Site Seeing special
The internet is breathtakingly vast. The world of web pages, search engines
and "surfing" is just one facet of the net, and we notice this
vastness in the number, range and quality of sites and in the quantity of
information available. There exist other, less publicised areas of the internet,
however. Examples are ftp, telnet, gopher, IRC, mailing lists and - the
subject of this article - (usenet) newsgroups.
Usenet is a collection of tens of thousands of electronic newsgroups.
Each group is an electronic bulletin board for a worldwide cross-section
of the community with a specific interest. Read the messages posted at rec.music.classical
for example, and you should see only messages relating to classical music.
Post or send a message to the group, and the message will appear very shortly
afterwards on all the servers around the world which take that newsgroup.
How to access newsgroups
- Via the web: some search engines (notably Dejanews
and Hotbot ) allow searching
of newsgroup postings - very useful if you don't have time to read all
the messages. Liszt's Usenet newsgroups
directory allows you to browse and search for particular newsgroups,
but passes you to Dejanews to read the messages within the groups.
Talkway allows reading and posting
to many newsgroups. As an example, use Talkway to monitor the newsgroup
- Use a special program (often included as part of web browsers and mail
programs) designed to access newsgroups off-line. Try selecting this link:
news:rec.music.classical - if it
works, then your web browser can read newsgroups. If not, you'll have to
download an appropriate program or use one of the web-based services above.
Anyone can post a message to a newsgroup. In the early days when only
the academic community used the internet, this was rarely a problem. Now
that the public has access to the internet, there is a great deal of mis-use.
Repeated posting of messages unrelated to the subject of the newsgroup -
usually concerning "get rich quick" schemes, pornography or (increasingly)
commercial advertising - is called spamming.
A related problem has been the size and quantity of postings to newsgroups.
As the on-line community grows, it becomes increasingly difficult for the
internet's computers to make every message from every newsgroup available
on every computer. Local internet service providers have (typically) cut
back, restricting access to certain newsgroups or removing each message
after only a few days. We'll look at at least one solution to this problem
in a future article. In the meantime, why not visit some of the newsgroups
in the table below?
Keith Bramich, 2 February 1999
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