An Introduction to the News Groups

By Vince M. Hudd

News Groups and the Basics of Netiquette


What Does Netiquette Mean?

Netiquette is a term that means internet etiquette. It means the things you should and shouldn't do, which is what this guide intends to try to explain. Netiquette covers more than just news, but this is aimed at news alone.

What are newsgroups for?

There are a great many newsgroups available to on the 'net, covering many subjects. You can generally tell what sort of things should be discussed on a group by its name - and that is why they are there; so that like minded people can discuss topics that interest them, and perhaps get help from other people in the same field.

A list of newsgroups can be found on Argo's ftp site in the directory /pub/Acorn/info. The file is called Active.arc


Useful Groups.

News.announce.newusers contains regularly posted articles on the subject of netiquette, which are far more comprehensive than this one. I recommend that you subscribe to this group straight away, and read what you download from it fully.

Alt.test, is the group you should use if you wish to test posting from your news software. If you post to this group you will receive automatic replies, confirming that you have successfully posted. If you do not want these, your test post should include the word 'Ignore' in its subject heading.

You should never make a test posting to a group that isn't for this purpose.

As an Argonet/Voyager user, you should be subscribed to the following groups:-

argonet.announce - a moderated group on which you will read announcements relating to the service or software you subscribe to.

argonet.acorn.voyager - a newsgroup for discussion of topics relating to the software or service. If you post a question here, such as how do I use SwiftJPEG instead of ChangeFSI with the Voyager web browser, you will benefit from lots of useful advice from more experienced users.

argonet.acorn.misc - a group for miscellaneous discussion and chatter.

You may also like to subscribe to alt.archimedes.bugs - it is used, like argonet.acorn.misc, for general chatter but you will find it gets used for much more (offbeat) humour than argonet.acorn.misc - though as that group becomes more established this may change.


Lurking.

When you first subscribe to a news group, you should never start posting to that group until you have read the type of postings there for a couple of weeks. This is so that you understand what sort of things are said on that group.

Frequently Asked Questions.

Most groups, or related groups, have a list of frequently asked questions. These exist to save people asking the same questions over and over. The FAQ list for the comp.sys.acorn groups, for example, is posted fortnightly to comp.sys.acorn.announce, so if you have a question to pose to one of those groups, you should first subscribe to this particular group and, when you receive the FAQ, check that the answer to your question isn't found there.

The FAQ can be a long read, but does serve a useful purpose. I recommend that you always keep the latest version on your disk, by subscribing to the relevant groups, and only deleting it when the next one has been received.


On-topic, and Off-topic.

On-topic is when the right subject is being discussed in the right news group, which is what should happen. Off-topic is when a discussion on a particular news group doesn't relate to that group.

Sometimes, a discussion that starts on-topic will end up off-topic. This can't be helped - it happens. However, you should always avoid starting an off-topic discussion from scratch - if you have something to say, find the right news group in which to say it. It will be on-topic in that group.

For example, if you want to ask about a programming problem on an Acorn computer, this should be posted to the group comp.sys.acorn.programmer, and not to comp.sys.acorn.apps - which is for discussing applications you use on that computer. When you are contributing to a discussion, and what you say is, perhaps, leading away from the original topic, you should change the wording of your posting's subject line. For example....

Re: Uploading web pages

might become

Uploading to Argo ftp (was Re: Uploading web pages)

This means that people who aren't interested in the new topic of discussion will know that they can ignore that article. When you do this, always try to include the old subject in brackets, and your new subject heading should be as clear and concise as is possible.


Starting a New Thread.

When you post to a group, but aren't contributing to an ongoing discussion, you should make sure that your subject heading is clear and concise. An ambiguous or misleading subject should never be used.

For example, if you wish to start a discussion on using software such as !IRCClient with !Voyager, you should call it, simply, 'Using IRCClient & Voyager' which is short and says what needs to be said.


Crossposting & Spamming.

This means posting a news item to more than one group, and is most likely to happen when a new thread is started. There are times where this is necessary, but usually you should not have any reason to do it. In many cases, people will be reading more than one of the groups your item has been posted to, so will see your article more than once.

Crossposting is only a short step away from Spamming, a very unpopular form of advertising, which involves a large amount of crossposting.


Replying and Quoting.

When you reply to a news item, you will generally quote the post you are replying to. This is done so that people reading your reply will be quickly able to follow what has already been said. Quoted text usually starts with a greater than symbol, and a space, like this:-

> This is some quoted text.

although some people tend to change from this symbol.

When you quote, make sure you don't include too much of the item you are quoting from. Just include enough so that people can quickly see what you are talking about, and NEVER alter the quoted text.

Normally, before the quoted text, you will say who you are quoting from. When you do this, if the quoted text itself contains quoted text, make sure you identify the right person as the original writer.

You should also avoid at all costs quoting a large chunk of text only to add a very simple comment of your own to the end, such as....


Me Too & No Posts.

If someone posts an statement or opinion of some sort that you agree with, you should not simply post to say 'Me too' or anything similar, unless you have something valuable to add to what he or she has already said.

If someone asks a question, to which you don't know the answer, you should never post to say so unless, again like 'Me Too' posts, you have something valuable to add to the comment.


Tone of Voice.

With news you will not be able to convey your tone of voice, as you would in a normal conversation, so you have to think about how you are going to say things, without giving the wrong impression. To help in this, there are methods used to emphasize what you are saying:-

SHOUTING - to be avoided, typing in CAPS is considered shouting.

_underline_ - placing _underscores_ around a word means it is underlined.

*bold* - placing *asterisks* around a word means it is bold.

/italic/ - placing /slashes/ around a word means it is in italics.

:-) - placing a smiley after what you say implies you are saying what you did in a friendly, happy manner.

There are many variations on the smiley, far to many to describe here, and you will learn to recognise these, and when they are best used, by reading the newsgroups. There are plenty of examples to be found by ftp from Argo's site, in the directory /pub/Acorn/PD/Info. The file is called Smileys.txt


Signatures.

At the end of most postings, you will see a section of text, usually separated from the rest of the article by '-- ' (two dashes and a space). This is the poster's signature - he or she will use it for every posting they make.

As a signature is repeated for every posting, it should not be too long. About four lines is the generally accepted maximum.

Try to ensure yours fits in with this limit, and do not alter your separator from the '-- ' If you do, other people's news software will not be able to distinguish your sig from the rest of your post when quoting you.

Also, never include someone else's signature in your own posts when quoting, unless your comment specifically relates to something in that signature. Even then only include the relevant part.


Flames.

These are a very good reason to follow the netiquette guidelines as best you are able. A flame is when lots of net users follow up a post with complaints, criticisms, or whatever, maybe by email or to the newsgroup, or both. Flames are themselves frowned upon, but they are very easy to get caught up in without realising - and once started, they tend to snowball.

Feel free to email me vince.mh@argonet.co.uk (Vince M Hudd), and I'll do my best to help.