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Subject: Draft: The mod.* Manifesto (Last updated: July 30, 1997)
This article was archived around: 16 Aug 1997 17:08:34 GMT
Posting-Frequency: twice monthly (1st and 16th)
Maintainer: Tim Skirvin (email@example.com)
The mod.* Manifesto
For years, public newsgroups on Usenet have been organized mainly
under two major hierarchies - alt.* and the Big-8. The latter hierarchy is,
in most people's minds, a success - though it may be slow and ponderous, it
is well used and propagated and is relatively abuse-free. alt.*, originally
created as an alternative to the Big-8, enjoyed similar success for many
years - however, of late the ease of abusing such an uncontrolled hierarchy
has become clear, and alt.* has been collapsing under its own weight.
One of the tactics that many in alt.* have turned to is newsgroup
moderation, where a newsgroup is controlled by a single person or group, in
charge of screening the content of all posts to the newsgroup before they
are posted. Unfortunately, due to a number of factors, moderation in alt.*
is tricky at best - and so moderation has been mostly left to the Big-8,
where it is not as necessary.
mod.* is an attempt to duplicate the early success of alt.*
without falling prey to the problems that have nearly killed it, by
allowing (and requiring) such newsgroup moderation. mod.* is controlled
by a decentralized group of moderators, each in charge of their own
newsgroups; anybody can make a group, just as long as they are willing to
moderate it. There is a centralized system behind the moderators, to run
the newsgroup creation system and such, but they will stay in the
background as much as possible. Otherwise, the hierarchy is much like
alt.* - no namespace controls, few centralized rules, etc.
mod.* is currently under development, and the specifics of its
operations are still being worked out. As such, this document is not an
official technical document; instead, it is a summary of what mod.* will
be, how it will work, and what the hierarchy will do for Usenet. All
information contained within is subject to change without notice, and may
or may not be present in the final hierarchy.
As of this writing, the codified rules for the mod.* hierarchy
are still in development. The following guidelines are the design
principles for the hierarchy - the final rules will follow in the spirit
of the guidelines, expanding and supporting the principles contained
1. Every newsgroup must have a moderator. Moderators have total control
over the newsgroups that they moderate.
A moderator is in charge of their newsgroups in all situations.
Period. They may change their newsgroup's moderation policies or charter
at will, and they are the final arbiter of all disputes in their groups.
2. Messages must be approved by the moderators of all the moderated
groups in the Newsgroups: header - no exceptions.
It is currently possible for a moderator to approve messages to a
newsgroup that he does not moderate. While technical solutions to this
problem are still being worked out, keeping this rule in mind should
smooth out any problems that may otherwise arise.
It should be noted that this rule also applies to newsgroups
outside of the mod.* hierarchy.
3. Newsgroup creation will be handled by a creation-bot, written and
maintained by members of the hierarchy's founders, the Mod-Squad.
By having one centralized source of official newsgroup control,
mod.* group creation can be both fast and standardized.
4. Dead or unused newsgroups will be automatically removed by the
If a moderator leaves, their newsgroup will be removed. Steps
will be taken to ensure that any group with any traffic at all will not be
5. Third party cancellations are disallowed in mod.*, except for those
explicitly authorized by the moderator or the Mod-Squad.
Because every mod.* newsgroup is moderated, there is no need for
spam cancellers or other third-party cancellers to watch over the entire
hierarchy - the moderators can take care of their own groups.
6. Large binary messages (as determined by the Mod-Squad) are specif-
ically banned from mod.*, excepting mod.binaries.*. This may be
enforced by the Mod-Squad as necessary.
Most news administrators prefer to keep binary messages confined to
easily controlled sub-hierarchies, so that they can choose whether or not
to receive binaries at all. By continuing this policy, mod.* is much more
likely to gain wide acceptance and popularity.
While the final effects of mod.* are not yet known, there are
several expected benefits in creating the hierarchy. These are a few of
the more obvious, and expected, goals.
1. Take pressure off of other hierarchies to moderate themselves.
The last few months have brought increasing pressure to moderate
every newsgroup in alt.* and the Big-8, both from within the groups
themselves and from the people in charge of creating the groups. This
pressure has begun to cause dangerous problems - large fights between
group proponents over proposed moderators, retromoderation of existing
newsgroups in alt.*, etc.
By creating a hierarchy where moderation is required, the pressure
to moderate can be taken off of other hierarchies. Retromoderation will
become unnecessary; mass moderation of Big-8 newsgroups will become less
common, as another outlet is found.
2. Allow moderation for the masses.
One of the major problems of moderation is that the only way to
make a moderated newsgroup is to become a moderator yourself - which is no
easy feat. While recent jumps in robot moderation technology and the like
have begun to simplify the process, it is still by no means simple - the
time and effort to set up the programs can be prohibitive.
