This material has been prepared to accompany the book "Searching and Researching on the Internet and the World Wide Web, Third Edition" (ISBN 1887902716) by Ernest Ackermann and Karen Hartman, and published by Franklin, Beedle and Associates, Incorporated, Wilsonville OR, ©2002. No part of this may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transcribed without permission of the publisher.
Usenet News 
Introduction Essential Information
Working With Usenet News Newsreader Settings
FAQs, finding newsgroups, and searching the archives  Netiquette for Usenet News
Usenet news --sometimes called Netnews or just News is a popular means of communication on the Internet. The news is a collection of articles arranged into categories called newsgroups. Anyone with access to a news server can post an article to a newsgroup and thus to Usenet. The articles are very much like email messages - they have many of the same headers, the big difference is that the address of the message is always the group. Before we get to far ahead of ourselves we ought to say a little more about the servers. A news server is a computer that's used to hold the collections of articles that make up the newsgroups, and run the programs that let it pass any new articles posted to it's newsgroups on to another server that carries the same newsgroups. An individual uses another type of program called a newsreader that acts as a client with the server. The newsreader acts as an agent for the individual so she can read, post, or otherwise manipulate articles and newsgroups.

Web based services to read and post news are also popular. One such service is Google Groups . It gives a very easy to use interface to Usenet and it has some excellent searching features so you can search recent and archived articles for information.
Usenet has long history, in Internet terms, of supporting uncensored free speech with little or no central control.  A Quick View of How Usenet Works 

A person starts his newsreader, selects a newsgroup from a list of ones he regularly reads. He decides to post an article to a newsgroup, and composes an article on his computer (in much the same way as composing an email message) and sends it on to a newsgroup. The article is sent to his news server and then on to another news server, possibly with other articles. From there it is distributed to other sites, and so on. People at other Usenet sites will read the article on their systems. Someone decides she would like to respond to the original article. She either sends email to the original author or posts a follow-up article. The follow-up article is distributed around Usenet with the same subject heading as the original article. Sometimes, several people at different places on Usenet respond with follow-up articles. Discussions start this way. Sometimes they stay on the same topic, but sometimes not. It’s informative, it’s creative, it’s dynamic, and it's exciting! 

You use Usenet news to exchange or read information dealing with specific topics.   
Once you get comfortable using Usenet news, you’ll find it a valuable resource where you can find answers to different types of questions, get help on a variety of topics, and keep up with what’s happening in the world and on the Internet.   
Here are some hyperlinks to other resources about Usenet:

Essential Information About Usenet News 
With what we've said above as an introduction, here is  some of the essential information about Usenet.
Feature/Concept   Explanation  
Usenet news is a collection of articles arranged into newsgroups. Usenet was originated so people at one computer site could exchange information or communicate with a group of users at another site. The number of articles (messages) and computer sites involved with Usenet has grown so that now people throughout the world add thousands of new articles daily. Having the articles arranged in to categories makes it possible for a user to focus on an area or topic of interest. 
An individual uses a program called a newsreader to select newsgroups and then to read and post articles. In order to read or post articles you need to use a program called a newsreader that runs as a client on your computer, or you use a Web based service to read and post messages. Netscape Communicator includes a newsreader you access by selecting Collabra discussion Groups from the pull-down menu Communicator in the Menu Bar. There are several other free newsreaders. One that’s highly recommended is Free Agent. Go to the Free Agent home page,, for information on how to get a copy. 

People at each site can read the articles, ignore the articles, save or print the articles, respond to an article’s author through e-mail, or post their own articles. Posting means composing either an original article or a response to someone else’s article and then passing it on to Usenet. 

A news server makes the news -newsgroups and articles - available. News servers exchange articles and newsgroups.  To access Usenet news you have to connect to a news server. Many ISP's make Usenet news available. Ask your ISP or network support group for the Internet domain name of the news server you may use. The newsreader program contacts the server to so you can access newsgroups and articles. News servers exchange newsgroups and articles. That way when you post an article it's made available to other servers participating in Usenet.
Each newsgroup has a name that gives the main topic for the articles in the group. The groups are arranged or named according to a hierarchy.   


