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Are there any "rules of conduct" for the Usenet?

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Date: Tue, 28 Dec 1999 09:00:16 GMT
Message-ID: <[email protected] >
From: [email protected] (Mark Moraes)
Subject: Rules for posting to Usenet
Newsgroups: news.announce.newusers

Archive-name: usenet/posting-rules/part1
Original-author: [email protected] (Mark Horton)
Comment: enhanced & edited until 5/93 by [email protected] (Gene Spafford)
Last-change: 16 Jan 1998 by [email protected] (Mark Moraes)
Changes-posted-to: news.misc, news.answers

This message describes some of the rules of conduct on Usenet.The rules vary depending on the newsgroup.

Some newsgroups are intended for discussions and some for announcements or queries. It is not usually a good idea to carry on discussions in newsgroups that are designated otherwise. It is never a good idea to carry on 'meta-discussions' about whether a given discussion is appropriate -- such traffic mushrooms until nobody can find articles that belong. If you are unhappy with what some user said, send him/her mail, don't post it.

Before posting, think about where your article is going. If it is posted to a "comp", "humanities", "news", "misc", "soc", "sci", "rec" or "talk" newsgroup, it will probably go to the sites on every continent with an estimated audience of more than 3 million potential readers. Certain articles are only of local interest (e.g. used car ads) and it is inappropriate to post them to the whole world. Use the "Distribution" feature to restrict distribution to your local area. If you donot know how to use this feature, read the "Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Usenet" in another article in news.announce.newusers. (Note, however, that some sites have broken software or improperly configured news systems, so sometimes use of a "Distribution" header may not work.)

Be considerate with your use of network resources. Your individual usage may not seem like much compared to the net as a whole, but in aggregate, small savings in disk or CPU add up to a great deal. For instance, messages offering thanks, jibes, or congratulations will only need to be seen by the interested parties -- send these by mail rather than posting them. The same goes for simple questions, and especially for any form of "me too" posting.

To help minimize some transfer load and disk usage throughout the Usenet, consider not only how many groups should carry your posting over what distribution area, but also how long it will be useful. Many kinds of postings -- such as those making announcements or offers -- have an obvious useful lifetime. Posted questions that aren't answered within a decent interval probably won't be answered at all, and announcements will have a limited lifetime. All such postings will be using bandwidth to no purpose after a certain time. When making such postings one should determine what that time interval is, based upon the nature of the posting, the volume of articles on the newsgroup(s) involved, and the habits of the audience, if known. Then include an expiration date in the posting. This will mark the date after which the article should not be retained at each site.

To include an expiration date in an article, when posting insert a line in the header below the "Newsgroups:" line with the expiration. For instance, type "Expires: 5 Feb 92" to have the article expire after Feb 5, 1992. Most news software will also accept expiration dates of the form "Expires: +5days". Please do NOT set expiration dates far into the future simply to have the article stay around. Many sites expire old articles no matter what the header indicates, so you are unlikely to achieve much other than clutter the disk on a few sites. Default expiration is normally in the range of 7 to 21 days, depending on disk space at each site.

Don't post announcements regarding major news events (e.g. the space shuttle has just exploded!) to news groups. By the time most people receive such items, they will long since have been informed by conventional media. If you wish to discuss such an event on the net,use the 'misc.headlines' newsgroup.

Announcement of professional products or services on Usenet is allowed, provided suitable restraint is exercised. Since someone else is paying the phone bills for this, it is important that it be of overall benefit to Usenet. One of the few groups where such information is appropriate is comp.newprod. comp.newprod is a moderated group; you can get the submission guidelines from the article "Welcome to comp.newprod", posted periodically to comp.newprod and news.answers. You can also get this article by sending a mail message to [email protected] with the single line:

send usenet-by-group/news.answers/newprod

If your posting is really relevant to some other newsgroup, particularly one of the *.announce newsgroups, you may consider posting it there; some moderators allow product announcements in the *.announce newsgroups. e.g. an announcement about an Amiga product could go in comp.sys.amiga.announce. Before you post any such announcements, make sure that you carefully read all of the administrative documents for the group. Also, read the regular messages in the group itself for at least a week to make sure that your announcement is consistent with what other people post. Of course, this is true for *any* post, but especially true for commercial announcements.

General guidelines: Clearly mark your article as a product announcement in the subject. Never repeat these -- one article per product at the most; preferably group everything into one article. Advertising hype is especially frowned upon -- stick to technical facts. Obnoxious or inappropriate announcements or articles violating this policy will generally be rejected. This policy is, of course, subject to change if it becomes a problem.

