Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ); monthly posting

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trygve lode

Dec 13, 2001, 8:24:15 AM12/13/01

Archive-name: singles-faq
Posting-Frequency: biweekly
Last-modified: 2000/08/14
Version: 3.0
Maintainer: trygve lode ( ) FAQ (long version)

maintained by Trygve Lode ( )
Last-modified: 2000.08.14

the current version is available at FAQ, short version, available at

Welcome to! is a place to hang out, discuss
issues serious, mundane, and silly, flirt, share embarrassing personal
secrets, and generally let your hair down and have fun. Whether you're
just reading or are feeling brave enough to leap headlong into any of
the ongoing conversations or start a new one, you'll find a varied
collection of people from around the world all working to keep your
newsreading time from getting boring. Just be warned: is
not a place for personal ads, requests for penpals and/or sexually
explicit email, commercial advertisements, or test messages. Remember
that there are real people behind the messages you're reading and
responding to, and if you treat them with the consideration and
respect you'd give to a bunch of people you just met at a party,
you'll be 77.4% of the way to being an accepted and valued contributor

This document is called the "FAQ" (short for "Frequently Asked
Questions") and hopefully contains information that will make it
easier to follow and join in on the various conversations happening on at any given time. No warranty is expressed or implied;
for external use only; if rash persists, consult a physician.

Think of this bit here as being sorta like a table of contents:

- Commonly encountered abbreviations and jargon

- What is a 'boink'?

- Should I post personals ads on

- How about commercial ads?

- What if my site doesn't carry alt.personals or soc.penpals?

- OK, if I'm not supposed to post personals, what kinds of articles
should I post?

- Do I have to be single to post on

- Just what does "single" mean anyway?

- What's the difference between and

- Is there anything besides personal ads that should be avoided?

- Sometimes, seems very intimidating--it's like everybody
knows everyone else and it's hard just to jump in to all the
ongoing conversations.

- What if I don't like any of the current discussions or just find
them all boring?

- I finally worked up the courage to post my first message and nobody
responded to it. Do you think that the soc.singlers are
conspiring to ignore me?

- Help! I just posted an article and got flamed horribly for it-- will
I ever be able to show my face in public again?

- Hey--someone just posted a personal ad to! Should I
flame the pants off this person?

- is just full of flaming and angry-sounding people this
week; can't you guys all just get along?

- Sometimes I write stuff that is just so incredible I think I should
crosspost it to every other newsgroup on the net. Is that okay?

- What is this "editing" stuff I keep hearing about?

- How about editing subject headers?

- What else can I do to improve my ASCII appearance?

- What do these weird combinations of punctuation marks I see
frequently in people's messages mean?

- How do you pronounce "soc"?

- What's a ".GIF" ".JPG" or ".MPG"?

- Is there a World-Wide Web page for

- What, exactly, are "Disney Chemicals"?

- How do you pronounce "Trygve"?

- How come nice guys don't get laid?

- How come nice guys/gals/small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri
get dumped for jerks/bimbos/hyperfungal Rigellian

- I met someone last week at a party; what do you think this person's
deepest and innermost feelings for me are?

- Is it possible for men and women to be just friends?

- Do conversations on the net ever blossom into torrid romances?

- What about personal ads?

- Will this message ever end?

- How about posting articles asking for readers to send postcards to a
kid in England who is dying of cancer and wants to set the
world record for most cards received before he dies?

- How come there are so many kooks on the net?

- OK, we're getting near the end of the file now--what's this about
"killfiles" that you promised to tell us about?

- Is there any copyright on this FAQ?

- Are you sure I can't post personals on

OK, you can stop thinking of this as being like a table of contents

Commonly encountered abbreviations and jargon:

[ A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z ]

As Far As I Know

As Far As I Can Throw You

American Standard Code for Information Interchange;
technically, this refers to the encoding scheme whereby the
internally stored binary numbers used by computers correspond
to human-readable symbols like "A", but in common usage on the
net, ASCII also refers to anything that's made of standard text
characters: "@}--,--`---" is an ASCII rose, for example.

Basis In Fact

Been There, Done That

By The Way

"Disney Chemicals" ( see below )

"Dreaded Monogamy Virus"

Frequently Asked Question(s)

An emotional, often personal attack on another person's
article; "I disagree with your statement because of X" is not a
flame, whereas "I disagree with your moronic statement and the
fact that you would say such a thing proves you're a complete
idiot" is.

Something posted publicly that appears designed to inspire
flames; usually this is a postion that is not only likely to
annoy a lot of people but is also worded in such a way as to
arouse the ire of readers.

Friend Of A Friend (Generally used for apocryphal stories.)

File Transfer Protocol; a way to transfer files between your
computer system and another. For information about FTP, send
e-mail to "" with "send
usenet/news.answers/finding-sources" in the body of the letter.

For What It's Worth

For Your Amusement

For Your Information

Hope This Helps / Happy To Help

Another kind of "chat" program for Windows-based machines. Each
ICQ user is identified by a unique number.


