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[P]
Usenet is good.

By Bill Godfrey in Op-Ed
Tue Jan 07, 2003 at 04:45:01 PM EST
Tags: Technology (all tags)
Technology

Just spotted this article on the Guardian's web site from the 2nd of January. I quote...

Blogs as newsgroups
Usenet newsgroups were rendered worse than useless by wayward discussion and wall-to-wall spam. Now, according to some web theorists, blogs are bringing back the newsgroup idea, albeit by the backdoor. The idea is that, on blogs that let readers discuss links and find out where similar ideas are being discussed elsewhere on the web, we're seeing the rise of a kind of twenty first century Usenet - more focused, more responsive, more integrated into the rest of the online world. JM

Usenet is "worse than useless" is it? Someone forgot to tell usenet.


Usenet is useful, today. Groups such as uk.media.tv.misc about the joys of British television, uk.culture.nogstalia.1980s for the nostalgics and even rec.music.artists.emmylou-harris about the music of Emmylou Harris.

For sure, usenet was unprepared for the spam attacks, but later on came nocem, a automatic system of listing "bad" articles.

Spammers harvesting email addresses was also a problem. It's a bit of kludgy fix, but now people simply tend not to provide email address on thier posts anymore, leaving it up to the (human) reader to find the contact details in an article signature.

To hold up blogs as an improvement is just... wrong. The discussion system on most web sites is bad. Really bad. My god it's awful.

Try a quick experiment, go to your favourite discussion web site and read a bunch of messages. Say there's 40 messages posted. Around message number 20, stop reading, log out. You've read about half the messages there, leaving 20 unread.

A day later, let's say there another 10 messages have been added. You've read 20 and there should be 30 more. Since web forums are better, it should be ridiculously easy to only see the 30 you have not read without having to wade through the 20 you've already seen? Um... no. Usenet, on the other hand, has been able to only show you unread articles since 1981. So much for progress.

To be fair, some web forums have fixed this to a certain extent. To take advantage of this though, you usually need to register yourself. Joy, yet another password to remember for each and every forum you read.

Ever seen your favourite web site not work? Web sites are centralised, which makes them vulnerable. What do you do if your favourite web site stops working or the people who maintain decide to shut down? Well, there's precious little you can do. Whereas usenet will continue to work so long as any two people can keep thier ends running. So much for progress.

With the great obsession for novelty and sexyness, we're losing sight of what's useful. If you excuse me now, I shall contemplate the irony of posting this rant on a web site.

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Display: Sort:
Usenet is good. | 91 comments (80 topical, 11 editorial, 0 hidden)
Weblogs are an improvement for USENET. (4.60 / 5) (#2)
by Ranieri on Tue Jan 07, 2003 at 06:39:03 AM EST

For one thing, they siphon off the AOL-ers.
--
Taste cold steel, feeble cannon restraint rope!
They are for different purposes (4.25 / 4) (#3)
by hbw on Tue Jan 07, 2003 at 06:44:10 AM EST

Usenet discussions and blog discussions are different, period. You make it seem like it should be one or the other.

They are even for slightly different kinds of discussion: in a newsgroup people with the same general "hobby" or what-not gather to discuss all kinds of sub-topics, whereas in a blog discussion forum often times you mostly focus the discussion around the blog item in question; which can be ranging from a number of topics from day to day.

Let's not make it look like they somehow threat each other's existence.

I have discovered a truly marvelous signature, which unfortunately the margin is not large enough to contain.

well I don't agree (4.00 / 2) (#9)
by tmenezes on Tue Jan 07, 2003 at 07:30:48 AM EST

I think blogs became popular for 3 reasons and 3 reasons only:
  • The client is your browser, so it's closer to the net newbie;
  • Sexy templates;
  • Sense of ownership, most blogs have defined owners.
If you follow usenet foruns you will realize that it is quite common to discuss around an item for days, months or in some cases years.

Functionality-wise I tend to agree that the usent is way superior:

Blogs have a centralized single point of failure and case to case search;

The usenet has centralized search (through google, for example) and case to case points of failure.

In case you're looking for a solution to a specific problem or a specific piece of information the usenet is by far the way to go. At least by me experience...


[ Parent ]

You don't get the point (none / 0) (#16)
by hbw on Tue Jan 07, 2003 at 09:31:57 AM EST

The point is that it's really irrelevant whether usenet is superiour or inferior to blogs; they can live side by side since they are entirely different things and different means of discussion forums.

I have discovered a truly marvelous signature, which unfortunately the margin is not large enough to contain.
[ Parent ]

Makes the usual media mistake.... (4.33 / 3) (#7)
by squigly on Tue Jan 07, 2003 at 07:13:50 AM EST

"The internet" and "The Web" are interchangeable.  The comment about bneing "more integrated into the rest of the online world" is an example of this.  There seems to be a belief that nobody would want to have anything to do with a piece of the internet that isn't the web.

Of course, most usenet applications will hyperlink any url starting with http:// or ftp:// .  It's also quite telling that there has been some mention in the past about adding a nntp server to scoop and slash.

USENET is good. (4.33 / 3) (#11)
by i on Tue Jan 07, 2003 at 08:14:49 AM EST

Blogs are fast.

A USENET message propagates worldwide how fast? Couple of hours probably. That's for Internet-connected users, mind you. It can take a day or two to reach everyone at FidoNet et al. Maybe even a week.

As I see it, this is the difference between blog-based and USENET discussions.

and we have a contradicton according to our assumptions and the factor theorem

Speed. (none / 0) (#13)
by Bill Godfrey on Tue Jan 07, 2003 at 08:45:05 AM EST

A USENET message propagates worldwide how fast? Couple of hours probably. That's for Internet-connected users, mind you. It can take a day or two to reach everyone at FidoNet et al. Maybe even a week.

I just did an incredibly unscientific experiment... Found myself a busy newsgroup, waited for a new article. Found one, looked at time posted, it was in the order of seconds. The path header included 19 components.

For sure if we include someone who lives on the side of a mountain then articles would take however long it takes for him to connect to the outside world.

As for Fidonet gateways, a webforum-to-fidonet gateway would take just as long. (Or longer, depending on how frequently the gateway polls the server to check for new articles.)

That's assuming anyone would want to build a webforum-to-fidonet gateway.

[ Parent ]

I did another incredibly unscientific experiment. (none / 0) (#15)
by i on Tue Jan 07, 2003 at 09:25:59 AM EST

I searched Google for usenet "propagation time".

and we have a contradicton according to our assumptions and the factor theorem

[ Parent ]
I did that search too. (none / 0) (#17)
by Bill Godfrey on Tue Jan 07, 2003 at 09:47:34 AM EST

I was hoping for a full scientific study using correctly set clocks over a full 24 hour period, but I couldn't find one. Care to throw me a link?

I tried repeating my experiement a few more times. All in the order of seconds. Does everyone have a bad clock? I'll try it again later once all the Americans have got home from work.

Anyway, I have to concede that the time from clicking "Send" to the time that someone can read the article is very small with web forums, smaller than usenet.

How it would take a web forum user to click reload and actually find the article amoungst all the ones they have already read is another question entirely.

[ Parent ]

No scientific study at hand. (none / 0) (#22)
by i on Tue Jan 07, 2003 at 10:27:20 AM EST

I guess when everything is configured at least semi-correctly, propagation time will be in the order of seconds. But shit does happen. I remember seeing a few bad delays, and quite a bit more of not-so-bad ones, back when I was actively participating.

Which reminds me. It's been months since I last checked these five or six groups I used to read. I wonder what I've been missing.

and we have a contradicton according to our assumptions and the factor theorem

[ Parent ]

Huge propogation times with web (2.00 / 1) (#52)
by Sunir on Tue Jan 07, 2003 at 11:44:28 PM EST

Actually, with webforums, it could take a matter of days for an interesting comment to reach the entire world, provided it was linked and linked and linked again and finally showed in the DayPop top 40. With Usenet, a post filters through most of the network relatively quickly these days.

It's deceptive to compare a posting to only one web forum is the same as posting to Usenet. My comment here on kuro5hin will only be seen by people using Kuro5hin, which is a very small population indeed.

