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Subject: Guidelines on Usenet Newsgroup Names
This article was archived around: Tue, 28 Dec 1999 09:00:11 GMT
Last-change: 13 Jun 1995 by firstname.lastname@example.org (Mark Moraes)
Guidelines on Usenet Newsgroup Names
"To-day we have naming of parts."
This document is intended to be a primer for use by those involved in
creating new Usenet news groups, namely in the "comp", "humanities",
"misc", "news", "rec", "sci", "soc" and "talk" hierarchies. The same
principles may be used with other hierarchies, but those are beyond the
scope of this document.
Usenet news group names are structured, hierarchic, taxonomic but not
definitive. They are intended to help users find what they want and news
administrators manage their systems, to the benefit of their users.
By understanding each of these concepts, you can understand how to
select suitable names for new news groups.
News group names are structured into parts separated by dots, for
example "rec.pets.dogs". Each part may be up to 14 characters
long, and should consist only of letters, digits, "+" and "-",
with at least one letter.
Names fall into clear hierarchies - for example all computer-related
groups are in comp. Each may be sub-divided into second, third, and
lower level hierarchies, such as sci.physics and comp.sys.sun, by
adding more parts to the basic name. The first part is the most
general (sci or comp), the second more specific, and so on. The
last part completes the actual group name. As each part implies a
further level, words at the same level are included into one part
using a hyphen - e.g. misc.invest.real-estate rather than
misc.invest.estate.real, which would imply that a real was a type
Taxonomy is the science of the classifying things - for example
species in biology, or books in a library. Group names classify
subjects into areas and hierarchies. Getting these right is not
easy, for you have to fit in with those already there, and also
allow for likely future growth.
News group names are inclusive rather than definitive. That is to
say, a group name defines an area in which a message may be posted
if there is no other group with a better name fit. The name does
not define exact limits to the group, eliminating subjects that do
not exactly match the definition.
The group name is often the only clue the user has about the group
without reading a selection of articles from the group. There are
currently over 1300 Usenet news groups, and well over 10,000 groups
including all the other news hierarchies from alt to zer. It is
not possible for users to read every group to find out which are of
interest to them. Similarly, even a very popular group will only
be read by 1% of all Usenet users. So the name has to make sense to
the 99% who are not reading the group. It should be clear enough
to avoid users posting "what is this?" articles, and to ensure that
those who *would* like to know more about the subject do recognise
the group's purpose and start to read it and join in. Also, bear in
mind that Usenet is global, that users come from many different
cultures, and that for many, English is not their first language.
This leads to some strong guidelines about choosing names:
- Group similar subjects together, in the same hierarchy if
possible, so that people looking for a related subject will have a
good idea where to find it. It is often better to put a new group
with others in an approximately right "place" than to insist on
getting the name precise at the expense of putting the group in
some obscure area that many potential users will not look at.
- Create general groups before creating very specific ones.
- Dnt Abrv8. Do not abbreviate or use obscure names. Your
abbreviation may well be recognised by someone else as meaning
something entirely different, especially if English is a second
language to them. At the moment, Usenet transport limitations
restrict the length of any component to 14 characters. This may
sometimes force abbreviation, in this case, create as meaningful
an abbreviation as possible within 14 characters.
- Use English words in group names. The articles in a group should
use whatever language is appropriate for that group, but group names
should use English as that is the one language that can be
understood by almost all Usenet users.
Helping news administrators
No site now has the disk space to carry 10,000 news groups and keep
all their articles for weeks. So news administrators have to be
selective in which groups they carry and how long they keep the
articles of each group (expiry times). Yet with so many groups,
they cannot manage each one separately. So they make use of
the hierarchic property, and control news in hierarchies. For
example, one may keep comp articles longer than rec, another may
decide not to take any comp.sys.ibm.* groups as none of their users
reads them. This is the other reason hierarchies are so important,
and why a new group should always be fitted into an existing
hierarchy if at all possible. Some new group proposers think it
does not matter if their group does not fit in to this scheme,
assuming that news administrators who don't want it can select it
out individually: this is a mistaken view. Every group that a site
gets that its users do not read, makes less disk space and so
shorter expiry times for the groups they *do* want.
Think about these guidelines before naming your new news group.
Remember that name mistakes made in the past when Usenet was much
smaller, or now in uncontrolled parts of the net like alt, are no
reason to make more mistakes now. On the contrary, now is the time
to correct some of those past mistakes.
And if you still need advice, ask email@example.com.