If I Recall Correctly

In My Humble Opinion (engineers often prefer to use JMHO)

In My Not-So-Humble Opinion

Internet Relay Chat -- "chat rooms" where several participants
can type at each other in real time as opposed to leaving
messages to be read later as one does on newsgroups.

Love At First Sight (Alternatively, "Love At First Site" for
those in a hurry.)

Long Distance Relationship

Let's Just Be Friends (now considered a verb)

Lust Object (occasionally also Love Object)

Laughing Out Loud

Long Term Relationship

Someone who reads a group, but doesn't post; doing so is called

Member Of The Opposite Sex

Member Of The Same Sex

Member Of The Appropriate Sex

Member Of the Inappropriate Sex

Compressed format for sound files commonly used for
distribution over the net

No Basis In Fact

Nice Guy/Gal (also NewsGroup)

Nude In Front Of Computer

Not That There's Anything Wrong With IT

On The Other Hand

Public Display of Affection

The "sound" of a poster being added to a killfile; also used as
a verb: "I plonked Sylvia 'Snuffelupagus Slayer' DeCrisco, so I
missed her discussion on foot odor."

Person of Opposite Sex Sharing Living Quarters

Point Of View



ProblemYoungerMan (also ProblemYoungerMutant)


Romantic Interest

Rolling On The Floor Laughing (also ROFL)

Real Life

Romantic Partner

Real Soon Now

Stay-At-Home (as in SAH parent)

sig or .sig
"Signature," a short, standardized message tacked on to the end
of all one's posts; usually consisting of 1-4 lines of text,
containing one's e-mail address, employer, favorite pithy
quote, and/or other pertinent (or impertinent) personal

Sexual Market Value

Sensitive New-Age Guy

Significant Other

Articles that are inappropriately posted to large numbers of
newsgroups; these are usually, though not necessarily,
commercial ads, but whatever their nature or content, they're
considered a Bad Thing[tm].



Thanks In Advance

Three Letter Abbreviation


True Love & Eternal Happiness

Someone who posts articles just to get attention or annoy the
other readers and posters; also used as a verb and, if you take
the [flame]bait and respond as if it were a serious post,
you've been "trolled."

Waiting For You In The Bathtub Wearing Nothing But Lime Jell-O

What The Heck

Your Kink Is OK

Your Milage May Vary

Gender-neutral pronoun equivalent to "She or He" (Alternate
spelling: "Sie")

Gender-neutral pronoun equivalent to "Him or Her" or possessive
pronoun equivalent to "His or Her" (Alternate spelling: "Hir")

The rest of the FAQ:

What is a 'boink'?

Any publicly announced gathering of participants
and lurkers. Frequently these last for days and involve the
flying in of out-of-town celebrities.

Should I post personals ads on

No. Personal ads belong in the alt.personals groups; there are
even groups for people with specific tastes (e.g.
alt.personals.poly, alt.personals.bondage,
alt.personals.hamster.duct-tape). If you want to post a request
for pen-friends rather than a personal ad, there's also
soc.penpals which is dedicated for just that very thing. Do not
post personals in, you will annoy the readership
and not get any positive responses.

Many, many web-based personals ads sites are available, both
free and pay services. Checking Yahoo shows several hundred
category matches if you search on "personals"; so, you may wish
to add some more search words or just start browsing.

How about commercial ads?

They should also be avoided. Indeed, on the great majority of
newsgroups, any commercial advertising will be received with
hostility. The net is built on the voluntary cooperation of
many machines across the world, owned by businesses,
governments, and educational institutions, and because the
owners generally don't want to be paying for the distribution
of competitors' advertising and, in the case of educational and
governmental machines, they may have strict policies against
carrying any advertising at all, one of the basic premises of
the net is a "gentleman's agreement" not to post commercial
messages outside of the groups specifically set aside for that
purpose (comp.newprod and biz.*). Even for pragmatic reasons,
it's best to avoid commercial messages, simply because you
generally don't want to kick off an advertising campaign by
irritating your potential customer base. For more details
concerning the commercial use of the net, you may wish to check
out the articles your system should have available in the group

What if my site doesn't carry alt.personals or soc.penpals?

Even if your site doesn't carry a given group, it's still
possible to post to it; fortunately, that's really all you need
to be able to do with a personal ad, since you would normally
be getting responses back in email anyway. A number of
"mail-to-news gateways" exist that will take email messages you
send them and post them to any Usenet group, whether it's on
your system or not (and even if your system only gives you mail
capability and doesn't support news at all).

If you have web access, you can read news and post from
DejaNews, which allows you more to search other people's
personal ads more easily than most newsreaders. If you are
using a newsreader / posting program that allows you to modify
your headers, many if not most will still let you post to a
newsgroup that your site doesn't carry; it may just ask you to
confirm that you really do want to post to the specified
newsgroup and haven't just mistyped it.

OK, if I'm not supposed to post personals, what kinds of articles
should I post?

Think of as the electronic version of something
that's partway between a cocktail party and a soap opera.
Appropriate posts should be both interactive and
entertaining--that is, their content should both invite the
participation of others in the electronic conversation and be
entertaining to its readers. You might pose an open question to
the readership about some aspect of the human condition as it
applies to singleness or you might reply to another
contributor's post and add an observation that sheds light on a
different aspect of the issue under discussion or just makes
some people out there laugh and shoot Pepsi out through their
noses onto their computer keyboards. Personal ads are a good
example of what sort of posting isn't appropriate because they
are neither of these--they aren't conducive to public
discussion nor are they entertaining.