"Look! You're free! Go, and be free!" and everyone hated it for that. --r
[ Parent ]

Usnet is fast (5.00 / 1) (#29)
by Psycho Les on Tue Jan 07, 2003 at 01:37:05 PM EST

I get stuff posted from the other side of the world to my server within seconds.

[ Parent ]
A couple things: (4.66 / 3) (#12)
by paine in the ass on Tue Jan 07, 2003 at 08:44:41 AM EST

First, there are plenty of bits of code that have been written (mostly in PHP that I've seen) which allow for your "see comments I haven't read" feature as well as a few others that Usenet does not and never will have (comment moderation, anyone?). I've even heard of a site that does it with PERL.

Second, Usenet is nice...for people who are used to it. That's not a large cross-section of today's Internet users, in case you hadn't noticed. For most people the tools are unfamiliar, the concept is something they've seen elsewhere, and since it requires extra setup (for one thing, you have to find out your ISP's news server, if they have one) it's just not worth it for them.

Newsgroups also tend to be...well...condescending. If you thought k5 was full of pretentious wankers, just try Usenet for a while; I've run into one too many people who think that because they were online before "that Web thing" came along, they're somehow God's gift to cyberspace. Please.

For these reasons and more, I prefer Web discussion and mailing lists; done right, they're very nice and very convenient. Usenet has its merits, and I know plenty of people like it; good for them, I don't think it'll die out anytime soon. But I like my Web-based discussion, and I'll stick with it.


I will dress in bright and cheery colors, and so throw my enemies into confusion.

Re: A couple things: (4.00 / 1) (#14)
by Bill Godfrey on Tue Jan 07, 2003 at 09:02:02 AM EST

First, there are plenty of bits of code that have been written (mostly in PHP that I've seen) which allow for your "see comments I haven't read" feature

Indeed, I acknowledged that many forums do indeed have this done right. Thing is, a heck of a lot don't. If it's such a simple feature then why don;t all these web-forums have it? For it to work, you would need user registration, which means another password to keep track of, and say goodbye to caches as each user will need thier own copy.

as well as a few others that Usenet does not and never will have (comment moderation, anyone?). I've even heard of a site that does it with PERL.[k5]

There are moderated newsgroups, where articles have to be approved first, but I think you mean more retroactive moderation. The state of the art is the nocem, but cancels are still popular. No idea why.

As for the less-drastic moderation K5 are used to, killfiles do the job.

Second, Usenet is nice...for people who are used to it. That's not a large cross-section of today's Internet users, in case you hadn't noticed. For most people the tools are unfamiliar, the concept is something they've seen elsewhere, and since it requires extra setup (for one thing, you have to find out your ISP's news server, if they have one) it's just not worth it for them.

The barrier to entry is the big disadvantage with usenet. For me, since I move around a lot, I use Curt Welch's newsreader.com. It's a classical newsreader but it uses HTML over HTTP instead of (say) X Windows. It's a compromise.

Newsgroups also tend to be...well...condescending. If you thought k5 was full of pretentious wankers, just try Usenet for a while; I've run into one too many people who think that because they were online before "that Web thing" came along, they're somehow God's gift to cyberspace. Please.

Alas, the world is full of idiots. Use a kill file.

For these reasons and more, I prefer Web discussion and mailing lists; done right, they're very nice and very convenient. Usenet has its merits, and I know plenty of people like it; good for them, I don't think it'll die out anytime soon. But I like my Web-based discussion, and I'll stick with it.

Ah well, I can't persude everyone. At least mailing lists are easily gateway-able.

[ Parent ]

I forgot. (none / 0) (#50)
by paine in the ass on Tue Jan 07, 2003 at 10:08:11 PM EST

That's another thing that always bugged me; the killfile is such an inelegant method. In a system with real moderation and preferences, you can hide or rate down comments you don't like, but if a habitually stupid person posts something insightful (happens every once in a while by accident, I think it has something to do with neutrinos) you get to see it.


I will dress in bright and cheery colors, and so throw my enemies into confusion.
[ Parent ]
A couple of things (4.00 / 1) (#39)
by Nickus on Tue Jan 07, 2003 at 05:21:25 PM EST

Newsgroups also tend to be...well...condescending. If you thought k5 was full of pretentious wankers, just try Usenet for a while; I've run into one too many people who think that because they were online before "that Web thing" came along, they're somehow God's gift to cyberspace. Please.

One of the reasons for this is that they built a community years before all the "normal" people came online. They had a way of communicating and they had the netiquette. Then suddenly Usenet got flooded by all these AOL-me-too people demanding that they should have everything and everything should change to suit them.

One of the thing I hate most is to see some new person on a mailinglist that hasn t read the archives before they post, hasn't done any reading on their own and just send out a general "help me with this" mail. Has people really become more stupid the last few years? Or did we have better education before?

Oh well, enough ranting :-)



Due to budget cuts, light at end of tunnel will be out. --Unknown
[ Parent ]
No. (4.00 / 1) (#45)
by paine in the ass on Tue Jan 07, 2003 at 07:40:35 PM EST

I'm not talking about flaming clueless newbies (and for the record, it isn't that people have become stupid, it's that the Internet opened up to people who weren't academics or technology professionals). I'm talking about pure "I remember the Great Renaming and that means I'm better than you" condescension, and it's out there in spades.


I will dress in bright and cheery colors, and so throw my enemies into confusion.
[ Parent ]
Newbie (4.00 / 1) (#57)
by Nickus on Wed Jan 08, 2003 at 03:34:51 AM EST

But if I have been there longer than you that means I'm the guru and you're the newbie :-). No matter if I'm an expert in the subject or not.

Seriously, I agree there are a few of those on Usenet but I've been there for quite a while myself and you learn not to read those (that was the killfile is for). On k5 on the other hand we have every now and then an article about who all the cool people at k5 are and what they do. Makes me barf.



Due to budget cuts, light at end of tunnel will be out. --Unknown
[ Parent ]
Not unique to usenet (none / 0) (#77)
by zakalwe on Thu Jan 09, 2003 at 07:30:11 AM EST

Snobs are everywhere, but being a >30K K5 userid who wouldn't remember the great downtime you are obviously too inferior to realise this :-)

Seriously I don't think usenet is any worse than the net in general for this, except maybe that its been around for longer.

[ Parent ]

Bah. (none / 0) (#85)
by ubernostrum on Thu Jan 09, 2003 at 06:09:21 PM EST

He's not uid>30k, he's my brother...

My advice, young man: migrate to a new nick every year or two whether you need it or not; change is good. And it's fun to get some of the old jokes when people think your account is too new for that ;)

And maybe I'm just biased about Usenet; I'm a child of the Web and I'll probably always prefer it.


--
You cooin' with my bird?
[ Parent ]

Counterargument (4.33 / 3) (#18)
by Canthros on Tue Jan 07, 2003 at 09:55:09 AM EST

alt.*

--
It's now obvious you are either A) Gay or B) Female, or possibly both.
RyoCokey
Counter-counter argument... (5.00 / 1) (#19)
by Bill Godfrey on Tue Jan 07, 2003 at 10:01:12 AM EST

Reading slahsdot at -1.

But yes, there is an awful lot of rubbish in alt. The "managed" hierarchies work a lot better. It is unfortunate that alt is usually listed first, beginging with a and all that.

Bill, reads alt.aeffle.und.pferdle

[ Parent ]

Alternatively... (none / 0) (#21)
by The Solitaire on Tue Jan 07, 2003 at 10:15:54 AM EST

For us "elite" (ha what a joke) trusted users, try reading the comments rated zero... Truly awful.

On the other hand, some of the sci.* newsgroups can still get pretty terrible. A couple of years back I stopped reading sci.cognitive for a long time, because the entire group was dominated by discussions on IQ and racial background (and not enlightened discussions, either, if there is such a thing on this topic...) That, and the inevitable spam (or is it velveeta?)

