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Moderated Newsgroups FAQ

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Denis McKeon

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Feb 26, 2009, 3:03:02 AM2/26/09
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Archive-name: usenet/moderated-ng-faq
Posting-Frequency: twice monthly
Copyright: Copyright 1996,1997 by Denis McKeon
URL: http://www.swcp.com/~dmckeon/mod-faq.html
URL: ftp://rtfm.mit.edu/pub/usenet/news.answers/news/moderated-ng-faq
Last-change: 11 Mar 1997 by Dmc...@swcp.com (Denis McKeon)
Version: 0.7.01

# Here is a current draft of my FAQ on moderated newsgroups
# with comments & notes placed to the right of hash(#) marks.
#
# I would be happy to get suggestions for changes to this draft,
# preferably structured as replacement text, or as diffs.
#
# Version 0.7.00 included many small changes/additions based on suggestions
# from a number of people. Since the purpose of the FAQ is to describe
# existing policies, and not to set policy, I posted diffs and a
# request for comments from knowledgeable net.folk on some of the changes
# and suggestions to news.groups and/or news.admin.net-abuse.policy

Moderated Newsgroups FAQ

This is for people who know a little about Usenet and other Internet
newsgroups, and who want to know more about moderated newsgroups.

If a proposal has been made to moderate one of the newsgroups you
read, this FAQ should help clarify what moderation might bring.

If you are considering volunteering to help moderate a newsgroup,
you should read this FAQ and most of the things it points to.

If you want to learn more about the process of creating or changing
newsgroups, or to be the proponent for creating a new group or for
changing the status of an existing group, see the FAQ section below.

Table of Contents:

Section 1 - Moderation in a nutshell
Section 2 - Frequently Answered Questions
Section 3 - Frequently *Argued* Questions
Section 4 - What does it take to become a moderator?

Expanded Table of Contents

Section 1 - Moderation in a nutshell
Q1.1 What is a moderated newsgroup and how does it work?
Q1.2 What happens to articles in a moderated newsgroup?

Section 2 - Frequently Answered Questions
Q2.1 So where did my message go?
Q2.2 What are some possible problems for moderated groups?
Q2.3 Moderation seems like a lot of work - is it worth it?
Q2.4 What is robo-moderation?
Q2.5 Where can I learn more about the newsgroup creation process?
Q2.6 How about more on Usenet, moderation, robo-moderation, etc.?

Section 3 - Frequently *Argued* Questions
Q3.1 Are there any alternatives to moderation?
Q3.2 Will a moderated group have slower propagation of messages?
Q3.3 How does moderation differ from censorship?
Q3.4 How are changes made to a moderated group?
Q3.5 Could changes be forced upon a moderated group?
Q3.6 Can moderation be accomplished retro-actively?

Section 4 - What does it take to become a moderator?
Q4.1 What is the absolute minimum needed to act as a moderator?
Q4.2 Can one act as a moderator: from a PC? off-line? over POP?
Q4.2 over PPP/SLIP? without a shell account? without knowing Unix?
Q4.3 What resources do most active moderators have?
Q4.4 What software tools are useful for moderation?
Q4.5 Is knowing Unix optional? Does it help to know Unix?
Q4.6 What moderation tools are available in non-Unix environments?
Q4.7 Can you moderate from an on-line service? (AOL, CIS, etc.)

Section 1 - Moderation in a nutshell

------------------------------

Subject: Q1.1 What is a moderated newsgroup and how does it work?

In unmoderated newsgroups, the local news server software normally
makes messages posted to the newsgroup available for reading soon
after they are posted, and the messages then spread to other news
servers over the next few days.

In a moderated newsgroup, the local news server software
will automatically e-mail the message to a moderation address,
where a moderator acts as a gatekeeper, posting to the newsgroup
only those messages which the moderator allows to be posted.

The basis of moderation is the consent of the users of the group,
in Usenet, by the vote on the charter and moderator(s).

