Big-8 Management FAQ: Difference between revisions

From Usenet Big-8 Management Board
m (Reflects charter change for news.groups.proposals to allow general policy discussion)
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=== How can I discuss things with the Board publicly or privately? ===
=== How can I discuss things with the Board publicly or privately? ===

* Publicly:
* Publicly: Post in news.groups or news.groups.proposals.
** Post in news.groups.
** Post in news.groups.proposals about a particular proposal.
* Privately: Send email to [], which will go to the whole Board.
* Privately: Send email to [], which will go to the whole Board.

Latest revision as of 02:15, 26 January 2013

Identity and Structure of the Board

Who are you folks and what have you done with my newsgroups?

Where did the Board come from?

  • The former moderators of news.announce.newgroups (n.a.n.) formed the Board to make suggestions about how to revise the management of the Big-8 newsgroup hierarchies. After a year on probation, the n.a.n. moderators confirmed the work that the Board had done and made the changes in the system permanent.
Date Event
2005-08-15 CFV for comp.databases.mysql
2005-09-16 comp.databases.mysql created by fiat
2005-09-19 RFD Process on Hold / Call for Ideas
2005-10-19 Initial plan for Advisory Board
2005-10-31 Call for Volunteers: Advisory Board
2005-11-11 Preliminary Volunteer List: Next Step
2005-11-15 Second Call for Votes
2005-11-21 Welcome to New Board Members
2006-03-03 New Big-8 Board Chair, and Current Status
2006-03-13 We are the Big-8 Management Board
2006-03-16 opened
2006-04-18 Draft Creation System Outline
2006-05-03 Board Membership Policies / Test Run
2006-09-30 Big Eight Hierarchy Management Transition (Allbery)
2006-09-30 A Personal Goodbye (Allbery)
2006-09-30 McComb's evaluation of the board
(various) Archived Announcements from the Board

Why do you call yourselves the "Management Board"?

  • Because we are taking care of eight "managed hierarchies." The idea of management distinguishes these eight subsets of Usenet from unmanaged hierarchies such as alt.* If all goes well, all changes in the canonical list of Big-8 groups will come as a result of control messages sent by the Management Board. The design philosophy of unmanaged hierarchies is that there is no central authority that can issue control messages.

The Mission of the Board

What kind of groups belong in the Big-8?

  • Newsgroups whose names begin with one of these components: comp, humanities, misc, news, rec, sci, soc, talk.
  • The collective namespace defined by these eight lists of newsgroups is what we mean by "the Big-8".

No, what I meant was "what kind of groups are you willing to create in the Big-8"?

  • Groups that, in the judgment of the Board, are well-named and seem likely to be well-used.
  • There are some kinds of proposals that the Board is reluctant to consider.

What do you mean by "well-named"?

What do you mean by "well-used"?

  • We mean that there are, as a general rule, a reasonable number of on-topic posts in the group.
  • At the negative end of the scale, it is clear that a group that has no on-topic posts for a long time is not being well-used. Such groups may be removed from the canonical list of Big-8 newsgroups if, in the judgment of the Board, they are dead and do not have any likelihood of being revived.

Where do I go if I want an alt.* group?

Why isn't the newsgroup I want to read available through my news service?

  • Every news administrator decides what groups to carry and what groups not to carry. You will have to contact your [NSP|news service provider (NSP)]] directly to find out why some groups are not carried. The Board would be happy to work with you and your NSP to see that the group is correctly configured on the news server so that posts made on the server circulate to all other servers that carry the big-8 and so that all posts made on all such servers appear on your news server.

Newsgroup Charters

What is a newsgroup charter?

  • It is a brief description of the purpose and scope of a newsgroup.
  • Every Request for Discussion (RFD) for a new newsgroup must have some kind of charter. See point 5 on the description of the contents of an RFD.

Will the board make the people in our newsgroup obey the charter of the group?

  • No.

Why not?

  • There are too many newsgroups--and too many disagreements about the meaning of charters!--for the board to become involved.
  • There is no way to identify who "the people in our newsgroup" are.
  • There is no mechanism in NNTP to enforce punishments on people who refuse to follow the charters.
  • There is no mechanism to erase old charters and replace them with new charters.
  • Except for moderated groups (a whole different kettle of fish), newsgroups have no "owners" who can impose and enforce charters or changes in charters.

So what good are the @#$%*& charters anyway?

  • The charters in RFDs help people decide whether a group should be created.
  • If the group is created, the charter provides some kind of touchstone for the original purpose and scope of the group.

May we change the charter of our newsgroup?

  • Yes, in practice. A newsgroup is whatever the participants make of it.
  • No, not in the ISC archives. The original charter is contained in the control message that creates the group. The ISC collects those control messages in their archive. There is no method at present to change the archives.
  • Yes, by convention. The last (signed) control message in the archive might overrule all predecessors. This convention is used in de.*.

Board Policies

How does the Board make decisions?

  • We discuss things among ourselves on a private mailing list.
  • When necessary, we take a vote using these general guidelines.

How are new members added to the Board?

What are the terms of office?

Why doesn't the Board conduct its discussions in public?

  • Publishing the transcript of the discussions would invite commentary, which would mean that everything any member said would have to be publicly explained and defended.
  • Keeping the discussion private allows us to speak our minds freely, both about issues and about persons involved in the issues.

Can I join the Board mailing list?

Not unless you're a member of the Board.

How can I discuss things with the Board publicly or privately?

  • Publicly: Post in news.groups or news.groups.proposals.
  • Privately: Send email to, which will go to the whole Board.

Why doesn't the Board reveal how its members voted?

