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Usenet Survey Results!

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Aug 16, 1983, 1:17:19 PM8/16/83
Well, I finally had a 3 day stretch with no more responses
to my Usenet survey coming in; either that means I have all
the responses, or our net connections are down. Whatever
it may mean, I've put together the results and here they are.

First of all, some general comments. I got 68 responses to
the survey. 22 of those came via CSNet. Very few people
followed directions exactly (make 3 nominations in each
category, etc.) but I've managed to put the answers together
in some kind of reasonable form anyhow.

This probably shouldn't be taken too seriously. The survey
was not designed to be anything more than something of
interest and amusement. The sampling was not large nor
do I believe it to be statistically significant. In fact,
I even (purposely) contaminated one of the questions.
Nonetheless, I believe that some of the comments and
results are instructive.

I have arranged the results as follows. First, I have
included excerpted comments from the responses which deal
with the survey itself. Next comes each of the questions.
Each question is reproduced along with the tallied responses
and excerpted comments that I felt were of interest. In some
cases I included a comment or two of my own at the beginning
(editor's privilege!).

I did NOT edit any of the comments for style, spelling or grammar.
I copied the comments verbatim from the responses, so please
don't flame at me. I also tried to reduce the comments to
the essential lines and remove any extra statements which
might identify the author. I will not respond to any requests
of the form "Did <someone> give the response that <someone>
is a <something>?" so don't ask.

I tried to match up account names and "true" names in the
tallied responses. However, many people were mentioned
who have submitted nothing as news in the last 3 weeks and
who have never corresponded with me, so I couldn't put their
names in. There were also a few people who have submitted
news articles, but who never use a "people" name along
with their account names. I assume that is by choice.

If anyone else would like to suggest some more questions for
another survey, I might be willing to try another one ---
when I finish recovering from this one.

Thanks to everyone who responded, and to Peter Wan (gatech!wan)
for helping me put this together.

Excerpted comments in general:

I haven't been on Usenet for very long, but it seems to be a black
hole with regards to the time it requires to keep up with it. I
would at least like to be able to order the newsgroups so I can look
at the ones I care the most about first. "N" is not enough.

First, you never post anything to both net.general and net.misc.
In fact, you don't post anything to net.misc and another group. If it
has a group, it should not be in net.misc.

All in all, I like the idea of surveys. I'm awaiting the results
with baited breath!


1) Discussion has been going on in about whether
the person posting a news article should pay for the
cost of the article, or if we should even go to some
form of company or corporation to provide Usenet as
a regulated, chargeable service. Which do you prefer:
a) leave Usenet as is currently
b) charge-back individuals
c) Usenet, Inc. as a service
d) none of the above

Tallied results:

57 a
2 c
1 d

Excerpted comments:

leave the net as it is. I sort of understand it and am happy
to pay the bill and use the 'n' key.

[...] But the uucp and news software should be fixed. The current
software is neither efficient nor reliable. The only solution
may be to rewrite it. I don't think this will happen.

Leave Usenet as is currently, except charge Tim Maroney
for both his articles and all flames they generate.

I would say leave Usenet as it is. Some people do run off at the fingers,
but the complexity of a charging scheme isn't worth it. Probably the most
equitable scheme is to require sites accepting news to pay for the calls
that deliver the news to them. If the news distribution setup is a tree,
this should lead to relatively equal charges. (This may be infeasible,
in which case I withdraw the idea). I postulate that trying to add any
kind of complexity will increase costs...

usenet status. I used to think Usenet, Inc. would be a good idea but
now think there should be a transition to CSNET, a transition that sets
up orderly processes there. CSNET has the potential for stability and
"needs the business". In this scenario, university and a few industrial
sites would switch most of their news and mail to CSNET but still maintain
their Usenet connections for some purposes (close to what's happening now).
With more users CSNET rates may come down to allow smaller Usenet
users to be on it, or Usenet may continue along as it is. In any case, with
people on several nets (csnet, usenet, arpanet, and others) which net you're
on may be more a matter of technology and geography than information needs.

