Usenet Terms and Definitions

This pages gives a basic overview of what Usenet News is and some terminology associated with using Usenet. 

abbreviations - since you have to type messages before you send them to a newsgroup, people tend to use a lot of abbreviations to make it a bit easier

add - see subscribe 

archive - 1. an Internet site that stores old messages from newsgroups or other discussion forums, www.google.com

article - a message sent to a newsgroup, also known as a post

binary file or binaries - a binary file is just a computer file of some type, such as a text file, pictures, MP3 or MIDI music files, EXE program files, and ZIP archive files

binary group - a newsgroup devoted to uploading and downloading binary files, it should generally have the word "binary" or "binaries" or a misspelling of either in the name

cancel - to retract a message you sent to a newsgroup; it would be nice if it worked, but unfortunately, it really doesn't 

charter - the official description of what a newsgroup is about including what topics, in general, the newsgroup will discuss

cross-post - to send the same message to several different newsgroups; although this is considered bad manners in message groups, it is encouraged in binary file groups when you cross-post to the appropriate groups 

delurk - to post a message after having just read the newsgroup for a period; see lurk 

discussion group - a newsgroup devoted to discussion of some particular topic, as newsgroups were originally developed for text-only messages, the majority of newsgroups are discussion groups

expired article - an article that is no longer available to download from the news server; servers typically store messages for a specific amount of time or until the amount of storage space dedicated to a group is filled, at which point, older messages are deleted 

FAQ - "Frequently Asked Questions" - a list of common questions with their answers on a given subject; most newsgroups have FAQ's that explain the purpose of the group and tell what is appropriate for that group

FAQ police - a newsgroup member who is constantly telling people when they violate the FAQ or, in some cases, the spirit of the FAQ 

flame - 1. an obnoxious message usually meant to start or perpetuate an argument; 2. to send an obnoxious message; flaming, flamed, flamer 

flame war - obnoxious messages usually get plenty of obnoxious replies, which then get even more obnoxious replies; this is known as a "flame war" 

file attachment - a binary file attached to a text message; you may be more familiar with pictures that people send you as "files attached" to an email message 

file grabber - a utility program that searches through specified newsgroups and automatically downloads binary files 

filter - most email and newsgroup software packages allow you to filter messages so that you can avoid messages about certain topics or from certain people (kill filter) or that will highlight messages about certain topics or from certain people (watch filter) 

header - an often hidden part of a newsgroup or email message that includes information about who sent it, when it was sent, the newsgroup to which or person to whom it was sent, and the path across the Internet that the message took to get from the sender to the recipient 

hierarchy - newsgroups are organized in a hierarchy or categorical structure; the part of the name before the first dot is the main category, subsequent parts of the name further define the group; some of the common main categories include:
alt - alternative 
comp - computer-related topics 
misc - various 
news - Usenet topics 
rec - recreational 
sci - science 
soc - society 
talk - discussion

hipcrime - an obnoxious person determined to destroy Usenet; The early attacks were mainly email-bombing (flooding a person's email box with tons of email), but they have moved on to more insidious methods eventually culminating in the great attack of September 22, 1997; on that date, more than 25,000 Usenet messages were deleted, many of them replaced with fake messages containing gibberish with some of the messages being cross-posted to various groups to try to confuse the issue of whom was directing the attack and further spread chaos; more recent attempts have focused on the creation of hundreds of new newsgroups some of which use the term "hipcrime" in their name, others have names that are mostly gibberish; these should be avoided 

hoax - a deliberately false message that attempts to sucker people in; some claim to be a request on behalf of a charity or other apparently good purpose, but the most common hoax seen now is a false virus warning 

kill file - 1. a list of people or topics that your software will automatically ignore so that you do not have to see messages from them or about that topic; most news reader and email software allows you to set up such a list.  2. the act of adding someone to such a list 

list, news list, email list - a list is similar to a newsgroup except that all messages are sent and received by email; messages are sent by email to a moderator or moderating service and then forwarded to each subscriber by email; some lists offer a "digest" version in which all the messages are combined into one large "digest" email; if you wish to reply to a message, you send your reply to the moderator by email to be included in the next group of messages; also, please note that some lists give you the option of reading and replying to the messages on the Web such as is the case of Yahoo!'s groups or clubs 

