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Like Usenet, but with better graphics?

By mihalis in Meta
Mon Jan 08, 2001 at 04:48:01 AM EST
Tags: Kuro5hin.org (all tags)

In a recent posting, goonie wrote that trolling risks making "K5 into usenet with better graphics".

My guess is that goonie finds K5 to be currently better than Usenet, but in danger of sliding down to its level. Well, I think he has it backwards!

No offence intended goonie, but I find the user interface of all weblogs plainly inferior to Usenet. Content-wise of course most of Usenet went to hell a long time ago, but there are still pockets of good discussion, useful info, friendly banter, epic flaming, user larting, angst, real erotica, whatever you like.

The tool that makes the key difference for me is Gnus, and in particular scoring. Other people are very attached to other fine newsreaders with comparable features.

Of course, K5 has a kind of scoring, aimed at moderating content, but it is a public system. I didn't know until very recently, but anyone can see how their posts were moderated. This has lead to some unfortunate side effects which I'm sure I don't need to go over here.

However I think the public scoring system may be the worst available system apart from all the rest, that is I am favor of it, and I realise I should do more of it myself to help the common good, but for me, there is a private dimension absolutely missing.

When I am browsing a newsgroup in Gnus, it is the work of seconds to tell the software, in effect, I wish to punish this thread (or author) privately, reduce its score by 10. I can say it's permanent, or temporary, I can match topics using regular expressions, and I can of course add these private scores together ("lower the score of this thread temporarily, apart from when people reply to me"). All this does is affect visibility and sorting, but it's completely private. If I sort by score, the things that I have rewarded float to the top, the other stuff stays there in the middle in case I have a lot of time on my hands, and the stuff I have punished goes towards the bottom. If I have a display threshold some of it may no longer get displayed. If I sort by date I can use bold text and other tricks to highlight high scoring posts.

Whilst every moderation and submission queue vote I make in public is a carefully considered move, helping, I hope, the public moderation strategy that Rusty and co. are trying to launch, my private scoring on Usenet is a fast, sometimes arbitrary tactical move, since I don't have time to read all the worthwhile stuff, let alone all the debatable fluff too. I can temporarily score people down just because their posts are so long and I want to skim whilst my only access is, say, using Palm Telnet, but I might never want them to know, nor would I want anything to be inferred from my actions by others. Alternatively I can permanently send someone to the bitbucket for ever ("If you could post that, then defend it, I never want to see another post by you ever"). Thankfully these are rare, but when you need to filter someone that badly, it's good to be able to do it.

Also when I have a read a topic, it goes away so the next topic with a suitable score comes naturally into view.

Such concepts ("mark as read", "killfiling/scoring") are held to be the standard for a good newsreader. I say we need things like that on K5.


Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure


Usenet is
o Full of porn and spam 25%
o I'm sorry, I haven't a clue 5%
o Addictive 8%
o something invented by DejaNews perhaps? 0%
o Dying 15%
o Bigger than ever 0%
o Where I started on the Net 35%
o Inoshiro 5%

Votes: 101
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o recent posting
o goonie
o Gnus
o Also by mihalis

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Like Usenet, but with better graphics? | 22 comments (10 topical, 12 editorial, 0 hidden)
Slight clarification (4.20 / 5) (#7)
by goonie on Sun Jan 07, 2001 at 07:03:41 PM EST

when I said "Usenet with better graphics" I meant just that. I didn't mean "Usenet with a superior user interface". Not surprisingly, given many years of evolution and the fact that clients are *dedicated applications* rather than web forms, news clients are generally *very* slick.

The reasons why I find k5 superior to Usenet are twofold: rating and spam deletion removes much of the work of scoring/killfiling for me, and the community around here generates a higher quality discussion than Usenet, as a general rule.

Might I just add that while I expected that particular comment you quoted from to generate a fair bit of discussion, that snippet you have selected seemed to me to be one of the less potentially controversial bits ;-)

Right (3.00 / 1) (#12)
by mihalis on Sun Jan 07, 2001 at 08:49:08 PM EST

My story is only very lightly based on your comment. What you said was more of a catalyst for me to express something I'd been thinking about for a while, than something I wanted to address directly, so it's quite possible I read more into it than I should have.
-- Chris Morgan <see em at mihalis dot net>
[ Parent ]
Didn't mean the article wasn't good (3.00 / 1) (#16)
by goonie on Mon Jan 08, 2001 at 12:05:29 AM EST

In fact, if you care to check you'll notice I voted it up. In fact, I've got a fair bit of sympathy for your idea, but then again, having a good idea is one thing, implementing it in code is entirely another.

[ Parent ]
Usenet has some huge advantages you didn't mention (4.00 / 3) (#9)
by Flavio on Sun Jan 07, 2001 at 07:37:35 PM EST

Usenet has huge variety. For example, when I get a chemistry question I can't answer I just post to sci.chem. I usually get a very good, professional answer in just a few hours.