Remember, the best way to get a positive response on any group
is to post something that will pique the interest of the other
readers and entertain them as well. On, the best
thing to do is simply to post a message that expresses a
stunningly profound observation that is fundamental to the
human condition as it relates to singleness, one that is
unobvious yet clarifies many of the more confusing interactions
between singles and MOTAS and is expressed with succinctness,
humor, an easy, flowing writing style, and-- perhaps most
importantly--good spelling and the effective use of an editor.
Some days we'll just settle for someone who can spell and use
an editor. Then, wait for fan mail while composing your next

When in doubt, the best thing to do is read the newsgroup for a
while, at least until you get a feel for what's going on; as
the old saying goes, "lurk before you leap." (This is generally
a good approach for any newsgroup, not just You
may find it easier to leap into a conversation in progress.
Don't feel shy about "butting in": one of the advantages of the
net is that everyone can get a word in without interrupting
anyone else or being thought rude for speaking up. Keep reading
until you get to a message that inspires an interesting comment
or observation of your own and put that in a followup message;
or, if you're feeling really brave, start a whole new thread
and invite others' comments on a subject that you think is

Don't forget who your audience is--people will be reading your
words all over the world with all kinds of software and on all
sorts of service providers. They might not have read an article
you're responding to, gone to the dance club down the street
from where you live, be using the same software you are, or
know what the message numbers are on your service provider
(they're different on every system); try to include enough
information so that a typical reader will understand what
you're talking about without feeling too confused.

Do I have to be single to post on

No. The only requirement is that you have been single at some
time in your life, know someone who was, or are interested in
some of the subjects that people meeting either of these
conditions have been known to talk about.

Soc.Singles isn't exclusively for singles or where non-single
people are unwelcome, but simply a place where it's normal to
be single. The rest of the world often feels like it's built
around couples as the basic social unit, leaving singles
feeling awkward, left out, or like a "third wheel." The basic
"social unit" for is the individual, where you're
not defined by whom you're with or any less by not being with

Just what does "single" mean anyway?

In the context of, it means "unmarried"; there's a
tendency for "singles' issues" being discussed on
to be directed towards people who don't currently have a
long-term committed partner, but anything interesting and/or
important to people who aren't married is appropriate.

What's the difference between and

As the name suggests, is a moderated
group; that means that your articles get sent off to the the
"moderator" to be approved before they appear. In this
particular case, you just have to invoke the secret password
(which is revealed in the FAQ) and all
your subsequent articles will be approved automatically. This
technique was taken to eliminate hit-and-run advertising and
flamebait from people who aren't interested in taking the time
to read the group and get rid of the massive cross-posting
that's usually used to create long-running, pointless

Many of the same people post to both groups or at least read
them both and will occasionally drop in a comment in the group
they don't participate in as much. It's also permitted to
cross-post between and, but
most of the time it's not appreciated and will tend to confuse readers who haven't gone through the approval
process on, because their articles will
get bounced back and not posted to either group.

Is there anything besides personal ads that should be avoided?

Of course there are other things that are best avoided--perhaps
the most important of these are emotional issues for which
other newsgroups have been created. Topics like abortion,
politics, religion, anything by Robert McElwaine, and other
such things are best avoided, not because they aren't valid
issues, but because, like personal ads, it's too easy for them
to take over the newsgroup and drive off those of us who
participate on because we like
Remember, anyone who wants to debate abortion can go to
talk.abortion and anyone who wants to post and read personals
can go to alt.personals*--but if gets turned into,
there's no newsgroup where the soc.singlers can go to continue
their discussions.

It's also good form to avoid messages that are pretty much
content-free: don't, for example, quote an entire message that
you agree with and then append "Yeah, what she said" to the
end. Test messages should also be avoided--if you're unsure
whether your messages are getting out or not, post something to
misc.test and you'll get confirmation messages from various
sites around the world to let you know your posting software is

On, like any other group, it's best to avoid the
urge to post spelling flames--if you catch a spelling error or
a typo in someone else's post, it does very little good to post
a public message about it, since the other readers will either
have noticed the error themselves--and don't need to be told
about it--or they won't care--in which case they don't need to
be told about it. If it's an informational post that's going to
be reposted later or a signature, you may want to inform the
poster in e-mail, but unless you can turn the spelling error
into an outrageously witty observation (e.g. the original
poster has just made a screamingly funny Freudian slip in
print), there's no reason to post spelling flames publicly.

If you get the urge to add to a pun chain, please don't quote
all the puns so far and then add a pun that already appears
earlier in the message. If you do think of a pun or other witty
rejoinder to add to someone else's article, it's a good idea to
read any followups that have already been posted before posting
your witty response, just to make sure that three or four
people won't have made the same remark already.