I need a new sig.
[ Parent ]

Intelligent IQ/race discussion? (none / 0) (#59)
by pediddle on Wed Jan 08, 2003 at 06:26:13 AM EST

You decide :-)

http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2003/1/3/16339/29782

[ Parent ]

Biggest Usenet Advantage (5.00 / 7) (#20)
by The Solitaire on Tue Jan 07, 2003 at 10:06:51 AM EST

For me, Usenet has always had one major advantage over the weblogs that litter the net - centralization. Not centralization in terms of servers, etc. but in terms of access. When I want to ask a question about, say, cognitive science (a topic near and dear to my heart), it is a trivial matter to find the appropriate group (in this case, sci.cognitive). I consider Usenet to be a sort of "one-stop shopping" for discussion.

Weblogs, on the other hand are extremely hit and miss. As far as I know, there aren't any weblogs for CogSci (if anyone knows of one, tell me!!). But even if there is one, it isn't as trivial to find. I can only imagine that things are much worse for those that are looking for a very obscure topic.

I need a new sig.

ot: cogsci wiki (4.00 / 1) (#51)
by Sunir on Tue Jan 07, 2003 at 11:38:36 PM EST

How about a wiki? NeuroWiki focuses on computational neuroscience.

"Look! You're free! Go, and be free!" and everyone hated it for that. --r
[ Parent ]

Thanks... (none / 0) (#73)
by The Solitaire on Wed Jan 08, 2003 at 09:33:16 PM EST

Not exactly my field, but I find it interesting nonetheless... I'll check it out, thanks!

I need a new sig.
[ Parent ]

I can't believe this is getting voted up (3.00 / 12) (#23)
by RareHeintz on Tue Jan 07, 2003 at 10:45:47 AM EST

Try a quick experiment, go to your favourite discussion web site and read a bunch of messages. Say there's 40 messages posted. Around message number 20, stop reading, log out. You've read about half the messages there, leaving 20 unread.

A day later, let's say there another 10 messages have been added. You've read 20 and there should be 30 more. Since web forums are better, it should be ridiculously easy to only see the 30 you have not read without having to wade through the 20 you've already seen? Um... no. Usenet, on the other hand, has been able to only show you unread articles since 1981. So much for progress.

You really aren't paying attention.

First off, it's not the Usenet that provides that fun what-have-I-already-read functionality, it's your Usenet client. Your apparent inability to make that distinction is one of the reasons I voted down your post.

The other way I know you're really not paying attention is that K5 does mark the new comments for you - or is the bright red [new] indicator not simple enough for you? Though this is certainly a deficiency on other sites, it's not a weakness of blogs or discussion sites generally, but of the software used to create them.

Does Usenet have its nice points? Sure. But most of the nicer ones are kludges that are better-implemented on the web. Most of the stuff you're whining about is not a deficiency of the web, or blogs, or anything else but shoddy software design - which is going to happen sometimes. So what you think of as a strength of the Usenet (simple interface that brings information you want to the surface) has nothing to do with the Usenet, but has to do with the fact that you were probably using one of the well-written clients for the Usenet, or a web-based descendant of one of those clients. With blogs and discussion sites, there is no standard client or small set of frequently-used, well-written clients, so you aren't always going to get the features you want.

As far as your arguments regarding reliability, they're also crap. You've never had your NNTP server go down? Never had its disk fill up with porn spam? Never had an autocratic admin drop your favorite groups (usually because he was fed up with spam volume)?

Anyway, if you don't like web discussion sites, go back to your old command-line newsreader (I have a source copy of tin around somewhere, if you need it), and stop bothering the rest of us with your whining about how good the bad old days were.

OK,
- B
--
http://www.bradheintz.com/ - updated kind of daily

You seem to be making the point of the article (4.80 / 5) (#24)
by Happy Monkey on Tue Jan 07, 2003 at 11:08:04 AM EST

First off, it's not the Usenet that provides that fun what-have-I-already-read functionality, it's your Usenet client. Your apparent inability to make that distinction is one of the reasons I voted down your post.

That is a strength of Usenet - you can use your client of choice. Changing browsers won't fix any UI design issues with a blog.

The other way I know you're really not paying attention is that K5 does mark the new comments for you - or is the bright red [new] indicator not simple enough for you? Though this is certainly a deficiency on other sites, it's not a weakness of blogs or discussion sites generally, but of the software used to create them.

Well, Kuro5hin has a much better UI than many blogs/discussion sites, but even that feature isn't as nice as the Usenet version. When you load a Kuro5hin page, ALL of the new posts are flagged as read, whether you read them or not. If you leave and return, the ones you didn't get to are no longer marked [new].

Does Usenet have its nice points? Sure. But most of the nicer ones are kludges that are better-implemented on the web. Most of the stuff you're whining about is not a deficiency of the web, or blogs, or anything else but shoddy software design - which is going to happen sometimes. So what you think of as a strength of the Usenet (simple interface that brings information you want to the surface) has nothing to do with the Usenet, but has to do with the fact that you were probably using one of the well-written clients for the Usenet, or a web-based descendant of one of those clients. With blogs and discussion sites, there is no standard client or small set of frequently-used, well-written clients, so you aren't always going to get the features you want.

As I said before, the fact that you can find an excellent newsreader is a point in favor of Usenet, since there is no way to do the same for a badly designed website.

As far as your arguments regarding reliability, they're also crap. You've never had your NNTP server go down? Never had its disk fill up with porn spam? Never had an autocratic admin drop your favorite groups (usually because he was fed up with spam volume)?
Well, if any of those things happen, you can get a new news server - and get the exact same content - which is the point the article was trying to make.

One point in favor of web-based discussions is that new features can more easily be added, to experiment. The experiments may succeed or fail, but some innovations will certainly be made.
___
Length 17, Width 3
[ Parent ]
The bright red [new] marks. (4.66 / 3) (#27)
by Bill Godfrey on Tue Jan 07, 2003 at 11:54:11 AM EST

First off, it's not the Usenet that provides that fun what-have-I-already-read functionality, it's your Usenet client. Your apparent inability to make that distinction is one of the reasons I voted down your post.

It could be argued that the client is part of usenet.

One popular client, Google Groups, does not keep track of read articles. You don't have to use that one. (To be fair to google, they didn't set out to create a newsreader.)

You can switch web browsers, but it would take a heck of a browser to fix this problem with most web forums. (Is there a module which performs diffs perhaps?)

The other way I know you're really not paying attention is that K5 does mark the new comments for you - or is the bright red [new] indicator not simple enough for you? Though this is certainly a deficiency on other sites, it's not a weakness of blogs or discussion sites generally, but of the software used to create them.

The [new] marks are good, but they are not perfect. Try out my experiment with K5. Once you've bought up a document, you get one chance to see the [new] markers. Bring up the document again and the [new] amrks are gone. Even if your only act was to go from Threaded to Dynamic Minimal.

This can be fixed though. Start from Dynamic Minimal and add some code to the bit which loads the article text to send a signal to the server that this article is being read. Some web forums do indeed work like this, but a firghteningly small proportion.

But what do we do about the web forums that don't have any sort of article tracking? They are not going to go away just because anyone wishes them so.

It could be argued that my newsreader newsreader.com, where HTML over HTTP replaces X Windows, is just a web forum in disguise. I can accept that. The difference is that I can leave this service and use a different newsreader, without having to start from scratch, re-establishing myself in a new community.

(Hmmm, perhaps I should have thrown that into the main article. Too late now.)

As well as all that, I have one login to get into all my groups. If all 50 (ish) groups were 50 separate websites, I'd have to remember 50 more passwords. That means either reusing passwords or taking notes.

big snip

As far as your arguments regarding reliability, they're also crap. You've never had your NNTP server go down? Never had its disk fill up with porn spam? Never had an autocratic admin drop your favorite groups (usually because he was fed up with spam volume)?

If my (or usually my ISP) NNTP server breaks, it's not the end of the world, I can switch my feed to someone else's. If (say) K5 breaks, there's no alternative K5 I can switch to with all the old articles there, it's just gone.

Anyway, if you don't like web discussion sites, go back to your old command-line newsreader (I have a source copy of tin around somewhere, if you need it), and stop bothering the rest of us with your whining about how good the bad old days were.

Okies.

