This lesson describes the Usenet culture and customs that have
developed over time. It is the people participating in Usenet that make it worth the effort to read and maintain; for Usenet to function properly those people must be able to interact in productive ways. This document is intended as a guide to using the net in ways that will be pleasant and productive for everyone.

This lesson is not intended to teach you how to use Usenet.
It is a guide on how to use Usenet politely, effectively and
efficiently. Communication by computer is new to almost everybody, and there are certain aspects that can make it a frustrating experience until you get used to them. This lesson should help you avoid the worst traps.

The easiest way to learn how to use Usenet is to watch how others
use it. Start reading the news and try to figure out what people
are doing and why. After a couple of weeks you will start
understanding why certain things are done and what things shouldn't be done. There are documents available describing the technical details of how to use the software. These are different depending on which programs you use to access the news. You can get copies of these from your system administrator. If you do not know who that person is, they can be contacted on most systems by mailing to account "news", "usenet" or "postmaster".

Usenet is a world-wide distributed discussion system. It consists of a
set of "newsgroups" with names that are classified hierarchically by
subject. "Articles" or "messages" are "posted" to these newsgroups by people on computers with the appropriate software -- these articles are then broadcast to other interconnected computer systems via a wide variety of networks. Some newsgroups are "moderated"; in these newsgroups, the articles are first sent to a moderator for approval before appearing in the newsgroup. Usenet is available on a wide variety of computer systems and networks.

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 lesson gives some general methods of finding the right newsgroup or mailing list for a topic. To find what groups are relevant for your subject, you might search through your local list of newsgroups that your ISP (internet service provider) has provided. .
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 ISP 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 the ISP news administrator if these or similar resources are available on your system.

A way to find newsgroups where your topic is discussed is to use one of the Web 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.


WHAT USENET IS NOT
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1. Usenet is not an organization.

No person or group has authority over Usenet as a whole. No