  • We do not see any use for that information other than to make the members of the Board targets of ridicule and harassment. We would be willing to tolerate the additional abuse if we felt that there was some benefit in posting individual votes, but we don't.
  • Who voted which way is not important; what is important is why Board members voted the way they did. That is made clear during the discussion of a proposal in news.groups and/or news.groups.proposals. Members of the Board actively participate in those discussions and share their reasons for supporting or opposing proposals. All that would be accomplished by restating these reasons when announcing the Board's decision would be to spark useless repetition of discussion that has already taken place.
  • Once a decision is reached by the Board, it is the decision of the entire Board, not its individual members, and the Board should unite in supporting its implementation. Posting the votes of individual Board members who opposed the final decision would serve to divide rather than unite and hence would obstruct the implementation of the decision.

Are there unwritten rules that the Board follows?

  • Yes.

What are the unwritten rules?

  • I can't tell you. They're, uh, unwritten.

Why don't you write them down?

  • Because they are matters of common sense, netiquette, politesse, sound reasoning, and the like. They are things that "go without saying," so we don't say them.

Do all the members of the Board speak for the Board?

  • It depends on the situation.
  • Each member of the Board wears two or more "hats". Each member is encouraged to participate in news.groups as an individual, expressing his or her own views of the topics being discussed. Such personal opinions ought not to be attributed to the Board as a whole, unless the member is reporting or commenting on a policy or decision that has been formally enacted by the Board.
  • Board members may also serve on committees of the Board (Group Mentors, Dead Groups Task Force, UVP, etc.), thus picking up another hat to wear when posting in news.groups or elsewhere.

Why don't you require all Board members to vote?

  • It's impossible to know who is and who is not available to vote once a vote begins. Stuff happens (e.g., tale's motorcycle accident) and sometimes people get busy with The Rest of Life (tm). If enough members of the Board participate in the vote so that a motion is decided, that is sufficient for our purposes. If we were meeting face-to-face instead of conducting votes through e-mail, we would, of course, expect all present to vote.

What do you mean by "enough members"?

  • That is spelled out in the ninth point of the internal voting policies that we have adopted: "A vote requires at least half of the active members voting or explicitly abstaining in order to be decisive."

Miscellaneous Questions

What is all that ugly stuff in news.groups?

  • Somebody doesn't like us. They forge a huge stream of very offensive posts to try do drown out the conversation. Some people call the spew of forged posts "sporgery."

Can't you stop them?

  • No. Usenet is a loose confederation of news servers that spans the globe. There is no central administration. Access to each of the myriad of news servers is given by the administrator of each independent server. No one can tell a news adminstrator how to run his or her news server.
  • If you wish to have a more highly structured and controlled environment, you might try to resurrect Usenet II. For now, the Big-8 newsgroups exist in the quasi-chaotic universe of Usenet I.

Why don't they like you?

  • You'll have to ask the sporger that.
  • A regular in news.groups wrote: "While it appears most of the dissenters in here are decent people with differing points of view ... , there are some who would cheerfully leave the place a smoldering crater if it isn't run their way."

Are board members required to read everything in news.groups?

  • No. The members of the board are free to read as much or as little of the traffic in according to their own taste and temperament.

Suppose someone wants to discuss big-8 policy in news.groups?

  • They may. It is an unmoderated group that has a long history of policy discussions.

What if I want to make sure the board sees my proposal?

What's a wiki?

  • A set of pages that can be quickly created and easily modified by a group of people. [[wp>Wiki|"Wiki"]] is Hawaiian for "quick." See the bottom of each page for a link to DokuWiki.

Aren't wikis supposed to allow anyone and everyone to contribute?

  • Yes, that was the original theory on the original wiki.

So this is not a real wiki?

  • Correct.

Who is skirv?

Why are you using a web site instead of newsgroups?

  • Web sites are a tool that can be used to improve the understanding and functioning of newsgroups. They are easily searched and can be maintained as a repository of useful information.
  • The web site is a backup for communicating through newsgroups.
  • There is a high signal-to-noise ratio in a static environment.
  • The site acts as a possible entry port for web surfers to become interested in news.groups.
  • It is a standard tool used in hierarchy administration: "Have a web site. Try to make sure that the URL for your hierarchy web site is stable and doesn't change, since the URL makes it into various FAQs and configuration files that live for years. Put all of the hierarchy information on the web site, and make sure that the web site stays up to date" (Usenet Hierarchy Administration FAQ).
  • The Web site / Wiki model is more effective than a newsgroup for publishing or consuming certain kinds of content, including the content of this site.

Yes, but shouldn't stuff about Usenet stay on Usenet?

The point of view that Usenet should not rely on any outside communication medium made more sense when the Usenet could reasonably be considered separate from the Internet. Although it is still possible to transmit and receive Usenet traffic without using the Internet, in reality the vast majority of Usenet readers and servers work over the Internet, and the number of Usenet users and administrators who do not have access to the Internet and the Web is vanishingly small. As such, it is appropriate to consider the Usenet part of the vast tapestry of Internet communication media, and it is therefore appropriate to take advantage of other pieces of that tapestry when doing so enhances and/or simplifies the Usenet administration process.

How Do You Pronounce "B8MB"?

  • I say "8-Bomb." Others tackle it differently. "Bembi"? "Bambi"? "Bait 'em"? There is a small cottage industry devoted to multiplying nicknames for the group.

Why Do You Have So Many Committees?

  • Not all of the Board members are equally talented or equally interested in the tasks required to manage the business of the Board.
  • Many hands make light work (sometimes).
  • We're hoping to make more room for people to volunteer their time and talent.


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Short history of the Big-8
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