FAQ Archives

A FAQ is a list of frequently asked questions and answers on a particular topic. The original FAQs were developed for Usenet discussion groups. People found that all newcomers who joined a group would tend to ask the same questions. For example, people who join the group where urban legends are discussed (alt.folklore.urban) often ask if it is true that Mrs. Fields or Nieman Marcus forced somebody to pay a lot of money for a recipe. (The answer is no, by the way.) It became the custom for one or more experienced members of a Usenet group to create a list of frequently asked questions and answers. The idea was that newcomers to the group should read the FAQ before they start participating in the discussion. The concept of FAQs has grown to embrace just about every topic imaginable, in situations where it is useful for people to collect questions and answers. These Web sites are among my favorite resources on the Internet. This is because I love to learn new things and I find that reading a FAQ in an area that is new to me is a great way to pick up interesting and esoteric knowledge. It will be well worth your while to spend some time browsing through the FAQs looking for some areas that interest you. (By the way, according to the urban legends FAQ, green M&Ms are not an aphrodisiac.)




"A FAQ FAQ? What's a FAQ FAQ? I don't need no stinking FAQ FAQ." Well, yes, you do. The FAQ FAQ is a list of questions and answers about FAQs. It explains the history of FAQs, and gives you tips and hints for writing and maintaining a FAQ. If you get the urge, one of the most useful things you can do for the Net is to maintain a FAQ. If you would like to try, begin by reading the FAQ FAQ.



FAQ for the *.answers Usenet Groups

There are a number of Usenet groups devoted to FAQs and other period postings. These principal groups are alt.answers, comp.answers, humanities.answers, misc.answers, news.answers, rec.answers, sci.answers, soc.answers and talk.answers (often referred to collectively as *.answers). Here is a FAQ that explains the purposes and contents of these groups, how to submit new postings, how to join the mailing list for periodic posting maintainers, and where to find archives of postings to the *.answers groups.



FAQ Talk and General Discussion

The reason for frequently asked question lists is that newcomers to a Usenet discussion group often seem to ask the same questions. Veterans don't mind answering new questions, but nobody wants to explain, over and over and over, what "Unix" means. Through the years, many groups have developed a frequently asked question list (FAQ) that contains all the common questions that have been answered repeatedly in that group. Some FAQs are so large as to be divided into several parts. Whenever you start reading a new group, look for a FAQ to orient yourself. More important, before you post a question to the group, check the FAQ to see if your question has already been answered. The people who maintain FAQs post them regularly, not only to their own group, but to special groups that have been created just to hold FAQs and related material. The news.answers group contains FAQs from every possible source. The other .answers groups contain FAQs for their respective hierarchies. For example, comp.answers contains computer FAQs. When you have a spare moment, check out these groups, especially alt.answers. You will see a lot of interesting and strange stuff that you might never encounter otherwise. These groups contain not only FAQs, but important summaries of information not tied to specific Usenet groups.


Google Newsreader alt.answers
Google Newsreader comp.answers
Google Newsreader misc.answers
Google Newsreader news.answers
Google Newsreader rec.answers
Google Newsreader sci.answers
Google Newsreader soc.answers
Google Newsreader talk.answers

Internet FAQ Consortium

The Internet FAQ Consortium is a group of people who are concerned with writing and maintaining FAQs. If you have anything to do with a FAQ, you'll find this site interesting. There is a nice set of useful links that will make your life as a FAQ-meister easier.



Maintaining a FAQ

At first, it would seem easy -- and fun -- to maintain a FAQ. However, doing a good job can be more work than you might think. To help you, here is a Web site devoted to making FAQ maintenance as easy as possible. Read about tools for automatically posting your FAQ to Usenet, producing HTML versions of your FAQ, and coping with electronic mail. There are also links to other Internet resources related to FAQs.



Minimal Digest Format FAQ

When you maintain a FAQ, the format you use is important. Using a proper format can make your FAQ compatible with the digest-handling capabilities of certain newsreader programs. It can also allow your FAQ to be read more easily by a Web browser. Perhaps most important, using a good format will make it convenient for people to read and understand your work. This FAQ describes a format that is relatively simple but contains the minimal characteristics necessary for a proper FAQ.



Periodic Informational Postings List

On Usenet, there are a great many articles that are sent to various discussion groups on a regular basis. For example, there are many FAQs. There are also other types of regularly posted articles, such as lists of various things. You might ask, does anyone collect the names of all the articles that are posted regularly to Usenet? The answer is yes, and this list -- called the Periodic Informational Postings List -- is itself posted regularly to Usenet. (Imagine the philosophical implications.) This list is a long one, so here are Web sites that make it easy to find what you want.



Posting a FAQ Automatically

If you maintain a FAQ, you will want to know about the auto-faq script. This script is designed to post a FAQ to Usenet groups automatically. It allows you a large amount of control by specifying particular values in a configuration file. Another benefit is that, if you use this script, your FAQ will comply with all the requirements for posting to news.answers and the other *.answers groups.



Submission Guidelines for the *.answers Usenet Groups

If you maintain a FAQ, you will probably want to post it not only to your own Usenet group, but to news.answers and possibly one of the other *.answers groups. This FAQ explains what you need to do in order to cross-post a FAQ in this manner.