Finally, don't ever post chain letters, regardless of whether
they're disguised as plans to create "mailing lists" for big
bucks or not--posting such a message on or any
other newsgroup is likely to get your account revoked. It's
been remarked that the "Make Money Fast" chain letters are one
of the few crimminal activities in which the perpetrator signs
his name at the bottom; not only does this make it easy to
report the person posting the article to his or her sysadmin
(and getting the account in question revoked), but the IRS does
consider illegal income taxable and would probably want to
check up on whether the writer claiming to have received
hundreds of thousands of dollars in the mail has paid
everything from income tax to self-employment tax on that
money. (In the unlikely event that the writer actually has
received that kind of money, there may even be a reward to the
person who brings this to the attention of the IRS.)

Sometimes, seems very intimidating--it's like everybody
knows everyone else and it's hard just to jump in to all the
ongoing conversations.

Remember that every poster on had to post his or
her first message sometime and, even now, it's no more
difficult for you to press the followup-key than it is for
anyone else. Sometimes it helps just to read the newsgroup for
a while--get a feel for what's going on and what the other
posters are like, what sorts of topics have already been beaten
to death many times over, and what sorts of insights, knowlege,
and experience you might have to add that others might not
think of. When you do decide to leap into the fray and post
something, don't be discouraged if it doesn't get a response
right away or even if it gets a negative response--after all,
the net is an imperfect medium and it's easy to be
misunderstood, so don't feel too bad if you sometimes don't get
your ideas across in quite the way you had intended. If you
keep your cool and continue participating, people will get to
know you, you'll get to know them, and misunderstandings will
become less frequent.

What if I don't like any of the current discussions or just find them
all boring?

On the net, just like in real life, when you don't like
something, you're better off working constructively to change
it instead of just complaining about it. If you'd like to talk
about something else, then post a message about it and add
enough of your thoughts about it that the other contributors
will have something to bite on. Writing, "what do you think
about single people who bring their pet squids on dates?" is
good, but "what do you think about single people who bring
their pet squids on dates? I was on a date last week with
someone who insisted in bringing 'Sigmund' the squid along and
taking pieces of food off my plate to feed to Sigmund without
asking first." is even better.

In general, the worst thing that you can do is post a message
along the lines of "this group sucks; I've read every single
message on this group every day for five years now and each one
has been worse than having my toenails ripped out using a badly
misaligned electric can opener." Remember that all the people
posting to and reading are real people and tend to
react rather like people would if you were to walk into a party
and sulk in the corner, loudly shouting out "this party sucks"
every few minutes while the people all around you are busily
having a good time. If the messages aren't to your liking,
either try to contribute positively towards making the group
more what you'd like it to be, use killfiles more extensively,
or locate another group that is more to your liking. Just
announcing your displeasure is unlikely to motivate the other
participants to post things that you'll want to read, since
obviously they must be enjoying the current tone and content of or they wouldn't be contributing to it.

I finally worked up the courage to post my first message and nobody
responded to it. Do you think that the soc.singlers are conspiring
to ignore me?

Alas, the contributors to soc.singlers are far too disorganized
to conspire against anyone. Most messages don't generate
responses anyway, otherwise the volume of would be
even greater than it is. So, you may need to post a few
messages before anyone responds to something you've written. If
you want to maximize your chances of getting a response, try to
make sure that your articles contain room for others to
respond--they should invite others to add their thoughts to
yours and, ideally, say something new and different that will
get the attention of your readers. Sometimes messages can even
be too good--they can simply cover the whole subject and do it
so authoritatively that there's nothing left for anyone to say,
so not getting a response to a message doesn't mean that people
aren't reading it or aren't interested by it.

Help! I just posted an article and got flamed horribly for it-- will I
ever be able to show my face in public again?

Yep; just make sure you don't show it by posting a .gif of your
face to a non-binaries group. The truth is that most people
flame articles, not people--you could post two messages in one
day and have one flamed mercilessly and the other lauded with
ASCII roses by the same people. Just because someone flamed you
for something you said doesn't mean that the person in question
hates you--the best thing to do is just take it all in stride
and keep on going. In the event that you do find that you're
getting flamed an awful lot, you may wish to consider your
presentation: even if you're saying perfectly reasonable
things, a lot of people will have trouble with what you're
saying if you 1) sound like you think you speak for all
humanity or 2) keep saying the same thing over and over instead
of listening to how people are responding to you and responding
yourself to what they say.

Contrary to popular belief, there is no requirement that one
respond to each and every flame directed one's way. Even if
someone stoops so low as to call you a "pompous spamhead" or
impugns your ability to make use of groceries that haven't been
pre-chewed, you are still free to ignore it and get on with
your life; in fact, doing so is often recommended, since people
tend to skim a lot of messages and running across a whole
stream of articles arguing over whose head bears the greatest
resemblance to lunchmeat is a lot more likely to leave the
casual reader with the impression that you _are_ a pompous
spamhead than one or two ignored flames would have. Responding
to flames and personal attacks tends to focus attention on
them, which encourages those who flame you and is likely to
make casual readers see you in a worse light. So, when in
doubt, ignore the flames and respond to the articles that
inspire you to say interesting and thought-provoking things.

