FAQ: Netiquette for Site Admins 1/4

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Mitchell Golden

Mar 13, 1995, 1:49:31 PM3/13/95
Comments as always welcome for this draft FAQ. Version 1.0 will be
posted after then news.admin.* reorg vote.

Netiquette for Usenet Site Administrators
(version 0.7, Feb 5, 1995)

Table of Contents

1) Introduction.
1.01) What this document is.
1.02) Prerequisites.
1.03) Why would a school want Usenet?
1.04) Why would a company want Usenet?
1.05) My company wants to post to Usenet because we think it is
a cheap way to advertise.
2) What software should I use?
3) Which newsgroups should I carry?
4) How long should the articles' expiration times be?
5) What is "net-abuse"?
6) What should I do about net-abuse?
7) What codes of conduct should I impose on the users of my site?
8) What are Usenet's legal issues?
9) What other things can I do with my Usenet site?
10) What are my ongoing responsibilities?
11) How should I set up the users?
12) Who wrote this document, anyway?

1) Introduction.

1.01) What this document is.

This work is the author's attempt to summarize the consensus about
how to deal with various problems you may run across running a
Usenet site. An improperly run Usenet site is not only a nuisance
for its own users, it can become an annoyance to everyone around the
world who reads Usenet.

This is _not_ a technical document about software. Nor is it legal
advice (heaven forbid)!

A hypertext version of this document is maintained at


as part of a net resources page


1.02) Prerequisites.

If you don't know what Usenet is, you're reading the wrong document.
Go look in the newsgroup news.answers for the documents "What is
Usenet" and "How to become a USENET site". In order to understand
the discussions here you should be familiar with "A Primer on How to
Work With the Usenet Community" and/or "Emily Postnews Answers Your
Questions on Netiquette", and/or "Rules for posting to Usenet".
Especially if you're installing a commercial site, you should see "A
Guide to Buying and Selling on Usenet". If these documents are not
in news.answers or news.announce.newusers on your site, they can be
had by anonymous ftp from rtfm.mit.edu in the directory

1.03) Why would a school want Usenet?

If you are at a university, your Usenet site will allow your
university community to participate in discussions with people from
around the world on a huge variety of topics. The information
contained in Usenet posts may not be the most valuable available
electronically, but it is certainly freewheeling, eclectic, timely
and affordable. In many domains, it is as up-to-date as it gets.

A grade school has similar reasons for getting Usenet access.
However, since not all subjects discussed on Usenet are suitable for
children, a greater degree of care and supervision will be required.

1.04) Why would a company want Usenet?

Actually, most Usenet sites are commercial. There are all kinds of
companies on Usenet: some are access providers that sell computer
accounts to the general public, some are companies in a business
unrelated to computers. A company not in the business of selling
computer access may find Usenet to be a useful source of
information; more examples are given below.

There are numerous newsgroups that are directly relevant to some
employees' work, but beware that considerable company time can be
sunk reading newsgroups. You should consider which employees should
be allowed to talk for the company and which should not, who
posts job offers and who receives the replies.

1.05) My company wants to post to Usenet because we think it is a
cheap way to advertise.

Careful here! Usenet is _not_ intended as a one-way broadcast
medium. It is for people to carry on _discussions_ about specific
topics in which they are _already_ interested. Before you set up
your site it is important that you and your site's users understand
this distinction.

If you use Usenet the wrong way, you will alienate more customers
than you attract. Remember: Usenet is a cooperative venture that
people set up to converse with one another. It's for participants,
not simply to be exploited. When advertising is clearly an attempt
at exploitation rather than participation, it gets a negative

Hostility to advertisement posts has also developed because they are
frequently not confined to the newsgroups where they belong. The
people reading a newsgroup about cats don't necessarily want
information about a stock brokerage. Remember - the charter of a
group specifies what the posts in the group are supposed to be
about. (The charters are available by anonymous ftp from ftp.uu.net
in the /usenet/news.announce.newgroups/ directory tree. Getting
charters is usually not necessary - you can tell the topic of a
newsgroup just by reading what's there. Do that for several days
before posting to _any_ newsgroup.) Unfortunately, some advertisers
don't bother to take the time to do this, mostly because they aren't
really interested in what Usenet is all about: discussions.

