Simple news

The three most popular uses of the Internet are the World Wide Web, electronic mail, and newsgroups. You’ve already learned about the World Wide Web and electronic mail. Here’s how to use newsgroups.
A newsgroup is a group of people who send messages to each other on the Internet, publicly. Some of the messages are announcements, some are comments, some are questions, and some are replies.
You can read the newsgroup’s messages and write your own message (comment, question, reply, or announcement). Your message becomes part of the newsgroup’s messages, so you become part of the newsgroup! If you make your message interesting, other members of the newsgroup will make comments about you!
There are over 30,000 newsgroups. Each newsgroup discusses a different topic. Some newsgroups are funny, some are serious, some are weird. In each newsgroup, some of the messages are profound, others are idiotic.
If the newsgroup is moderated, it’s run by a person (called the moderator) who edits the messages and tries to eliminate junk. If the newsgroup is unmoderated, the newsgroup is a free-for-all, unedited, uncensored, and always at risk of being dominated by people who make “much ado about nothing” and suffer from “diarrhea of the mouth”.
The average newsgroup generates over 4 pages of new material per day, so altogether the newsgroups generate over 80,000 pages per day. To reduce the clutter, the typical Internet Service Provider (ISP) discards newsgroup messages that are more than a week old.
The collection of newsgroups is called Usenet. It’s part of the Internet.
To use newsgroups, you need a program called a news reader. Here are the most popular news readers:
News reader What it’s part of
Internet News Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 3
Outlook Express News Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 4&5&5.5&6
Netscape News Netscape’s Navigator 3
Netscape Messenger News Netscape’s Navigator 4.6

I’ll explain how to use Internet News and Outlook Express News. (Netscape’s newsreaders are too awkward to be reasonable.)
Launch your news reader
Here’s how to start using newsgroups, if Microsoft’s Internet Explorer is on your computer’s hard disk.
Method 1: while you’re running Explorer, click the Mail button, then click “Read News”.
Method 2: while you’re not running Explorer, do this.…
Explorer 6: click “Start” then “Outlook Express”; if the computer says “You are currently working offline”, press ENTER and answer any questions about your ISP and password.); click “Read News” (or “Set up a Newsgroups account”).
Explorer 5&5.5: click the Outlook Express icon, which is to the right of the Start button and shows an envelope with arrows orbiting around it; answer any questions about your ISP and password; then click “Read News” (or “Set up a Newsgroups account”).
Explorer 5: click the Outlook Express icon, which is to the right of the Start button and shows an envelope with arrows orbiting around it; answer any questions about your ISP and password; then click “Read News”.
Explorer 4: click the Outlook Express icon, which is to the right of the Start button and shows an “e” above an envelope; answer any questions about your ISP and password; then click “Read News”.
Explorer 3: click Start, then Programs, then Internet News; then answer any questions about your ISP and password; if the computer says “There are new newsgroups. Do you want to view them?”, click “No”.

If you’re using Explorer 5.5 or 6 and your computer hasn’t handled newsgroups before, the computer says “Display name”. Here’s how to respond:
Press ENTER twice. Type the name of your ISP’s news server (such as “”). Press ENTER twice.

Choose a newsgroup
If the computer asks “Would you like to view a list of available newsgroups now?” (or “Would you like to download newsgroups from the news account you added?”), press ENTER. If the computer does not ask that question, click the Newsgroups button.
In the middle of the screen, you’ll see the Newsgroups window, which shows you the beginning of the list of newsgroups. The list is in alphabetical order. The list is typically very long, since there are over 30,000 newsgroups! Here’s how to see the rest of the list:
Method 1: click in the middle of the list; then repeatedly press the down-arrow key or PAGE DOWN key.
Method 2: on the list’s right-hand side, you’ll see a scroll bar. Drag that bar down.

To see an abridged list, containing just the newsgroups that might interest you, do this:
Above the list, you see a box labeled “Display newsgroups which contain”. Click in that box, then type a word that interests you. For example, to see a list of newsgroups about movies, type “movies”.