Hey--someone just posted a personal ad to! Should I flame
the pants off this person?

That depends; if you can think of a wonderfully witty and
entertaining way to flame the ad, go ahead; otherwise it's not
generally worth the trouble of putting up a public post about
it for the whole world to read and it might be better just to
send a note to the poster in email suggesting that this is
uncool. If you do want to respond publicly, you might want to
change the subject from "lonely speedboat owner seeks fellow
marmalade enthusiast" to something more like "No Personals,
Please (was: lonely speedboat owner seeks...)"; that way people
just scanning the topics or reading the newsgroup with nn or
other newsreaders that just show you the subjects unless you
select the article won't get the impression from reading the
headers that personals are the mainstay of,
those people who don't want to read the flames generated by
personals can just put "/No Personals, Please/:j" into their
killfiles. is just full of flaming and angry-sounding people this
week; can't you guys all just get along?

Not everybody logs onto the net to meet people and enjoy
friendly conversations; a lot of people just enjoy being
obnoxious and feeling like they have a lot of power and are
really cool if they can piss other people off, especially if
they can get someone else to lose his or her cool and act like
a twit too. Posting a message saying that somebody like that is
a rude and annoying twerp with no social skills and probably
has the personal hygiene normally associated with week-old
roadkill isn't going to make them rethink their ways, it'll
only encourage them.

On any newsgroup, if you don't like flaming and angry words,
don't add to them; what you write is part of the newsgroup just
like everybody else's articles, so the best way to make the
newsgroup have the style you enjoy is to post the kind of
articles you'd like to read if they'd been written by someone

Sometimes I write stuff that is just so incredible I think I should
crosspost it to every other newsgroup on the net. Is that OK?

No. In general on any newsgroup, crossposting should not be
done more than necessary. Inevitably, when you crosspost a
discussion about your taste in swimwear to,
alt.personals, rec.scuba, rec.nude, and alt.culture.urdu, the
thread will quickly diverge in directions that most of the
groups don't want to read about. If you do this too often,
people from the various groups will start showing up at your
house and tearing up your flowerbeds. If you reply to a message
that is crossposted, be sure to trim off the newsgroups for
which your reply is not appropriate or at the very least set
the Followup-To: field to the group for which the subject
matter is most appropriate.

Unfortunately, the net tends to attract people who can't get
attention or satisfaction in life except by cross-posting
obnoxious and self-important messages all over the place in
hopes that someone will pay attention to them. Usually it's not
worth bothering to reply to these sorts of articles; the
original author probably doesn't care what you say or have much
interest in reading it, but simply enjoys knowing that you were
annoyed by it enough to respond.

What is this "editing" stuff I keep hearing about?

"Editing," which is most commonly used in the phrase "please
learn how to edit your messages" refers to deleting unnecessary
quoted material. It's not at all unusual for newcomers to the
net to reply to long messages by quoting the entire thing and
then responding to a comment made somewhere in the middle of
the original post by adding a single sentence onto the end.
It's much better to delete quoted text from the original
message if it isn't necessary to what you're trying to say.
Remember that many people out there, when they see huge reams
of quoted material that obviously hasn't been edited down, will
simply skip over to the next message without bothering to read
your sterling prose at the end, so a little attention to the
mechanisms of cleaning up quoted material will help you get
your points across. Also be sure to delete any quoted material
left at the end of your message--it's easy to respond to
something in the middle or even the beginning and forget to lop
off the quoted stuff at the end that you aren't responding to.

Don't be too industrious when deleting text, though--be sure to
leave enough quoted text so that the readers will know what
you're talking about even if they don't remember the message
that you're responding to and be careful not to trim off the
attributions (the names of the people saying the things you're
quoting) that go with the text you leave in. (Do feel
encouraged to remove the names of people whose comments have
been entirely deleted, though.)

How about editing subject headers?

This is an important and much-neglected art. Often the topic
will have strayed far from its original one and a discussion on
gerbil rolfing will be carried out under the heading "Favorite
skiing lingerie." When this happens, it's entirely appropriate
to change the heading to something a little closer to the topic
under discussion. On the other hand, it's best not to change
the topic too often, especially when it's a hotly debated topic
that is only peripherally (if at all) involved with singledom
and it is likely that many people will be killing the topic
(see the section on killfiles later in this file) in an attempt
to avoid reading about it. Sometimes, when you do change the
subject header, you may wish to list what the previous topic
was as well; for example, if the topic being discussed under
"Spiders vs. Lemon Pate'" had strayed to an in-depth
examination of the sexual habits of people with mohawks, you
might want to change the subject to "Mohawk Sex (was: Spiders
vs. Lemon Pate')" which would allow those who are following the
discussion under one heading to continue to follow it under the
new heading.