Even when they do confine their posts to relevant newsgroups,
advertisers frequently post the same message over and over. Again,
that's not why people are reading Usenet.

Posting to Usenet means dumping essentially all of the typical
advertising techniques of repetition, hype and subtle artistry. On
Usenet the average reader wants solid information about products
without glitz.

Your company will alienate its customers if posts from your site run
roughshod over the Usenet structure. If posts result in your
getting large numbers of "flame" messages, via e-mail or to the
newsgroup, your company may be annoying more people than it's
attracting. A small number of flames may be of no consequence, but
if you receive massive flames from many sources, then something is
very wrong.

Always remember that the recipient is _paying_ to get Usenet. The
site is paying for its hookup to the network, and, in many cases,
the readers of Usenet articles are paying to read the posts.
Remember, unless people respect the rules, it will cost _your_ site
money too!

If one of your site's users really wants to advertise, why don't you
use your net hookup to set up a World Wide Web or Gopher site?
Those are really much better media for advertisements. You can do
some really nice things with hypertext to provide ads of the caliber
of those found in magazines and catalogues, including pictures,
sounds, and even small movies. A list of interesting companies on
the Web may be found at http://www.rpi.edu/~okeefe/business.html.

After you've set up your WWW site, you can post a small message to
the appropriate Usenet groups calling attention to it. Anyone who's
interested will go look at it.

Another possibility is to set up a newsgroup in the biz.* hierarchy.
People looking in biz.yourcompany _expect_ to see information about
your company's products. Moreover, in a biz.* group, they'll be
able to talk back to your company too.

You're probably thinking the wrong way about the commercial uses of
Usenet anyway. Forget ads. _Your_customers_are_talking_about_the_
products_made_by_you_and_your_competitors. You will stand to gain
quite a lot from just listening to them, without saying a thing.
For example, don't you think that Ford could benefit from having an
employee read the groups in rec.autos? Companies in the computer
industry have known this for a long time.

2) What software should I use?

This subject is really beyond the scope of this document. There are
a number of good Usenet site management packages available. INN,
and Cnews, for example, are popular ones for Unix systems. (Bnews
is now mostly considered obsolete.)

There is however a standard for the software to read articles: a
"Usenet Seal of Approval" has been developed for newsreaders. The
latest version of the document should be posted to the group
news.software.readers. You should provide your users, and encourage
them to use, a reader that is compliant with the standard.

Mitchell Golden

Mar 13, 1995, 1:50:38 PM3/13/95
3) Which newsgroups should I carry?

Your Usenet site is still your computer. No one can make you
receive, store, or propagate files that you don't want. Take only
those newsgroups you think are useful. As mentioned above, a
commercial site probably doesn't want its employees wasting too much
time on non-work related activities - you might for example consider
dropping the talk.* hierarchy. If you're at a university, you may
choose to carry as many groups as resources allow?

If you carry any groups from a hierarchy, you should carry the
.answers group of that hierarchy. The .answers group contains the
Frequently Asked Questions Lists (FAQs) for that hierarchy. Other
groups you should definitely get are news.announce.newusers, which
contains the documents that any new Usenet user should read, and
news.announce.important, for urgent items that all usenet readers
should know. Neither of these are high volume groups, so they will
not consume many system resources.

There are other groups that are not part of the big-seven Usenet
hierarchy, but are propagated along with them. The alt groups are
the biggest example. Some of them are useful, but many are
worthless, since there are essentially no rules restricting their
creation. (See "So You Want to Create an Alt Newsgroup" in
news.answers.) If you intend to carry alt groups on your site, you
should probably read the newsgroup alt.config.

The most controversial newsgroups are without a doubt
alt.binaries.pictures.erotica and its subhierarchy - the newsgroups
for posting of erotic / pornographic pictures. The controversy
involves two issues:

(*) A large fraction of the images carried in a.b.p.e.* are in
violation of a copyright.
(*) There are many people who intensely dislike pornography, and
wish it weren't available. Indeed, pornography is illegal in
many places.

It is probably impossible to be sure that your site is free from
copyright violations at all times, any more than the owner of a
bookstore can be sure that every book for sale is okay. You can't
read every article coming in. On the other hand, some groups are
worse than others. Like the erotica newsgroups, much of the stuff
in alt.binaries.sounds.* is questionable. Before you decide which
groups to carry, be sure that you've read "What are Usenet's legal
issues?" in section 8 below.