[ Parent ]

bright red [new] marks (none / 0) (#79)
by clover_kicker on Thu Jan 09, 2003 at 08:14:39 AM EST

Putting those [new] marks in the text of the article seriously screws me up when I try to navigate this page. Usually I search for the string [new] in my browser, and that isn't working well for this article.

Damn, I'd gotten hardened to the failings of web forums, and this discussion has ripped the scab right off :)
--
I am the very model of a K5 personality.
I intersperse obscenity with tedious banality.

[ Parent ]

Re: reliability of USENET (none / 0) (#76)
by abc123 on Thu Jan 09, 2003 at 03:22:58 AM EST

> As far as your arguments regarding reliability,
> they're also crap. You've never had your NNTP
> server go down? Never had its disk fill up with
> porn spam? Never had an autocratic admin drop
> your favorite groups (usually because he was
> fed up with spam volume

USENET gives you choice in this regard. If your server down is down or doesn't have the newsgroup you want, you can go to another one. It is not obvious to me that when the K5 website goes down I can flick over to a backup server and carry on, nor that I can read or queue responses to K5 articles if the K5 website is down.


[ Parent ]

On the other hand... (none / 0) (#82)
by RareHeintz on Thu Jan 09, 2003 at 11:13:30 AM EST

...the number of open NNTP servers has dwindled rapidly, and continues to do so. There's no guarantee that the few remaining will carry the groups you want, especially if the groups are of only local interest.

As far as redundancy being among the saving graces of Usenet, yes, if the redundancy you want is multiple servers all carrying the same bits organized the same way, Usenet gives you that (again, with the proviso that there's no guarantee that any one of the increasingly rare servers carries the bits you want). If you're a little more flexible about what you mean by redundancy, though, the sheer size and breadth of the Internet offers a lot more than Usenet ever did. So K5 goes down? Try Advogato, Metafilter, Google News, or even Slashdot, depending on whether you came for a techie-oriented community, under-covered news items, over-covered news items, or flamewars conducted by halfwit ideologues and 1337 teenage social outcasts, respectively.

Just my $2e-2,
- B
--
http://www.bradheintz.com/ - updated kind of daily
[ Parent ]

The big deal is permanency. (4.00 / 3) (#25)
by ghjm on Tue Jan 07, 2003 at 11:24:24 AM EST

Suppose the day comes when Kuro5hin does is Nth annual pledge drive and fails to raise enough money to continue operating. Eventually this will happen: Web sites, like BBSes before them, come and go as their maintainers gain and lose interest in spending the time to keep them running. On that unfortunate day, what happens to all the articles and comments? Most likely, they wind up on some backup tape in Rusty's basement, never to be seen again (except perhaps for a few that got captured on archive.org). This is a major problem that people are ignoring - but when the day comes, it will piss a lot of people off. Now multiply this issue by the number of blogs that exist. Usenet is better able to solve this.

-Graham

Possible revenue stream? (4.00 / 1) (#30)
by Edgy Loner on Tue Jan 07, 2003 at 01:51:20 PM EST

Sell database dumps of the sites. Or just auction off the backup when the site shuts down. It would be interesting to see who might want such a thing and what they would be willing to pay.

This is not my beautiful house.
This is not my beautiful knife.
[ Parent ]
Good Idea (none / 0) (#54)
by Andy P on Wed Jan 08, 2003 at 12:37:34 AM EST

If K5 ever kicked the can, I'd buy a CD or a DVD of the articles for nostalgias sake.  

Barrels are just crates with delusions of grandeur
I masturbate to AOL commercials

[ Parent ]

Usenet (4.50 / 2) (#32)
by Anonymous 7324 on Tue Jan 07, 2003 at 02:20:36 PM EST

gets spammed far too much in many groups. Also, there's often little recourse in 'banning' someone.

That said, proper use of filtering and killfiles can jack up the S/N ratio to the point where the groups are very useful again. Oh, that and moderation. Heh.

What spam? (none / 0) (#69)
by damien on Wed Jan 08, 2003 at 05:49:11 PM EST

I keep hearing people tell me that Usenet is full of spam. Say what?

I follow, to a greater or lesser degree, about a dozen newsgroups. Every few days, I run across a piece of spam. I never read it; it's always pretty obvious from the message title. Out of the thousands of messages that pass through the groups I follow, that's not bad at all--a rather better spam ratio than I see in my email, to be sure.

If you're seeing lots of spam on Usenet, maybe you need to switch to a server which actually runs spam filters.

-Damien

[ Parent ]

How about a NNTP gateway for k5? (4.75 / 8) (#33)
by GGardner on Tue Jan 07, 2003 at 02:47:03 PM EST

I agree with the poster that, by and large, the NNTP client and server tools provide a lot more functionality than pretty much any weblog does.

Hypothetically speaking, though, if you could read k5 through a private (i.e not USENET) NNTP interface, would you? Would the better threading, tools, etc, encourage better discussion and a higher signal to noise ratio? I'm not sure myself.

I think in order for this to work well, some enhancements to nntp would need to be made. Support for better authentication, perhaps support for collaborative moderation, and anti-spam measures.

I would pay money to subscribe to "Usenet II", if it had the content of golden-age Usenet, reliably authentication, anti-spam measures, and a way to keep the total size under control. A lot of the problem with Usenet when I left it was the people who treat it as a giant distributed filesystem, and uploaded all kinds of huge binaries to it.

K5 over NNTP (4.33 / 3) (#36)
by Bill Godfrey on Tue Jan 07, 2003 at 04:31:46 PM EST

Hypothetically speaking, though, if you could read k5 through a private (i.e not USENET) NNTP interface, would you?

Me? A good newsreader would certainly keep track of read articles a lot better. Thing is though, K5 has adapted to it's own medium, and usenet has adapted to it's medium. K5 people quote with HTML, usenet quotes with &rt; characters. I don't think the two would gel quite so easily.

Would the better threading, tools, etc, encourage better discussion and a higher signal to noise ratio? I'm not sure myself.

The signal to noise ratio would be the same, assuming rasty keeps as much of an iron fist around the NNTP copy as the website.

<snip>

A lot of the problem with Usenet when I left it was the people who treat it as a giant distributed filesystem, and uploaded all kinds of huge binaries to it.

Well, I drop alt.binaries.* in a big hole marked /dev/null.

[ Parent ]

Please give me K5 NNTP! (4.33 / 6) (#37)
by Lulu of the Lotus-Eaters on Tue Jan 07, 2003 at 04:45:06 PM EST

I would practically -kill- for my favorite discussion sites to be available via NNTP rather than only through their kludgey, awkward, poorly threaded, browser-only, slow systems.  K5 would be a thousand times better.  So would /..  So would Plastic.  So would every other web-based discussion site I've ever seen.

BLOGS SUCK!

[ Parent ]

I've started working on this (4.60 / 5) (#43)
by matthewg on Tue Jan 07, 2003 at 06:00:47 PM EST

I did this. Right now it only works for Slash. I had plans to add Scoop support, but never got around to it. If I had sufficient interest and/or help, I could take that up again. (Note: The demonstration site linked to from that page isn't up.)

Adding Scoop support shouldn't be too hard, I defined a fairly generic interface for "weblog system plugins."

[ Parent ]

Well (4.50 / 2) (#49)
by Ras Bomboclaat on Tue Jan 07, 2003 at 09:42:20 PM EST

The best newsreader evar can do slashdot.  Maybe someone who feels like it can extend it to do k5.
~~ DOING NOTHING ~~ FUCKING SOMETHING
[ Parent ]
Gnus can read many web-boards (5.00 / 1) (#84)
by Per Abrahamsen on Thu Jan 09, 2003 at 12:03:14 PM EST

Gnus is a newsreader which can do just about everything, among other parse the HTML of many popular web-boards, and present them as-if they were a newsgroup.

My experience was that the web-boards felt a *lot* dumber after being reformated and presented as a newsgroup.   Somehow, the slow and clumsy web-interface help hidingq the lack of content of the messages.

[ Parent ]

Usenet can't compare (4.33 / 3) (#34)
by fhotg on Tue Jan 07, 2003 at 04:18:45 PM EST

It's just wrong to try comapring two so different things.