Since Usenet is sooner or later going to go another direction, I'd like to
see the move toward CSNET occur gradually and systematically so that we don't
all get dumped from Usenet at some time and have to make a mad dash to CSNET.

I like usenet the way it is. I think it is great the way costs disapear into

USENET should be left the hell alone!
A cooperative the size of USENET is a rare thing in my limited experience,
and I would like it to stay just as it is. No central control, somewhat
anarchistic, and dependent upon educating the users, rather than restricting

There is no reason why somebody would pay to get their news read (except
for net.wanted or, well maybe) especially in net.jokes or or

How about a quota beyond which (possibly increasing) charges
apply. This would be intended to cut down on the really
verbose folks.


2) Usenet statistics have been posted indicating usage per site and
individual. We have also seen a lot of articles by various
people. Please make three nominations in each category for:
a) biggest jerk using Usenet

My comments:
Most everyone appears to have somebody in mind for this one.
I suspect that many of the single-vote responses are due to
one particular incident with the respondant. "Jerk" is a
highly subjective judgment (as one comment notes), so try
not to get too bent out of shape if your name appears here.
In fact, I'd be upset if my name wasn't here -- I'd hate
to have everyone agree with me all the time.

Tallied responses:

Votes Account Name
----- ------- ----
15 unc!tim Tim Maroney
9 hound!rwhw Ray W. H. Walters, Jr.
6 nobody
5 watmath!bstempleton Brad Templeton
4 packet!cfv Chuck Von Rospach
4 ihuxi!rcj1 Ray Jender
3 floyd!trb Andy Tannenbaum
3 qubix!lab Larry Bickford
2 tekid!halb Hal Bates
2 rabbit!bimmler ??
2 presby!nick Nicholas Puschak
2 itm!bob Bob Langdon
2 gatech!spaf Gene Spafford
2 houti!trc Tom Craver
1 vortex!lauren Lauren Weinstein
1 ucbesvax!turner Michael Turner
1 trsvax!cozadde ??
1 rabbit!jj Jim Johnston
1 pur-ee!swc ??
1 mit-eddie!rh Randy Haskins
1 hou5f!jrt Jaime R. Tormos
1 flairvax!michael Michael Ellis (?)
1 ccieng5!bwm "Morgoth" ??
1 burdvax!hdj Herb Jellinek
1 cbscd5!pmd Paul Dubuc
1 "any read-only users"
1 "users who post news instead of using mail"
1 "users who post for-sale items to the whole net"

Excerpted comments to Question 2a:

... You with your dumb signature are right up there
(for that reason alone.) This is a really dumb
question, so you get it for asking it.

2) I thought this might be a serious survey, but I was wrong.
a) you, you, and you - for asking this question

The biggest jerk is hound!rhwh, who is in the top ten and who
has never submitted any article that I saw any value in at all.
Even on net.flame, the absolute lack of content to his flames
makes them boring reading, and on other groups he seems to have
nothing to contribute. Remember when he sat down and ran his
fingers randomly over the keyboard and sent it to net.jokes?
How about posting that imbecilic Ann Landers point-of-view-of-
a-dog piece to net.general -- without crediting the source?

Selecting just three individuals is so difficult
because the are so many to choose from. The only
one who really rises above the crowd is the person
who decided to post the statistics periodically.

I have my own personal choice(s), but the trouble is
that one man's jerk is another man's most interesting
contributor. I suspect it becomes somewhat of a
religious issue; I've learned to leave such issues
alone, by and large. A lot of people will probably
get votes both in category a) and b).

Anyway question 2. There are a lot of annoying people. My vote goes
to the ones who have been around for some time.
I won't name anybody, just like I will not for part B (I suspect a lot
of people won't name people in part A. Also what about the people who
would vote for you? Few will send that in a message to you.)

I couldn't give a ding dong bloody damn (see what happens when you
get Australians next door) less.

I dont make nominations for 'jerkiness'. (Unless you include
that miserable wretch from gatech with the horrible long
return address -- what is it -- the soapbox of something?? :-)
:-) ) Personally, I find the articles by (Better than Most)
rather distressing, but it is also useful to know what the
opposition is thinking.

