Web Wandering

News Glossary

Michael Newcomb

By the time I got done writing it, Web Wandering was already taking up most of the issue, so I didn't really have room for this glossary. Here's a list of terms related to USENET that you may see in the forums:

A special newsgroup designed for people who want to test their USENET setup. If you want to see what your posts will look like before actually posting to an active forum, post a message in alt.test. One piece of advice: make the subject line of your test post distinctive; this group is full of "Testing testing 1 2 3" headers.
Originally, newsgroup problems relating to America Online. The latter online service has had a checkered history in the newsgroups, with problems like empty posts (message text lost by AOL), truncated posts, inaccessible groups, and so on. AOHell has become a generic term for infrastructure- or software-related newsgroup problems.
Frequently Asked Questions. Many newsgroups have an automated periodic message that answers popular questions about the groupís topic. Asking a question that is answered in a groupís FAQ will brand you a newbie and may get you flamed.
A hostile, excessively sarcastic, or threatening message, usually in reply to a post that someone found offensive. Enormous amounts of time and bandwidth are wasted on flame wars.
The practice of scanning large numbers of newsgroups (or the entire news feed) for mentions of a specific word or phrase. Named after a legendary USENET denizen, user ID "kibo," who would reply to any news posting containing the word "kibo."
Kill File
A list of subjects that you donít want to read about. The news client will not display headers that match criteria in the kill file. For example, if you follow the rec.collecting forum, you might tell your news client to "kill" any header that contains the words "Franklin Mint." Kill files can apply to all subscribed groups or to one specific group.
Also known as a "cancelbot." A piece of software on the providerís machine that attempts to screen out inappropriate messages, such as spams from phone sex firms. Killbots look for things like messages posted to all newsgroups or subject lines like "Hot Sexy Girls." This leads to an eternal arms race; canceled once, the phone sex people simply come back with "Secksy Gurls." Killbots are generally programmed to leave the alt hierarchy, where anything goes, completely untouched.
Local group
A newsgroup that isnít replicated onto other hosts. Many providers have local groups to provide support for their users. TIAC, for example, has a local group hierarchy tiac.*.
News feed
The stream of USENET messages. Your provider will get a feed from another Internet company, often a firm that specializes in news and other high-volume automated services, such as mailing lists.
Moderated group
A group that has one or more human "moderators." Depending on the individual group, moderators can elect to see and approve every new message before it is replicated. More commonly, moderators screen out (or "squelch") disruptive individuals by locking out their IDs.
A person who has recently joined a forum (or the Net itself). Certain faux pas will mark you as a newbie, such as quoting an entire message in your reply or asking how to do something.
Most news clients allow you to enter "signature" lines that are automatically appended to the end of all of your posts. Some peopleís signatures are longer than their posts, with elaborate "ASCII art," lists of pets and favorite foods, and so on. The rule of thumb is that a signature should be three lines or less, sticking to useful information like your name and e-mail address.
Posting a message to many (or all) newsgroups. Spamming generally brings out the worst in USENET denizens. You should have a really good reason if you post a message to more than one or two groups.
A chain of messages and replies on a single topic. You start a new thread when you post a message that is not a reply to another message. News clients automatically group together all the messages that make up a thread. If you find a thread interesting, you can tell your news client to "watch" it, which will cause it to automatically retrieve all messages in the thread every time you connect.

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