(Explorer 3&5&5.5&6 might ask whether you want to subscribe to the newsgroup that you or your predecessor displayed previously. To reply, click “No”.)
When you find a newsgroup that interests you, click it. Then click the Go To button.
Choose a message
In the top pane, you’ll see that newsgroup’s list of the messages.
(You might have to wait a minute for the list to appear. If you’ve waited and still see no list of messages, probably you paused too long and your ISP thought you died and disconnected you. To reconnect, click the Connect button, then type your password and press ENTER.)
The messages are listed in chronological order, from oldest to newest.
Click whichever message interests you. You’ll see the message’s details in the bottom pane.
“Re:” before a message If you see a message whose subject begins with “Re:”, it’s a reply to an earlier message. The earlier message might not be listed anymore, since the typical ISP deletes messages that are more than two weeks old.
“+” before a message While you’re looking at a list of messages, you might see a message that has a plus sign in front of it. (The plus sign is in a box.) If you click the plus sign, you’ll see a list of replies to that message. In that list, each reply begins with “Re” and is indented under the original message.
To find out which newsgroups discuss your favorite topic, use the World Wide Web to go to “”, then click “Groups”, then type a topic that interest you (and press ENTER).
The computer will list newsgroups that emphasize the topic.
Then the computer will start printing a list of newsgroup messages about that topic. The list shows each message’s subject, sample sentence, the newsgroup it came from, date, and who wrote it.
Decide which message you want to read. Then you can see its full text by clicking its underlined subject; but before you click, scribble the newsgroup’s name on a sheet of paper, for your future pleasures!
Names of newsgroups
Most newsgroups fall into one of these categories:
Category What it includes
sci science (physics, math, engineering, medicine, psychology)
bionet biology (the biology network)
comp computers (hardware, operating systems, programming)
biz business (business news, marketing, advertising)
k12 K-12 education (from kindergarten through the 12th grade)
rec recreation (hobbies, sports, arts, cooking, pets)
soc society (culture, history, genealogy, socializing, personals)
talk debate (politics, unusual religions)
misc miscellaneous (investments, jobs, immigration, transportation)
alt alternative thinking on thousands of topics (usually unmoderated)
can Canada (Canadian events, opinions, and personals)
aus Australia (Australian events, opinions, and personals)
nz New Zealand (New Zealand events, opinions, and personals)
uk United Kingdom (Great Britain & Northern Ireland)
fr France (French events, opinions, and personals, written in French)
it Italy (Italian events, opinions, and personals, written in Italian)
es España (Spain, written in Spanish)
chile Chile (written in Spanish)
de Deutschland (Germany, written in German)
at Austria (written in German)
microsoft Microsoft’s software (technical support, using beta versions)
symantec Symantec’s software (Norton utilities, anti-virus, Java)
linux Linux (which is a version of the Unix operating system)
news announcements about newsgroups, analysis of newsgroups

The most common category is “alt”, since about a third of all newsgroups are in the “alt” category. Though beginners think “alt” stands for “alternative”, experts know it also stands for “anarchists, lunatics, & terrorists”, since the alt newsgroups are usually unmoderated, uncontrolled explosions of emotion.
If you see two newsgroups that have similar names, but one of them begins with “alt”, the “alt” newsgroup will tend to be wilder, less organized, and less moderated than its conservative cousin. Because it’s less organized, it tends to be less useful.
To do serious research about a topic, start by reading the non-alt newsgroups to get your bearings. Look at the alt newsgroups later for extra laughs, tears, and off-the-wall insights.
These newsgroups are popular:
Funny best new jokes rec.humor.funny
Funny Reruns best old jokes rec.humor.funny.reruns
Best Humor humor from other newsgroups
Quotations interesting quotations alt.quotations
Best the best from other newsgroups
Personals personal ads alt.personals
Pen Pals looking for pen pals soc.penpals
Sex general discussion about sex
Revenge ideas about getting revenge alt.revenge
Buddha weird chat based on Buddhism alt.buddha.short.fat.guy
Debating what’s real
Rumors postings of rumors talk.rumors
Urban Folklore debate which “facts” are true alt.folklore.urban
Conspiracy conspiracy theories alt.conspiracy
What If “what if” speculation soc.history.what-if
Mythic Animals creatures of myth & fantasy alt.mythology.mythic-animals
Aliens discuss visitors from space alt.alien.visitors
Paranormal psychic phenomena alt.paranet.psi
Movies discussion of movies rec.arts.movies
Current Films discussion of current movies rec.arts.movies.current-films
Free Stuff how to get free stuff
Jobs job postings
Writing help for writers misc.writing
Genealogy research your roots soc.genealogy.surnames
New Groups new newsgroups forming news.announce.newgroups
Comp Answersgeneral computer help comp.answers
IBM PC hardware & software
New Products new computer products comp.newprod
Consultants computer consultants
2600 hackers magazine alt.2600
Homebuilt general hardware alt.comp.hardware.homebuilt
Systems motherboards & systems
Storage hard disks & tape drives
Communication modem software
PCMCIA PCMCIA cards alt.periphs.pcmcia
PC Hardware other IBM-compatible
Freeware free software alt.comp.freeware
Virus virus info comp.virus
Neural Nets neural networks
Video video cards & drivers
Corel GraphicsCorel graphics programs
Clip Art free clip art alt.binaries.clip-art
Multimedia multimedia hardw&softw comp.multimedia
Quake tips for winning at
Win 95 Crash Windows 95 difficulties alt.os.windows95.crash.crash.crash

If you enjoy a newsgroup, subscribe to it. The subscription is free. Moreover, the subscription is private: just your own computer will know you subscribed; no other computer will!

