The Internet has its own public bulletin boards, called Usenet newsgroups, usually shortened to newsgroups. On the wild frontier of cyberspace, newsgroups are a series of notes posted by interested users for anyone else to read.
Groups range from would-be actors exchanging tips on how to deal with agents (Deja.com search: alt.acting), heated discussions over Florida issues (Deja.com search: fl.politics), the heraldry of Ireland (Deja.com search: rec.heraldry Ireland) to molecular biologists sharing information on genetic linkages (Deja.com search: bionet.molbio.gene-linkage). These topics may sound arcane. You are almost guaranteed to find a group which shares some of your interests.
Many Internet Service Providers offer access to newsgroups. With the growth of SPAM, unsolicited commercial email, many Usenet groups are useless. It's often called Uselessnet instead of Usenet.
DejaNews has solved that by filtering unrelated trash from groups. DejaNews is also one of the most effective ways to search for topics in newsgroups.
All newsgroup links in the Bytewriter Internet Guide link to DejaNews groups and are built to return you to Bytewriter guides without getting lost.
Most browsers offer direct access to newsgroups, and commercial services may also carry groups in a special area. Specific software such as NewsWatcher can also let you get to newsgroups directly. You "subscribe" to a newsgroup, but not in the same way that you subscribe to a LISTSERV*. Subscribing to a newsgroup does not mean you get more e-mail; it simply means that when you go into the newsgroup area on your browser or through your Usenet reader software, it automatically lists those groups you joined earlier.
Groups are divided into categories, called hierarchies, according to topics or geography. Each group has a multi-part name, such as Deja.com search: rec.pets cats or http://www.Bytewriter.com/iguide/usenet.shtm%5D/dnquery.xp?query=sci.bio.microbiology&DBS=1">sci.bio.microbiology.
The first part tells you the general category of the group. For example, some of the most popular hierarchies are:
alt: electic, unpredictable groups that don't really fit anywhere else. Probably the most popular and certainly the wildest hierarchy.
bionet: dealing with biological issues
biz: business and commercial groups
fl: Florida-related issues
comp: all things related to computers
fl: Florida-related topics
news: usenet-related matters
soc: social science issues
The way the messages appear on your screen depends on the system and reader you are using. Usually the notes will be displayed in some order, such as by date or by topic. Together, the original note followed by the responses is called a "thread." Sometimes the responses even stay on the same topic.
There are from 35,000 to 50,000 groups on the Internet, not counting the groups which are limited to a specific audience (such as a university) or those which are available only by paid subscription (news services such as ClariNet). Your service may not provide access to all groups; you may have to ask to add a particular group, and sometimes the request is granted. Certain groups are closed, however, to paid subscribers or to members of a particular community, such as a university.
Finding groups can be a challenge, especially since most services do not carry all groups. Check an interactive search on the Web for a group, or start with groups which specialize in identifying new or interesting groups:
Search Deja News Discussion Groups for Deja.com search: news.announce.newusers
Search Deja News Discussion Groups for http://www.Bytewriter/iguide.usenet.shtm%5D/dnquery.xp?query=news.newusers.questions&DBS=1">news.newusers.questions
Search Deja News Discussion Groups for http://www.Bytewriter.com/iguide/usenet.shtm%5D/dnquery.xp?query=alt.bestof.internet&DBS=1">alt.bestof.internet
Another good starting point is the FAQ site for newsgroups, where those Frequently Asked Questions are answered.
Most newsgroups post their own FAQ file so read it if you have questions.
"Lurk" on a group for a while to get a feel for the topics and the communication style of the group.
Check out the Netiquette section of the Bytewriter Internet Guide for tips on e-mail propriety.
You cannot block access to groups which you find offensive, especially since many are listed under innocent-sounding names.