Usenet is determined by the underlying technology, you can't change the quality or type of discussion or try out new ways to communicate just by hacking some Perl. Look at K5. And, seen any spam lately ? Show me that newsgroup, gimme that killfile.

Improving discussion by creating some competition for good comments ? Just invent a good rating scheme. Did you never try to give a 5 to a Usenet post ?

Sure Usenet has some advantages over the web, but it's static, it can't change unless you change the underlying technology, and then it won't be Usenet anymore. How many cool ideas for talking, working, playing are still to be thought up and just some coding away ?

Usenet is already on FIDO-Net's track to mumification. It won't die, but it will be populated only by fossils with an obsession with paleo-tech, talking about the good old times and continuing indefinitely repeating flame-wars.

That's not because it were bad, but because the people who understand how to use it properly, have ever heard about Netiquette, and know how to collaboratively and subtly moderate an unmoderated newsgroup become senile and die.
~~~
Gitarren für die Mädchen -- Champagner für die Jungs

Re: Usenet can't compare (5.00 / 1) (#38)
by Bill Godfrey on Tue Jan 07, 2003 at 04:45:18 PM EST

It's just wrong to try comapring two so different things. Usenet is determined by the underlying technology, you can't change the quality or type of discussion or try out new ways to communicate just by hacking some Perl. Look at K5. And, seen any spam lately ? Show me that newsgroup, gimme that killfile. Improving discussion by creating some competition for good comments ? Just invent a good rating scheme. Did you never try to give a 5 to a Usenet post ?

Sure Usenet has some advantages over the web, but it's static, it can't change unless you change the underlying technology, and then it won't be Usenet anymore. How many cool ideas for talking, working, playing are still to be thought up and just some coding away ?

Well, looking at the time taken by the IETF's two working groups on usenet have taken, any progress in the usenet world will be done by someone serving a tangible need.

Usenet doesn't really need polls, or author authentication, so no-one bothers adding them. The world needed a good way to control floods, and the preailing standard (nocem) is the one that someone just sat down a wrote the damn thing.

HTML posts failed quite spectacularly. The people who implemented it simply failed to understand usenet.

Usenet is already on FIDO-Net's track to mumification. It won't die, but it will be populated only by fossils with an obsession with paleo-tech, talking about the good old times and continuing indefinitely repeating flame-wars.

Maybe. There are certain areas poorly served by web sites. General computer programming for instance. Dispite many attempts to start programming community web sites, comp.programming is still the one.

That's not because it were bad, but because the people who understand how to use it properly, have ever heard about Netiquette, and know how to collaboratively and subtly moderate an unmoderated newsgroup become senile and die.

Ah well, us old-hands will have a job.

[ Parent ]

Usenet is used primarily, not developed (none / 0) (#65)
by asjo on Wed Jan 08, 2003 at 01:40:51 PM EST

> Sure Usenet has some advantages over the web, but
> it's static, it can't change unless you change the
> underlying technology, and then it won't be Usenet
> anymore. How many cool ideas for talking, working,
> playing are still to be thought up and just some
> coding away ?

Usenet is being used by people to discuss whatever they like to discuss, primarily.

It's a discussion medium, and usenet itself usually isn't the primary focus.

So I don't think it's a problem that a lot of people don't bother with making new hip stuff with the underlying structure of usenet, because people are using that solid foundation to discuss all sort of other things.

The groups I read have thriving communities of users of various unixen helping each other out, perl-programmers exchanging ideas and information and so on so forth.

I don't read groups about developing news-servers, as that's not what makes usenet interesting to me.

The discussions in and communities around various newsgroups are.

  Best regards,

     Adam.

[ Parent ]

Re: Usenet can't compare (5.00 / 1) (#75)
by abc123 on Thu Jan 09, 2003 at 03:17:01 AM EST

In order to reply to this post I had to: choose a non-conflicting username, register as a user, receive an e-mail message and respond to it, log in to the website, reload the web page for this article, re-find your comment, and click on a button that took me to a separate web page that doesn't have the surrounding (context) comments. USENET is easier. I now also have to enter a 'Subject' because the text field is blank. I'll just use "Re:". I also don't know how this text will wrap, so I'm not sure how to quote your article. With my USENET reader, I would be using my favourite editor which has my preferred keyboard shortcuts, spell check, quote formatting, etc.

> Improving discussion by creating some
> competition for good comments?
> Just invent a good rating scheme.
> Did you never try to give a 5 to a Usenet post?

Yes. Often I give -9999.
Did you see the comment about using a score file? Did you hear about the person who wanted to know about playstations but not about cars? Do you see that that person was rating USENET that way he/she wanted. If you have been able to +5 a car article, that would counteract the usefulness he/she had in his own rating system of that sales newsgroups.

Even for general discussion newsgroups: the good posts are going to be followed up by people or posting styles that score highly in your personal rating system. Someone also mentioned that USENET reading may be done offline and that read posts are generally hidden. A scoring system like I imagine K5 has (I've never used it) probably has no good place in USENET. Hence it hasn't been implemented like that.

> How many cool ideas for talking, working,
> playing are still to be thought up and
> just some coding away ?

I sometimes read jokes newsgroups. I can cull most spam (but some of it's funny, too). I can even delete old jokes that I have read before (but which someone else might not have read -- I don't screw with their ratings system just because I felt like -5 on a joke I'd already heard). But moreover, I can save an article or a thread to my save file using a single keystroke. Also, I can e-mail a joke to a friend with four keystrokes. If I wanted to mail your post to a friend because it was a good joke, I would have to select it in my web browser, do a copy, open up my mail reader, compose a message, paste your text, manually attribute it (probably copy-and-paste the URL), etc., etc.

These are not features of USENET, they are features of USENET clients. The advantage is that USENET gives me the ability to do this: to have my client work the way I want for all possible newsgroups. For each web-based forum, someone has to reinvent the wheel and I have to reinvent my reading style. Presumably that will be overcome one day, and USENET will not have these advantages over web fora. But web fora will have become USENET.


[ Parent ]

both are bad, but UseNet may be worse (5.00 / 1) (#35)
by Delirium on Tue Jan 07, 2003 at 04:19:43 PM EST

Where by "bad" I mean "inferior to standard BBS forum systems" (including FidoNet). As you mentioned, Usenet has the advantage over blogs with "new messages"; you can read unread messages, come back, and read the rest. Most blogs that have a "new message" function (like scoop or vBulletin) do it by date the page or site was visited, so you can't read half, come back, and get the other half. So that's one thing UseNet (and BBSs) do right. However, UseNet is missing a very important piece of functionality: the ability to post public messages that are still addressed "to" someone. This way I can read a busy forum, and before reading everything new, I can read only the new messages addressed "to" me (presumably most of these will be replies to messages I wrote). BBS systems (including FidoNet) allow this, and UseNet does not (the only way to approximate this in UseNet is to follow threads you know you've posted in, or get your client to do so, but there's no way to get only the messages specifically in response to your messages). Kuro5hin has something like this, if you check the "your comments" page for responses, but this doesn't keep track of which are read and which are unread (though I'm told the premium membership functions have something along those lines). This personally is what I view as one of the most important functions of a messaging system, so in that respect UseNet fails, and BBSs win, with some blogs close behind.

Fidonet (none / 0) (#58)
by izogi on Wed Jan 08, 2003 at 04:02:48 AM EST

Wow, I remember Fidonet. Thanks for bringing back the memories.

The technology and formats were slightly brittle underneath, but as a user (both dial-up BBS and later as a fido point-op) it's one of my favourite messaging forums. Some of the software such as golded and timed was really nice... and fast. Also the communities of people involved were much closer-knit.

I think its worst point was that it didn't support threading very well. From memory the threads were usually linked by the mail tosser (eg. Squish) after they'd arrived on the system, and sometimes it'd even have to do this by raw subject lines. Either way, the readers were normally designed for reading in series ... which seemed to fit most people because normally you'd just read everything posted to an echo anyway, taking special note of the ones addressed to you.

