Newsgroup Creation FAQ

From Big-8.org

Contents

Creating New Newsgroups FAQ

General Questions

Can I propose a new newsgroup now?

  • Yes.

Who votes on the proposal?

What can I do to improve the chances that the Board will approve my proposal?

  • Read this FAQ. There is a wealth of information here and if you follow the suggestions things will go more smoothly for the whole process. PLEASE take the time to look at Nan:News.announce.newgroups and see what a formal Request For Discussion (RFD) looks like before you submit one.
  • The Board is looking for proposals that will result in healthy newsgroups.
  • The topic of the newsgroup is important; if no one wants to talk about it, there will be no discussion.
  • The name of the proposed group is important; it's the primary way that people find the discussion.
  • Perhaps the most important factor is having people who will actually use the newsgroup. The Board will gauge this interest by observing the discussion of the proposal. At least a few supporters must post in news.groups.proposals and indicate that they will use the proposed newsgroup. A healthy web forum is not support for a Usenet newsgroup; if potential participants don't actually show up in Usenet and demonstrate their support they're still considered "potential".

How can I find out which proposals are currently under discussion?

How long will this process take?

  • Proposals that resemble successful newsgroups and that have a topic that is already being discussed on Usenet in various groups may go through very quickly. Proposals that are entirely novel or very controversial may take much more time to sort out, especially if polling needs to be done on some aspects of the RFD or on the proposal as a whole.
  • The only clock in the process as it is currently envisaged is the five-day period of final comments before the Board votes on an RFD. As noted below, that clock may be reset as need be.
  • The minimum length of time is not likely to be less than two weeks; the maximum depends on the patience of the proponent and the Board.

Why did you take my proposal off the active list?

  • If we do not hear from proponents via e-mail or see them active in news.groups.proposals, we presume that they have abandoned their proposals.
  • If you are, in fact, continuing to work on your proposal, all you need to do is contact us by e-mail or through news.groups.proposals and we will return your proposal to the active queue.

If my proposal is rejected, how soon can I try again?

  • That depends on the reasons for the rejection.

If someone else's proposal is rejected, may I take it over?

  • That depends on the reasons for the rejection and the view of the failed proponents.
  • One proponent certainly may let someone else take over the proposal. Whether the Board would let a new proponent seize a proposal against the will of the original proponent remains to be seen. The Board will have to cross that bridge (or not) when it comes to it.

Why isn't all of the information on one page?

  • We started with an outline that attempted to present all of the distinctions, definitions, and procedures in one fell swoop. Folks told us that it was virtually unreadable. We have tried now to present the same information in a style that may be more accessible.
  • People raise hypothetical questions that describe "edge cases" or exceptional circumstances. We think the best way to deal with those questions is in the FAQ format rather than in the pages that deal with more straightforward situations.

Are these rules or guidelines?

  • Guidelines. "Any group creation request which follows these guidelines to a successful result should be honored, and any request which fails to follow these procedures or to obtain a successful result from doing so should be dropped, except under extraordinary circumstances. The reason these are called guidelines and not absolute rules is that it is not possible to predict in advance what 'extraordinary circumstances' are or how they might arise. It should be pointed out here that, as always, the decision whether or not to create a newsgroup on a given machine rests with the administrator of that machine. These guidelines are intended merely as an aid in making those decisions" (David C. Lawrence (tale)).
  • The board intends to follow these guidelines, as a general rule, and expects proponents to do so as well, barring some "extraordinary circumstances" that warrant taking a different course of action. The guidelines may be waived by the board in such circumstances but not by individual proponents acting on their own authority.

Do you have a diagram of the process?

Why isn't there a FAQ in the news.* hierarchy?

Do I have to read news.groups for three months before I submit an RFD?

  • No.

Six months?

  • No.

A year!

  • No.

So how long do I have to wait?

  • If you need help clarifying your thoughts and understanding the process, you may e-mail the Board, e-mail Group Mentors, or bring up the topic in news.groups or news.groups.proposals.
  • If you have read the core creation pages linked to from this page and feel ready to try your hand at writing a Request for Discussion (RFD), you may submit it to news.announce.newgroups whenever you wish.
  • You should browse some of the recent RFD threads using Google or another archive. The informal discussion of ideas for new newsgroups can result in fairly intense questioning about their proposal, their background on Usenet, their intentions, past posts they have made, etc. The better you understand the environment beforehand, the better prepared you will be to stay calm, sort out good advice from flames, trolls, jokes, crosstalk, complaints about the Board, thread drift, and the like, and develop an RFD that can then be submitted to n.a.n. and discussed further in news.groups.proposals.