In the 8 Usenet news hierarchies (comp, rec, soc, sci, misc, news,
talk, & humanities) a moderated newsgroup is created by the same
RFD/CFV (RFD: Request for Discussion, CFV: Call for Votes)
process used to create or modify other newsgroups, with the
difference that the RFD and CFV will include language specifying
moderator(s) and moderation policy. (See the Guidelines)

Non-Usenet news hierarchies (alt.*, <national>.*, <local>.*)
may have other rules (or no rules) for group creation and change.
Look in their groups - usually *.config or *.general - for FAQs.

All moderated groups are generally handled in the same way by
local news server software, regardless of their news hierarchy.

Moderation is usually proposed for a newsgroup to:

decrease the volume of off-topic posts and/or cross-posted threads

increase the significant on-topic content of posts

and thus increase the "signal-to-noise" (S/N) ratio for the group.
For a more detailed discussion of these issues, see:

Newsgroups: news.lists,news.groups,news.answers
Subject: List of Moderators for Usenet

There are 280+ moderated groups in the 8 Usenet hierarchies,
mostly in comp., soc., sci., and rec.; and about 80+ in alt.*.

Some parallel models for moderation are:

a refereed scientific journal

a publication with a small subscriber base and an unpaid editor

a restaurant with a polite but determined doorman

Note that while the moderator controls the day-to-day content
of a single medium - newsgroup, mailing list, journal, etc. -
the moderator does not control the entire topic area.

For instance, the readers could migrate to a related newsgroup
or mailing list, and discuss the topic area there.

Also note that when we say the moderator "approves" a message,
we just mean that the moderator allows the message to be posted
to the moderated newsgroup, and not that the moderator agrees
(or disagrees) with the content of the message, or the position
of the poster on any issue, and so forth.

------------------------------

Subject: Q1.2 What happens to articles in a moderated newsgroup?

When someone tries to post a news article to a moderated group,
the local news server software automatically intercepts the post,
and e-mails it to a moderation address for processing by the moderator.

If the local news software cannot handle this, the poster could
manually e-mail the article to the moderation address directly.

Once the message reaches the moderation address, it may be handled
by a human moderator, or forwarded to one of a panel of moderators,
or filtered by some form of moderation software.

If a message is approved and posted by a moderator, it appears on the
moderator's news server and then spreads to other news servers.

Note that newsgroup moderation has some similarities to mailing
list operation - messages go to a hub, and are then redistributed.

An attempt to cross-post a message to a moderated group and to other
newsgroups will go to the moderation address for the moderated
group, and will not show up in any of the other groups on the local
server unless and until the moderator approves it as a cross-post.

An attempt to cross-post a message to more than one moderated group
will go to the moderation address for one group, in most cases,
the moderated group that appears first on the Newsgroups: line,
and will be handled further as that moderator chooses.

Each moderated newsgroup is operated independently from other
moderated newsgroups, and the procedure used by each moderator
to handle messages is probably unique to that news group,
although some techniques are in common use by many moderators.

Some common techniques include:

a moderation address different from the moderator's personal mailbox

some scripts or programs to aid in manually handling messages

some automatic ("robotic") process for handling messages

a way to distribute messages to one or more of a panel of moderators

Many of the earliest moderated newsgroups existed to distribute
free or shareware software sources, so early moderators tended to be
fairly astute about the workings of e-mail and net news, and capable
of writing their own software to support moderation.

More recently, as moderation has been adopted in less technical groups,
moderators have tended to be well aware of the topic they plan to
moderate, but less prepared to cope with the technical side of
moderation, and are likely to recruit someone to help them with
technical support of whatever scripts and programs they need.

Moderated groups frequently have names that end in .announce,
.moderated, .info, .answers, .research, or .reviews. Recently
there has been a trend to create moderated alternatives to existing
high-volume groups, so foo.bar.moderated joins an existing foo.bar.
The .announce and .answers groups tend to contain only announcements
or FAQs, while .info groups tend to have both of those.
Moderated groups in sci.* and soc.* tend to be discussion groups,
while in comp.* and rec.* they tend to be announcement groups.