If your intention is to ban pornography from your site, you should
also take a look at the group alt.sex.stories to see if you find it
acceptable. Some other groups in the alt.sex.* hierarchy, for
example alt.sex.movies, contain discussions _about_ pornography.
You have to decide what in alt.sex.* you want to allow - you'll know
it when you see it.

If you expect your site to be frequented by children, you should be
particularly careful about what groups they have access to. You
should always read any newsgroup carefully, especially in the alt
hierarchy, before you give young children access to it. (One
potentially problematic newsgroup is misc.kids, which is _about_
raising kids, but may be unsuitable for them. There is a k12.*
hierarchy explicitly intended for schoolchildren - see section 9

Finally, an additional consideration about the alt.binaries.* groups
is that they use a large amount of bandwidth and disk space. To
make room for them on your disk, you may find that you need to
shorten the expiration times of other groups that are of more
benefit to your users. Conserving system resources may wind up
being a reason for not carrying alt.binaries.* groups.

4) How long should the articles' expiration times be?

It is wrong to think that the expiration times should be set as long
as possible. Usenet flame wars are all too common. Sometimes a
flame war dies down, only to be rekindled when a new reader comes
across old messages. Try not to make expiration longer than a few
weeks, especially on alt.* and talk.* groups. For some newsgroups
the above reasoning doesn't apply. Moderated groups and
news.answers are two examples.

On most sites, disk space will limit the expiration times, and you
will have to spend some time fine-tuning them on a per hierarchy or
group basis. It's often best if the "large file" groups -- those
carrying binaries for example -- expire more quickly than others.

Lastly, its best if a low-volume group has its expiration time set
long enough that the Frequently Asked Questions list (FAQ) and any
other periodic postings in the group are always there. Well-managed
FAQs are supposed to come with their own expiration times, and use
the supercedes mechanism, and you should configure your site to
honor these.

5) What is "net-abuse"?

This is tricky. Some people are touchier about these issues than
others, and the conception of net-abuse is constantly evolving. The
basic concept is that net-abuse is an action that undermines the
ability of one or more Usenet newsgroups to serve as discussion
forums. Whether or not a message is net-abuse is not a question of
the content of the article, but rather the manner or place of the
posting. There is a consensus that some things are definitely

a) "Spamming" the newsgroups. A user or group of users is said to
have spammed when he/she/they posts one or more messages with
substantially the same content to a large number of newsgroups, in
many of the which the post is off-topic.

A spamming infraction is more serious if the spam is not
cross-posted to the newsgroups involved, but is instead posted to
each group separately. This means that the newsreader software at
the receiving end will not be able to determine that the message has
already been read in another newsgroup, and the receiving users will
be repeatedly confronted with the post. Multiposting wastes
bandwidth and disk space, and is especially annoying to sites with
slow communication links and limited disk storage.

A post or posts need not happen all at once to be considered spam.

Usually spamming occurs when a user attempts to use Usenet as a
one-way broadcast medium, instead of as a forum for discussion and
exchange of ideas. Much of the poor press coverage of Usenet comes
about because of a lack of understanding of this distinction.
Usenet is not intended as a means of getting people who are not
_already_ interested in a topic to pay attention to it.

There is no hard and fast definition of "spamming". However, Usenet
groups are sufficiently distinct that it is quite rare that an
article is really on-topic in more than ten or so groups.

b) Flooding a newsgroup. This is said to occur when a user or group
of users posts so many messages to a group that it is rendered
unusable. Posts may be on-topic or not, but if the action prevents
other users from exchanging ideas through that newsgroup, it is
considered net-abuse.

Flooders sometimes defend themselves by claiming that they are
simply exercising their freedom of speech. The response is that
freedom of speech does not extend to drowning out voices that differ
from yours. In the past, some abusers have gone so far as to set up
posting robots to reply to nearly every message in a group. You
should not allow any such action to originate at your site.