Questions about Other Hierarchies

Why won't you help me create an alt.* group?

  • Because alt.* is a Usenet hierarchy with its own history, tradition, and guidelines that are very different from those of the Big-8.
  • A hierarchy is a list of newsgroups whose names begin with the same component or group of components. The Board is not responsible for other Usenet hierarchies.
  • None of the alt.* groups belong to the eight hierarchies managed by the Big-8 Management Board.

Preparing an RFD

How do I make a proposal?

  • You may inquire about a topic informally by e-mailing the Board or Group Mentors, or by submitting a post to news.groups.proposals or news.groups.
  • If you are serious about creating a new Big-8 newsgroup, you will eventually have to develop a full-fledged Request for Discussion (RFD). Your first RFD need not be complete. Because the RFDs are archived by the name of the proposed group, a minimal RFD must have a proposed newsgroup name, some indication of the purpose and scope of the group, and someone who is willing to identify themselves as the proponent for the group.
  • After the RFD is published in news.announce.newgroups, the remainder of the official discussion will take place in news.groups.proposals.

What is an RFD?

  • It is a Request for Discussion.
  • RFDs are circulated with the tag "RFD:" in the subject header to news.groups and to any other newsgroups that may be interested in or affected by the proposal.

Why does the Board allow incomplete RFDs?

  • We would like to encourage people with an idea for a new newsgroup to get feedback on the proposal without having to fill in all of the information necessary for the final RFD/Last Call for Comments.
  • Discussion of incomplete RFDs may help weed out weak proposals quickly.
  • Such discussion may help proponents to better understand the work they need to do to make a formal presentation and may elicit volunteers who will help flesh out the remainder of the proposal.

Aren't informal RFDs prohibited?

  • Not now. It was a longstanding tradition that only the moderators of news.announce.newgroups could circulate official RFDs. It is still the case that there is a difference between an RFD that is circulated by a proponent and one that has been published by the Board in news.announce.newgroups. After an RFD is published in n.a.n., further official discussion of the proposal takes place in news.groups.proposals, a moderated newsgroup.

What difference does it make to have an RFD published in n.a.n.?

  • Publication in news.announce.newgroups means that:
    • the Board is willing to entertain the proposal and make a formal decision on it;
    • the proposal is probably not going to be rejected out of hand (see the types of proposals that are discouraged);
    • the Board thinks the RFD is sufficiently complete to allow further discussion and revisions. The bare minimum for publishing a proposal in n.a.n. is a proposed name for a newsgroup, some indication of its purpose and scope, and someone willing to be identified as the proponent.
    • further discussion will take place in news.groups.proposals.

Are all RFDs sent to n.a.n approved automatically?

Why are you still using RFDs in the new system?

  • We need to collect a certain amount of information in order to be able to write the proper control message. If we don't have enough information, we can't write the message and create a new group.
  • We want to contact all existing newsgroups that may be interested in or affected by the proposed group and give the users of those groups an opportunity to comment on the proposal. As far as humanly possible, we would like those users to have accurate information about the proposal and the newsgroup creation process. The use of a standard RFD form is an aid to clarity and communication. To quote John Stanley, who made a very persuasive case for continuing to use this approach, an RFD:
  • alerts anyone who is interested enough to subscribe to NAN as to the existence of the proposal
  • doesn't waste time with "proposals" that are being dismissed off-hand, and
  • creates a clear start for the process.

Why do people argue so much about the names of groups?

  • The name is the "mailing address" of the group. It has to meet certain conventions set by NNTP software.
  • The name places the newsgroup in relationship with other groups on the list. There are various unwritten rules and matters of taste about how to fit a new newsgroup into the subsections of Checkgroups.
  • A good name should describe to the intended participants what the group is about, and must avoid ambiguity which might attract unwanted posts.
  • For a longer discusson, see the page about naming new groups.