Section 2 - Frequently Answered Questions

------------------------------

Subject: Q2.1 So where did my message go?

If you tried to post a message to a moderated group, and never saw
it appear in the newsgroup on your news server, realize that it may
have not been approved by the moderator as appropriate for the group.

Also, e-mail, net news, and robo-mod software are imperfect, and
human moderators are, after all, human. Your message may have
failed to reach the moderator, or been lost in a system or disk
crash, or been misplaced by the moderator, or been approved and
then failed to propagate correctly via net news back to your site.

You might want to look carefully at the Date: headers in recent
messages in the moderated newsgroup, to see if other posts are being
approved, and to get a sense of the usual turnaround time.
Perhaps the moderator is busy with life, and approvals are either
slow in coming, or are coming in batches. You might check another
news server, or Deja News at http://www.dejanews.com/

If, after you've waited a few days, and seen other articles approved
that were probably submitted as the same time as yours, and you are
sure that what you had to say is on-topic, on-charter, and is still
important, you should probably send your message again, perhaps with
a request for an acknowledgement. Newsgroup charters and moderator's
policies will vary from group to group, and you should not expect
a rejection note for every article that is not approved, especially
if the article is off-topic or inappropriately cross-posted.

------------------------------

Subject: Q2.2 What are some possible problems for moderated groups?

Since messages are sent to a single moderation address, anything
relying on that address is a possible single point of failure for
the moderation process. However, most types of system failure are
shortlived, and operation of the group can resume rapidly.

Another possible problem is that the moderator will "burn out"
- get exhausted from dealing with the volume of messages, questions,
complaints, arguments, etc., etc. Having multiple moderators or
being able to hand off the responsibility to a substitute can help.

If the people posting to the newsgroup and relying on the moderator
remember to be reasonable and courteous that can help a lot as well.

------------------------------

Subject: Q2.3 Moderation seems like a lot of work - is it worth it?

A lot of readers think it is worth it, and some moderators agree. :-)

Since 1995 many proposals have been made to moderate previously
unmoderated groups in the wake of increased volume of both on-topic
and off-topic posts, widely cross-posted trolls, and a general
perception that the signal-to-noise ratio of Usenet has been dropping.

If you are a reader who wants to help the moderator of a group,
volunteer to help - even if the moderation process is going just
fine right now, your help might be useful later or in other areas.

Other activities that can help add value to a newsgroup include:

periodic posting of FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) files

archive site(s) accessible by ftp, http, and/or e-mail, of:

FAQ files

other summaries or indexes of the topic or of old threads

full text of old posts (perhaps threaded into hypertext)

a gateway to/from a mailing list for people
who can not (or will not) read Usenet posts.

a digest and/or index mailing list

technical support of (robo-)moderation for the moderator

------------------------------

Subject: Q2.4 What is robo-moderation?

Robotic moderation, robo-mod, auto-mod, and using a mod-bot
all refer to use of scripts or programs to process messages.

Typically, messages arriving at the moderation address are examined
to see if they fit criteria determined by the moderator, and if they
do they are automatically approved and posted to the newsgroup.

Messages which do not fit the criteria may be manually approved, or
discarded as inappropriate for that newsgroup, or handled in some
other way by the moderator, which may include changes to the criteria.

For example, if a message arrives from a previously unknown poster
(or e-mail address), the moderator may read the message and approve
it, send the new poster a copy of the FAQ for the newsgroup,
and add the poster's address to a list of pre-approved posters,
so the poster's next message will be automatically approved.

Or, the moderator might reject the message (as for a too-common FAQ),
send the poster a copy of the FAQ file, and expect that the
prospective poster's next message is more appropriate for approval.