There exists an alternative hierarchy called "biz" specifically for commercial postings. See the articles "Alternative Newsgroup Hierarchies, Part ...", posted periodically to several newsgroups, including news.lists.misc. You can also get these articles by sending a mail message to [email protected] with the lines:

send usenet-by-group/news.answers/alt-hierarchies/part1
send usenet-by-group/news.answers/alt-hierarchies/part2

Some newsgroups are moderated. In these groups, you cannot post directly, either by convention or because the software prevents it. To post to these newsgroups, send mail to the moderator. Examples:

Newsgroup Moderator Purpose
news.announce.important [email protected] Important announcements for everyone.

Some newsgroups have special purpose rules:

Newsgroup Rules
news.announce.important Moderated, no direct postings, important things only.
misc.wanted Queries, "I want an x", "Anyone want my x?". No discussions. Donot post to more than one xxx.wanted. Use the smallest appropriate wanted (e.g. used car ads to nj.wanted.) Requests for sources, termcaps, etc. should go to the "comp.sources.wanted" newsgroup.
rec.humor Clean humor only; anything offensive must be rotated; no discussions -- humor only. Discussions go in rec.humor.d
rec.arts.movies Don't post anything revealing part of a movie without marking it (spoiler) in the subject.
rec.arts.* Same as movies -- mark spoilers in the subject line.
news.groups Discussions about new groups: whether to create them and what to call them. Don't post yes/no votes, mail them to the author
misc.test Use the smallest test group possible, e.g."test" or "ucb.test". Say in the body of the message what you are testing.

If you're thinking of posting anything that was written by someone else (eg. article, song, picture), make sure that you are familiar with the copyright issues. If you're not sure about the copyright issues, then find out before posting. For instance, you must not post anything that you were allowed to see only because of a confidentiality agreement, such as a UNIX source license.

It is generally considered rude to post private e-mail correspondence without the permission of the author of that mail, and furthermore, it's likely a copyright violation as well.

All opinions or statements made in messages posted to Usenet should be taken as the opinions of the person who wrote the message. They do not necessarily represent the opinions of the employer of that person, the owner of the computer from which the message was posted, or anyone involved with Usenet or the underlying networks of which Usenet is made up. All responsibility for statements made in Usenet messages rests with the individual posting the message.

Posting of information on Usenet is to be viewed as similar to publication. Because of this, do not post instructions for how to do some illegal act (such as jamming radar or obtaining cable TV service illegally); also do not ask how to do illegal acts by posting to the net.

If you have a standard signature you like to append to your articles, and you are running a form of news software that supports automatic inclusion of a signature file, it is usually enabled by putting it in a file called .signature in your home directory. The posting software you use should automatically append it to your article. Please keep your signatures concise, as people do not appreciate seeing lengthy signatures, nor paying the phone bills to repeatedly transmit them. 2 or 3 lines are usually plenty. Sometimes it is also appropriate to add another line or two for addresses on other major networks where you can be reached (e.g., CompuServ, Bitnet). Long signatures are definitely frowned upon. DO NOT include drawings, pictures, maps, or other graphics in your signature -- it is not the appropriate place for such material and is viewed as rude by other readers.

If you post an article and remember something you have left out or realize you have made a factual error, you can cancel the article and (if canceled quickly enough) prevent its distribution. Then you can correct whatever was wrong and post a new copy. In "rn", "trn", "nn" and "readnews", (and probably most other newsreaders) an article that you posted can be canceled with the "C" command. In "tin", use "D" (delete) to cancel an article. Newer newsreaders typically offer "Cancel" from a menu. Be aware, however, that some people may have already read the incorrect version so the sooner you cancel something, the better.

Before posting a question to the net (especially one that you think will be easy for experts to answer), consider carefully whether posting is the most appropriate way to get the answer. There are many ways to find answers without using up network resources and forcing thousands of people to read your question (and several helpful volunteers to spend time responding). Many newsgroups have a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) list that is posted periodically (usually every few weeks), and they are also usually cross-posted to news.answers. They usually have explicit expiration dates set, so they shouldn't be expired until a new version has been posted, so if you can't find the FAQ in either the newsgroup or news.answers, there probably isn't one (thus, it's probably not useful to post a question asking whether there is one). If you have local experts (or simply more experienced users than yourself) at your site, try asking them before posting. If you're trying to find where you can FTP software or a newsgroup archive, try using the Archie service; see postings in news.answers for details. Many newsgroups are also archived in Wide Area Information Service (WAIS) databases; WAIS client software may be FTPed from ftp.think.com, or you may use WAIS by telnetting to quake.think.com and logging in as 'wais'. Finally, you should also check the manuals for your system; if you don't, and you post a question that's answered there, you'll likely receive a number of responses that scream 'RTFM' (Read the F*ing Manual).