Should the newsgroup be moderated or unmoderated?

  • As a general rule, this is something for proponents to decide.
  • Anyone thinking of a moderated group should read Pitfalls of Newsgroup Moderation.
  • There are some topics that are so controversial and potentially explosive that the Board might not want to create an unmoderated group.

What is a charter?

  • Besides meaning "a formal document on file with the ISC", a "charter" may also be thought of as the purpose or scope of a newsgroup.

Why do RFD's have a section called "CHARTER"?

  • Ideally, the charter of a newsgroup can be determined from its name, or the short description in the newsgroups line. But sometimes there is need for additional definition and clarification. In some cases, some sub-topics might appear to be appropriate for a newsgroup, but aren't. In other cases, it may not be clear at all from its name what a newsgroup is about.
  • For example, you might think that news.groups.proposals is the place to float an idea for a new newsgroup. The charter of news.groups.proposals clarifies that the group is intended only for discussions of groups after they have reached the RFD stage and is used in step 3 of the newsgroup creation process.
  • In 1990, Edward Vielmetti made the suggestion that newgroup control messages include a meaningful section describing the purpose of a newsgroup (or charter). This description could be used by news admins to determine whether they want to carry the newsgroup, and users whether they wanted to subscribe to the newsgroup. A CHARTER section was added added to RESULTS, CFV's and RFD's so that the charter of a newsgroup could be automatically extracted and inserted in the newgroup control message as per Vielmetti's suggestion.

Do charters serve other purposes during the process of creating a newsgroup?

  • They may help clarify exactly what will be discussed in the proposed newsgroup, and what its topic(s) will be. This may help determine whether the name of the group is appropriate, and whether the scope of the newsgroup is too broad or too narrow, or whether there are already existing newsgroups that serve the proposed topic.
  • The charter may help determine the right kind of moderation scheme to use for a moderated group.

Is there a charter archive for the Big 8?

  • No. However there is an archive of articles posted to news.announce.newgroups since 1993, plus many, but not all, articles from earlier years.
  • Many of the RFD's, CFV's, and Results postings include a Charter section. In other cases, the intended purpose of a group may be found in the articles posted to the newsgroup.
  • The archive of news.announce.newgroups posting is found on the ISC ftp server.

Can charters be changed?

  • Yes, by consensus and cooperation of the people who make up the group. A newsgroup is what its participants make of it. From this point of view, "Charters in group creation control messages are not meant to be the STANDING charter, merely the STARTING point for the group" (ru igarashi).
  • No, not by any formal mechanism. The original charter is part of the archive of control messages. It will not be rewritten at a later time.
  • Moderated groups are a special case, of course. Moderators may revise and publish charter changes for their groups as they please.

Sumbitting the RFD to news.announce.newgroups

Do I have to post my RFD in news.announce.newgroups (n.a.n.)?

  • Yes. For your proposal to be considered, you must eventually submit it as an RFD to the moderators of news.announce.newgroups, but you don't need to start there. If you're not ready for a detailed RFD in news.announce.newsgroups, you can get the ball rolling by simply posting about your idea in news.groups or news.groups.proposals.
  • There are many helpful people there who will help you figure out if your proposal is a good idea, and if so, help you collect the information you need to put together an RFD and submit it to news.announce.newgroups.
  • The proposal will not be listed in the queue until it is published in n.a.n.

How do I cross-post the RFD to more than five newsgroups?

  • guess:// Since many servers will not circulate posts to more than five groups, the RFD may have to be posted to different distribution lists, each with fewer than five newsgroups on it.
  • Such multi-posts may run foul of anti-spam filters that look for identical bodies.
  • Worst-case scenario: proponents post unique messages to each group in the affect list either giving the RFD in full or providing a pointer to where it may be found, with an invitation to join the discussion in news.groups.proposals.

How do I cross-post the RFD to moderated newsgroups?

  • Many moderated groups do not allow crossposts. Therefore, you need to send the posts in a way that is consistent with the moderated newsgroup's policies.
  • You may e-mail your proposal to news-announce-newgroups@moderators.isc.org instead of posting it, making sure to tell us in your email which newsgroups you would like it to be cross-posted to. We will contact the moderators of those newsgroups and attempt to obtain permission to post it there in addition to news.announce.newgroups.
  • You may post the RFD separately in the other moderated newsgroup(s), with followups directed to news.groups.proposals. If the moderators reject the post, you might try posting a pointer to the RFD queue and let people know that discussion is going on in news.groups.proposals.