Commonly used robo-mod criteria might include:

message is not a duplicate of a recent message

message has new material in good proportion to quoted material

message is from a known poster who can be expected to post well

message contains words or phrases
particular to the topic of the newsgroup.

negative criteria might include:

message is inappropriately cross-posted

message is from unknown poster

message contains words or phrases
that trigger review by human moderator
("make money fast," "modem tax," "good times virus")

For an example of a feature-laden and very security-conscious
robo-moderation package, see:

http://www.algebra.com/~ichudov/usenet/scrm/robomod/robomod.html
STUMP - Secure Team-based Usenet Moderation Program

ftp://ftp.algebra.com/users/ichudov/pub/stump/stump.tar.gz
STUMP sources

------------------------------

Subject: Q2.5 Where can I learn more about the newsgroup creation process?

Introductory messages about Usenet in general are periodically posted
to the newsgroup news:news.announce.newusers

Messages describing the newsgroup changing process are posted
several times a month with "How to" in the Subject: line to the
newsgroup news:news.announce.newgroups

To learn how Usenet newsgroups are created or changed through the
RFD/CFV process (RFD: Request for Discussion, CFV: Call for Votes)
look for these articles which describe the process in detail:

Subject: How to Create a New Usenet Newsgroup

(subtitled: Guidelines for Usenet Group Creation
and often referred to as the Guidelines.)

Subject: How to Write a Good Newsgroup Proposal
Subject: How to Format and Submit a New Group Proposal

Before proposing that a new Usenet newsgroup be created, you should
first follow at least one newsgroup proposal debate from RFD to
RESULT in news.groups, and follow and become familiar with the
topics and readership of the 5 to 10 newsgroups or mailing lists
most closely related to the topic.

The Guidelines and other introductory articles are also available by
anonymous FTP or with many Web browsers in one or more of:

ftp://rtfm.mit.edu/pub/usenet/news.announce.newgroups/
ftp://rtfm.mit.edu/pub/usenet/news.announce.newusers/
ftp://rtfm.mit.edu/pub/usenet/news.groups/

Look for filenames which are the Subject: lines
with spaces replaced by underlines, thus:

How_to_Create_a_New_Usenet_Newsgroup

Or you can get them by e-mail by sending e-mail thus:

To: mail-...@rtfm.mit.edu

send usenet/news.groups/How_to_Create_a_New_Usenet_Newsgroup

For help on the MIT mail-server, send e-mail thus:

To: mail-...@rtfm.mit.edu

help

------------------------------

Subject: Q2.6 How about more on Usenet, moderation, robo-moderation, etc.?

If your only access to information about Usenet is Usenet itself,
then you should look in the newsgroup news:news.answers or in the
other *.answers newsgroups and search for Subject: lines that
contain key words for the topic you are interested in. Or, if you
know which newsgroups handle that topic, look in those newsgroups
for FAQ or "Frequent".

If you have access to a World Wide Web browser, or to
anonymous FTP, you can use the http or ftp URLs below.

There are other Usenet documents available at one of several archives:

ftp://ftp.uu.net/usenet/
ftp://ftp.isc.org/pub/usenet/
ftp://rtfm.mit.edu/pub/usenet/usenet/
http://www.cis.ohio-state.edu/hypertext/faq/usenet/usenet/

And at any of the *.answers archives, at:

North America:
ftp://ftp.uu.net/usenet/news.answers
ftp://mirrors.aol.com/pub/rtfm/usenet
ftp://ftp.seas.gwu.edu/pub/rtfm

Europe:
ftp://ftp.uni-paderborn.de/pub/FAQ
ftp://ftp.Germany.EU.net/pub/newsarchive/news.answers
ftp://ftp.sunet.se/pub/usenet

Asia:
ftp://nctuccca.edu.tw/USENET/FAQ
ftp://hwarang.postech.ac.kr/pub/usenet/news.answers
ftp://ftp.hk.super.net/mirror/faqs

and for other countries - for details see:
ftp://rtfm.mit.edu/pub/usenet/news.answers/news-answers/introduction

Note that since use of the Internet has grown so rapidly recently,
the archives at uu.net and mit.edu are often heavily loaded at peak
times and may be slow to respond, or be unavailable - if so, try the
other archives listed above, or you may find the URLs below to have
faster response, although they are more likely to change over time.

