Basic Concepts

You will discover the potential of Usenet News quickly if you take the time to sort out some of the basic concepts.

Subscribing to a Newsgroup

Subscribing to a newsgroup is similar to subscribing to a daily newspaper. It means that all the postings to that newsgroup received by your site will be available to you.

You could read these postings without subscribing but if you subscribe your newsreader will keep track of which postings you have already read (or otherwise dealt with) and you will not have to read them again unless you wish to.

Check the documentation for your newsreader for information on how to subscribe to newsgroups.

Finding a Newsgroup

Most newsreaders (such as Tin) will allow you to browse the list of available newsgroups. This makes it quite easy to find out what is available. Because the list of available newsgroups may be quite large it is usually quicker if you use the internal search feature (check the available commands listed at the bottom of the screen.)

If a newsgroup is not currently available you can usually request that it be added to the available list. Before making your request you should confirm the exact name of the group you would like added. A good way to get the exact name is to do a search using one of the search engines that index newsgroups to look for postings on a particular topic. Internet search engines (*) are great for searching for information.

A "Savvy Search" of newsgroup messages using "fighting and fish" as the search string found several references to Siamese Fighting Fish in the following newsgroups...
The most references turned up in rec.aquaria.freshwater.misc so subscribing to this newsgroup would probably be a good source of information about these little lovelies...

Joining the fray...

There are three possible ways to join the discussion.


A posting is most appropriate when you are raising a new topic. An example might be a question to the newsgroup about a specific topic. If you're new to the group you should consider whether this question has been asked a thousand times before... Because this type of question will often be totally ignored by thousands of people who figure you should be able to find the answer somewhere else.... (such as the newsgroup faq).


If you are starting a new topic try to make the subject as descriptive as possible without making it too long... many newsreaders only display 20-30 characters in the subject.

Following-Up a previous Posting

Follow-ups are the life blood of Usenet News. As with a posting, a follow-up is addressed to the newsgroup and is circulated to all sites that carry this newsgroup.

Most newsreaders sort posting by the content of the subject line with follow-ups to a particular subject becoming a 'thread'.

Tip: Because a discussion might continue for several days/weeks and include dozens or hundreds of follow-up messages, most newsreaders will offer you the option of (re)reading all of the messages in a thread or... will allow you to skip to the "Next Unread" message.

Replying directly/privately to the author

A reply is sent directly to someone who has made a posting or who has replied to a posting.

Sometimes you might want to answer a question that has been answered a thousand times already, sometimes you might want to ask about something that you are unclear on.

Whatever the reason, you can reply directly and privately to another individual who has posted a message.

Cross Posts

From the Usenet faq...

"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:

would cause an article to be posted to, misc.sheep, and talk.ketchup simultaneously. (Note: the 'comma' separated list in the example above)

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 even if they subscribe to several of the cross-posted newsgroups. 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."

...end extract from the Usenet faq.

Usenet Etiquette

If you are new to Usenet news you might keep in mind that:

Usenet FAQ's

Most Usenet newsgroups regularly publish a document containing answers to the frequently asked questions. In some instances these are very detailed discussions of the topic for which the newsgroup was formed.

There are several Internet sites which maintain copies of Usenet FAQ's and make them available over the World Wide Web and/or by ftp.

The VTN FAQ [go faq] includes a link to a collection of Usenet FAQ's.

Usenet Archives

Archives exist of some Usenet newsgroups. These archives can be searched using one of the Internet Search Engines that specialize in Usenet news.

See Also:

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