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How Newsgroups Work

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You can narrow down this huge list of newsgroups in Outlook Express by using the "Search" field at the top of the window.
You can narrow down this huge list of newsgroups in Outlook Express by using the "Search" field at the top of the window.

Now that you know about newsgroups, you're probably wondering where to find them and how to subscribe. Usenet carries a great list of newsgroups, plus lots of information on newsgroups in general.

Subscribing to a newsgroup is pretty easy:

  1. First, you need to know what the name or IP address of your ISP's news server is. If your ISP does not have a news server, you can refer to a list of publicly accessible news servers.
  2. Your newsreader client software has a place to configure the news server information. For example, Outlook Express uses a wizard that walks you through the process of adding a news server.
  3. Once the news server is set up for the first time, the newsreader will show you the entire list of newsgroups carried by that news server. Most news servers do not carry every single newsgroup available, but the news-server operator will often add a particular newsgroup if there is demand for it.
  1. You select each newsgroup that you are interested in and click "Subscribe". Most newsreaders also provide search functions that allow you to quickly sort through the list of newsgroups to find ones that suit your particular interests.
  2. After you have subscribed to all of the newsgroups that you are interested in, the newsreader will display each one in a list. If the newsreader is of the online variety, you will probably see all the messages in a newsgroup as soon as you click on its name. If the newsreader is an offline version, you will most likely have to download the messages when you are ready to view the newsgroup.

You may be interested in creating your own newsgroup. The process takes some time, but is fairly simple. Here are the steps:

  1. The first thing you need to do is post a Request for Discussion (RFD) to news.announce.newgroup. You may also want to post the RFD to any existing newsgroups that have related or similar topics to the one you want to begin. The RFD should describe the purpose of the newsgroup and include the proposed name, which would also list the categories that you think it should be in. For the purpose of this discussion, let's pretend that you wish to create a newsgroup about the ethics of creating spider-goats. You might name the newsgroup: alt.animals.ethics.spider-goat.
  2. Other people read your RFD and make comments, criticisms and suggestions. Typically, this discussion lasts for about a month. If no general consensus is reached by then, the RFD discussion is usually taken offline from the newsgroup and continued via e-mail.
  3. After the discussion is completed, you can request a Call for Votes (CFV). You do this by once again posting a message to news.announce.newgroup and any related newsgroups. The CFV is left in place for a period of 20 to 30 days, and newsgroup subscribers are urged to vote on it. Once the voting period is over, the votes are counted by the moderator of each newsgroup that the CFV was posted in, and the results are posted in news.announce.newgroup. There is a mandatory five-day period after the close of the vote, during which counting and corrections take place. There are three criteria that must be met to start your newsgroup: At least two-thirds of the votes must be in favor of the newsgroup. The votes for the newsgroup must outnumber the votes against it by 100 or more. There can be no serious and demonstrable objection to the creation of the newsgroup.
  4. If your newsgroup is accepted, it is announced in news.announce.newgroup. Your newsgroup is created and ready for posting!

Newsgroups will never replace e-mail or chat rooms for quick communication, but they are definitely a valuable online resource when you are looking for very specific information or help with a problem. And, with the amazing variety of topics, there is certainly something for everyone.