As general resources for the newsgroup creation process, see:

news:news.announce.newgroups
Calls for newgroups & announcements of same.
(also messages on how to write proposals, etc.)

http://www.duke.edu/ugm/ UseNet Group Mentors

ftp://ftp.amdahl.com/public/uvv/group-mentors.html
(reachable by e-mail at:
mailto:group-...@acpub.duke.edu

http://www.uvv.org/
ftp://ftp.amdahl.com/public/uvv
UseNet Volunteer Votetakers Information Center

http://www.usenet.org.uk/guidelines.html
Guidelines for Group Creation for uk.*
(an easier creation method for a smaller net.community)

For a somewhat dated reference to moderation, see:

ftp://ftp.sterling.com/moderators
USENET Moderators Archive

ftp://ftp.sterling.com/moderators/handbook/handbook.draft
Moderator's Handbook

For examples of charters for existing moderated groups, see:

ftp://ftp.uu.net/usenet/news.announce.newgroups/ archive of CFVs
ftp://ftp.isc.org/pub/usenet/news.announce.newgroups/

or any of:

http://www.duke.edu/~tfdpress/rfrpost.html
rec.food.recipes Posting Guidelines

http://www.bix.com/pub/os2ann/x2752.htm
CFV: comp.os.os2.moderated moderated

http://www.cis.ohio-state.edu/hypertext/faq/usenet/misc-kids/misc-kids-info-faq/faq.html
misc.kids.info FAQ

http://w3.gti.net/director/rame-cfv.html
CFV: rec.arts.movies.erotica moderated

http://helper.tamu.edu/STAFF/cbarnes/hunting/admin/welcome.html
Rec.Hunting Welcome & Charter

http://www.anatomy.su.oz.au/danny/usenet/rec.arts.books.reviews/CHARTER
rec.arts.books.reviews Charter

http://www2.best.com/~ftmexpat/html/taxsites/mtm.html
misc.taxes.moderated Charter

For examples of charters for existing robo-moderated groups, see:

http://members.aol.com/rastb5mod/mod_faq.htm
rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5.moderated FAQ
robo-mod, auto-approve poster list, panel of moderators

http://www.cis.ohio-state.edu/hypertext/faq/bngusenet/soc/culture/indian/_religions%3avaishnava%3afaq.html
soc.religion.vaishnava FAQ
robo-moderated with keyword list

http://www.lds.npl.com/special/usenet/srm/index.html
soc.religion.mormon
robo and human moderated, with a panel of moderators

http://www.math.uiuc.edu/~tskirvin/home/hpo.faq
humanities.philosophy.objectivism
robo-mod, single moderator

http://www.brewich.com/org/srp
soc.religion.paganism
list-based robo-mod, panel, uses STUMP robo-mod package

http://www.algebra.com/~ichudov/usenet/scrm/creation/Charter.txt
http://www.galstar.com/~ichudov/usenet/scrm/creation/Charter.txt
soc.culture.russian.moderated charter -
origin of STUMP robo-mod package

For comic relief, see:

http://www.kibo.com/kibopost/happynet_94.html
The Happynet Manifesto

Section 3 - Frequently *Argued* Questions

------------------------------

Subject: Q3.1 Are there any alternatives to moderation?

This question is usually asked in response to proposals to moderate
existing high-traffic newsgroups, in hope of avoiding moderation.

Posters could use more descriptive Subject: lines, and change
Subject: lines in their followups to better describe a changing
subject, or use tags or keywords in Subject: lines, but this is
usually more effective in a low-volume newsgroup with a strong
sense of community, and less effective in higher-volume newsgroups
that have a greater proportion of new posters, or of people who
can not or will not change subject lines, or for people who use news
software that ignores the References: header, and thus find it harder
to follow discussion threads across a change in Subject:.

------------------------------

Subject: Q3.2 Will a moderated group have slower propagation of messages?