list unread - a command that will list only the messages that you have not read in a particular newsgroup 

list all - a command that lists all messages available in a newsgroup 

lurk - to read a newsgroup without replying; many people will go into "lurk mode" after having been active on a group for a long period as a way of taking a vacation; lurking, lurker 

mark read - a command that marks specified messages as having been read or, in some cases, marks all remaining messages as having been read (even if you haven't actually read them) depending on your software; this is useful if you have read all the articles that you think will be interesting and want to get rid of the others 

message - a newsgroup message is made up of several parts: (1) the subject line which should give the reader an idea of what the message is about; (2) headers which contain information about who sent the information, when it was sent, and the path it took to get from there to here; and (3) the actual message itself

member - we frequently refer to people who subscribe to a group as "members" although we generally only know that they are a member if they actually post messages

moderated newsgroup - a newsgroup in which all messages have to be approved by a moderator or moderating service before they are allowed to be posted; moderated newsgroups usually have a dot-mod (.mod) at the end of the name of the group; some moderated groups require you to send your messages to the moderator by email 

moderator - a person, persons or service that makes sure that messages are appropriate for a newsgroup before they are allowed to be posted 

newbie - someone who is new

newsgroup - an electronic bulletin board dedicated to a particular subject upon which members post messages and replies 

news list - see list

news reader - software that allows you to download, read and respond to messages from newsgroups 

news server - a computer or part of a computer dedicated to gathering and storing messages from newsgroups; most ISP's have them, but smaller ISP's may have smaller news servers or may not be as well connected to other news servers and so may have poor propagation and retention

Off-Topic Post - posting something to a newsgroup although according to the topic of your post it would belong into another newsgroup. It's not always poor behavior to post off-topic, but you should mark your posts as off-topic ones (use OT in the subject line)

plonk - a notation placed in the subject line of a reply indicating that the replier is placing the poster of the original message in his/her kill file

post - 1. a message sent to a newsgroup; also known as an article.  2. to send a message to a newsgroup

propagation - the rate at which messages trickle down from the original server to all the other servers; because news servers are loosely linked across the Internet rather than all being linked to a central server, most messages do not make it to all the servers available 

quote - normally, people will quote part of a message when replying to that message; quoted text is usually set apart from the new text by some kind of symbol, frequently ">"

reply - 1. a message sent as a response to another message; a reply will commonly include the phrase "re:" in front of the original subject line.  2. to send a message in response to another message 

retention - the length of time that messages are kept available; because message groups tend to have small messages that take up less space, retention time tends to be much higher for these groups; on the other hand, binary groups get huge messages that quickly over-run the amount of space that a server has reserved for that group, so that retention times are much shorter 

signal-to-noise ratio - a phrase co-opted from radio that refers to the number of legitimate, appropriate messages on a newsgroup as compared to the number of spam messages or other useless junk 

signature or sig - text added to the bottom of a message that gives information about the poster, such as name, email address, website URL, etc.

spam - unsolicited or unwanted messages, usually advertisements but may also include chain letters and hoaxes 

spam-proofing - unfortunately, some people have software that will search through Usenet messages and find any and all email addresses hidden therein; to avoid the spam that can come from such automatic systems, people will normally disguise their real email address in such a way that anyone who is really trying to send them email could figure it out; common examples are exampleNOSPAM@aol.com (In which case you remove the NOSPAM to send them email) or exampleATaolDOTcom (in which case you replace the AT and DOT with the appropriate symbol)

spoiler - information that might give away details of a book or movie ending or any other information that people may not want to read; to allow people to avoid the message, you should clearly label the post with SPOILER: in the subject line and add spoiler lines (empty spaces) to the top of the message.

subject line - the part of an email or newsgroup message that should tell what the message is about 

subscribe - to join a newsgroup, downloading of the posts in the newsgroup to your software.

test - a post to see if everything is working properly; these should only be done in groups specifically named as "test" groups, such as alt.test

thread - a group of messages within a newsgroup or other discussion group about the same specific subject; a thread generally consists of an original message and all the replies to that message 

traffic - the number of messages on a newsgroup, can be measured by number or by total size 

troll - a person who sends messages to newsgroups just for the purpose of causing trouble, starting arguments, and then sits back to watch what happens

usenet - a fancy name for newsgroups as a whole; more fully as Usenet Newsgroups