Here’s the normal way to subscribe:

Make the computer show you a list of newsgroups (such as by clicking the Newsgroups button).
While you’re looking at a list of newsgroups, double-click each newsgroup that you want to subscribe to, so a picture of clipped newspaper appears before the newsgroup’s name. (If you change your mind and want to unsubscribe, double-click the newsgroup’s name again, which makes the clipped-newspaper icon disappear.) Then click OK.

That way works in Explorer 3&4&5&5.5&6. Explorer 3&5&5.5&6 also provide this alternative way to subscribe:
View the messages in the newsgroup. When you switch to a different newsgroup afterwards, the computer will ask whether you want to subscribe to the newsgroup you’d been viewing. Click “Yes”.

To see a list of all newsgroups you subscribed to, click the Newsgroups button, then click Subscribed (which is near the bottom of the Newsgroups window). That list of subscribed newsgroups is much shorter than the list of all newsgroups, so it lets you get to your favorite newsgroups faster. To use one of those subscribed newsgroups, click thenewsgroup’s name (so its background turns blue) and then click the Go To button.
(Explorer 3 might ask whether you’d like to subscribe to the newsgroup you viewed previously. If you don’t want to subscribe to that newsgroup, click “No”.)


While you’re reading a message, you can send a reply.
If you want the reply to be sent privately to the message’s author, so just that author sees your reply, click the Reply to Author button. (Explorer 5&5.5&6 call it just the Reply button.) That will send private mail to the author.
If instead you want your reply to be sent publicly, so everybody on the Internet can see your reply, click the Reply to Group button instead. (Explorer 5&5.5&6 call it just the Reply Group button.) That will post your reply, so your reply becomes part of the newsgroup.
If instead you want to start a whole new topic that’s not a reply, so everybody on the Internet can see your new topic and react to it, click the New Post button. (Explorer 4 calls it the Compose Message button. Explorer 3 calls it the New Message button.) That will post your new topic, so your topic becomes part of the newsgroup.

(Explorer 3 might say “Choose Profile”. To reply, press ENTER.)
Then your screen shows a form to fill in — the same kind of form used for writing e-mail. Fill in the form, then click the Send button. (Explorer calls it the Post Message button if you’re posting.)
If you post a reply or a new topic, it will probably become part of the newsgroup. But some newsgroups are moderated by a special person (the moderator), who decides which messages to erase.
When you post a message, use proper Net etiquette, which is called Netiquette. The main rule of Netiquette is: don’t waste people’s time!
Many people faithfully read their favorite newsgroups every day. If you post messages that are useless or annoying, those readers will get angry, and their tempers can flare hot enough to make them flame you (post angry messages about you or send you angry e-mail messages, called flame mail). If you’re a new user (newbie) who doesn’t understand Netiquette yet, your posted messages will probably receive flame mail.
Questionable posts
Before posting a message, ask yourself these questions.…
Will most people reading this newsgroup find your message worthwhile? Make sure your message doesn’t waste people’s time. For example, don’t post a message like this one —
Newsgroups: rec.guitar
Subject: guitar plaiyer

My band is so cool. Tom wails. We reelly rock!

Instead, make the message appear newsworthy, like this —
Newsgroups: rec.guitar
Subject: Free concert in Cambridge MA this Sunday

Hello, everyone! If you're in the Boston area, come to Harvard Square this Sunday to hear "Some Assembly Required". The concert is free, but get there early because it'll get crowded fast! The guitar player, Tom, is as close to brilliant as they come.

Does your subject line quickly describe what your message is about? The subject line helps people quickly find messages that interest them. In the second example above, people who don’t live near Cambridge, MA, won’t waste their time reading about a free concert there.
Are you posting your message to the appropriate newsgroup? The second example above is appropriate for groups like rec.guitar and ne.announce (New England announcements). If you post the same message to, you’ll get flamed.
Have you checked your spelling and grammar for embarrassing errors? Once you post a message, it’s too late to correct your mistakes. Your message, errors and all, will be available to millions.
Will many people be offended by your message? There are millions of people on the Internet. If we’re all going to get along, we must be careful about what we say.


The best jokes are in rec.humor.funny and rec.humor.funny.reruns. The group’s moderator puts into those newsgroups just the top 10% of the jokes people submit to him.
He judges each joke by its structure (not its content), so he’s willing to post jokes that are offensive, if their structure is clever enough.
For the most offensive jokes (on topics such as dead babies), he hides the joke’s words (so the squeamish won’t complain), by writing the joke in a code called rotate 13 (ROT 13), which consists of doing this:
switch each A with the letter N (because N comes 13 letters after A in the alphabet)
switch each B with the letter O
switch each C with the letter P

For example, the word “con” becomes “pba”.
Here’s how to make the computer unscramble the joke for you:
Get the joke onto the screen.
Click Message. (In Explorer 3&4, click Edit instead.)
Click Unscramble.