Like many things on the net, that depends. Specifically, it depends
on the connectivity of the poster's site, the moderator's site, and
each individual reader's site, and on whether everything is working
normally and well among those sites.

In general, hand-moderated newsgroups often have some unavoidable
delay, while robo-moderated groups often have fast turnaround.

If we assume that:

a message travels faster by e-mail than by news
from the poster's site to the moderation site

the moderator's site is well-connected (for mail and news)

the poster's site is less well-connected (for news)

the moderation process incurs little delay (such as if it
is a program set up to recognize messages from known posters)

then a moderated group *might* provide faster propagation
for that message than an unmoderated group.

On the other hand, if a moderation address is at a poorly connected
site, and the poster is at a well connected site, or if there is a
delay of significant length at the moderation address, then the
moderated newsgroup might have a greater lag and thus a slower pace.

On the other other hand, readers of a group might prefer a slower
paced newsgroup over a rapid-response group. In any case,
anyone who volunteers to moderate a newsgroup should plan
to work to reduce delay in the moderation process.

------------------------------

Subject: Q3.3 How does moderation differ from censorship?

People have been arguing this issue since moderation was first
proposed as a mechanism for Usenet newsgroups around 1980. Some
people see no difference between the two, some see moderation as
good and censorship as evil, and other points of view abound.

Before continuing, go find a dictionary, and look up "censorship."
While you're at it, look up "editor" and "referee."

To me, one way to view this issue is that while someone may want to
post their messages to an audience, that audience may have chosen
to have a moderator select which messages they will see, and thus
the desire of an individual to post a message is outweighed by
the desire of a multitude to have messages moderated.

An analogy to moderation is that of a publication whose editor is
paid by the publisher and (indirectly) by the subscribers to decide
what to print and what not to print. Is the editor a censor?

How about the newspaper that puts all the sports stories in one
section, all the local news in another, and keeps the classified
ads classified separately from the news and editorials.
Is that organization by topic, or is it censorship?

Another key difference is that censorship usually tries to
disallow expression of certain views or topics in *all* media,
while Usenet moderated newsgroups only disallow postings in
one medium - a single newsgroup whose audience has agreed
to a charter that often describes what is on or off-topic,
and to a moderator and to the process of moderation.

An extension of that view is that if there is some newsgroup
in which an individual can post a message and be on-topic,
then that individual and that message have not been censored.

Since most newsgroups are not moderated, almost all moderated
newsgroups will be topically related to some unmoderated newsgroup
in which a post would be both on-topic and not subject to moderation.

The discussion of differences between moderation and censorship has
been erupting several times a year in news.groups for about 15 years.
If you raise the topic again, try to bring some new material to discuss.
I have tried to present a fair distinction, but freely agree that I
usually support moderation of newsgroups.

------------------------------

Subject: Q3.4 How are changes made to a moderated group?

Changes to the moderation panel and to moderation criteria, scheme,
procedure, or process are often carried out by the moderator(s)
with the informal or tacit approval of the readership.

A newsgroup could conduct its own votes on proposals for changes.

Groups with a panel of moderators often have a procedure for
replacing a retiring moderator, or for firing one of the panel.

If the only or last remaining moderator wishes to resign, s/he might
ask for volunteers, and either select one or more new moderators, or
perhaps poll the users of the group on their preferences.

If no volunteer is acceptable to the group, or, as has happened
in a few cases, a moderator has vanished from the net without
warning or explanation, the moderated newsgroup may be left silent.

Few moderators have seemed to vanish, and there seems to be no
accepted method to replace a moderator who cannot be found,
although the RFD process seems like a reasonable approach.

------------------------------

Subject: Q3.5 Could changes be forced upon a moderated group?