There are over sixteen thousand newsgroups and several major, top-level categories. We won’t list the categories here. A complete list, "Master List of Newsgroup Hierarchies," is maintained by Lewis S. Eisen

When you look at the name of a newsgroup, you’ll see it usually consists of several words or names separated by periods. The first part of the newsgroup name is the name of the top level of the hierarchy. Moving to the right, the names become more specific.  

Consider the newsgroup name: 

Starting on the left, rec, is the name of a top-level group that includes groups that deal with artistic activities, hobbies, or recreational activities.  

  • The next name, music, indicates the group deals with topics related to music. 
  • The next, makers, tells you this group is about performing or playing music rather than another activity such as reviewing music or collecting recordings. 
  • The next name, guitar, identifies the group as one that deals with performing guitar music. What type of guitar? That's next. 
  • The final name acoustic, identifies this group as one that deals with discussions or other matters related to playing or performing acoustic guitar. 
Here are a few other groups in the hierarchy to give you a feeling for this naming scheme:,,,, 
All articles belong to one or more newsgroups Many newsgroups have a charter that states the purpose of the newsgroup and the topics discussed within the group. An article is either a follow-up to another article or it’s posted on a different topic. The term for posting an article to more than one newsgroup is cross posting. 
Articles on the same topic are often arranged into threads There may be several articles on the same topic in a single newsgroup. If each of the articles was posted as a follow-up to some original article, then the collection of these articles is called a thread. You’ll probably want to have the articles arranged into threads. It really helps to have this sort of organization on a collection of articles in a particular group. You follow a thread by reading the articles in a thread one after the other. 
Posting to Usenet is a public act. When you post an article or reply to one in Usenet, your creating an article that will be available to the thousand of computer systems and millions of people that make up the infrastructure of Usenet. The information you give in the identity preferences for your newsreader or Web based Usenet service -- your email address, name, and organization are part of the article. So think twice about what you write and check your message for spelling and grammar. 
  • If you mean to write to an individual in the group then be sure to address your message to that person. 
You may find some articles or discussions in some groups offensive. There is no central control over what's posted to Usenet. What offends you may not offend others, and it may be important to others to be able to read and discuss topics that bother you. Some of the information on Usenet is illegal, such as pirated software. Some newsgroups contain pornographic of "X rated" material. Whether a newsgroup is available on a news server depends on the policies of the organization that provides the news server. But it's always your choice as to which articles to read and which newsgroups to look through. Sometimes you can tell the nature of the group by its title. The articles in the newsgroup titled alt.sadistic.dentists may or may not be offensive, but the title indicates that it might not be worth spending your time reading the articles. An individual user takes the responsibility for the types of information they will consider. 
Using Usenet can be so appealing that you spend too much time doing it. Remember that you have a life outside of Usenet and you ought to pay attention to it. Get your other work done, take a walk, and spend some time with other human beings (assuming they’re not all on Usenet). 
There is no single person, group or computer system in charge. There is virtually no censorship on Usenet. All the computers and people that are part of Usenet support it and manage it. It's similar to a bulletin board system (bbs), except that most bulletin boards are managed by one person and are run on one computer. Anyone with a connection to a news server may post an article so free speech is encouraged and tolerated even when the postings are offensive. 

Usenet is a community with its own generally agreed upon code of etiquette.  

Control over what newsgroups are available is all at the local level in the sense a news server is configured to accept or reject certain newsgroups. If you think some newsgroups ought to be available to you or some should be unavailable to anyone using the news server, then write or call the person or group that administers or sets policy for the news server. 

We want to remind you that you ought to enjoy using Usenet but it can be so appealing that you spend too much time doing it. Remember that you have a life outside of Usenet and you ought to pay attention to it. Get your other work done, take a walk, and spend some time with other human beings (assuming they’re not all on Usenet).

Working with Usenet News 
We'll go over some of the steps to follow to work with Usenet news. We're going to use the newsreader that comes with Netscape Communicator to demonstrate the concepts involved here. Other newsreaders are similar. If you don't have access to a newsreader or a system that acts as a news server then you can read and post messages a Web-based service such as Google Groups . Google Groups requires you to register - give your name and some demographic information about yourself, before you use their service for posting.