Usually, it is sufficient to post any article to a single newsgroup; the one that's most relevant to the subject of your article. If the article is really relevant to multiple newsgroups, then 'cross-post' to the relevant newsgroups by posting the article only once with all newsgroups named on the 'Newsgroups' header line. For example:

Newsgroups: comp.fish,misc.sheep,talk.ketchup

would cause an article to be posted to comp.fish, misc.sheep, and talk.ketchup simultaneously.

If you are using TIN, please do not use the "crosspost" function to accomplish this. This is a misleadingly named command that really should be called "repost."

By posting a single article to all the newsgroups you wish to reach, the news software is able to transfer a single copy. Furthermore, users with "smart" newsreaders will see the article only once. Making separate postings of your article for each newsgroup you wish to reach tends to annoy readers rather than emphasize the message content as well as waste computational resources.

All newsreaders should have two ways to post a news article. First, there is an original posting; this is used whenever you are starting a new topic. Second, there is a "followup"; this is used when you are posting a response to another news article. In several newsreaders, including "rn", the "f" command usually generates an original posting if your current position is at the end of the newsgroup, but a followup when you have a current article; you can also use the "Pnews" command outside of rn to make an original posting.

The news posting software does special things in the second case that indicates to the news system that this article is "related" to the article to which you are following up. First, the newsreader adds "Re: " before the existing subject line to tell people that this is "regarding" a previous article. Second, the software adds a "References" line that contains the Message-ID of the article you are following up. This header is used by threaded news readers such as "trn" to follow "threads" of discussion.

It is important that these two posting methods not be confused. Don't follow up to articles without using the newsreader's 'followup' mechanism. Conversely, don't use the followup mechanism to post an article that is an unrelated thread. Violating this convention sometimes leads to confusion and annoyance of users with threaded newsreaders.

When posting a followup, be careful about newsgroups. The article that you're responding to might have been cross-posted to several newsgroups, and by default your followup will go to ALL of those newsgroups. Or the article might have a Followup-To line in its header, and in that case, by default your followup will go where the Followup-To line says -- which might not be the newsgroup where you're reading the article. You should ensure that your article is posted only to newsgroups where its actual content is appropriate. Sometimes it's better to leave the newsgroups on your own article the same as they were, but put a Followup-To line in its header to confine followups to an appropriate group. In any case, it's best for articles that have a Followup-To line to be posted to whatever groups are mentioned in that line, and to mention in the text of the article that followups are redirected. The idea is for the threads of articles to make sense in each newsgroup where the articles appear, for people who don't read the others.

If you don't see your posting immediately, don't assume it failed and try to repost it at once. Some sites have set up the local software to process news periodically. Thus, your article will not appear immediately. If you post again, you will have multiple copies of the article in circulation.

If the news system rejects a followup due to 'more quoted lines than new text,' please do not use 'filler' lines to make up for this. Instead, if after careful editing, you have more to quote than to write, change the citation character. For example, in the display editor vi, you could use the incantation: :%s/^>//'s that are not being used as the citation character. (In particular, it will damage the 'References' line in the article header.)

In preparing an article, be aware that other people's machines are not the same as yours. The following is a list of things to keep in mind:
* Keep your lines under 80 characters, and under 72 if possible (so that the lines won't get longer than 80 when people include them when responding to your postings). Most editors have a fill or format mode that will do this for you automatically. Make sure that it actually puts ('hard') newline characters into the file, rather than just wrapping the displayed lines on your screen.
* Right justified text may look 'prettier' in some sense, but it is almost always harder to read than leaving ragged right margins; don't justify your articles.
* Most special control characters will not work for most readers. In fact, the space character is about the only one you can be sure will work consistently. Even tabs aren't always the same from machine to machine, and should be avoided. Many mail agents will strip or remap control characters.
* Pictures and diagrams should not use embedded tabs.
* Refer to articles by Message-ID, and never by article number. Article numbers vary on every news system, Message-IDs are always preserved throughout the network.
* What you think is the previous article is unlikely to be so elsewhere.
* Submissions in a single case (all upper or all lower) are difficult to read.

In general, when a mailing to somebody fails, DON'T post a message about it! Think for a moment: you are trying to send something to someone on ONE system. Your message might go through (at most) TEN systems on the way there. Posting a message in the news sends it to many tens of thousands of systems throughout the world! There is no way to justify adding to the news load of all those machines simply because you cannot determine how to get your mail through.

If your message is important, contact someone who knows more about the mail system and who might be able to help you get your message through. Your local system administrator, for instance, or the admin of the next site "upstream," might be able to help. You can also send mail to "postmaster" at one of the major Usenet sites. Almost all of these people would rather see an occasional plea for help in their mailbox than read another broadcast in the news system. If your message is *really* important, pick up the phone and try to call the other person.

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