The final thing that really made me leave was the unconditional insistance of the people in charge that fidonet's policy4 be enforced, irrespective of what was happening to the world around it. Having just checked, I've noticed that they're still clinging to that 13 year old document. The killing factor in policy4 is that it reqires all nodes to be attached to a dial-up line and be available to receive mail through a modem link... which automatically rules so many people out now. If there was flexibility in the administration at the time to use an Internet-based client-server system instead of requiring raw phone dialups, I might still have been using fido today.


- izogi


[ Parent ]
Newsreader functionality (none / 0) (#63)
by asjo on Wed Jan 08, 2003 at 01:25:13 PM EST

> However, UseNet is missing a very important piece
> of functionality: the ability to post public
> messages that are still addressed "to" someone.

It seems a lot of people in this discussion confuse newsreader functionality with usenet functionality.

The above is obviously something a decent newsreader with scoring can help you with. (I have told the newsreader I use[1] to give a higher score to articles in threads that I participate in).

I don't think there's much keeping you from adding a To: header to a usenet article [thus emailing a copy], by the way. (Netiquette should probably, though).

  Best regards,

    Adam.

[1] Gnus: <http://www.gnus.org>

[ Parent ]

yeah, but that's not really the same (none / 0) (#70)
by Delirium on Wed Jan 08, 2003 at 05:57:11 PM EST

In a FidoNet forum, if there was a thread I participated in exactly once, and then ignored for a while, and somebody dredged up an old message of mine and replied to it, it'd get flagged as a reply to one of my messages. There's no good way to do that with UseNet clients that I know of. You can score based on threads, but individual messages are a bit trickier. But that's the important part: if I participate in a thread once, but everyone ignores my post and continues with the thread, I don't want those replies scored higher. But if they actually respond to my post, I want those replies (and only those replies, not the entire thread) scored higher. I don't know of any way to do this, which isn't really a client failure; it's a failure on the protocol side to provide "this message is a public message but nominally addressed to [so-and-so]" markup. BBS messaging systems, on the other hand, did do that, and some blog systems are starting to.

[ Parent ]
Message IDs (none / 0) (#80)
by squigly on Thu Jan 09, 2003 at 08:17:43 AM EST

Scoring on individual messages would be quite easy.  Each message as a unique ID, and followups quote th ID of all earlier messages in the "References:" field.  

I'm not quite sure I see the difference about a nominal "To:" and just replying to that post.  Of course, usenet would allow this sort of thing to be retro-fitted, along with anything else that can be described as a line of text.

But perhaps I've got the wrong end of the stick.  If so, can you provide an example blog that has the functionality you're talking about?


[ Parent ]

No protocol problem, no funcitonality problem (5.00 / 1) (#83)
by Per Abrahamsen on Thu Jan 09, 2003 at 11:55:27 AM EST

It is not a protocol problem, as Usenet allows you to use a "To:" header in usenet messages, as well as just about any other header you can dream of.  I don't see the use though.

With regard to functionality, I have configured Gnus to automatically mark my messages as "dormant".  This means they are hidden until someone answers them.  As dormant messages are marked with a bright red color, it is very easy to spot followups to my own messages.

[ Parent ]

i dont even know how to install a news reader (1.50 / 2) (#42)
by turmeric on Tue Jan 07, 2003 at 05:41:43 PM EST

because they were always too goddamn complicated

2 ways of looking at it (5.00 / 1) (#47)
by clover_kicker on Tue Jan 07, 2003 at 08:50:55 PM EST

> i dont even know how to install a news reader
> because they were always too goddamn complicated

That probably says more about you then it does about newsreaders.
--
I am the very model of a K5 personality.
I intersperse obscenity with tedious banality.

[ Parent ]

yes and no (none / 0) (#53)
by calimehtar on Tue Jan 07, 2003 at 11:51:29 PM EST

What I'm thinking of is the critical mass problem: at what point does it become so hard that people figure it's not worth the effort even though they know it can be done? Like if you know you can get your usenet fix on google, or on K5, then why would you go to the trouble of downloading a newsreader, setting up the server, downloading the groups (this can take a really long time over dialup), finding the one of 5 or 6 options that has a reasonable amount of intelligent users...

This is the same reason Linux usage on the desktop is microscopic, the same reason people aren't downloading Phoenix in droves but continue to use the buggy insecure not-pop-up-blocking IE, the same reason nobody votes even when they know there's a roughly 50% chance an idiot like Bush will be elected.



[ Parent ]
errr (none / 0) (#61)
by turmeric on Wed Jan 08, 2003 at 10:37:15 AM EST

not voting is alot different than not reading usenet

[ Parent ]
I use Outlook Express 5 (none / 0) (#62)
by jforan on Wed Jan 08, 2003 at 12:07:39 PM EST

It is pretty easy.  Just fill in the news server hostname.

Not the best client, perhaps, but I am too lazy to care, and I don't use Usenet that often.

Course this won't help you if you're one of those anti-Windows guys.

Jeff

I hops to be barley workin'.
[ Parent ]

Dumb question? (4.33 / 3) (#44)
by coljac on Tue Jan 07, 2003 at 07:25:00 PM EST

I'm not much of a blogger, but anyone proposed an XML standard for web-based threaded discussions? If there was a standard, it would be really easy to build a usenet-like client that subscribed to decentralized weblog-URLs instead of a central NNTP server. The vendors of blogging software would need to implement - not hard at all, then we could all use our favorite windows/KDE/whatever app to handle the threading, read/follow up flags, etc.

Such an obvious and simple idea it must have been done?

Coljac



---
Whether or not life is discovered there I think Jupiter should be declared an enemy planet. - Jack Handey

i think so. (4.00 / 1) (#46)
by Work on Tue Jan 07, 2003 at 07:56:23 PM EST

at the very least, i remember Carnage4Life in his diary mentioning his search for a utility which would bring newsfeeds from many many different places into one newsreader like program. He found several.

I don't recall the name of the standard though. Originally it was developed for big news sites so they could distribute headlines to affiliates with ease. But I think its been expanded to almost any of the major blogging softwares.

[ Parent ]

RSS? (4.00 / 1) (#56)
by pin0cchio on Wed Jan 08, 2003 at 02:12:42 AM EST

bring newsfeeds from many many different places into one newsreader like program ... I don't recall the name of the standard though.

Was it an XML application? If so, was it RSS, the RDF-based Rich Site Summary format?


lj65
[ Parent ]
We could do that. (4.00 / 1) (#48)
by Bill Godfrey on Tue Jan 07, 2003 at 08:54:47 PM EST

Each article could have it's own header with all the threading information in and there could be a protocol designed to propogate these articles.

Bill, being facetious.

[ Parent ]

Usenet useless? (4.66 / 3) (#55)
by alizard on Wed Jan 08, 2003 at 01:13:58 AM EST

Well, for anyone who can't use anything more complicated than a Web browser or can use one but freak when they see a URL like news: , yes, it is useless.

It may be elitist of me to say this, but this boosts the IQ and general literacy level quite a bit on Usenet.

With respect to spam, in general, an alert newsgroup community willing to load a spammer's ISP abuse desk with complaints whenever a spam or binary posts appears can work wonders... and if it doesn't work, in general, one can't post to Usenet without leaving tracks, for instance, one's actual IP address.

The other solution to spam or abusive posts (I'll define abusive here as whatever a community thinks it is) is to either conventional moderation where a newsgroup moderator has all posts routed to him and he approves or disapproves, or robomod, which "robomod is a collection of scripts that allow multiple newgroup moderators to do their jobs. ...", which among other things, whitelists known members of the community.

The "moderated" mechanism is something explicitly supported by nntp and usually works quite well.

I decided to post this here and not e-mail this to The Guardian because I'd just as soon the newbies who need a newspaper article to tell them what's up on the Net believed what they were told in that article. Let the ones who find the kind of discussion structure found in a newsgroup find it for themselves.

I've been around Usenet since late 1991. I've found it a good place to find interesting people and useful information.

I also find blogs useful. There's a place for both.
"The horse is dead. Fuck it or walk away, but stop beating it." Juan Rico

usenet and web forums (4.00 / 1) (#60)
by clover_kicker on Wed Jan 08, 2003 at 08:30:24 AM EST

I love usenet, but I'm willing to use inferior technology if there is an interesting discussion taking place, i.e. K5, /. etc.

IMO the biggest time saving advantage of usenet over any other forum is the killfile/scorefile. Every newsreader supports a killfile, which allows you to completely ignore individual authors or discussion threads. I would {turmeric} really {turmeric} like to see {turmeric} that feature implemented on K5.

