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How Are Newsgroups Created?

Through the years, various procedures have been developed to create new Usenet groups. These procedures ensure that the process is handled in a thoughtful and practical manner.

As we have discussed, there are hundreds of Usenet hierarchies. The most important ones are the Big-8 (mainstream) hierarchies and the 5 alternative hierarchies. The Big-8 hierarchies are comp, humanities, misc, news, rec, sci, soc, and talk. The 5 alternative hierarchies are alt, bionet, bit, biz, and k12. The Big-8 hierarchies are administered by the Big-8 Management Board. The alternative hierarchies are not administered at all.

The Big-8 hierarchies have the most well-defined procedures for creating new groups, so let's start with those. Within the news hierarchy, there are two groups that are used specifically for newsgroup creation. These groups are: news.announce.newgroups and news.groups.proposals, both of which are moderated.

When the need arises for a new newsgroup, somebody will post an article to news.announce.newgroups proposing the creation of the group. This type of proposal is called an RFD ("request for discussion"). Once the RFD is posted, discussion begins in news.groups.proposals.

In most cases, the RFD will be discussed in other groups as well. For example, if the RFD proposes the creation of a new group related to bicycles, the discussion will take place not only in the newsgroup news.groups.proposals, but also in the various bicycle newsgroups. In this way, the people who would be most interested in the creation of a new group are the ones who discuss it. During the discussion, the people involved settle on a name for the group and, in most cases, create a charter, a statement explaining the purpose of the group and how it is to be used.

After a certain amount of discussion, if the need for the newsgroup is well established, the Big-8 Management Board, following certain well-defined procedures, decides whether or not to create the group. If the new group is to be created, the Board will send out a CONTROL MESSAGE. This is a short message that is transported throughout Usenet in the same way as a regular article. However, a control message has special header lines that are recognized by all news servers, and within these header lines are instructions to the news server telling it to perform a specific task, in this case, to create a new newsgroup.

To create a newsgroup, the Board sends out a special control message instructing all news servers to add the new group to their master list. When it becomes necessary to discontinue a newsgroup, the Board sends out a different type of control message telling news servers to remove a specific group from their master list.

As I mentioned earlier in the chapter, Usenet management is distributed, not centralized. Specifically, each individual news administrator decides which newsgroups will be carried on his or her system. In order to create a new newsgroup, you not only have to send an appropriate control message to news servers throughout the world, you also have to get the news administrators to agree to accept the newsgroup on their systems.

Because all mainstream groups go through a careful and deliberate creation process, news administrators throughout the world will always honor a control message from the Big-8 Management Board requesting the creation of a new group or the removal of an existing group.

In the other hierarchies, however, newsgroup creation is handled differently. Some hierarchies are controlled by one person, some by a group of people, and others by nobody. The most important of these other hierarchies is alt, which is, by far, the largest hierarchy in all of Usenet, so let's talk about how an alt group is created.

The alt hierarchy was established as an alternative to the original mainstream (Big-8) hierarchies. As such, the rules for establishing new alt groups are far more liberal than in the Big-8 hierarchies. In particular, there is no formal voting procedure. Anybody who knows how to send a control message can create a new alt group.

Within the alt hierarchy, there is a special newsgroup, alt.config, that is used for discussion of new alt groups. Before someone creates a new alt group, it is considered proper to post an article to alt.config describing the new group and asking for comments. Before actually creating the group, a person should wait at least a week to see how other people respond to the suggestion.

Remember, in order to successfully create a new group, it is necessary for the news administrators around the world to agree to create the group. If the group has not been previously discussed in alt.config, many news administrators will not create it. In fact, in such situations, it is common to see other people send out control messages canceling the group.

Some news administrators, however, will honor all newsgroup creation requests, and, as a result, you will see many frivolous alt groups with silly names. Still, the alt hierarchy does have a huge number of useful and active newsgroups, and the freedom that it offers is important to Usenet as a whole.

You will probably never need to create a new Usenet group, but if you ever decide to do so, make sure to wait until you have a fair amount of experience with Usenet. Wait until you understand how Usenet works and how groups are named and organized. And before you move forward with your idea, discuss it in the related groups to see what other people have to say.

Within the mainstream hierarchies, new groups usually arise as a consensus among a number of people. This is not necessary for alt groups, but having a discussion beforehand does make for better results. For more detailed information about newsgroup creation, check out the following resources.

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