Usenet News

Zen and the Art of the Internet

Go to the Table of Contents. Visit Gifcom

 Usenet News
 
Original from: chip@count.tct.com (Chip Salzenberg)
[Most recent change: 19 May 1991 by spaf@cs.purdue.edu (Gene Spafford)]
 
The first thing to understand about Usenet is that it is widely
misunderstood.  Every day on Usenet the ``blind men and the
elephant'' phenomenon appears, in spades.  In the opinion of the
author, more flame wars (rabid arguments) arise because of a
lack of understanding of the nature of Usenet than from any other
source.  And consider that such flame wars arise, of necessity, among
people who are on Usenet.  Imagine, then, how poorly understood Usenet
must be by those outside!
 
No essay on the nature of Usenet can ignore the erroneous impressions
held by many Usenet users.  Therefore, this section will treat
falsehoods first.  Keep reading for truth.  (Beauty, alas, is not
relevant to Usenet.)
 
What Usenet Is
 
Usenet is the set of machines that exchange articles tagged with one
or more universally-recognized labels, called newsgroups (or
``groups'' for short).  (Note that the term newsgroup is correct,
while area, base, board, bboard, conference, round table, SIG, etc.
are incorrect.  If you want to be understood, be accurate.)
 
The Diversity of Usenet
 
If the above definition of Usenet sounds vague, that's because it is.
It is almost impossible to generalize over all Usenet sites in any
non-trivial way.  Usenet encompasses government agencies, large
universities, high schools, businesses of all sizes, home computers of
all descriptions, etc.
 
Every administrator controls his own site.  No one has any real
control over any site but his own.  The administrator gets his power
from the owner of the system he administers.  As long as the owner is
happy with the job the administrator is doing, he can do whatever he
pleases, up to and including cutting off Usenet entirely.  C'est
la vie.