How do I set followups to news.groups.proposals?

  • Insert this text in the headers of the message: followup-to: news.groups.proposals
  • Different newsreaders use different techniques for setting followups. If you need help learning how to set followups, please contact us and we will help you figure out the correct method.

May I crosspost to other newsgroups during the discussion?

  • All discussion of active proposals should be posted to news.groups.proposals. Neither the members of the Board nor the proponent(s) are obliged to subscribe to all interested or affected groups to follow the dialogue about the proposal.
  • If desired by the readership of closely affected groups, the discussion may be crossposted to those groups, but care must be taken to ensure that all discussion appears in news.groups.proposals as well.
  • Those who do choose to crosspost should be aware of the fact that crossposting may cause hostility to the proposal or may run foul of various filters set to avoid crossposts.

Why do I have to compose my RFD in plain text?

  • Because all newsreaders can present posts in plain text.

Why do I have to include an e-mail contact address in each RFD?

  • The Board wants to be able to contact proponents via e-mail in order to resolve initial questions (if any) before an RFD is published.

Why can't I use Google Groups to post revisions of my RFD to n.a.n.?

  • Google groups deliberately obscures e-mail addresses. Any e-mail addresses in the RFD must be preserved from one edition to the next.
  • Please take care with subsequent revisions to preserve the format used in the official n.a.n edition.

When will my RFD appear in n.a.n.?

  • It depends. The board does not automatically post all RFDs. It may never get posted. Other considerations:
    • How good is the RFD?
    • Is it well-formatted?
    • Is the Traffic Analysis easy or difficult?
    • Are there difficulties with the name or other elements?
    • What is happening in the lives of the Board members?
    • How many other proposals are in the pipeline?
    • What new policy issues does your RFD raise?
    • What else is happening in news.groups?

What happens after my RFD appears?

  • It depends on how controversial you or your proposal are. Sometimes all hell breaks loose. Sometimes it doesn't. :-
  • The Board will send you a small FAQ about your responsibilities as a proponent.
  • Then discussion of the RFD takes place primarily in news.groups.proposals (see next section).

Discussing the RFD

Do I have to discuss my RFD in news.groups.proposals?

  • Yes. Proponents must follow the discussion in n.g.p and make a reasonable case for their RFD.
  • Proponents may, at their discretion, discuss the proposal in other newsgroups.
  • When discussing the RFD in other groups, proponents should take care to see that their remarks and answers to significant questions appear in n.g.p as well. The definitive discussion of the proposal takes place in news.groups.proposals. Neither the board nor other interested parties should be expected to trawl Usenet looking for fragments of the discussion.

Who decides what is a "significant question"?

  • The proponent has the obligation to sift through input from respondents and decide what questions need to be answered in the central thread(s) about the proposal.
  • The proponent has the right to remain silent if the question has already been asked and answered, if it seems off-topic, or if it seems otherwise irrelevant to the RFD.
  • The quality of a proponent's character is under implicit review by the Board and by participants in the RFD thread(s), especially if the RFD is for a moderated group. Proponents must use their own discretion in deciding how to respond to questions raised about their proposal; how well they make those choices can have a major impact on the resolution of the RFD.

What is the purpose of the discussion in news.groups.proposals?

  • The discussion helps to evaluate all of the elements in the RFD: name, charter, rationale, traffic analysis, moderation policy, moderators, distribution list, etc., along with other concerns about how the topic fits into the Big-8 and Usenet as a whole.

Can you make the people in news.groups.proposals treat my proposal with respect?

  • No. People are allowed to express their disagreement with the proposal, so long as they do so politely. Although n.g.p is a moderated group, the whole purpose of the discussion period is to hear what people have to say about the proposal, and some of it may be in opposition to the basic idea or to various aspects of the proposal.

Do I have to discuss the RFD in news.groups?

  • No.
  • The board is not actively opposed to discussion in news.groups. It is on the record as noting that discussion may take place elsewhere, other than in news.groups.proposals. But the board has made a commitment to follow the discussion in n.g.p and has not made a commitment to follow the discussion in any other newsgroups.