The RFD/CFV process could be used to change the status of a group,
including:

to create a new group - moderated or unmoderated
to moderate an unmoderated group
to unmoderate a moderated group
to re-organize a set of groups
to replace a retired moderator, or one who has vanished

but note that any RFD/CFV process would require:

a minimum of 2 months
a lot of work on the part of the RFD/CFV proponent
possibly a new moderator (or panel of moderators)
a (possibly contentious) discussion on the proposal

There is no method currently available on Usenet to remove
or replace a moderator who actively opposes replacement.

The moderator of news.announce.newgroups is not likely to post
a proposal for removing a moderator as long as he or she continues
to give some sort of service to the newsgroup's readership.

The closest alternative is to use a different newsgroup,
or to propose creation of one with the RFD/CFV process,
which requires a 2:1, 100+ margin. (See the Usenet Guidelines)

------------------------------

Subject: Q3.6 Can moderation be accomplished retro-actively?

To most people, newsgroup moderation means the process of
filtering and approval-before-posting described above.

Cancellation of messages by a third party - someone other than the
poster or the poster's system administrator - after the message
has been posted is sometimes referred to as retroactive moderation.

Some on-line services and Fidonet use cancellations issued by
service employees or by Fido sysops as a way of keeping discussion
in their conference areas by their subscribers on-topic.

While cancellation and moderation may seem superficially similar,
there are strong sentiments in Usenet against third party cancellation.

The net news protocols allow the sending of control messages,
messages which contain instructions for news servers, usually to
cancel or supersede other messages. This allows people to cancel
messages sent by mistake, or sent in error to the wrong newsgroups,
or to cancel a "for sale" ad after the item has been sold.

The effect of cancel messages depends on how each individual news
server site is configured - a site may honor or ignore a control
message, or send a message on to a human for manual handling.

Cancellation of messages is a touchy subject, because cancellation
can be abused, and because it can be difficult to distinguish why a
message was cancelled - was it because a message was posted to many
groups, or because of who posted it, or because of the content of
the message?

It is generally accepted that people may cancel their own messages,
and that ISPs or system administrators may cancel messages which
originated at their site and which are inappropriate for some reason.

It is generally accepted that a moderator may cancel messages
posted with forged approval to a newsgroup s/he moderates.

It is less accepted that a moderator may also cancel messages
that the moderator (or a mod-bot) initially approved and posted,
if the moderator later finds the message inappropriate for some reason.

Since 1995, a number of people routinely issue cancel messages
for messages excessively cross-posted or multiply posted to large
numbers of newsgroups. (Such posts often are called "spam".)

Cancellation based on the number of newsgroups an article is
cross-posted or multi-posted to, or of binary posts in non-binary
newsgroups, or of commercial advertisements in non-commercial newsgroups
are often widely accepted as beneficial to the affected newsgroups.

However, there is less agreement about cancellation based on content
- such as whether a message is on-topic or off-topic for a newsgroup,
a decision which is usually much more of an opinion or judgement.

A key issue here is whether cancels are supported by the wide
majority of the users of a newsgroup, and are issued by people who
have the support of such a majority. If there is a sense of wide
community support, retroactive cancellation could be effective in
fostering on-topic communication in an UNmoderated group.

However, use of retroactive content based cancels without wide
support can often lead to meta-discussions about the cancels,
which be worse for the signal/noise ratio than the cancelled posts.

So, while newsgroup moderation and retroactive cancellation both
rely on people making decisions about the content of newsgroups, the
key elements that they should share are wide support, prior consent,
an expectation of predictability, and a degree of accountability,
and the key differences are that moderated groups are formally set
up with a central moderation address, while groups that rely on
retroactive cancellation are usually otherwise unmoderated.

For more about cancellation of articles, see:
http://www.math.uiuc.edu/~tskirvin/home/cancel.html The Cancel FAQ

If you are thinking of cancelling other people's news articles,
*for any reason*, you should check your internet provider's policies
or "terms of service" first, or contact their support staff to see
if they allow this activity, and to make them aware of your plans.

Section 4 - What does it take to become a moderator?

