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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

All FAQs in Directory: usenet/mod
All FAQs posted in: news.admin.hierarchies, news.groups, alt.config, news.admin.net-abuse.usenet
Source: Usenet Version


Archive-name: usenet/mod/manifesto Posting-Frequency: twice monthly (1st and 16th) Last-modified: 1997/07/30 Version: 0.8b URL: http://www.uiuc.edu/ph/www/tskirvin/faqs/manif.html Maintainer: Tim Skirvin (tskirvin@uiuc.edu)
The mod.* Manifesto Introduction ============ 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. Hierarchy Rules ========= ===== 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 within. 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 newsgroup creation-bot. 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 removed. 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. Hierarchy Goals ========= ===== 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 variable, etc. 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. Targeted Newsgroups ======== ========== 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 deleted. 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- moderation entirely. 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. Naming Policies ====== ======== 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. System Abuse ====== ===== As with all hierarchies, mod.* is somewhat prone to abuse, be it intentional or unintentional. Problem Solution 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 individual moderators. 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. Final Comments ===== ======== 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 mod-squad@mod.org