By centralizing the process, as with mod.*, moderation can be made
much simpler, HOWTOs can be written, and virtually anyone can become a
moderator. Even better, through the use of volunteer organizations such
as the (proposed) Usenet Volunteer Moderators, simple moderation schemes
can be performed by pre-skilled moderators. Overall, by standardizing the
process more people may enjoy the benefits of moderation.
3. Offer an alternative to alt.*
alt.* was created years ago as an alternative to the popular, but
not perfect, Big-8 hierarchies (then the Big-7). However, alt.* also has
its inherent flaws - groups can't be renamed, propagation is wildly
mod.* is an alternative to alt.*, meant to solve many of alt.*'s
problems. While almost certainly creating some of its own, it's still a
good experiment, and certainly worth a shot.
Although any group may be created, not all newsgroups and topics
are appropriate for mod.*. The following topics and existing newsgroups
are expected to benefit especially greatly from a group in the hierarchy.
1. alt.* groups that want to keep their names.
alt.*'s naming scheme (or lack thereof) has allowed many "interest-
ingly" named newsgroups to pop up, such as alt.sex.cthulhu; such names
would never be accepted in any other hierarchies. Unfortunately, many of
these groups also suffer from being a part of alt.*; in many cases, more
than 90% of the group traffic is entirely off-topic. Rather than give up
their names, most of these groups grudgingly choose to remain in alt.*,
where the attacks can continue.
By allowing the creation of groups such as mod.sex.cthulhu, mod.*
gives these groups a way out of alt.*, to a place where they can protect
themselves from outside attack while keeping their group name.
2. Limited lifespan newsgroups.
Topics such as movies, video games, and major current events tend
to attract a lot of traffic in a short period of time, but discussion
dies down within a few months or years. Because of this worry of traffic
death, it is difficult to create a newsgroup to just discuss a new movie
or game - even though there may certainly be enough traffic in the short-
term to support it. mod.* allows the creation of such short-term
newsgroups; when the discussion dies down the group will be automatically
3. Robot moderated newsgroups.
A large proportion of the newsgroups in mod.* are expected to be
moderated by simple moderator-bots, rather than by hand. By creating
robot moderated newsgroups in mod.* rather than another hierarchy the
modbots can be easily standardized, greatly easing the connections between
two moderated groups.
4. Groups with limited readership.
There are many alt.* groups with limited readership that would
like to leave the hierarchy for greener pastures, but do not have the
votes necessary to create a Big-8 group. mod.* would allow such groups to
move to a new hierarchy without a significant reader base.
5. Currently retromoderated newsgroups.
Over the last few months, there has been a dangerous trend towards
retromoderation (moderation of unmoderated newsgroups through cancel
messages) in alt.*. This change, brought on by the decentralization of
alt.*, has become a great concern for many news administrators; its growth
threatens the growth of alt.* and Usenet as a whole. By providing an easy
method of standard moderation, mod.* hopes to halt the practice of retro-
6. Trial runs for moderation.
At present, the only way to test out a moderation scheme is on a
local newsgroup; there is no world-wide moderation test group for Usenet
as a whole. mod.* directly allows tests of most moderation methods on a
large scale, which can be later applied to moderation in other newsgroups
or in the Big-8.
The creators of mod.* have no desire to impose one naming scheme
on the entire hierarchy - not only do we not know what the best naming
scheme would be, but, given the newsgroup creation methods, there would be
no way for us to enforce it. Instead, any naming schemes will be left up
to the desires of those people that are making the groups.
Presumably, as the process is standardized, future FAQs will be
written on this subject.
As with all hierarchies, mod.* is somewhat prone to abuse, be it
intentional or unintentional.
Forged Approvals Messages posted to a group against the will of its
moderator may be cancelled on sight. Software will
be provided to simplify this process as necessary.
Net Abuse Because all groups in mod.* are moderated, the poten-
(spam, spews, etc) tial for abuse of the system by third parties is
greatly diminished. Control of net abuse, such as
spamming and spews, is the responsibility of the
Rogue Moderators There are no official policies to deal with moderators
that ignore their own charters or otherwise "break
their trust" as a moderator. This is intentional; we
have no desire to mediate fights between individuals.
However, it should be noted that another person may
create an alternative to the rogue group as easily as
the original group was created; competing newsgroups
on the same subject are in no way discouraged.
The Usenet Volunteer Moderators may also be able to
provide an impartial moderator if necessary.
Name Hijacking If possible, a system will be set up where the initial
newsgroup proponent may reserve a newsgroup name for
themselves during the initial discussion period; this
should stop any name hijacking that might otherwise
become a problem.
Namespace Abuse All messages from the newsgroup creation-bot will
be PGP-signed. There will also be limited controls
on the newsgroup creation-bot to stop people from
making hundreds of junk newsgroups.
This Manifesto is not the only document describing mod.* - it is only
a brief summary of the rules in general terms, setting out our goals and
ideas relating to the project. Suggestions about the hierarchy are, of
course, welcome and encouraged.
Wish us luck.
- The Mod-Squad