Once you get your newsreader configured and set up you'll be able to choose newsgroups to read and then one or more articles in a newsgroup. The newsreader will let you select a group from all the newsgroups available on the news server.

Selecting a newsgroup is called subscribing to a newsgroup in Usenet terminology. You'll be able to subscribe to newsgroups at any time. Subscribing means that the newsgroup is put on a list of newsgroups you'll see when you start your newsreader; you don't send anyone your name and email address as when you subscribe to an email discussion group. After selecting a newsgroup you're ready to read, reply to, print, save, or file articles in the newsgroup. You can also post an article to the newsgroup.

You'll find that working with the articles is a lot like working with email. The major differences are that the articles or messages are arranged into groups, and instead of sending a message to an address you post an address to a group
Newsreader Settings
Setting the address of the News Server We know that news servers exchange articles, and you use a newsreader to access articles and newsgroups. This means that when the newsreader is configured or set up, you need to supply the Internet domain name or IP address of a news server so you can read or post news. This configuration is only done when you first set up the newsreader or when you change your news server. In addition to setting the address or name of the server, you may have to also configure the client to include your user name for the server, your email address, and your "real name" - the name that's different than your email address but passed along when you post messages. 
We'll set the IP addresses or domain name for the outgoing and incoming email servers, and the address for the Usenet news server. We'll also set our user name, email address, and real name. These are all set in the Preferences panels that you get to by clicking on Edit in the menu bar. We'll assume that Netscape is started.
1. Display the Preferences panels. 


  • Click on Edit in the menu bar and select Preferences from the menu as shown in Figure 1
Figure 1 Bringing up the Preference Panels 

The Preference Panels will appear on the screen.  

  • Click on the item labeled Mail & Groups in the list on the left and the plus sign "+" as shown in Figure 2.
Figure 2 Preference panel with Mail & Groups selected 
3. Set name and email address. 
  • Click on Identity in the preference panels from the list shown in Figure 2.
That brings up a preference panel, shown in Figure 3 that you'll use to set your name, email address, and other preferences.  
  • Type in your name in the pane labeled Your name and your email address in the pane labeled Email address in the Identity preference panel. 
Figure 3 Identity Preference Panel 

We won't cover all possible preferences at this point. Here we have set the preferences so that: 

  • The full name associated with email addresses and posting to Usenet is "ernest ackermann" 
  • The email address attached to all outgoing email and posts to Usenet groups is 
  • The reply-to address, the address that gets automatically filled in when someone replies to email is the same as the email address
3. Set IP address or Internet domain name for Usenet news server.
  • Click on Groups Server to display the preference panel shown in Figure 4 
  • Type in the IP address or Internet domain name of the computer system that runs the NNTP or Usenet news server software.
Figure 4 Preference panel for Usenet newsgroups server 

In Figure 4 we've set the news server to and left everything else alone. We get the name of the news server from the ISP.

4. Put the changes into Effect.
  • Click on OK 
When you click on OK the preference panels close and the preferences are set. You can always change them again if you'd like.
Once the newsreader is set we're ready to subscribe to some newsgroups. We'll go over subscribing to newsgroups amd take a look at reading some articles in Activity 1 below.

Here are a few links to other information about configuring a newsreader:

Activity 1 Subscribing to Newsgroups and Reading Articles

The first time you use your newsreader you may have to select or subscribe to some newsgroups. We'll go through the steps to follow in this activity. We're going to subscribe to the groups news.newusers.questions and news.answers. They're good places to start since news.newusers.questions is dedicated to questions from new Usenet users. There is no such thing as a "dumb question" here, but it's not a place for test or frivolous postings. Before posting to the newsgroup check to see if someone else has asked a similar question. The group news.answers is where periodic Usenet postings and FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) are put.

We’ll follow these steps:

  1. Start the newsreader.
  2. Choose newsgroups from the list of available groups.
  3. Select a newsgroup from the list of subscribed newsgroups.
  4. End the session with the newsreader.

1. Start the newsreader.

Do It! Start Netscape communicator if it isn't already started, by clicking on an icon for the browser on the desktop.

There are several ways to start the newsreader, Collabra discussion Groups, that's built into Netscape Communicator.

One way is to click on the icon for the newsreader in the component bar. The other is to click on Communicator in the menu bar and then select Collabra discussion Groups. We recommend clicking on the icon for the newsreader.