ONE FINAL COMMENT: I've got a feeling that the "biggest jerks" group
will have lots of unc!tim's in it. Now I don't agree with some of what
Tim says, but the people who say he's a jerk will be doing so because
they oppose his religious views (some of the people, anyway). I think
Tim's postings are valuable because they contribute to discussion in
places like net.religion, which are there for idle(?) discussion anyway.
Perhaps your question should relate "jerks" to unnecessary
postings. Whether I think tim (or whoever) is a jerk is probably
not relevant to whether I think he shouldn't be spouting his drivel
across the net.


2) Usenet statistics have been posted indicating usage per site and
individual. We have also seen a lot of articles by various
people. Please make three nominations in each category for:
b) most interesting contributor to Usenet

My comments:
Again, "interesting" is highly subjective. I think it is
worth noting that Tim Maroney appears high in this list
as well as in the list of "jerks."

Tallied responses:

Votes Account Name
----- ------- ----
26 vortex!lauren Lauren Weinstein
15 floyd!trb Andy Tannenbaum
10 utcsstat!laura Laura Creighton
6 unc!tim Tim Maroney
6 rlgvax!guy Guy Harris
5 cbosgd!mark Mark Horton
4 gatech!spaf Gene Spafford
2 ssc-vax!ginger Ginger Grover
2 burl!rcj Curtis Jackson
2 research!dmr Dennis Ritchie
2 ulysses!smb Steve Bellovin
2 ittvax!wex Alan Wexelblatt
1 hou5e!mat Mark Terribile
1 sdschema!donn ??
1 rlgvax!thekid Keith Bostic
1 rlgvax!oz ??
1 alice!alb Adam Buchsbaum
1 (via unc!tim) Pamela Troy
1 rti-sel!trt Tom Truscott
1 ?? Eugene Fiume
1 ?? Dennis Rockwell
1 ?? Alan S. Watt
1 ?? (Lady Arwen)
1 "anyone whose submissions are < one screenful"
1 "anybody getting vicious followups"
1 "anybody contributing to net.movies"

Comments on question 2b:

By the way, I think you have the most colorful messages - but I have
to give Guy Harris the vote just for the sheer volume of letters he
puts out (that are of interest)...


2) Usenet statistics have been posted indicating usage per site and
individual. We have also seen a lot of articles by various
people. Please make three nominations in each category for:
c) site you'd most like to see removed from the net

My comments:
I got a lot of flack for asking this question. I wasn't
actually advocating removal of sites from the network
(heavens no!), but I was curious in finding out how
people would respond. Draw your own conclusions.

Tallied responses:

Votes Site
----- -----
22 none
3 hound
3 mit-eddie
3 unc
2 "sites that don't forward mail"
2 gatech
2 itm
1 alice
1 berkeley
1 decvax
1 inmet
1 presby
1 rabbit
1 watmath
1 wivax

Excerpted comments to Question 2c:

This question is really stupid! The more sites the better.
I doubt if sites can be "removed". In fact, I take offense
at this question.

hound, just because it has Roy there.
gatech, which has several people with weird signatures
and even weirder outlooks on life.
alice, because it won't transship mail

2) I thought this might be a serious survey, but I was wrong.
c) yours, yours, and yours - again for asking the question

This is a shocking and somewhat disgusting question. It should
not have been asked, and certainly should not have its replies
posted in your summary. The idea that any site should be thrown
off the net is vile. Perhaps you meant this in fun; it will not
be taken that way. Site administrators who find their site listed
in the responses are likely to expel various people from the net,
as you well know. You have the potential to do great harm to the
net here, and I urge you as strongly as I can not to do this thing.

site you'd most like to see removed from the net
no opinion on this one, although sri-unix does have a tendency to
go berserk and start spewing out repeated messages.

inmet - any site that permits postings from
"Anonymous" should be disnetted.