Even more important than occasionally changing the subject to
match the actual topic being discussed is eliminating
inappropriate groups when replying to a cross-posted article;
no matter what newsgroup you might be reading when you decide
to respond to an article, if you see more than one group listed
in the "Newsgroups:" line of the header, your article is going
to appear in all of them, so make sure that you delete any
inappropriate groups from the list before sending your article.
There are enough people out there who crosspost to a lot of
groups maliciously, just to see how many people they can
irritate with a few keystrokes, that a lot of readers don't
have much patience left when it comes to articles
inappropriately crossposted to the newsgroups they read, so you
can make a lot of people pissed off at you by responding to a
heavily crossposted article without taking the time to trim off
the groups where your message doesn't really belong. Be warned,
too, that there's enough of a problem with crossposting that
many readers simply kill [don't read] articles that are
crossposted to more than a few groups or, sometimes,
crossposted at all, so a lot of people won't even see your
article if you leave the extraneous groups in.

If you simply must reply to a heavily crossposted article and
have your article appear in all the groups the previous article
was posted to, you also have the option of listing just the
relevant groups in the "Followup-To:" line of the header; that
way responses to your article will show up just in the
newsgroups you list and you'll annoy fewer readers, since even
if they think your article is inappropriate for the group
they're reading, at least you'll look like you're making some
effort to be considerate of other groups.

What else can I do to improve my ASCII appearance?

Any article posted to will be read by many, many
thousands of people across the world who will be basing their
impressions of you as a person entirely on the messages you
post, so it's worthwhile to make sure your messages are clear
and readable. Probably the single most common mistake is not
putting in carriage returns when they are needed, either typing
in an entire paragraph or message in a single line (which looks
sloppy, is difficult to quote properly, and may be truncated by
some offline readers) or only putting in a return after more
than 80 columns (which looks even worse, since on most systems
this will show up as alternating full lines and really short
lines). Most of the time, it's best to limit your lines to no
more than 72 columns, which leaves enough extra space that they
will still be easily readable even when quoted a time or two.
Even if your system can handle reformatting messages so they
look nice anyway, remember that most systems don't do this and,
if you aren't careful with inserting carriage returns, your
messages will be harder to read by others.

Other obvious elements like correct spelling, punctuation, and
grammar help make your message more readable too (and will make
you all the more likely to generate positive responses rather
than grammar flames). Another thing to avoid is typing in your
messages in all-caps (LIKE THIS) which makes it seem like
you're shouting--plus it makes it less likely that you'll be
taken seriously, since the percentage of words in all-caps in a
message has been linked in several studies to the
psychoceramicity (crackpottedness) of the author.

If you're replying to someone else's article, it helps to quote
at least some of what the other article says, just so people
have a better idea of what you're talking about. Delete any
unnecessary quoted material, but leave in the attributions (the
list of who said what) of any text that you do leave in. If you
want to refer to another article explicitly, it's best to
mention the message-ID of the article in question--don't tell
your readers the number of the article on your system, because
article numbers will be different on every system.

What do these weird combinations of punctuation marks I see frequently
in people's messages mean?

These are called "smileys" since the most common ones used are
little pictograms representing a smiling face: ":-)". Because
the net is inherently a text medium, it lacks many of the
nuances of ordinary face-to-face conversation like facial
expressions and tone of voice, so people try to make up for
them in various ways, the most popular being the "smiley."

Standard smileys include:

:-) :) smile 8-) B-) smile w/ glasses
;-) wink :-> ironic/lecherous smile
:-( sad/unhappy :-O surprise

There's an ongoing debate as to whether smileys are a good
thing or a bad thing; some people like to use them whenever
possible, others feel that writing should stand on its own
without having to point out whether something was supposed to
be funny or not.

You'll also note unrepentant programmer types adding variants
of C compiler directives to their posts or use parodies of HTML
tags to clue you in on the deep, inner feelings that lurk
beneath the facade of their words. For example:



<VOICE="Bela Lugosi">Good Eeevening</VOICE>

In general, it should be pretty obvious even to the
non-programmer what the writer means to convey with these

How do you pronounce "soc"?

There's no currently accepted standard. The currently most
popular pronunciations are "soak," "sosh" (like in 'social'),
"sock," and "soas" (as in "sociological"). The least popular
pronunciations include "sach," "sick," and "throat-warbler
mangrove." The IEEE and CCITT are jointly working on developing
an international standard for the pronunciation of "soc" and
expect that the first draft of the standard will be available
some time near the end of the third quarter of 2011.

What's a ".GIF", ".JPG" or ".MPG"?

GIF stands for "Graphics Interchange Format" and is a common
format in which pictures are stored for display on a computer
screen; when someone on mentions something that
someone else would really like to have seen, the latter person
may jokingly ask for a "GIF"--but even if you're asked for one,
don't even think of posting it to, since they tend
to be huge and are expressly forbidden on non-binaries groups.
The same goes for .JPG or JPEG (another popular graphics
format) and .MPG, MPEG, or .AVI (graphics formats for
computer-displayed "movies.")

Is there a World-Wide Web page for

Yes. Trygve Lode ( faq maintainer and lunatic)
maintains a homepage at

which is slowly being expanded as people give me suggestions
for what they'd like to see there.

Ross ridge maintains a page at

Additionally, homepages for the Dallas Poker Mini-Boink and the
DenverBoink are available at
(courtesy of Thomas Russo; note that "DPMB" is in all-caps)

If you're not familiar with the World-Wide Web, but would like
to be, you may wish to check out the WWW FAQ on news.answers or
ftp it from rtfm (/pub/usenet/news.answers/www/faq/part1 and

What, exactly, are "Disney Chemicals"?