 Do It! Click on the icon for the newsreader in the component bar as shown in Figure 5.

Figure 5. Click on Icon for discussions to Start the Netscape Newsreader

Another window titled "Netscape Messenger Center Window" pops up; it's shown in Figure 6. Here you'll select the news server and subscribe to groups. If you've already subscribed to some groups then this is where you'll select a newsgroup to read or post an article. The news server was set and we highlight it now as shown in Figure 6.

Figure 6 Netscape Message Center

2. Choose or subscribe to newsgroups from the list available groups.

Now we're ready to select or subscribe to some newsgroups.

Do It! Click on Subscribe in the tool bar.

Clicking on Subscribe brings up another window shown in Figure 7. It may take some time - one or several minutes, for the list of newsgroups to appear here. The list, which may have several thousand entries, has to be downloaded from the news server.

Figure 7 List of newsgroups on the server

You'll select newsgroups from the list in the window. You can also search for newsgroups by title by clicking on Search for a Group. The tab New Groups sends a request to the news server to update the list of newsgroups. The list of newsgroups that you're working with now is on your computer and it could be different than the list of newsgroups on the server. Note that the list shows the newsgroup hierarchies as folders or individual groups. It also lists the number of groups in a folder or category and the number of messages in a group.

We want to subscribe to some groups in the news category so we need to select it.

Do It! Click on the plus sign + next to news in the list of newsgroups and categories.

This expands the listings for the news category as shown in Figure 8. We're ready now to subscribe to the newsgroups.

Do It! Highlight the name of a group and click on Subscribe for each newsgroup as shown in Figure 8.

Figure 8 Subscribing to newsgroups

You subscribe to any of the newsgroups in the same way - select a category and expand it until you come to the group you want.

Do It! Click on OK to end subscribing.

This will close the subscribing window and take us back to the window shown in Figure 6.

3. Select a newsgroup from the list of subscribed newsgroups.

You'll need to display the list of newsgroups.

Do It! Click on the + next to the name of the news server to display the list of subscribed newsgroups as shown in Figure 9.

Figure 9 List of subscribed newsgroups

Do It! Double click on news.answers

When you double click on the name of a newsgroup, a window similar to the email window opens with a list of the articles in the group, and a display of the current article as shown in Figure 10.

Figure 10 Reading an Article in a Newsgroup

Note the following:

4. End the session with the newsreader.

You end a session with the newsreader the same way you end any session with Netscape.

End Activity 1

In Activity 1 we showed how to start the newsreader, subscribe to newsgroups, and read articles in a newsgroup. You follow the same steps to subscribe to any newsgroup, and to read articles in a newsgroup for any newsgroups on your subscription list. To remove a newsgroup from the subscription list, display the subscription list, highlight the name of the group, and press the Delete key.

You saw in Figure 10 of Activity 1 that the window that's used to display the articles in a newsgroup is similar to the window used to display email messages. Indeed, working with Usenet articles is similar to working with email. Here are some of the ways of working with newsgroup articles.

Saving, mailing, or printing an article

A Usenet article can be saved to a file, mailed to someone else, or printed in much the same way that you do these things using an email program.

Let's suppose you're reading the article shown in Figure 10.
If you want to then … 
Save the article in a file. Click on File in the menubar and select Save As. A Save As.. dialog box pops up. Select or create a folder to hold the article
File the article in a folder. Click on File in the toolbar. Select a preexisting folder to hold the message. Use 
To mail the article to another Internet address. Click on the item labeled Forward in the toolbar. 
  • When you select messages to be forwarded, a message composition window pops up. 
  • The Subject: is filled in with [Fwd: Title of the article] and the article being forwarded is included as an attachment. 
To print the article Click on the item Print in the tool bar.  
  • A window pops up, the same one you’d see for printing anything from Netscape. You can select a printer, set options (if necessary), and finally click on the button OK or Cancel.
Replying to an article

You have the choice of either posting a follow-up article, which is passed to all other Usenet sites, writing directly through e-mail to the author, or a combination of the two—posting a follow-up and sending it to the author by e-mail.

Regardless of which you want to do you click on Reply in the toolbar.