There are some bands of "renegade" users (those who go by the name
alt.syntax.tactical are one, and there are similar groups) who
actively attempt to make Usenet unusable by flooding a group. They
frequently do this by posting messages to two or more radically
different (and often actively hostile) groups to try and start a
flame war. They may also be involved in long chains of nonsense
responses where each message is a burlesque on the one before.

c) Forging articles, so that they appear under some other person's
name. When this has been done in the past, it is sometimes an
attempt on the part of the forger to get the forgee into trouble.
(There is no need to forge an article in order to preserve
anonymity. There are well established mechanisms to post

d) Followups to misc.test, sendsys bombs, and other mailbomb posts.
When an article is posted to a misc.test, Usenet sites receiving the
article are supposed to e-mail an acknowlegement message to the
originator. This results in quite a large number of messages in the
originator's mailbox, and so misc.test is only supposed to be used
for debugging purposes. Net abusers have been known to direct
followups to misc.test as a way of flooding the mailbox of anyone
who's following up to their articles. A sendsys bomb, similarly,
directs all the machines receiving the post to send a mail message
to someone. These are clearly not constructive ways to participate
in a discussion.

e) Sending forged cancels for other people's articles. Freedom of
speech is respected on Usenet. Suppressing the voices of others is
not allowed. For example, recently someone has been cancelling
articles critical of the Church of Scientology posted in
alt.religion.scientology. This action has been widely condemned.

However, there is a consensus that there is an exception to the
prohibition against canceling someone else's articles: it is okay to
forge cancels to prevent a massive spamming violation.

In April 1994 the notorious "Green Card" spam occurred. An ad
appeared in virtually every Usenet group. The perpetrators
announced their intention to spam repeatedly, and the Usenet access
provider did not take quick action to prevent them from doing so.
Their actions threatened Usenet as a whole. In this circumstance, a
programmer wrote a "cancel-bot" which forged a cancellation message
for every post originating from the spammer's account. When the
"Green Card" ads appeared again, the cancel-bot prevented their
propagation. This cancel-bot was generally applauded throughout the
Usenet community.

There have been numerous spam cancels since that time. Those who
cancel spam do not do it on the basis of the article's content.
Furthermore, whenever spam is cancelled, notice is given in
alt.current-events.net-abuse and news.admin.misc. Only a small
number of these cancels cause controversy.

A survey was posted to a large number of groups; these posts were
then cancelled. There was some disagreement over this action,
partly because the survey was not as widely posted as the "Green
Card Ad" was, and partly because it seemed to be an innocent mistake
on the part of the researcher. Most people, including the author of
this document, reason that the charter defines what belongs in a
newsgroup, so when a survey is posted to a large number of groups it
is net-abuse. Those who disagreed argued that surveys may serve a
legitimate purpose for Usenet itself.

Another interesting cancel occurred when the publisher of the book
"Net Chat" posted an ad into numerous groups. The posts mentioned
the book, then gave the book's description of the particular group
of the posting. Because they were tailored to the group in which
they appeared, the posts were not identical. They were cancelled by
Cancelmoose[tm] (the pseudonym of a well-respected anti-spam
watchdog), who then asked for guidance about future incidents.
During the ensuing discussion most people, though not all,
considered the posts spam. There was no disagreement that they were
against the spirit of Usenet - every post is supposed to be part of
a _discussion_.

At any rate, it appears that system administrators, especially at
commercial sites, have begun to crack down quickly on spammers and
other net abusers. Such a crackdown results in the offending
articles being cancelled by the originating site itself. If this
fortunate trend continues, it may mean that complaints to the
spammer's system administrator will be adequate to halt net-abuse,
and cancel-bots will never be necessary. If you see someone
forge-cancelling posts from your site, it means that _you_ should
have done something about it, by educating your users to make sure
they do not spam.

This list of types of net-abuse is not meant to be exhaustive. As
in the rest of life, there are many ways to be annoying and
disruptive on Usenet, and on the Internet.

Mitchell Golden

Mar 13, 1995, 1:51:16 PM3/13/95
6) What should I do about net-abuse?

