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"I am walking over hot coals suspended over a deep pit at the bottom of which are a large number of vipers baring their fangs."
John Major, British Conservative politician and Prime Minister
(NOT a Mason!)

This is like chat-rooms, right? Well, yes and no. It is, in reality, the 'other half' of the Internet: the Black to the White of the World Wide Web.

Sooner or later you're going to discover USENET Newsgroups and a whole new world of adventure will open up to you. Your Internet Service Provider can help you get started. They'll explain to you how to download the list of the newsgroups they 'carry'. Not every ISP carries all newsgroups (there are hundreds of thousands many with thousands of messages each day) and with newsgroups there's SO much junk! However, there are newsgroups for literally EVERYTHING whether you're a Meatloaf freak (US Pop singer) or trying to figure out the details of a hand carved ship model. No matter what it is you're interested in, there's a newsgroup for you. Be forewarned, however: THIS is where there are few rules of conduct and in many newsgroups, insults and anger are a way of life.

In addition to Newsgroups, there are also Mailing Lists to which you can subscribe. These operate much like moderated Newsgroups and many prefer them.

Mailing Lists are maintained by individuals so there is no 'Master' listing. Ask in a newsgroup if there's a related Mailing List and you'll likely find there is!

There are Newsgroups for everything that you could possibly imagine - and a lot of things you wished you HADN'T imagined! A lot of the filth that moves about on the internet is found in newsgroups. Conversely, there are a LOT of discussion areas on topics ranging from motorcycle speedometer collecting to Nepalese winter travel tips. If you like to send notes back and forth and read LOTS of e-mail, you'll LOVE Newsgroups but there are some 'rules of the road' which one must understand in order to 'survive'!

First, get a good e-mail program that can try to separate out your 'real' e-mail from your newsgroup stuff - and will put your newsgroup mailings in different folders. If possible, get a program which will 'thread' messages that have the same subject line together. (Some 'threads' will be hundreds if not thousands of messages long - and the actually discussion after the first three or four messages is generally long since lost). There are precious few programs that will do this and you may need to spend a few dollars (check out programs like Eudora and others because Outlook just won't 'cut it' for a very active newsgroup user). If you're going to hang out in the newsgroup world, we think you'll find this truly an essential!

Then subscribe to one or two newsgroups at a time - just to try them out. Read a newsgroup for at least a week or two AT LEAST before jumping in and replying to something. This will permit you to learn about the group and see what's going on there. Just as you shouldn't dive into a lake without knowing the depth, so too you shouldn't jump right in on a newsgroup before checking it out carefully.

There are basically three types of newsgroups:

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Moderated - the "moderator" reviews all posts and decides which ones gets posted. This means there is some sort of order and things aren't allowed to get too far out of hand.

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Unmoderated - anything goes! Profanities, lies, and pure venom are not unknown. They're not for the weak of heart - or, in our opinion, for first time Usenet users.

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News - where postings of news only (generally only by moderators) occurs. 

Remember this before you post for the first time: EVERYONE can see what you write. There are archiving services which can be used to resurrect your postings years (or even decades) later. With records of Usenet posts now covering a more than 20 year history, it CAN be embarrassing if you lose your temper and write something untoward! (You can see how this works by visiting Deja News.) Consider what you're about to write VERY carefully. There are companies which, as part of pre-employment checking for example, will comb the newsgroup archival services looking for what you've said and done in the past. Your life is exposed to millions once you begin posting on the internet!

In addition to archiving services, many messages in newsgroups are cross-posted and your reply will go not only to the readers of 'your' newsgroup but perhaps many others as well. Cross-posting will spread your reply perhaps far further than you had intended. (If, when you're reading a message, it seems totally off-topic for the supposedly Masonic newsgroup, take a look at the headers before you get all upset. Many internet denizens with no lives of their own love to cross-post material to dozens, sometimes hundreds, of different newsgroups just to see what kind of 'rise' they can get from people. If, as a child, you knew a kid who'd say stupid things or 'act out' just to get attention, remember that the internet provides the anonymity for tens of thousands of kids (and adults behaving like ill-behaved kids) to do exactly the same thing. And some of these folks really can get vicious. Online stalking and worse can occur. Beyond that, these folks seem to feed off of each other's egregious behavior, striving - it sometimes seems - to see who can be the most insulting and provocative. Strange sport, huh?

Keep private matters private! Addresses, phone numbers, family information, travel plans - even the name of a spouse or girlfriend - can all be used by those who might not have good intentions. Never, never allow yourself to be lulled into thinking that that your messages are just between two people!!! Heck, there was even a case where an Entered Apprentice was 'called' for his egregious behavior and filthy language towards anti-Masons. His response? To start digging out personal information on MASONS and posting it publicly. (It appears from our research that the individual was  suffering from some kind of mental breakdown - but regardless: do you want somebody telling everyone what YOU did for the holidays?) Caution and discretion is ALWAYS the best policy when you're online.

Prepare for SPAM! (Also known as 'Junk Mail') Within a minute of your first USENET posting, some unscrupulous individual will be using a 'vacuum' to get your e-mail address and use it for sending you everything from offers to shelter millions of dollars from Nigeria to a supposedly great price on medications - along with many other less savory things. Your name will be sold and re-sold as well. Suddenly you'll find your mailbox filled with all sorts of filth and junk. It's inevitable and it's one of the down-sides of internet communications. Many USENET regulars get a 'throw-away' account and use that to avoid this problem - and you CAN set up your newsreader software to send messages from you using that address rather than your personal home/work one. Bear in mind that - like EVERY part of the internet - things are NOT always what they seem.

Expect some NASTY responses! No matter what you say or how you say it, someone will take exception and probably e-mail you - or they'll 'blast' you using profanity, absurdity, and anything they can do to incite you to behavior which is not Masonic. Sometimes this will occur publicly; at other times, it may be done through e-mail. When it happens out in the open, you can expect other Masons to come to your aid; after all, the same foolishness has irked us all at one time or another! If this occurs privately through e-mail, however, simply e-mail their internet service provider and attach a copy of what you've received (including FULL headers of the message). Most ISP's do try to stop abuse but the proliferation of companies offering multiple free e-mail accounts makes stopping bad behavior next to impossible. That, however, is no guarantee that your antagonist will not reappear with a different mailing address within hours.

Having said all that, USENET Newsgroups can be great fun and can - for those with strong stomachs - be an interesting diversion. Just use caution!

 

Prince, the Search DogJust click on "Prince, the Search Dog" to find things on our site. He's on every page and he'll take you directly to our search form where you can see if we've written about whatever it is you're interested in. Prince has a great memory; he always remembers where things are!

This site and its contents are (copyright) 1998-2014 by Edward L. King (Ed King). All rights reserved. All comments and opinions are mine personally.

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