May I discuss the RFD in news.groups?

  • Yes, and in any other newsgroups that might find the discussion of interest.
  • The proponent should report the results of such discussions in n.g.p.

May I ignore the discussion of the RFD in news.groups?

  • Yes.

What happens if there is a disagreement between a proponent and the Board during the discussion of the RFD?

  • It depends on how deep the disagreement is.
  • A proponent owns a proposal until there's convincing evidence that the proponent has abandoned the proposal or isn't acting in good faith. If the proponent insists that his or her version of the proposal be voted on, despite opposition from the Board to one or more aspects of the proposal, the Board may simply reject the proposal.

What are the rules for naming new groups?

  • That needs a separate page all to itself.
  • The short answer is that the name helps prospective new users of the group find out what the group discusses.

Why are people so concerned about the name?

  • The quintessential element of a newsgroup is its name. Without a name the group can not exist. A good name helps people to understand what a group is about or to find a group of interest to them.

What happens if I decide to change the name of the proposed group during the disussion period?

  • You may submit a new RFD to n.a.n., just as you did with the first one.
  • In the version history, you may indicate that this RFD supersedes the original RFD.
  • You may also place a parenthetical remark in the subject line to show the relationship between previous RFDs and this one:<h>tml>

    re>Subject: RFD: soc.support.vision-impaired (was misc.handicap.vision-impaired)</>pre></>html>

  • This is a provisional recommendation. If there are any other conditions or stipulations for such changes, we will contact you and publish them in this FAQ.

Creating and Interpreting Polls

Will there be a poll taken about the proposal?

  • There is no hard-and-fast answer to this question. We hope to develop polling techniques to help us glean information about proposals, but at this time we do not require that every proposal employ a poll.
  • It is wise for proponents to use every tool at their disposal, including polls, to publicize the fact that a new group is being discussed and may become a reality. The more people who have made a commitment to the idea beforehand, the greater the likelihood that the new group will be a success if it is created. A newsgroup with no news is no fun!
  • We strongly recommend that proponents build up a body of supporters for the proposal and encourage them to express their commitment to the proposal in news.groups. Proponents should keep a list of such positive posts, along with the poster's Usenet ID and the message-ID, as evidence that there is support from the Usenet community for the proposed group.

What is a Message-ID?

  • A message-ID is a usenet_headers required header field for every post made to Usenet. It is a unique alpha-numeric identifier for a post.

How do I find the Message-ID?

  • Every newsreader provides different methods for viewing the headers of a post.
  • This tutorial shows two methods for finding headers.

What do you mean by a "well-used" newsgroup?

  • This simply means that people will post to the newsgroup, and post on-topic messages. It has nothing to do with the intrinsic value of the topic, or whether there is a lot of such discussion elsewhere. The goal of interest polls is to determine, so far as possible, whether people want to discuss the topic in Usenet. See the notes on Traffic Analysis for further information.

What is the "Field of Dreams" argument all about?

  • The protagonist in the movie "Field of Dreams" was told, "If you build it, they will come." Many proponents have this kind of faith in their proposals. The idea seems so good and so worthy of discussion, they simply assume that the group will be well-used.
  • Predicting the future of an as-yet-uncreated newsgroup is difficult. We do not know for certain in advance whether a proposed group will succeed or fail.
  • The Board wants to create groups that will be well-used; we do not want to create empty "fields of dreams." Therefore, we would like to see as much evidence as possible that there is support for a proposal from people who know how to use Usenet. We believe that the more supporters a proposal attracts in its initial stages, the better the chances are that the group will thrive. A newsgroup with no news is no fun. Proponents should therefore strive to collect as many supporters as they can as early as they can in the RFD process.

Final RFD and Last Call for Comments

What is the difference between an RFD and the Last Call for Comments?

  • In our first drafts for the new creation procedures, the outline did not indicate how the proponent is supposed to clearly distinguish between "This submission is a new draft of the proposal" and "This submission is a request for the proposal to be voted on by the board."
  • The design of the Last Call for Comments (LCC) is meant to indicate that the Board is shifting from discussion aimed at producing improved drafts of the RFD to settling the question of whether the proposal should be adopted.