Once you become a sysadmin, the rest of the Usenet community will
expect that you are prepared to discipline your users when they
engage in net-abuse. In order to be accessible to the rest of the
Usenet community, you should make sure that as news administrator
you are accessible to e-mail, as use...@your.host.name and

If someone mails you about a post originating from your site, you
need not act on it unless he or she demonstrates an effort to
resolve the problem first with the person making the posts in
question. In general, it is best if posters resolve complaints
among each other, without system administrators getting involved.
In these cases, you can reply to the complainer asking him or her to
to discuss the questionable posts with the user. However, in some
cases it is obvious that what is being complained about really is
intentional net-abuse, and in that case you should act immediately.

If net-abuse is reported to you, you have pretty broad discretion as
to how to handle it. However, other site administrators will be
quite angry if it doesn't stop quickly. At minimum, you should send
out cancels for the offending articles, and take action to prevent
repetition of the act. You may have to deny net-abusers Usenet access
if all else fails. Withdrawal of Usenet privileges may take place
even if other forms of Internet access remain. Since you may have
to discipline net-abusers, if you run an NNTP site you should not
permit postings by random outsiders, even if you permit reading by
such people.

From time to time you will probably get complaints about the content
of a user's post, and you may be asked to censor a user. The
administrator will need tread carefully to determine what the best
course of action is. Bear in mind that censoring users will also
bring in complaints. Not all those who complain are right, and so a
site will be better off if it has a policy in place before it
receives complaints.

As site administrator you should probably read news.admin.*.
Reading these groups will keep you informed about net-abuses at
other sites, and help you understand the emerging consensus as to
what net-abuse is and how it can be dealt with. Also useful are the
discussions in alt.current-events.net-abuse.

7) What codes of conduct should I impose on the users of my site?

You definitely can't allow net-abuse, but there are other posts that
are not permitted either. Your users should not make posts of
illegal material - for example, stuff that is copyright violating,
defamatory, or obscene. Posts of Ponzi schemes (which frequently go
by the name "MAKE MONEY FAST") are generally illegal, and other
types of chain letters are also considered counter to Usenet norms.

Some posts cause smaller problems. You will get complaints if a
user on your site persists in posting binary files to a text-only
group. (Depending on the nature of the infraction, some might say
that this is net-abuse, while others might say they are merely
off-topic posts.) Sometimes users repeatedly make posts that
disrupt the conversation on a newsgroup. It's considered very bad
behaviour to use piggybacking to reach groups you normally wouldn't
be able to reach (like regional groups for other countries) by

While you are not responsible for policing the content of your
user's posts, you will certainly hear about it if one of your users
posts illegally or disruptively. You should be prepared to deal
with this kind of situation when it arises. How you react will be
up to you (and maybe your lawyers, see the next section). Of course
you want your site to retain good relations with the rest of the
Usenet community.

If you are planning to set up a site which sells accounts to users,
you will probably need a legal contract with your users so that they
behave properly. (Get a lawyer for this. As mentioned above, this
document is not legal advice!) Here are some quotes from a real
user agreement of one Internet access provider. It has a clause in
that reads

"User hereby agrees that any material submitted for publication on
[the provider's site] through User's account(s) does not violate or
infringe any copyright, trademark, patent, statutory, common law or
proprietary rights of others, or contain anything obscene or

To prevent spamming, the provider puts in its contract:

"[the] use of distribution list in electronic mail or other mass
electronic mailings is subject to approval of [the provider]."

You need to make clear in the contract that you will cut off any
user who abuses Usenet. Here's how it looks in this provider's

"[The provider], at its sole business judgment, may [...] suspend
User's access to the service upon any breach of this membership
Agreement by User, including, but not limited to [...] by sole
judgement of [the provider] that User may be performing
activities harmful to [the provider] or its users, employees,
vendors, business relationships, or any other users of the

If you want to look at user agreements, some Internet access
providers have made theirs available on their gopher/ftp servers.

Make sure your users have read your agreement before they get
anywhere near Usenet. A user who doesn't intend to abuse Usenet
will have no objection to agreeing to your terms. An excellent idea
is to configure the site so that new users must read the
contract and the netiquette documents _before_ the user is allowed
to read or post anything.

Since they tend to be close-knit communities, academic sites
generally have less of a problem dealing with net-abuse issues than
other types of sites. It is usually within the power of the
university to keep students and faculty to behaving properly.