Some newsreaders (like slrn) expand on this idea, and use "score files". You can still kill authors/subjects, but you can also assign positive scores to authors/subjects so that those posts are highlighted.

Here's an example, mostly taken from my scorefile.

[somewhere.forsale]
Score: -9999 Subject: timeshare
Score: -9999 Subject: acres
Score: -9999 Subject: WTB
Score: -9999 Subject: house
Score: -9999 Subject: cottage
Score: -9999 Subject: car
Score: -9999 Subject: tires
Score: -9999 Subject: honda
Score: 100 Subject: playstation
Score: -9999 From: "Canadamonitors\.com" <h-tech@home\.com>

Suppose I check out a forsale newsgroup. A lot of the posts are trying to sell stuff I'm not interested in, i.e. cars and land. What I really want to buy is a game console, so I've killfiled some key subjects, and highlighted other subjects. One particular company is sending weekly ads for their wide range of products, none of which I care about, so I killfile the name they post with.

Is there a web board that offers similar functionality?

There is one I like about Slashdot's engine- the front page lets you know if someone has replied to one of your posts. K5 could use a similar feature, and usenet doesn't even have a good way to do this.


--
I am the very model of a K5 personality.
I intersperse obscenity with tedious banality.

Highlighting responses to your own posts... (none / 0) (#68)
by Bill Godfrey on Wed Jan 08, 2003 at 05:24:57 PM EST

Trn had a facility like this. If you selected an option on the command line, it would look for your own name in the headers and insert an entry in the killfile for that message id, so that any new articles which referenced that message id would be auto-selected.

It's a shame that more newsreaders don't do that. Often, the nearest ability only really works if you message ids happen to follow a pattern that no one else uses.

[ Parent ]

Early-stage blog killfiles DO exist, somewhere.. (none / 0) (#90)
by crysflame on Mon Jan 13, 2003 at 09:08:56 AM EST

IMO the biggest time saving advantage of usenet over any other forum is the killfile/scorefile. Every newsreader supports a killfile, which allows you to completely ignore individual authors or discussion threads. I would {turmeric} really {turmeric} like to see {turmeric} that feature implemented on K5.

I've seen the initial trials of category/topic-based filtering for RSS feeds by at least one piece of reader software out there; I think it was related to the k-logging [?] branch of the blog community.

Alternately, you could use an rss2usenet gateway and apply your client's ability for killfiles and scorefiles to the feeds.



[ Parent ]
usenet advantages (4.00 / 2) (#64)
by John Thompson on Wed Jan 08, 2003 at 01:35:59 PM EST

For people not lucky enough to have a broadband connection or multiple phone lines and unmetered access to the internet, usenet is clearly superior to any web-based forum.

You can use it off-line. Most nntp clients offer a means of selecting articles to read, downloading them en mass and reading them off-line at your leisure, thereby freeing your phone line and reducing connect charges. North America is one of the few places in the world where local telephone calls are unmetered, and even this is likely to change as telecos look for new ways to extract money from their customers. It works for cell phones, so why not make metered calls universal? Just wait, it'll happen.

You can use your familiar editor and other tools rather than whatever lame-ass text-entry method the web site decides to support. And you don't have to remember the different ways each site has in reading/replying to mesages. It's all handled in the same manner by your news client software.

You can run your own nntp service to poll multiple servers when you connect and present them to your news client(s) as a single, uniform news spool. You (or your users) don't have to remember that these discussion groups come from this particular server, and those ones come from another. Your local nntp server grabs nwe articles from the servers you define and spools them all to a local spool. When you (or your users) reply to a message in a particular group, the server makes sure that the reply gets sent off to the proper host on the internet. Set and forget.

I've been doing this for almost 8 years now on my home LAN. I have a cron job that connects to my ISP (dial-up, single phone line) at defined intervals (middle of the night and when everybody is at work/school) to exchange news. I follow about 60 groups spread over four nntp hosts on the internet. Even on a meager 56k dial-up connection, over a thousand articles (headers AND text) can be downloaded in less than ten minutes. We can then read them from any of the machines on the LAN at our leisure. Each user can have their own prefered news client software and their own subscription and history lists. No way this would be possible with a web based forum.



Funny, I've got just the opposite... (none / 0) (#74)
by pla on Thu Jan 09, 2003 at 01:39:59 AM EST

It works for cell phones, so why not make metered calls universal? Just wait, it'll happen.

Most places in the US now have unmetered (domestic) long-distance calling available as well. I have it, $49.99 per month (which includes my local service as well), and I can call anywhere in the US, for as long as I want, for no additional charges. If I leave myself connected to the left coast for the entire month, I don't pay a dime extra.

But anyway...

I've been doing this for almost 8 years now on my home LAN. I have a cron job that connects to my ISP (dial-up, single phone line) at defined intervals (middle of the night and when everybody is at work/school) to exchange news.

Out of curiosity, what packages do you use? I've recently considered setting up a local NNTP server myself. I *do* have a broadband connection, but I check a few different servers, and all of them can go *really* slow during peak usage. If I made a local copy of perhaps 25 groups, I would have no wait, and a lot more convenience.

Note that I don't want a tutorial (though if you want to go over it step-by-step, I'd vote it up for an FP <G>), just that after 8 years, I'd imaging you have valuable advice about the best software and how to avoid the most annoying problems.


[ Parent ]
Local NNTP server (none / 0) (#78)
by squigly on Thu Jan 09, 2003 at 08:07:20 AM EST

Out of curiosity, what packages do you use? I've recently considered setting up a local NNTP server myself. I do have a broadband connection, but I check a few different servers, and all of them can go really slow during peak usage. If I made a local copy of perhaps 25 groups, I would have no wait, and a lot more convenience.

Personally, I use leafnode.  It's a little too lightweight for a lot of people, but should do what you want.  Essentially, it's a client that simply downloads all the new posts into local files, and uploads posts created on the local network, and a server that's simply a cut down NNTP server (only supports client operations) for the local network.  

It does have the ability to download from multiple groups, and is really quite configurable.  It even has support for unreliable and slow servers.

[ Parent ]

Actually, offline and NNTP support is out there. (none / 0) (#89)
by crysflame on Mon Jan 13, 2003 at 08:38:47 AM EST

You can use it off-line. Most nntp clients offer a means of selecting articles to read, downloading them en mass and reading them off-line at your leisure, thereby freeing your phone line and reducing connect charges. North America is one of the few places in the world where local telephone calls are unmetered, and even this is likely to change as telecos look for new ways to extract money from their customers. It works for cell phones, so why not make metered calls universal? Just wait, it'll happen.

At least one piece of blog reading software out there supports offline article viewing. It's just a matter of finding the appropriate blog reader. I suggest NNW, of course, as it's performed all these services beautifully for me; your mileage (and platform) may vary.

You can use your familiar editor and other tools rather than whatever lame-ass text-entry method the web site decides to support. And you don't have to remember the different ways each site has in reading/replying to mesages. It's all handled in the same manner by your news client software.

NNW, as client software for blogs, is beta-testing support for posting articles to blogs. I think that posting comments to articles is somewhere on the intended feature list as well — which would provide a consistent, non-lame-ass method for replying.

You can run your own nntp service to poll multiple servers when you connect and present them to your news client(s) as a single, uniform news spool. You (or your users) don't have to remember that these discussion groups come from this particular server, and those ones come from another. Your local nntp server grabs nwe articles from the servers you define and spools them all to a local spool. When you (or your users) reply to a message in a particular group, the server makes sure that the reply gets sent off to the proper host on the internet. Set and forget.

I have no link, but I do believe that there's already rss2usenet software out there somewhere; check the lazyweb, if you like, or Google. Also every RSS reader I've used hides the fact that each "newsgroup" feed comes from a different server; I see them all in the same window.

