Newsgroups

What are newsgroups?
What is meant by posting an article to a newsgroup?
What happens to recurring threads?
What if I want to express an opinion but only to the author of a posting?
What kind of topics are discussed?
How are groups created?
What is the difference between a moderated and unmoderated group?
Are Newsgroups suitable for children?

What are newsgroups?
Newsgroups (or Usenet Newsgroups, as they are sometimes referred to) are a collection of about 42,000 bulletin boards organised into agreed topic headings. To visualise a "bulletin board" on the Internet, think of a "cork" board where you pin a note expressing an opinion, giving advice or requesting help. Someone else may pin another note to the bottom of yours expressing their opinion, advice etc. Someone else pins a note up about a new subject, another person pins a response and so on. Newsgroups work in this way, but with their own conventions.

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What is meant by posting an article to a newsgroup?
The pinning of a note is known as posting an article. When a posting receives a follow-up article, a thread has been formed. The thread continues until no-one has anything more to add; the thread then dies. Many threads re-appear over time when opinions which have already been discussed re-emerge.

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What happens to recurring threads?
People who follow the postings in a newsgroup get tired of reading the same set of questions and opinions week in, week out. To overcome this problem, it is good practice to follow the newsgroup for a couple of weeks, reading and getting a feel for the types of articles posted. Most groups have a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions list). These are usually re-posted every week or two so that new members can find them and avoid asking a FAQ.

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What if I want to express an opinion but only to the author of a posting?
No problem...just send your reply via e-mail. Others in the group will not see your reply.

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What kind of topics are discussed?
Most topics that are discussed in the outside world are reflected in the newsgroup structure. The newsgroup structure, however, is more ordered so that specific topics can be discussed by those who are interested in them. Newsgroups fall into an agreed set of broad categories. These are known as the "Big Seven"

  • comp - groups covering computer related topics
  • misc - groups covering miscellaneous topics
  • news - groups covering Internet news and related topics
  • rec - groups covering recreational topics, such as sports, music, hobbies
  • sci - covering scientific and medical topics.
  • soc - covering all manner of social topics.
  • talk - covering more general discussions and heated debates!
There are, however, other categories e.g.
  • alt - newly created groups
  • biz - groups covering business related topics, etc.
Within each hierarchy the subject matter becomes more and more specific for example: misc.transport is devoted to miscellaneous discussion about transport of all kinds; misc.transport.rail is specifically dedicated to rail transport; misc.transport.rail.europe is more specifically devoted to rail transport in Europe.

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How are groups created?
For the groups in the main seven hierarchies there is a complex process for creating Newsgroups, involving proposal, discussion, voting, possible acceptance and then creation. There are other hierarchies where the process is less well defined.

We will be providing more detailed information on how to create newsgroups in the near future, but in the meantime please see:

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What is the difference between a moderated and unmoderated group?
Most groups are not moderated, that is, there is no-one running them and people can, and sometimes do, say anything at all. In a moderated group, the moderator will ensure that any articles which do not adhere to the groups rules are removed.

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Are Newsgroups suitable for children?
We recommend that parents exercise great caution about children's use of Newsgroups.

Most parents would consider it unwise to allow their children to have unrestricted social contact with groups of adults in the "real world" and this is equally true in the Internet world. See The Internet, you, and your family for more advice.

There are certain Newsgroups devoted to the discussion of interests and activities which will be disturbing to some people. BTinternet carries all groups whose contents are legal in the UK, but informed users will notice that when they ask for a list of newsgroups in order to pick those that they want to subscribe to, we do not show all that exist. If you do not see the group you want, enter the name and if we carry it, you will be subscribed.

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