Newgroup Creation

Zen and the Art of the Internet

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Newsgroup Creation
 
Everyone has the opportunity to make a Call For Votes on the
Usenet and attempt to create a newsgroup that he/she feels would be of
benefit to the general readership.  The rules governing newsgroup
creation have evolved over the years into a generally accepted method.
They only govern the ``world'' groups; they aren't applicable to
regional or other alternative hierarchies.
 
Discussion
 
A discussion must first take place to address issues like the naming
of the group, where in the group tree it should go (e.g.
rec.sports.koosh vs rec.games.koosh?), and whether or not it should
be created in the first place.  The formal Request For Discussion
(RFD) should be posted to news.announce.newgroups, along with any
other groups or mailing lists at all related to the proposed topic.
news.announce.newgroups is moderated.  You should place it first in
the Newsgroups: header, so that it will get mailed to the moderator
only.  The article won't be immediately posted to the other
newsgroups listed; rather, it will give you the opportunity to have
the moderator correct any inconsistencies or mistakes in your RFD.
He or she will take care of posting it to the newsgroups you
indicated.  Also the Followup-To: header will be set so that the
actual discussion takes place only in news.groups.  If a user has
difficulty posting to a moderated group, he or she may mail
submissions intended for news.announce.newgroups to the address
announce-newgroups@rpi.edu.
 
The final name and charter of the group, and whether it will be
moderated or unmoderated, will be determined during the discussion
period.  If it's to be moderated, the discussion will also decide who
the moderator will be.  If there's no general agreement on these
points among those in favor of a new group at the end of 30 days,
the discussion will be taken into mail rather than continued posting
to news.groups; that way, the proponents of the group can iron out
their differences and come back with a proper proposal, and make
a new Request For Discussion.
 
Voting
After the discussion period (which is mandatory), if it's been
determined that a new group really is desired, a name and charter are
agreed upon, and it's been determined whether the group will be
moderated (and by whom), a Call For Votes (CFV) should be posted
to news.announce.newgroups, along with any other groups that
the original Request For Discussion was posted to.  The CFV should be
posted (or mailed to the news.announce.newgroups moderator) as
soon as possible after the discussion ends (to keep it fresh in
everyone's mind).
 
The Call for Votes should include clear instructions on how to cast a
vote.  It's important that it be clearly explained how to both vote
for and against a group (and be of equivalent difficulty or
ease).  If it's easier for you or your administrator, two separate
addresses can be used to mail yes and no votes to, providing that
they're on the same machine.  Regardless of the method, everyone
must have a very specific idea of how to get his/her vote counted.
 
The voting period can last between 21 and 31 days, no matter what the
preliminary results of the vote are.  A vote can't be called off
simply because 400 ``no'' votes have come in and only two ``yes''
votes.  The Call for Votes should include the exact date that the
voting period will end---only those votes arriving on the vote-taker's
machine before this date can be counted.
 
To keep awareness high, the CFV can be repeated during the vote,
provided that it gives the same clear, unbiased instructions for
casting a vote as the original; it also has to be the same proposal as
was first posted.  The charter can't change in mid-vote. Also, votes
that're posted don't count---only those that were mailed to the
vote-taker can be tallied.
 
Partial results should never be included; only a statement of
the specific proposal, that a vote is in progress on it, and how to
cast a vote.  A mass acknowledgement (``Mass ACK'' or ``Vote ACK'') is
permitted; however, it must be presented in a way that gives no
indication of which way a person voted.  One way to avoid this is to
create one large list of everyone who's voted, and sort it in
alphabetical order.  It should not be two sorted lists (of the yes and
no votes, respectively).
 
Every vote is autonomous.  The votes for or against one group can't be
transferred to another, similar proposal.  A vote can only count for
the exact proposal that it was a response to.  In particular, a vote
for or against a newsgroup under one name can't be counted as a vote
for or against another group with a different name or charter, a
different moderated/unmoderated status, or, if it's moderated, a
different moderator or set of moderators.  Whew!
 
Finally, the vote has to be explicit; they should be of the form I
vote for the group foo.bar as proposed or I vote against the group
foo.bar as proposed.  The wording doesn't have to be exact, your
intention just has to be clear.
 
The Result of a Vote
 
At the end of the voting period, the vote-taker has to post (to
news.announce.newgroups) the tally and email addresses of the votes
received.  Again, it can also be posted to any of the groups listed in
the original CFV.  The tally should make clear which way a person
voted, so the results can be verified if it proves necessary to do so.
 
After the vote result is posted to news.announce.newgroups,
there is a mandatory five-day waiting period.  This affords everyone
the opportunity to correct any errors or inconsistencies in the voter
list or the voting procedure.
 
Creation of the Group
 
If, after the waiting period, there are no serious objections that
might invalidate the vote, the vote is put to the ``water test.''  If
there were 100 more valid YES/create votes than NO/don't create
votes, and at least two-thirds of the total number of votes are in
favor of creation, then a newgroup control message can be sent out
(often by the moderator of news.announce.newgroups).  If the 100-vote
margin or the two-thirds percentage isn't met, the group has failed
and can't be created.
 
If the proposal failed, all is not lost---after a six-month waiting
period (a ``cooling down''), a new Request For Discussion can be posted
to news.groups, and the whole process can start over again.  If after
a couple of tries it becomes obvious that the group is not
wanted or needed, the vote-taker should humbly step back and accept
the opinion of the majority.  (As life goes, so goes Usenet.)