All those who censor usenet traffic or who don't forward uucp

I dont want any site removed from the net. If Shasta/shasta
would decide on a name (they may have already, I am about three
months behind on that one) they could remove one name from the
net and leave other people's mailers happier, but that is about


2) Usenet statistics have been posted indicating usage per site and
individual. We have also seen a lot of articles by various
people. Please make three nominations in each category for:
d) most entertaining newsgroup

Tallied responses:

Votes Newsgroup
----- ---------
16 singles
14 flame
11 jokes
8 religion
8 misc
7 unix-wizards
4 women
4 sf-lovers
4 news
3 rec.nude
2 space
2 movies
2 math
2 games.trivia
2 fa.telecom
2 fa.human-nets
1 usenix
1 suicide
1 sources
1 physics
1 philosophy
1 jokes.d
1 general
1 games
1 cooks
1 college
1 bugs.uucp
1 bugs.4bsd
1 auto

Excerpted comments to Question 2d:

net.rec.nude (needs graphics, though)
net.math (so dumb, so often, that it's funny)

The most interesting group? various favourites. The group that got
me into the net when it was just a few sites was sf-lovers from the
arpanet. Same with human-nets.


3) Some people hate signature files (like mine). Which user
out there has the most useless/annoying signature that
they use in their news?

My comments:
I suspect my name showed up in this list a few more times
than usual due to the fact that I mentioned myself in
the question (a very poor survey technique). However,
I can take a hint -- I shortened my signature file after
I submitted the survey to the net.

Tallied responses:

Votes Account Name
----- ------- ----
18 nobody
14 unc!tim Tim Maroney
12 gatech!spaf Gene Spafford
6 packet!cfv Chuck Von Rospach
3 gkermit!larry Larry Kolodney
3 "any long ones"
2 hou5e!mat Mark Terribile
2 everybody!!
2 "any over 2 lines long"
1 gatech!roy Roy Mongiovi
1 ??
1 ?? (Lady Arwen)

Excerpted comments:

Signature files should be for one purpose only, to supply
a return addres. the trb project has always used one line.
If people don't recognize you by your address at the header
of an article, why should a signature make any difference.
There are current maps of the net posted every once in
awhile, so it isn't too hard to find where someone is, and
on CSnet and ARPAnet, these are probably locked in stone.
What I am saying, is that any bozo with half a brain can
figure out where someone is, by knowing the right questions
to ask and who to ask.

Signature lines take up space, and time. Yours is
particularly annoying. But then, you probably don't read
your own articles. just "Gene Spafford" would suffice.
If the content of your articles doesn't prove your credibility,
why should something dumb like "The Soapbox of ..." do it.

I have nothing against two or three lines for a signature file,
and I PREFER to have people list some of the major sites they
connect to (listing all of them is pointless though - we connect
to about 20, but I only list 3). I find the ones from "gatech"
in general the most annoying, they seem to take up an awful lot
of room. However, don't take offense - I hate all the ones that
are super-long (yours, gene, isn't too bad).

You do. Especially since it so often appears twice. (Maybe
I'm just jealous since we're running an older news. If I
wanted a signature, I'd have to type it in by hand. Tim, on
the other hand, has his own nroff macros for news and puts
his signature on that way.)

On signature files, the most annoying ones are those that have two copies
of the information. There are a couple of people who do this. In general,
I am in favor of signature files with no slogan attached, but the idea of
appending several ways to reach a person is a good one, particularly when
you consider the enormous paths that netnews sometimes uses.

Yours wins for longest annoying sig file, but I have told you that
before. Tim Maroney is a close second. Anything with over 2 lines
gets my vote. If you can't say it in two lines, there is something wrong
with the net. (This is an answer to question 1)

I hate blank lines in signatures. I also hate signatures that do not
give the company/institution name

Ok, if you MUST have all the routing information, leave it
there. But by now I *KNOW* you have a soapbox, and Tim's
keyboard is grossly overworked, and cfv with his stupid
obsolete signature is a warlock in a dungeon. Cut it out

I like the full names at the bottom. We run notes here and therefore
we don't get the path from where it came from and as a result don't
always know where it should go if they don't sign it

I don't mind signature files, and haven't yet seen a
signature that bothered me.

The nameless cretins who have no signature at all. (Actually
the folks that sign their signature, and then have a .signature
file add a *second* signature to their news are getting a little
annoying, but I can live with them until they learn better.)


4) Are you in favor of moderated digests on Usenet instead of
the current format? (To be applied to only a few groups).