"Disney Chemicals" refers to the hypothesized fizzy brain
chemicals that can cause a person to believe in "happily ever
afters," the impending appearance of the prince/princess of
one's dreams on one's doorstep, and an eternity of true love
and blissful togetherness.

How do you pronounce "Trygve"

It's sorta like "TREEG-vah" except that the 'EE' is between a
long e and a short i.

How come nice guys don't get laid?

Nice guys do get laid; it's guys who whine a lot who generally

How come nice guys/gals/small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri get
dumped for jerks/bimbos/hyperfungal Rigellian psuedoshoggoths?

Mostly for the same reasons jerks get dumped for nice guys,
bimbos get dumped for other bimbos, and hyperfungal Rigellian
pseudoshoggoths get rejected in favor of lesser Altairian
shaggy-toothed carno-weeds. No matter how much more keenly you
feel it when it happens to you than when it happens to someone
else, the fact of the matter is that getting
dumped/rejected/passed over in favor of others happens to
pretty much everybody, no matter how nice or mean they happen
to be. Remember, too, that your perception of someone you've
just been dumped for is unlikely to match that of the person
who just dumped you: most people tend to view their rivals
through a jaundiced eye to begin with; your dumper's tastes,
turn-ons, and values are rarely quite the same as yours; and
it's likely that your rival will feel jealous of _you_, which
tends to get in the way of your rival showing you his or her
best side. It's also worth noting that the person who dumped
you may be trying to make you feel better by emphasizing your
rival's bad qualities and failing to mention the good ones,
figuring that bubbling over about his or her wonderful new
partner would only make you feel worse.

No matter why you've been dumped or whom you've been dumped
for, the best advice is generally the same: take it in stride
and get on with your life. There's always tomorrow and very few
people have ever found love and happiness by pining away and

I met someone last week at a party; what do you think this person's
deepest and innermost feelings for me are?

That's one of the most common questions new people ask on and, unfortunately, one of the most difficult ones
to answer in any meaningful way. Trouble is, all people are
different and what would mean something for one person is
likely to mean something completely different for someone
else--and if you have trouble figuring out someone you know and
have first-hand experience with, imagine how difficult it can
be for people who have never met this person and are dealing
only with second-hand information to figure out what's on that
person's mind. That doesn't mean you can't ask the other
readers of what they think, but it does mean that
you shouldn't take any advice you get too seriously or think of
it as a substitute for actually talking to the person you're
curious about.

Is it possible for men and women to be just friends?

Yes; many people have friends of the opposite sex without ever
having any sort of sexual relationship with them. This, of
course, doesn't imply anything one way or the other as to
whether you or any other given individual can really be "just
friends" with a member of the opposite sex.

Do conversations on the net ever blossom into torrid romances?

Yes; it's actually not even particularly unusual. Conversations
over the net have the advantage of being a non-threatening way
to get to know someone and, sometimes, if a person has managed
to interest you through articles and/or e-mail and this person
continues to interest you when you meet for real, well, all
sorts of interesting things have been known to happen. However,
this doesn't mean that simply by posting (even if you post an
awful lot) you'll meet your dream mate; indeed, if it's obvious
that you're posting for this reason, you'll tend to turn off
most of the people who might otherwise be interested. So,
basically, if you're open to finding a mate this way, the best
thing to do is just to hang out and have a good time and if it
happens, it happens--and if it doesn't, you'll at least have
had a good time. (Strangely enough, there are even some folks
who recommend this approach to mate-finding for real life as

What about personal ads?

Don't post them on

Will this message ever end?

Well, it always has before.

How about posting articles asking for readers to send postcards to a
kid in England who is dying of cancer and wants to set the
world record for most cards received before he dies?

No, don't do it. He's been cured, has asked many times for
people to stop sending him cards, and thoroughly regrets ever
having had the idea in the first place. The "Neiman Marcus $250
Cookie Recipe" story and the "Good Times Virus" are also
well-known urban legends; if you want to read about them or,
for some reason, write about them, the newsgroup
alt.folklore.urban is devoted just to that subject. Two other
good places to dig up the details on these and other urban
legends are the San Fernando Valley Folklore Society's Urban
Legend Reference Pages ( ) and the
alt.folklore.urban archives ( ) .

How come there are so many kooks on the net?

In a word, attention. It's an unfortunate fact of life that a
turd in an art gallery gets a lot more attention than yet
another Picasso. Getting people across the world to tell you
that you're a disgusting twit seems like a strange thing to get
turned on by, but obviously enough people out there derive
sufficient enjoyment and satisfaction from it to keep the net
well-stocked with fertilizer. Most net.kooks quickly find a few
stock tactics that are sure to annoy enough people into
responding that they can just sit back and repost the same
stuff year after year and bask in all the attention it gets
them with practically no effort on their part. Arguing with a
net kook only provides further encouragement--if you want to
keep all the Picassos from being replaced by wall-to-wall
turds, the only effective approach is to ignore them until they
go off in search of other people still naive enough to play the
Pay-Attention-To-Meeee game.