------------------------------

Subject: Q4.1 What is the absolute minimum needed to act as a moderator?

connectivity, hardware, software, capability, time, and effort

connectivity - an account with reliable mail delivery and news access

hardware - a computer and a modem

software - for connectivity, e-mail, and news

capability -

enough technical know-how to configure the software

a working knowledge of mail and news RFCs
(RFC 822, MIME RFCs, RFC 1036, son-of-1036, GNKS)

the ability and access to edit or insert most of the headers
on outgoing news messages

------------------------------

Subject: Q4.2 Can one act as a moderator: from a PC? off-line? over POP?
over PPP/SLIP? without a shell account? without knowing Unix?

Again, like many things on the net, the answer to all of these
questions is: "Yes, but it depends."

A moderated *discussion* group that expects fast (< 1 hour)
turn-around for messages will have requirements different from
moderated announcement groups that generally have no need for
turnaround faster than 24-48 hours.

At least one (low-volume) group is moderated from a laptop,
under MS-Windows, with e-mail software downloaded from the net.

Most moderators probably operate from a Unix host,
but there is no requirement that they do so.

------------------------------

Subject: Q4.3 What resources do most active moderators have?

At the current state of the art of net news, a typical
setup for doing moderation would include, either on the
part of the moderator or the tech support person:

familiarity with the topic and with the Usenet community

several hours of spare time per week for at least a year

an account with a well connected robust site
(ISP, company, university)

good relations with the system administrator of that site
(awareness, permission, and any mail aliases needed)
(ISPs may charge for hosting moderated groups or mailing lists)

experience with two or more mail and news programs
(e.g., Elm/Pine/Mush, procmail/formail, trn)

familiarity with two or more scripting languages
(e.g., Perl, Bourne/Korn/Bash shell, awk)

------------------------------

Subject: Q4.4 What software tools are useful for moderation?

An e-mail user agent that can:

handle whatever volume of mail you expect

sort, select, and filter incoming messages

send selected messages to other programs,
or save them in a readable file format.

A news posting agent that can:

produce RFC 1036 compliant news articles

accept messages from other programs,
or read them from an e-mail file format.

insert and delete message headers

do other header mangling as needed

------------------------------

Subject: Q4.5 Is knowing Unix optional? Does it help to know Unix?

Yes and yes.

Most of the tools to assist in moderation are available in a Unix
environment, and if you plan to use a variety of scripts and
programs to support the moderation process, you may want to use a
Unix "shell" account to handle the moderation mail rather than a
dialup IP (PPP, SLIP) account.

On the other hand, if you have the tools to handle a volume of mail,
posting news, and some scripting in a non-Unix environment, go for it.

If you are comfortable with the Unix environment, and
you have been thinking of setting up your own home Unix box,
and you have a reliable mail/news connection, go for it.

The key word is *reliable* - group readers may accept a small loss
of messages, but a loss of more than a few percent between the
net and your moderation process would likely be seen as unacceptable.

------------------------------

Subject: Q4.6 What moderation tools are available in non-Unix environments?

# example set-ups wanted for DOS, Windows 3.1*,95,NT, Mac, OS/2, VMS, others.

------------------------------

Subject: Q4.7 Can you moderate from an on-line service? (AOL, CIS, etc.)

I have not found anyone who does among 300 or so moderated groups.

To act as a moderator, you will need to have write access to most of
the headers on outgoing news messages - and most on-line services
will not allow a normal user to mangle those headers.

If it were possible to access those headers, there are other issues:

You would probably want to down-load all prospective messages,
process them off-line, and then upload the resulting approved news
postings and any e-mail responses (FAQs, rejections, etc.)

If you want a short delay, and a short message turnaround time,
you would be faced with repeating that process 4-6 times per day.

Doing that in a menu-based environment could become tiresome quickly,

I would not say it is impossible to act as an effective moderator in
that sort of environment, but I would not try it. I think it would
very likely be easier in a less structured environment - such as a
shell account. Contrasting reports from anyone moderating an active
newsgroup from an online service are welcome.

end of Moderated Newsgroups FAQ

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