How to Post to the Net
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How to Post to the Net

by Dani K and David Stevenson

A FAQ for Newbies to Usenet


Dani K:

This is a FAQ of Frequently Answered Questions, since newbies generally do not have enough information to actually ask them.

When posting on the net, there are a few things you should know.

The first thing you should remember is DO NOT SHOUT.

Using all-caps in a sentence is shouting. It is generally considered rude. If you are trying to emphasise a word or phrase you may put it in capital letters but here are some other less obtrusive ways to emphasise words and phrases...

You can outline the words with underscores or asterisks. Like _this_ or *this*. If you *REALLY*, _REALLY_ want to emphasise a word or phrase you can combine the outline with capital letters. This should be done fairly infrequently.

When you post, please remember to use paragraphs. A post of more than say... about ten lines is difficult on the eyes if it does not have any paragraph breaks. It is not necessary to indent the paragraphs. Just give us a space between each paragraph.

David Stevenson:

It is far easier to read and pleasanter on the eye if you do indent the paragraphs.

Dani K:

No matter what your computer program tells you, please remember to hit your return or enter key somewhere between 60 and 70 characters per line.

The reason for this is many of our readers do not automatically wrap your sentences. If your reader shows you that the post was auto-wrapped, that does not mean that we get it wrapped. I have seen entire pages on one line, because the poster did not know they needed to return or use paragraphs. Many of us will not read posts where we have to tell our computer to arrow left for every word over the 80th character, and some people will not be able to read it at all, even if they are willing to go through the hassle.

David Stevenson:

Similarly tabs are seen differently by different people with different software, so if you want to produce a table, don't use the tabs: just use lots of spaces.

Dani K:

When responding to a previous post, learn to use your program's snipper. Do not respond to a post without including something from the first post to indicate to us what you are talking about and generally you should not include the entire previous post. It is very irritating to download a post that either says nothing at all except for, "I agree!" or to download a post that appears to have 75 lines, and all it turns out to be is a repeated post that has your comment tacked onto the end, saying "I agree!"

When you respond to a post, remember to put empty lines between the previous post and your reply. Otherwise, many of our programs will italicise the previous post and your comments, so we won't be able to easily tell where the old one ends and yours begins.

Generally advertisements for any service including 'free' services will irritate people on conversational newsgroups. If you feel that you have the one service that absolutely must be made available to people through the net you should make a sincere attempt to place it in newsgroups that are generally discussing things related to what you have to offer. An ad for a book you have written concerning the least oppressive methods of toilet training will be less likely to generate a flood of furious email from people in while people in alt.politics.drinking-age may well take offense.

When you are responding to a post check your program to make sure that the response is going only into the newsgroup(s) that you are sure will have an interest in what you have to say. Some posts, especially inflammatory ones, are crossposted to many different newsgroups. When you see this, delete the newsgroups in the 'send' column that you recognise will not be interested in seeing your response. If the topic is about, oh, let's say... 'bugs that live on human corpses'...probably the people in are not going to be interested in what you have to say.

If you want to discuss something that appears to be off-topic you should begin a new conversation by sending the newsgroup a new message with a header that tells us what you want to discuss. If your new topic generates two or more flames and no positive responses you need to assume that the topic is so far away from the newsgroups primary purpose that you should go look for a more appropriate newsgroup.

It is not polite to post binaries or encoded text in conversational newsgroups. Don't do it. If you have a picture or encoded text that you just KNOW we are going to want to see post it in an alt.binaries group that has a topic that is at least semi-related to your binary and then announce to us that you have done so. Don't forget to tell us what the picture is or what the text is and be sure to tell us what header you used in the alt.binary newsgroup. Otherwise we might not be able to find it. If you give us a brief description of what you have posted there and it sounds interesting we will go look at it. Another option is to post us a detailed description of what you have and an offer to email it to anyone who emails you a request for it.

Test posts are irritating primarily because they do not contribute to the conversation and they waste bandwidth. Many people have to pay to download a newsgroup and if they are paying for a test post it can make them suffer violent fantasies with you as the star. If you are not sure how to post and want to make a test post please do it in alt.test. If you screw it up or it does not work nobody there will get mad at you. I promise.

David Stevenson:

When you post to a Newsgroup you may think of sending a copy to the person whose article you are answering. Some software makes it very easy to do this. However you should not do it automatically. It tends to annoy people to answer an email and then discover it has been posted as well. But there are some situations where it is correct to send an email as well.

  1. If someone asks for replies by email, then post and email: do not email only because others who read the original post are interested in the answers.
  2. Expressions of sympathy, condolence and so on: this is a matter of delicacy, and you should just consider what the recipient will feel most comfortable with.
  3. Flames: Dani K suggests the duplication. Personally, I don't duplicate, but I have not considered flames very much.

There may be others, but they are probably obvious. But please don't do it automatically! If you do decide to duplicate for some reason, please start your answer:


so at least everyone knows.

The last few lines of your posts are often referred to as a sig, short for signature. Many types of software have a sig file: when you send a post it automatically puts the sig at the bottom. People use it to express their personality, or to advertise, or whatever. Good software will strip your sig off when someone replies to you, if it knows that it is a sig, which depends on it starting with a sig separator.

A sig separator is a line containing dash dash space [like this "-- "] and nothing else. Furthermore there is a general rule of "Netiquette" that the sig that follows the sig separator should be no more than four lines long.

It's good to have you here. Make yourself known to us.


Editor's note:

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