group will only
be read by 1% of all netnews users, so the name has to make sense to the
99% who are not reading the group. It should be clear enough to avoid
users posting "what is this?" articles, and to ensure that those who
*would* like to know more about the subject do recognise the group's
purpose and start to read it and join in.

Also, bear in mind that uk.* is propagated globally, & not everybody
will know (for example) that a TVR is a type of classic British
sportscar. An early example of a badly named newsgroup in uk.* was
uk.lifts, which frequently had people posting about vertical personal
transportation devices, when in actuality the purpose of the group was
for people to organise getting lifts off each other - after the First
Great uk.* Renaming of 1995 the newsgroup was renamed to
uk.transport.ride-sharing.

All this leads to some strong guidelines about choosing names: 

	- Group similar subjects together, in the same hierarchy if
	possible, so that people looking for a related subject will have a
	good idea where to find it. It is often better to put a new group
	with others in an approximately right "place" than to insist on
	getting the name precise at the expense of putting the group in a
	different area that many potential users will not look at.
	Although nowadays many people search for newsgroups to read by
	keyword, it is still often easier to find a newsgroup by browsing
	the hierarchy - & of course, good hierarchy placement does not
	adversely affect keyword searching.

	- Remember that newsgroup names are not 'judgemental' - placing
	uk.media.books.sf under uk.media.* rather than uk.culture.arts.*
	is in no way trying to say that science fiction books are not art,
	rather it is accepting that placing a group to talk about such
	science fiction books near to a group to talk about science
	fiction television makes both groups easier to find with reference
	to each other.

	- Another reason for this hierarchic naming structure is it helps to
	provide 'free' information; you may be interested in finding a
	group to talk about the television programme Babylon 5, & using
	the keyword search facility of your newsreader, you find that the
	uk.* newsgroup to do this in is uk.media.tv.sf.babylon5; now as it
	happens, you also like the X Files, but it didn't occur to you
	that there might have been a uk.* group to talk about this
	programme. But guess what - since most newsreaders show the list
	of newsgroups alphabetically, you can see right in front of you
	that just a little way down the list there is
	uk.media.tv.sf.x-files - you've just got some information totally
	free !

	- Usually, create general groups before creating very specific
	ones - but sometimes it may be that you have a potential group on
	a specific topic which would indeed be better created before a
	general group; be guided by the collective experience of
	uk.net.news.config.

	- Dnt Abrv8. Do not abbreviate or use obscure names. Your
	abbreviation may well be recognised by someone else as meaning
	something entirely different, especially if English is a second
	language to them. Netnews transport limitations no longer restrict
	the length of any component to 14 characters as they once did
	(though in uk.* the accepted limit is 20 characters), so there
	will rarely be a need for you to abbreviate.

	
Helping news administrators
	
No site now has the disk space to carry 50,000+ news groups and keep all
their articles for weeks. So news administrators have to be selective in
which groups they carry and how long they keep the articles of each
group (expiry times). Yet with so many groups, they cannot manage each
one separately. So they make use of the hierarchic property, and control
news in hierarchies. For example, one may keep comp articles longer than
rec, another may decide not to take any comp.sys.ibm.* groups as none of
their users reads them. This is the other reason hierarchies are so
important, and why a new group should always be fitted into an existing
hierarchy if at all possible (& in uk.*, the creation of a new top level
hierarchy, whilst still possible, is a purposely more involved process
than creating a new group). Some new group proposers think it does not
matter if their group does not fit in to this scheme, assuming that news
administrators who don't want it can select it out individually: this is
a mistaken view. Every group that a site gets that its users do not
read, makes less disk space and so shorter expiry times for the groups
they *do* want.
	
In addition, much news server software stores the articles for the
newsgroups in directories corresponding to the hierarchy components -
for example, article 218 of uk.music.folk is often stored in the
directory tree as ~/uk/music/folk/218 (which incidently is why you
cannot have numbers-only as newsgroup name components), which makes for
a nice tidy hard drive - can you imagine how difficult it would be to
find files on your computer if there were no directories, & everything
was in c:\ ?!! 


What's next?
	
Think about these guidelines before naming your new newsgroup; remember
that naming mistakes made in the past when netnews was much smaller, or
now in uncontrolled parts of the net like alt.* or free.uk.*, are no
reason to make more mistakes now in uk.* (as one uk.net.news.config
mantra states, "the practices of other hierarchies are not our concern")
- - so do not use these mistakes as excuses to make other mistakes. 

And if you still need advice, ask committee@usenet.org.uk, or
control@usenet.org.uk.

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This page is brought to you by Simon Gray. Comments and suggestions for
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