It seems that Google Groups has introduced a large number
of new Usenet News users. To us old timers, "news" was the
only way to have public discussions: early web pages seldom
allowed for comments, and the old dial-up bulletin boards
hadn't transitioned to the web.
But new Internet users (especially Windows users) often didn't
know about newsgroups simply because they had no software: newsreaders
existed for Unix, but were text based and although powerful, not
usually user friendly. That changed, of course; GUI news readers
became available, but because this was still separate software that
needed to be installed, and because you had to in the first place
know that you even WANTED to read News, many new users were blissfully
unaware that any such thing existed at all.
Google Groups changed that. The earliest versions only
allowed reading, but posting capability wasn't too far behind,
and as Google searching started offering to search the News in
addition to web pages, people started realizing what was available
Unfortunately, there were problems. Google itself was part
of the problem: whoever wrote the interface obviously hadn't
used other News posting software and didn't understand the
way the old timers were used to doing things. Part of
this was a culture clash too: web pages by now allowed comments,
and bulletin board style web pages (forums) were now common.
Many users who stumbled across Google News assumed quite naturally
that these were just more forums. That misunderstanding caused
bad feelings on both sides (Google is probably the best known now, but both
Microsoft and AOL
made their own contributions to the mess).
If you are a newcomer to News, there are some things you
- Google Groups is disdained by many old-timers.
That's a bit undeserved now. Originally the software was
extremely ill-suited to newsgroup posting: for example, it
didn't automatically quote replies. But that's all been
fixed, and it isn't half bad now. But since the old guard
wouldn't dirty their fingers with this, they don't know that, so
they'll sneer at you for using it.
- It is necessary to quote the post you are replying to.
The reason is that Usenet News is NOT a forum on a web page. It
is widely distributed data with some unique characteristics:
- News articles expire. With the advent of very large hard drives,
servers keep articles around longer than they used to, but you
cannot assume that anyone has a particular message.
- News articles get to servers late, out of sequence and sometimes
never at all. News is much faster and more reliable than it ever was,
but you cannot assume that anyone has a specific message or that the
messages are in the same order you see them.
- Some people read News by email gateways or other indirect means.
Everything above applies to them in spades. This is why you need
to quote: people reading may have no idea what you are talking
about if you don't. Even if the original article is available, good
newsreaders don't bother to display articles you've already read, so
quoting is polite: it keeps the reader from having to go find what
you are talking about.
Aside from that. it's tradition: quoting is what newsgroup
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© 2011-04-29 Anthony Lawrence