I wish there was better support for replies in the client software, but I don't think I'll have to wait too much longer.



[ Parent ]
Usewhat? (3.50 / 2) (#66)
by Wah on Wed Jan 08, 2003 at 02:30:43 PM EST

I'd have to say that well-run blogs are far superior to usenet, from both a UI and interactive perspective.  Not to mention the whole multi-media thing.  And then there's the possibility of interacting with people who don't use computes for a living.  There's not many of those habitually on Usenet.  

That being said, I haven't been on Usenet in years, but mainly that's because I haven't missed it.   What's the point?  Who needs it?  It has been supplanted by superior technology.

Methinks the author has sublimated all the b.s. that is on Usenet and is writing to defend something he thought was cool because  he thought it was cool before anyone knew about it, and now he thinks it was cooler than it was, or is.  Really, it wasn't that great.  It was just first. Although I guess it could do in a pinch.

Usenet is decent if you are stuck on dial-up from a terminal, but the UI still sucks and takes far more effort from the average user before it becomes useful.  All this effort is placed on the site owner with a blog.

Metaphor
Horses are great to ride for fun, or in special places, but cars are a far superior technology, and that's why so many more people use them to go so many more places.
--
The aim of an argument or discussion should not be victory, but progress. -- Joseph Joubert. ...

You aye? (none / 0) (#67)
by Bill Godfrey on Wed Jan 08, 2003 at 05:19:48 PM EST

Usenet is decent if you are stuck on dial-up from a terminal, but the UI still sucks and takes far more effort from the average user before it becomes useful. All this effort is placed on the site owner with a blog.

So where are all these amazingingly usable web forums then?

Metaphor Horses are great to ride for fun, or in special places, but cars are a far superior technology, and that's why so many more people use them to go so many more places.

Quite right, and perhaps this current obsession with coolness is over, the world at large will abandon the horse/web-forum and start using cars/usenet again.

[ Parent ]

Ahem (none / 0) (#71)
by Wah on Wed Jan 08, 2003 at 06:15:46 PM EST

So where are all these amazingingly usable web forums then?

Well, you certainly haven't posted to one.

the world at large will abandon the horse/web-forum and start using cars/usenet again.

Yes, because most people prefer plain text to stuff like pictures, icons, and fonts.  And those hards to remember URLS with only two dots instead of 5 or 6 or 20. Not to mention the simple accountability that comes from knowing that you aren't likely to be spoofing the real Bill Godfrey and the ability to use a single click and find out if you are a troll or a real person posting an actual opinion.  And then there's the ability to reference a long, back and forth argument with a single href command that will look the same to almost anyone with a web browser. Ccompare the readability of a thousand >>>>'s with a nested discussion here.

Then there's the ability of blogs and the like to attract a consistent audience spouting off about a variety of subjects rather than a group that always talks about the same one, over, and over, and over, again.

Look, I like Usenet, but to say that it is superior to some (or all!) of the web forums available today is silly.  Google has certainly given it some new life and a decent interface, but where's the personality, the pizazz, the draw?   These might not be important to you, but they seem to be to a lot of people.
--
The aim of an argument or discussion should not be victory, but progress. -- Joseph Joubert. ...
[ Parent ]

lacking personality? (4.00 / 1) (#72)
by clover_kicker on Wed Jan 08, 2003 at 08:40:02 PM EST

>Ccompare the readability of a thousand >>>>'s with
>a nested discussion here.

If people quote and trim intelligently, usenet is very readable.

>where's the personality, the pizazz, the draw?

That's the first time I've ever seen anyone say there was a lack of personality on usenet :)

Which groups do you hang out in?
--
I am the very model of a K5 personality.
I intersperse obscenity with tedious banality.

[ Parent ]

personality of media (none / 0) (#81)
by Wah on Thu Jan 09, 2003 at 08:56:21 AM EST

That's the first time I've ever seen anyone say there was a lack of personality on usenet :)

Which groups do you hang out in?

I wasn't referring to the people.  Anyplace where you have people interacting honestly you should see boatloads of personality.

I was referring to ther personality of the medium itself (a protocol in this case), which is lacking when compared to blogs, IMHO.
--
The aim of an argument or discussion should not be victory, but progress. -- Joseph Joubert. ...
[ Parent ]

He may not know of the existing solutions.. (none / 0) (#88)
by crysflame on Mon Jan 13, 2003 at 08:32:33 AM EST

Methinks the author has sublimated all the b.s. that is on Usenet and is writing to defend something he thought was cool because  he thought it was cool before anyone knew about it, and now he thinks it was cooler than it was, or is.  Really, it wasn't that great.  It was just first. Although I guess it could do in a pinch.

To be honest, the author may not know about the things the blog community has been doing to start providing the useful features that Usenet's always had. NNW has unread/read article support (and sometimes comments), offline article browsing, and now supports posting to blogs as well; all things that Usenet's had forever, but that blogs are just beginning to develop.

The problem is, solutions like that are non-obvious to the casual Joe blog reader. What's that small orange button labeled XML do? When I click it, it just displays some funny colored stuff in my browser. Weird.

I think that the blog community as a whole would do well to show people that other solutions than their web browser exist. There's better news readers out there than Outlook Express, but if no one tells you about them, you'd never know any differently.



[ Parent ]
To everything, turn turn turn... (5.00 / 1) (#91)
by Bill Godfrey on Thu Jan 16, 2003 at 09:32:47 AM EST

To be honest, the author may not know about the things the blog community has been doing to start providing the useful features that Usenet's always had. NNW has unread/read article support (and sometimes comments), offline article browsing, and now supports posting to blogs as well; all things that Usenet's had forever, but that blogs are just beginning to develop

Hmm... Throw in wide article distribution and you'll have re-invented usenet. Congratulations.

[ Parent ]

How weblogs really work (4.00 / 1) (#86)
by dennis on Fri Jan 10, 2003 at 11:29:48 PM EST

The discussion system on most web sites is bad. Really bad.

I have nothing against newsgroups, and use one regularly, but you're completely missing the point.

The anemic discussion forums tacked onto some weblogs are just afterthoughts. The way weblogs really work is this:

1) In addition to the viewable page, there's a page that holds an XML representation of the postings, using a format called RSS.

2) Programs called aggregators pull RSS from all the weblogs you're interested in, so you can view all the new postings without visiting each page separately.

3) A bunch of webloggers using aggregators end up aggregating each other's blogs, linking to each others' posts, and posting their own responses on their own weblogs.

You end up with a loose kind of discussion, with a loose kind of moderation based on the fact that the more interesting your comments are, the more people will link to them. But unlike /., K5, etc., it's not a majority-rules system - the only votes that count are the votes by people whose comments interest you.

Better software, article feeds, rss2usenet (4.00 / 2) (#87)
by crysflame on Mon Jan 13, 2003 at 08:25:58 AM EST

A day later, let's say there another 10 messages have been added. You've read 20 and there should be 30 more. Since web forums are better, it should be ridiculously easy to only see the 30 you have not read without having to wade through the 20 you've already seen? Um... no. Usenet, on the other hand, has been able to only show you unread articles since 1981. So much for progress.

Usenet and blogs have one thing in common: neither of them handle the tracking of what articles you have read or not. That's a feature that's always been handled by the software clients.

I can subscribe to an article's comment feed on some blogs — it's a new thing, so it's not everywhere yet — with my RSS reader (NNW). Once I do this, and read 20 of the 40 posted comments, they'll be marked read in my RSS reader. If I come back three days later, and a hundred comments have been added, and two of the previously-read comments have been edited, it'll mark the hundred new comments and the two edited as unread for me.

I have no expectation that the content provider is responsible for tracking things such as "what articles I've read". It just so happens that one of the more popular blog reading methods — web browsers — generally don't support the advanced features that Usenet readers have come to expect from their client software.

As an aside, I think there's a project out there that'll turn RSS feeds into Usenet newsgroups. This way you can use the highly advanced newsreader software you're already accustomed to, while retaining the content from the blogs that you'd like to see. rss2usenet, maybe, or look on Google or the lazyweb.



Usenet is good. | 91 comments (80 topical, 11 editorial, 0 hidden)
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