In each case a message composition window pops up. If the reply is a follow-up then the message is addressed to the newsgroup. If the reply is to the author then it's also automatically addressed to her Internet address. In either case the subject is Re: followed by the name of the subject of the original article. The text of the original article is also included, and your signature file is put at the end of the body of the message. Remember to only keep pertinent parts of the original article when posting a reply or follow-up.

Posting an Article

Posting an article means composing an original message or article and having it distributed throughout all of Usenet.

To post an article:
FAQs, Finding Newsgroups, and Searching the Archives 

FAQ stands for Frequently Asked Questions, a collection of common questions with answers, or a single Frequently Asked Question. Many of these are written and maintained by volunteers who put together and maintain a collection of questions and answers. Most newsgroups have an informative and useful FAQ. You can find them posted either in the newsgroup the FAQ was created for, or posted to news.answers. Several newsgroups hold these FAQs; you’ll see them referred to as the *.answers newsgroups. Some of these are alt.answers, comp.answers, and sci.answers. Here is a short list of FAQs to give you an idea of the variety of topics: FAQ List Comp.Object FAQ
FAQ: Old Time Radio (OTR) FAQ
HOLOCAUST FAQ: The "Leuchter Report" FAQ: Sci.Polymers
FAQ: Tolkien: Frequently Asked Questions
rec.martial-arts FAQ FAQ
 Be sure to consult the FAQ for information before you post a question to a newsgroup. It's annoying to other people reading the newsgroup to see questions that they know are in the FAQ. It may be embarrassing for you if you post a question to a newsgroup and you get several replies (or follow-ups) letting you (and everyone else reading the newsgroup) know that you should read the FAQ before asking other questions.

The FAQ for a group will be posted regularly to the group and also posted to one of the *Answers groups, such as news.answers. If you can’t find the FAQ you’re looking for there, try looking at "Internet FAQ Archive."

Finding Newsgroups

There are thousands of newsgroups. How can you find out which to read or even which ones exist?

Site Name  Description 
Google Groups Here you do a keyword search for articles that contain discussions matching your request. Google Groups also has a directory of newsgroups for browsing. Searching here brings up a list of newsgroups. Clicking on the name of a newsgroup takes you to a page that tells about the amount of articles that are posted daily and what percentage of Usenet sites carry the group. You can also browse through a directory of newsgroups.

Searching Archives of Usenet Articles

There's lots of useful information posted to Usenet with much of it coming from individuals. A search of the archives of posted articles is a good place to start when you want information about recent events, a particular product or brand, information about a company, or leads for jobs. Very little of this information is edited or reviewed and so you have to take time to verify information and not take it at face value.

Google Groups is the primary search service that focuses on searching archives of Usenet news. In addition to searching, it allows you to post articles, browse, and find newsgroups. It keeps archives back to 1981.

Recommended Newsgroups for Information About Usenet 
There are several newsgroups that a beginning or infrequent user should browse. These newsgroups include information about Usenet, lists of FAQs for Usenet and several newsgroups, and articles that will help you use Usenet.
news.announce.newgroups Articles dealing with forming and announcing new newsgroups. A place to get the lists of all newsgroups.
news.announce.newusers Explanatory and important articles for new or infrequent Usenet users.
news.answers This is where periodic Usenet postings are put. The periodic postings are primarily FAQs. This is often the first place you should look when you have a question.
news.newusers.questions This newsgroup is dedicated to questions from new Usenet users. There is no such thing as a "dumb question" here. You ought to browse this group to see if others have asked the same question that’s been bothering you. Once you get some expertise in using Usenet, you’ll want to check this group to see if you can help someone.
The articles you will want to read are posted in news.announce.newusers. Here's a list:
Introduction Essential Information
Working With Usenet News Newsreader Settings
FAQs, finding newsgroups, and searching the archives  Netiquette for Usenet News
Some other places you may want to visit
Searching and Researching on the Internet and the World Wide Web Learning to Use the Internet and the World Wide Web Internet and Web Essentials

This is a Production. © 2002 Ernest Ackermann
Please send comments/questions to Ernest Ackermann, or Karen Hartman

FROM the fortune list ...

Good nature, like a bee, collects honey from every herb. Ill nature, sucks poison from the sweetest flower.