OK, we're getting near the end of the file now--what's this about
"killfiles" that you promised to tell us about?

Most newsreaders have a provision for "killing" messages; that
is, marking them as read before you get to them, so your
newsreader then skips over them automatically instead of
showing them to you. I'm going to discuss how to do this in rn
and its derivatives (trn, etc.) but most other newsreaders
should have similar capabilities (though the command syntax
won't necessarily be identical). Topics are the easiest things
to kill, as you need only type the 'k' key and all subsequent
messages with that topic will be marked as read; you can also
kill things in more complex ways by typing in a "regular
expression" followed by ":j", telling the newsreader to "junk"
(mark as read) all the articles that match that regular
expression. Remember, you still can read the messages that have
been marked as read if you want to, either by typing in the
message number or by using the 'N' and 'P' commands to move to
the next and previous messages rather than the 'n' and 'p'

A regular expression normally consists of a pair of '/'s with a
pattern you'd like to match in the middle. For example, if you
wanted to kill all messages whose topics included the word
"banana" you could type in "/banana/:j" and hit a return (and
it would list the numbers of the articles that were being
junked--the topics "BananaSizeWar" and "vegemite and banana
delight; mmmm-mmm" would be junked. The default is to check
just the topic line and not differentiate between upper- and
lower-case letters; that is, it wouldn't matter whether the
topic had the word "banana" or "bAnAnA" in it. If you want it
to be case sensitive and select "bAnAnA" but not "Banana", a
'c' should be placed after the trailing slash: "/bAnAnA/c:j".
You can also have your newsreader check more than just the
topic line--adding an 'h' after the trailing slash makes the
newsreader check the entire header (allowing you to kill
messages by a given author and/or from a particular site) and
adding an 'a' will check the whole article; thus,
"/grunting/a:j" would mark every article containing the word
"grunting" as read. (And, of course, this may be combined with
the 'c' option so that "/Grunting/ca:j" would kill off only
those articles in which "Grunting" is capitalized.)

You can also type in an expression like this without the ":j"
at the end, in which case it will simply locate and display the
article that matches the pattern. Using question marks ("?")
instead of slashes will make it search backwards instead of
forwards and the "r" option makes it scan articles that you've
already read. Thus, if you were trying to find the article in
which somebody mentioned something about the use of badger dung
as an aphrodesiac, you could type in "?badger dung?ar" for it
to search all preceding articles for a mention of badger dung;
if you want it to mark all the articles that mention badger
dung as unread, you can type in "?badger dung?ar:m"

Kill commands like those above may be placed in a file where
they will be performed automatically when you read a group.
This file goes in a directory off your News directory
corresponding to the group name and the default name for this
file is KILL (note capitals). Thus, the killfile for would be

[your home directory]/News/soc/singles/KILL

Hitting a 'K' will not only kill the topic you're reading, but
also add a command to kill that topic in future sessions to
your killfile for that group, creating it if it doesn't exist,
even creating the directories to put it in if necessary. While
this is the easiest way to add to a killfile, it is also
generally the least useful, since most topics do die or change
after a while, but unless you edit that line out of your
killfile, it will continue to live in there, eating up
processor time and generally slowing everything down whenever
you read that group. In general, keeping your killfiles to a
minimum is a good approach, especially if you are sharing a
computer with other users who don't like the system bogging
down any more than you do.

A few examples:

killing messages from
/^From: *beavis@butthead\.edu/h:j

killing messages cross-posted from alt.boring.prattle:

killing messages crossposted to three or more groups:

killing all messages that even mention hairballs:

You'll notice that I used a few strange characters up there:
these are characters that have special meaning when used in an
expression like one of these: '^' indicates the beginning of a
line so that the first example will only consider lines that
begin with "from:"; '.' is a single-character wildcard that
will match any character (that's why when we really want a '.',
we have to precede it with a '\' as we've done in the above
examples); and '*' means that the pattern should match an
arbitrary number of characters matching the character
immediately before it in the expression (in the first example,
you can see that we use it to allow there to be an arbitrary
number of spaces between "From:" and "beavis" and in the second
example, we've used it after the '.' wildcard so that there can
be an arbitrary number of characters of any kind between
"Newsgroups:" and "alt"). More about regular expressions and
killfiles can be found by typing "man rn" and "man ed" at your
Unix prompt.

Is there any copyright on this FAQ?

Yep; the entire contents of this FAQ is written and maintained
by Trygve Lode ( and is (c) Copyright 2000. Feel
free to copy, transmit, and distribute this FAQ in unmodified
form for any not-for-profit use in any medium you desire
(electronic, print, interpretive dance, etc.). If you wish to
include all or part of the FAQ in any for-profit publication or
in connection with any for-profit service or wish to distribute
a modified version of the FAQ for any purpose, get ahold of me
for any necessary arrangements. (Even if you're going to
distribute it for non-profit use, you may wish to get ahold of
me anyway, just to make sure you have the most up-to-date
version available.)

Are you sure I can't post personals on

Yes, completely sure. Don't even think about it.

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