On the other hand, some academic sites have set up speech codes
governing the actual content of messages. There is quite a bit of
controversy about speech codes at Universities in general, not just
on Usenet. It's too big an issue to go into here. The Electronic
Frontier Foundation (EFF) distributes some very nice papers
discussing these and other issues which you may obtain from their
FTP site, ftp.eff.org in the directory /pub/CAF. (CAF refers to the
"Computers and Academic Freedom" mailing list.)

8) What are Usenet's legal issues?

First of all, since Usenet is international, it is not possible to
give a real answer to this question. Moreover, to discuss the legal
status of Usenet in even one country would require a much longer
document than this one.

There is one overarching question: who is legally responsible for
the articles on a site? If some freshman at Boondocks University
posts the lyrics of a copyrighted Michael Jackson song, can every
single Usenet site be sued for propagating the copies? Can the
posting site be sued?

To my knowledge (and I am not a lawyer), in the US at least these
questions haven't been entirely resolved. There are definitely
cases in which bulletin board owners have gotten into trouble for
copyright violations on their machines. If your site is sued, the
decision in court may hinge in part on whether or not the site
administrator knew that the machine contained illegal posts.
Everyone is _hoping_ that the poster is held liable, but if the
courts decide otherwise we might finally see the proverbial "film at
11" in which the end of Usenet comes to pass.

Different countries' courts may ultimately resolve these questions
differently, and that could mean that Usenet exists in some
countries and not in others.

Before you panic however, consider that the courts may hold that a
Usenet site is like a bookstore. If every bookstore were liable for
the contents of every book on its shelves, no one could sell books.

For more on this subject, see the document "Ten Myths of Copyright
Explained", which is posted to news.announce.newusers and news.answers.

9) What other things can I do with my Usenet site?

There are other hierarchies besides the "big seven" and alt. They
are described fully in the "Alternative Newsgroup Hierarchies",
posted to news.answers. They include

(*) The regional hierarchies, dedicated to issues affecting
specific geographic areas.
(*) bionet - A set of groups for academic biologists.
(*) bit - These groups echo many of the bitnet e-mail lists.
(*) biz - Groups in biz are set up by corporations to carry
material like ads for products. This hierarchy is separated
from the big seven because it can't be transmitted over the US
National Science Foundation's network. (The NSF has
restrictions on the sort of things it will carry. However,
these restrictions are scheduled to go away soon.)
(*) cbd - Commerce and Business Daily, provided by a commercial
(*) clari - ClariNet is a commercial service carrying wire
service stories and other features.
(*) ddn - part of the inet/ddn distribution. Many of the inet
groups have names that start with comp or other of the
big-seven names, so it can get sort of confusing.
(*) fedreg - The Federal Register, provided commercially.
(*) gnu - The Free Software foundation's hierarchy.
(*) hepnet - for high-energy and nuclear physics research sites.
(*) ieee - groups of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics
(*) info - a collection of mailing lists gatewayed into news at
the University of Illinois. Sites are discouraged from
carrying some of these.
(*) k12 - groups for elementary school children. Take extra
precaution with the posts in these groups, children are
reading them.
(*) relcom - Russian language posts. The posts in these groups
use 8-bit cyrillic characters, so some software adjustments
may be necessary.
(*) u3b - groups dealing with AT&T 3B{2,5,15,20,4000}
computers. This probably should have been under biz, but it
(*) vmsnet - Digital Equipment Corporation's hierarchy for the
discussion of topics of interest to users of VMS systems.
Another candidate for biz.

Lastly, you may want to set up your own local hierarchy. Many
universities, national labs, and commercial providers have done
this, to allow internal discussions. These hierarchies generally
don't propagate out of the institutions that create them. (But see
the next section!)

Mitchell Golden

Mar 13, 1995, 1:51:52 PM3/13/95
10) What are my ongoing responsibilities?

Here's a relatively easy one: You should make sure that your list of
newsgroups is current. The list of valid big-seven newsgroups is posted
periodically to news.announce.newgroups and news.answers.

A more complicated issue you will have to contend with is the
control of articles propagated to adjacent Usenet sites. Consider
the following scenario:

Boondocks University has a news server on news.boon.edu. It
exchanges news feeds with news.far.com and news.act.ca. At
Boondocks University they get all the big seven groups, and the alt
groups. At news.act.ca, on the other hand, they don't want alt.
One day, without the knowledge of the site administrator,
news.boon.edu begins to get articles from news.far.com in a new
hierarchy, blotz.*. If news.boon.edu is configured to pass on
everything it gets except alt, (which would be written in the
configuration file as "all,!alt") then they will begin to propagate
blotz.* to news.act.ca.