Tallied results:

22 yes for some
20 yes for most/all
10 moderate none at all
4 really don't care

Excerpted comments:

Yes, I am. I'd like to see it applied experimentally, first.
But net.announce is not a good test case, since it was created
as a moderated group. Let's see an experiment with moderating

Moderated digests for unix-wizards and the like, definitely. It
could prevent holy wars, keep questions like "why does UNIX do
thus-and-such" from being posted if UNIX doesn't do thus-and-such,
weed out duplicates, etc.

I am in favor of moderated digests on Usenet in addition to the
current format at least as a test of how well the reality flies
compared to the concept.

A few groups need digestifing very badly. My solution so far
is to run notes.

Yes, moderate some of the general groups. I suggest the
following for starters: net.general, net.followup (could
be combined if moderated), net.misc, net.micro.all,
net.unix-wizards (perhaps), net.wanted.

What I'd really like would be some LOCAL way to shut off
users from one, many, or all newsgroups as far as submissions
are concerned. This could mitigate the "new user" problem,
as such users could be kept from posting until one had reason
to believe they had be inculcated with USENET culture. Also,
if a system administrator received a lot of complaints about
an individual, he would have some means of excising the person
from the net. Of course, this assumes all admins are themselves
reasonable and would use their power with discretion.

NO! The only good moderator is a dead one!

Moderators are a good idea now. They will be almost the only idea
when the net grows, unless the cost of communications drops a great deal.
(even then people will gladly pay moderators to filter their news for them.
That's why they use news services today)

Generally, no. One of the fun parts of the net
is posting an article and getting a reply by mail
(or even a followup) within half an hour from someone
at your site or one hop away. I think the fact that
the news will filter down to different sites at different
times adds to the value of the net. I hope that user
education will suffice to deal with all the people who
respond to simple questions on the net.
Net.unix-wizards is perhaps a group which
could be moderated. It would also depend on how often
urgent requests are put on. I suspect most requests on
net.unix-wizards can wait the extra day.

YES. Start with unix-wizards. I would go back to reading if someone would filter out the junk. From my
limited experience I *know* that mysticism is being passed
as fact in -- I have no idea about the stuff that
I know nothing about but if the quality of information is
the same it makes me shudder...

I DO worry about the proliferation of newsgroups that don't appear
to be very cost effective. Today's note on "what are the colors
of the Rice Krispie's [snap, crackle, pop] hair?" is in the vein
about which I worry.

The net can provide really valuable technical forums. The "funsy"
groups are carrying more and more traffic that doesn't seem to
be productive on a nation-wide basis (as opposed to a local basis).
I hope things get no worse.

I like the idea of a moderator who is willing to cull out the
needless copies of information. I see no editing involved,
and feel that it should just be an opportunity not to
appear to be the tenth fool in a row replying to a
request. By allowing a choice of either sending to the
moderator, or directly to the newsgroup, it is possible to
prevent censorship. This requires a mail network as
extensive as the news. It allows conversations (which are
evolving entities) to travel to more appropriate

It depends -- If digesting means I get one humongous note per day,
then I'm not the least bit interested. We run notes here, so it's
easy to skip discussions I'm not interested in (responses grouped
with main note, you see), but I can't easily do that with a dull
stretch in the middle of a digest. If the moderator would just
act as a filter and send legit messages out *separately* I would
not complain, but I really, really loathe having to page through
a long digest. For one thing, it wipes out most of the beauty of
using notes. People who have never tried notes don't understand
it, but most who do try it never want to go back. **Base notes with
response strings are wonderful.** As for the censorship question,
I have seen moderators at work on the ARPAnet, and it really hasn't
been that big a problem. Very few things are eliminated, and you
can always argue with the moderator via mail.
So it comes down to:
Moderator - ok
Moderator w/ separate messages - ok
Moderator w/ digest - no way

The soapbox of Gene Spafford
CSNet: Spaf @ GATech ARPA: Spaf.GATech @ UDel-Relay
uucp: ...!{sb1,allegra,ut-ngp}!gatech!spaf ...!duke!mcnc!msdc!gatech!spaf

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