K5 just doesn't have much to relate on this topic, since it's a news site.

As for the interface, news is usually quite simpler but has one aspect that annoys me: I can't see every comment in one page. Instead, I see tons of headers. I don't want headers -- I want to skim through message bodies.

I don't think usenet has only pockets of good discussion -- it has loads of it. You just have to realise that Usenet isn't the best place for centralized news, much less personal news/editorials "the K5 way".

As for the NNTP interface, perhaps it would be much more needed for "the other site". K5 has pretty good signal/noise and not that many comments anyway.

Anyway, I could be wrong.


(To reiterate some editorial comments)... (4.57 / 7) (#10)
by ramses0 on Sun Jan 07, 2001 at 08:29:36 PM EST

We don't need GNUS for K5, we need NNTP export for K5. It makes no sense to re-implement a tested, excellent program like GNUS in a web application. It's just Not A Good Thing(tm).

Much better is to hack Scoop to allow GNUS access to all the comments. Read the editorial comments for more discussion.

[ rate all comments , for great justice | sell.com ]

NNTP backend (4.00 / 1) (#11)
by mihalis on Sun Jan 07, 2001 at 08:43:18 PM EST

Whlst I personally agree, I had the opinion that the K5 crowd weren't that interested in Usenet, and also I would guess there would be some thorny issues. For a start Usenet is a distributed system ("flood-fill algorithm") whereas K5 is centralised. Would the K5 server have to handle all people using an NNTP interface? Would that be an unreasonable extra load? I'm not an expert on news by any means, and if it turns out not to be a problem I'll be pleasantly surprised.
-- Chris Morgan <see em at mihalis dot net>
[ Parent ]
It doesn't have to propogate (4.66 / 3) (#17)
by squigly on Mon Jan 08, 2001 at 07:01:26 AM EST

IIRC, NNTP communicates with clients using a different set of messages from those used with other servers. A scoop NNTP interface would only need to talk to clients, and ignore all requests from other servers.

People who sig other people have nothing intelligent to say for themselves - anonimouse
[ Parent ]
Except for newsreaders that only allow one server (none / 0) (#21)
by pin0cchio on Tue Jan 09, 2001 at 10:34:12 AM EST

Some (relatively boneheaded) newsreaders (such as Forte Agent for Windows) only allow one NNTP server per installation, and most users leave this set to news.isp.com.
[ Parent ]
Better to serve some than none at all (none / 0) (#22)
by squigly on Tue Jan 09, 2001 at 04:47:30 PM EST

Its a shame since Forte is quite good. It seems pointless to allow nobody to use NNTP though, simply because some people won't be able to use it. At the moment, nobody can access k5 via NNTP.

People who sig other people have nothing intelligent to say for themselves - anonimouse
[ Parent ]
Yep, web sites are FAR behind. (5.00 / 4) (#18)
by WWWWolf on Mon Jan 08, 2001 at 09:18:31 AM EST

(I'm writing this reply in XEmacs, BTW. I switched to Gnus from slrn couple of days ago, and was sort of surprised of how similiar those two programs are, except that Gnus is a bit more configurable... =)

I think Usenet (or at least the groups I follow =) is a wonderful place, and the web discussion systems (like K5 and That Other Site) are cheap plastic imitations of Usenet's usability.

Currently, I follow 19 newsgroups, of which 3 are alt groups, 4 are in big-8 hierarchies and the rest are in Finnish regional hierarchies (sfnet and finet). I also follow K5, Slashdot and also read articles and stuff from some other sources (Advogato, Memepool, User Friendly).

What can I say about K5 and Slashdot, after years in Usenet? Well, I feel right at home...

Overall, the discussion quality is pretty much the same here and there. 90% of everything is crap. =) I see similiar levels of insight and trolls, wherever I go (though, regarding some topics/newgroups, there are always too many trolls... Not a great surprise!)

But the usability is definitely MUCH worse in web-based discussion areas.

In Usenet, I pull new articles from server (over ssh) with Leafnode, then read news with Gnus (No Internet Connection Necessary) and post the stuff away later.

In Web, I need to keep the line open, and deal with lag, graphics and preposterous rendering times (though Mozilla helps a bit - remember what was it like to open some long-discussed articles in Slashdot with Netscape 4? Ewwwww. Friends don't let friends use tables for layout. =)

AND then there's the moderation problem you mentioned. In addition to scoring, I like the fact that the news readers show where you have new articles, and how many unread articles you have. Imagine: "Hello WWWWolf! There are 3 new articles in Culture section today, with 1 blurb matching your regexp '(Napster|DeCSS|MPAA|RIAA|Inoshiro) is Spawn of Satan'." I'm sure it would be cool to have have a lot more flexible way to say what I want to read...

-- Weyfour WWWWolf, a lupine technomancer from the cold north...

Like Usenet, but with better graphics? | 22 comments (10 topical, 12 editorial, 0 hidden)
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