Discussion Groups

Newsgroups, Web Boards, and Mailing Lists
What are discussion groups?
Discussion groups is a broad category describing ways in which groups with a common interest, whether it be playing chess, discussing the latest episode of a television, or discussion of a political issue, communicate in a common forum. Three of the common discussion group methods are: Mailing Lists, Web Boards, and News.Top
What are mailing lists?
Mailing lists are one of the most common way of discussing a topic of common interest via e-mail. Rather than trying to e-mail a message to thirty e-mail addresses at once, you simply mail your message to one single e-mail address, and the mailing list server handles the delivery of the message.

To subscribe to a mailing list, you either go to a web page and put in your e-mail address, or send a e-mail to a e-mail address indicating that you wish to subscribe. You will then receive a confirmation that you want to subscribe to that group. This prevents someone from subscribing you to groups that you don't want. You will have to either reply to the confirmation message or click on a link in the message. Once you have confirmed that you wanted to subscribe, a message is sent out welcoming you to the newsgroup. SAVE THIS MESSAGE, as it contains instructions on how to unsubscribe to that particular mailing list.

Most mailing lists default to a single-message mode, where you receive a message right when someone mails it out. Many mailing lists also offer an option called a "digest" where you would receive a batch of messages in a single mailing, usually on a daily basis.Top

What are web boards?
Web boards are an extension of the world wide web. Some web sites, in addition to providing information on a particular topic, also host a web-based forum where people can discuss issues of a particular nature. Because of the disk space and bandwidth required, many of these web boards run on dedicated servers. Many web-based boards allow you to view messages in some of their forums, but in order to post, you must register with that forum.Top
What is Usenet news?
Usenet news is one of the oldest discussion forums on the Internet, and even pre-dates the world wide web. All sorts of topics are discussed from the serious (i.e. computer security issues, political issues), to the fun (games and television shows), to the just plain weird. For example, the newsgroup rec.sport.basketball.pro is for the discussion of professional basketball, while comp.mail.eudora deals with issues relating to the Eudora mail client. It can be compared to a mailing list, except that the discussion can take place worldwide, and subscribing is as easy as clicking the mouse. Unlike a e-mail mailing list, messages do not pile up in your mailbox if you do not log into the Internet for several days.

In many cases, newsgroups can be divided into subgroups. The major classifications

  • comp. (computers!)
  • humanities. (tiny number of groups)
  • misc. (truly misc)
  • news. (internet/usenet)
  • rec. (recreational/sports/hobbies/television/etc)
  • sci. (science)
  • soc. (social/socialogical)
  • talk. (politics/religion)
  • clari. (actual news articles off the wire services)
  • alt. (off-beat newsgroups - see the alt. FAQ)

This, of course, does not cover other newsgroups such regional newsgroups, product newsgroups, or foreign language newsgroups.Top

How long are articles kept on the news servers?
Articles are retained on the news servers for at least 30 days, depending on the type of newsgroup. Articles posted on the text newsgroups (non-binary) will be retained longer than binary newsgroup articles. Older, non-binary articles can also be found through Google Groups.Top
What do I need to read news?
You will need a program to download the articles from the news server to your computer. Some of these programs for reading news include:
  • Outlook Express
  • Netscape
  • Free Agent and Agent from Forté

You can also read Usenet news articles (both current and archived from 1982) through your web browser by using Google Groups.Top

What are the settings for the newsreader program?
If you are connected directly to CalWeb (i.e. though a dial-up, ISDN, or DSL connection):

Server: news.calweb.com
No authentication is required.

If you are connected outside of CalWeb (i.e. through another Internet provider):

Server: newsreader.calweb.com
Login: Your CalWeb Login (no @calweb.com)
Password: Your CalWeb Password

Once you have configured your newsreader for CalWeb, the newsreader will download the current list of newsgroups to your computer. Since there are over 20,000 active newsgroups, this process can easily take several minutes.Top

What are some tips for discussion groups?
A few words of advice when you are new to discussion groups.
  • BE POLITE! Remember, all that the people will see about you is your message, and will judge you by what you say and how you say it.
  • If you are new to a newsgroup, it is suggest that you just read the messages, or "lurk" for a while just to get the general feel of how the newsgroup operates. Many newsgroups post Frequently Asked Questions (or FAQs) that answer questions that frequently pop up in the newsgroups. These are posted periodically to the newsgroup by volunteers, and are often copied on a website connected with the newsgroup or on the Usenet FAQ archives.
  • Make sure that the message is on-topic. Talk about last night's television show would be appropriate in the television group, but inappropriate in a golfing group.
  • Unless explicitly specified, do not post a binary file in a non-binary group.
  • Be careful when decoding a message from a binaries newsgroup. With the current volume of messages passing through the newsgroups, it is impossible to scan the messages for viruses and worms.
I tried posting a message, but the discussion group is moderated. What's that?
Moderated groups means that your message isn't posted instantly to a newsgroup, but is subject for review by a moderator who checks to make sure it is appropriate for that discussion group. This does mean that there will be a delay in the posting, but also ensures that the group remains on-topic.Top
Can my e-mail address be captured and be used for SPAM?
Yes, it is possible for someone to scan a discussion group and "harvest" your CalWeb e-mail address for the purposes of sending you unsolicited commercial e-mail, better known as spam. Some measures that you can to reduce the spam, yet participate in the groups:
  • Use the additional e-mail accounts that are available with most of our plans. You can then use one address which you give out to only to your friends, and a second e-mail address which you can publicly give out.
  • Many web boards give you the option of hiding your e-mail address from posts in the newsgroups. In addition, clicking on a e-mail button in a web forum often takes you to a mail form where the forum will then mail your message.
  • One of the best ways to harvest e-mail addresses is through posts on a newsgroup. You may want to consider mangling your e-mail address to make it harder to get your e-mail address. See our spam information page for details.
Where can I find out more information?
You may want to check out the following:

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