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HARLEY HAHN'S USENET CENTER
Usenet Tutorial


Newsgroup Charters

When a brand new Usenet newsgroup is proposed, it is necessary for the people involved to make clear their intentions for the group. Most of the time, this is done by creating a CHARTER, a detailed statement explaining the purpose of the new group and how it is to be used.

Eventually, once the group is created, the more experienced users may create a FAQ, that is, a list of frequently asked questions. The FAQ will be posted to the group regularly, and is usually archived on a Web site. This allows new users to read the answers to the most common questions before they begin to participate in the group.

If you really want to understand a newsgroup itself, however, it behooves you to read the charter for that group. The charter will explain the reasons the group was created, and how the founders expected the group to be used. In some cases, the charter will also document the actual creation of the group: who voted for or against, why they did so, and so on.

Once a newsgroup is created, the charter can be an important document, as it can help the group's users especially new users understand exactly how the group operates. For example, let's say that someone starts posting articles that are considered to be off-topic. In such cases, people can refer to the charter to determine which topics are suitable for that particular group.

For some newsgroups, you will find that the FAQ will cover the same topics as the charter. However, this is not always the case. Moreover, many newsgroups do not have FAQs so it is usually worth checking out the charter, if you can find one.

So how do you find a charter for a particular newsgroup? The easiest way is to use the Newsdemon Charter Archive. Newsdemon is a Usenet service provider that maintains a large database of newsgroup charters. As a public service, Newsdemon allows free access to their database.

If you'd like to see what a newsgroup charter looks like, the link below displays the charter describing the newsgroups devoted to cat-related topics:

Display charter for cat-related groups

In general, there are three ways to access the Newsdemon Charter Archive, each of which is discussed in detail below.

1. You can search the archive directly for a specific newsgroup. This works best when you know the name of the group.

2. You can start at the Charter Archive home page and look through the various categories for a group that interests you. This is a good choice when you feel like exploring.

3. You can use Harley Hahn's Master List of Usenet Newsgroups to search for one or more newsgroups. Within the search results, each group will have a link to search for a charter for that particular group.

Search for a Charter

To make it as simple as possible to check if a specific newsgroup has a charter, I have created an easy-to-use search facility. All you need to do is type the name of a Usenet newsgroup in the box below and click on the GO button.

Whatever you enter into the box will be used to search the Newsdemon Charter Archive. If you want to experiment, try searching for the charter for rec.pets.cats, the cat-related newsgroup.

Explore the Charter Archive

To explore the Newsdemon Charter Archive, use the link below to display the main page of the archive. This is the starting point, where you will see a list of categories:

Display main page for Newsdemon Charter Archive

From here you can explore however you want and, when you find a newsgroup that interests you, it is easy to display its charter. This is what I do when I feel like browsing.

Use Harley Hahn's List of Usenet Newsgroups

Harley Hahn's Master List of Usenet Newsgroups is the only annotated master list of Usenet newsgroups on the Internet. You will find the Usenet Master List to be an invaluable resource when you are looking for Usenet newsgroups for a specific purpose.

To find newsgroups, start at main search page by using the link below. Here you can search for newsgroups whose names or descriptions match specified keywords, or you can list all the newsgroups that lie within specific categories.

Harley Hahn's Master List of Usenet Newsgroups

Within the results of a newsgroup search, each group will have a link to search for a charter. When you click on this link, it accesses the Newsdemon Charter Archive and, if that newsgroup happens to have a charter, it will be displayed for you automatically.

If you want to experiment, try searching the Master List for "cats". Within the results, look for the newsgroup rec.pets.cats. You will then see a link to display the charter for this group.

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