Who initiates the Last Call for Comments?

  • Ideally, the initiative should come from the proponents when discussion seems to have run its course and when they believe that their proposal is ready to be acted on by the Board.
  • The Board, a member of the Board, a Group Mentor, or any interested bystander may suggest to the proponent that the proposal is ready for the Board to act on it.

What happens when the LCC is published in n.a.n.?

  • At the same time that the LCC is published in n.a.n., the Chair of the Board asks the members for consensus. The period required for the Board to act by consensus runs concurrently with the time allowed for the final discussion of the RFD.
  • The final comment period will last at least five (5) days before the Board begins to vote.
  • The board's vote may take up to a week (1 to 7 days).
  • The LCC may be withdrawn at the proponent's request or by the Board if a substantial disagreement arises during the five days of discussion.

What happens if the RFD is changed during the final discussion period?

  • A new RFD/LCC may be issued if the changes are, in the view of the Board, so significant as to warrant resetting the clock for the beginning of the Board's vote on the proposal.
  • If the Board judges that the changes are minor and not likely to provoke controversy, the revised RFD may proceed to a vote without resetting the original clock announced in the first RFD/LCC.

Does that mean that some Last Calls are not really the last call for comments?

  • Yes.

Isn't that illogical?

  • It is pragmatic. The Board hopes that, as a general rule, the main issues in an RFD have been hammered out before the Last Call for Comments is issued. But the whole point of the final five days of discussion is to check whether that presumption is sound. If it is not, then the original timetable must be replaced by a new timetable based on the revised RFD. In such cases, the "Last Call" turns out to be the "Next to Last Call for Comments."

What happened to the Call for Votes (CFV)?

On Tue, 08 Aug 2006 16:44:27 GMT, Jim Riley wrote in b3Cg.1481$Qf.79@newsread2.news.pas.earthlink.net:

In the beginning of Usenet time, what became the CFV was the first 
step ("I'mthinking about creating a newsgroup, send me e-mail if you 
think it is a goodidea or bad idea."). If the feedback was generally 
favorable the proponentwould create the group.

Later the RFD and a discussion was added, and the CFV step became 
more formalized. Often the proposal that was voted on was quite 
different than the original RFD. The RFD might simply propose a 
general concept for a group, and the discussion would actually 
determine the name of the group, its charter, and whether the group 
was moderated (just like the Guidelines used to say should happen).

Later, the RFD began to resemble the CFV, and over time, an 
understanding was developed that the CFV should not be substantively 
different than the last RFD;and eventually this became literally 
identical. If a proponent wanted to make a few minor changes, they 
would have to post another RFD and then wait 10 days before the CFV 
could be sent.

This _might_ have made sense when ordinary users were voting, and 
they might not realize that the proposal had been changed. But with 
the board making the final decision this is no longer true. The 
RFD/(LCC) can reflect changes made in response to the discussion, and 
there is no reason to require that the text of the RFD be fixed 
before the LCC is issued. If the proponent attempts to make too 
significant or extensive changes, the board can decide to have the 
proposal discussed some more. But there should be no reason that text 
changes, and additional supporting information such as polls can't be 
introduced in the RFD/(LCC).

After the Board's Decision

What happens after the group is created?

  • Stuff happens. There is no central administration for Usenet. Getting the group on a large body of news servers takes the willing cooperation of a multitude of news administrators.
  • Sometimes moderated groups are created as unmoderated.
  • Sometimes the request to create a group is ignored.
  • Proponents are expected to remain active in publicizing the existence of the newsgroup and doing what they can to see that a large number of news servers carry the correct configuration information about the group.

Why isn't the group appearing on all news servers?

  • The only power the Board has is to decide whether a new newsgroup gets added to the official list of newsgroups (Checkgroups). Many news servers will add the group. People will be able to post to the newsgroup. Google might even archive messages from the newsgroup. If a particular news service provider does not carry the group, its customers may politely request that the new group be added to their lists. Each news administrator may wish to examine the traffic in Google or on other news servers in order to make a decision about adding the new group to the news server.

What if my proposal was rejected?

  • If the Board rejects your proposal, we'll let you know why. We'll also tell you what, if anything, you can do to improve the proposal before asking us to reconsider it.

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