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Usenet Tutorial

The Usenet Tradition of Freedom

Since Usenet has no central authority and no rules, people who use Usenet have wide latitude as to what they write in their articles, what pictures they choose to send, and, generally, how they behave. Usenet has a long tradition of being completely without censorship. This is important, as Usenet is the largest global forum for uncontrolled freedom of expression, with more than a hundred thousand discussion groups covering just about every topic a human being might care about.

The reason the whole system does not degenerate into mindless anarchy is that, over the years, various conventions and traditions have been adopted by the people who participate in Usenet. For the most part, these traditions are followed voluntarily.

If you have never participated in a completely open discussion, it may take you a while to get used to the freedom in Usenet. Since there is total freedom, you are bound to encounter articles — and people — that you find offensive in some way. It may be because a particular article is truly tasteless, or it may be because you are not used to someone from another culture or someone who holds opinions that are extremely different from yours.

Whatever the case, I promise you, there will be times when you will be offended. When this happens, you have only two choices: you can either argue with the offensive person, or you can ignore him. (It doesn't do much good to complain because there is no one to complain to.)

I won't go on and on about what you are supposed to do and what you are not supposed to do. As you gain experience, you will learn from other people and from your own observations (and, as one of my readers, I know you are intelligent, sensitive and considerate). So, to help you get started, I will condense the entire body of Usenet etiquette into two simple rules.

Harley Hahn's Rules for Using Usenet Successfully

1. Be a nice person.

2. Ignore people who do not follow rule #1.

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