It might be okay for blotz.* to propagate to news.act.ca, but then
again it might not. For example, the blotz.* hierarchy might be a
local hierarchy that was supposed to be contained within Blotz
University, but which got propagated to news.far.com by accident.
If news.boon.edu propagates it further, it is just compounding the
error. It is safest if news.boon.edu doesn't automatically
propagate all the articles it receives, at least unless it is
explicitly asked to do so by news.act.ca. It is best if
news.boon.edu explicitly lists the hierarchies it intends to

Since there are many sites that pass everything they receive, Usenet
is very "leaky". This is especially true with respect to the
"distribution" feature, which is supposed to confine articles to
given geographic region. Stopping the leakage of articles outside
of their intended region works the same way as for hierarchies. In
general, you shouldn't propagate distributions by default.

Propagating too many articles wastes Usenet bandwidth, and makes
users wade through posts they don't need or want.

11) How should I set up the users?

After the site is set up, _don't_ just throw the doors open to your
users. Since you've read the documents mentioned in the
introduction, you realize that there are quite a few rules about
using Usenet that the users should know.

Every site should establish a policy to make sure its users are
prepared to interact with the Usenet community. Before _anyone_
from your site posts anything, he or she should have read the
Netiquette documents, posted in news.announce.newusers. New users
should be automatically subscribed to this group, and it should be
at the top of the list of groups they're subscribed to. If possible,
it is even better if the users can be forced to look at these
documents before getting privilege to post.

You should be sure your users know what net-abuse is, and that they
will not be allowed to commit it.

Your users must know how to send and receive e-mail. (Usenet posters
frequently take their discussions "private" and converse via

By far the most common problem "newbies" encounter is that they
often post questions that have been answered numerous times before.
This is annoying to people who've been participating in a newsgroup
for a long time, and unfortunately (since Usenet has as many jerks
as the rest of the world) the poster of a such a question will
frequently be the recipient of a nasty reply "flame" message. This
may turn the new user off to Usenet permanently. Be sure your users
are aware of the FAQ. Each FAQ is posted periodically to the
newsgroup it covers, and to news.answers. Furthermore there are FTP
archives of FAQs. The archives are listed in "Anonymous FTP:
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) List", and in "Introduction to the
*.answers newsgroups" which are in news.announce.newusers.

Make sure that newbies are aware of the existence of *.answers
groups and the archives on rtfm.mit.edu. Also call to their
attention the group news.groups.questions, which is where "Where
should I post this message?", "Is there are group about ...?"
questions belong.

Another problem newbies have occurs when they are unaware that a
post doesn't appear immediately on the news server. They should be
informed about this so that they don't post messages twice.

12) Who wrote this document, anyway?

This document was written by Mitchell Golden
(gol...@physics.harvard.edu) with help from

Brad Templeton (br...@clarinet.com)
S. Nass (s...@panix.com)
Harry Bochner (boc...@das.harvard.edu)
David C Lawrence (ta...@uunet.uu.net)
Brian Pollack (br...@indirect.com)
Ron Newman (rne...@media.mit.edu)
Jonathan I. Kamens (j...@cam.ov.com)
David Grabiner (grab...@math.harvard.edu)
Scott Southwick (sco...@habanero.ucs.indiana.edu)
David S. Stodolsky (da...@arch.ping.dk)
Charles Lindsey (c...@clw.cs.man.ac.uk)
Al Black (a...@debra.dgbt.doc.ca)
David B. O'Donnell (NewsM...@aol.com)
Pierre Uszynski (pie...@shell.portal.com)
Karl A. Krueger (ka...@simons-rock.edu)
Andrew Burt (ab...@cs.du.edu)
Pierre Uszynski (pie...@shell.portal.com)
D. Dale Gulledge (d...@cci.com)
Perry Rovers (Perry....@kub.nl)
Peter da Silva (pe...@nmti.com)
Morton Welinder (te...@diku.dk)

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