Big-8 Usenet hierarchies
Purpose and Scope of the Big-8
The Big 8 is a collection of international discussion newsgroups covering a wide range of topics organized in eight hierarchies. Discussion is primarily in English, though there are exceptions, most notably in the soc.culture.* sub-hierarchy.
While international in scope, many newsgroups in the Big 8 have a United States flavor. This dual nature reflects the historical origins of the Big-8, and the relatively large share of native English speakers who live in the United States.
"A Usenet hierarchy is, reduced to its essence, a set of Usenet newsgroups that share a common naming prefix, such as all groups starting with 'comp.' or all groups starting with 'de.' The names of Usenet newsgroups define a hierarchy of names, with '.' used as the separator between the levels of the hierarchy ... The most significant part of the name is given first. The first component of the name is special and more significant than the rest of the name, since it defines the top-level Usenet hierarchy to which that group belongs" (Allbery).
The newsgroups that form the Big-8 hierarchies use the following naming prefixes:
|comp.*||Computer topics, both hardware and software.|
|news.*||Administration of the Big 8, as well as about Usenet and Netnews in general, and related topics.|
|sci.*||Science and technology.|
|rec.*||Recreational topics, including music, sports, games, outdoor recreation, hobbies, crafts, ...|
|soc.*||Socializing, society, and social issues.|
|talk.*||Endless discussion, largely about politics.|
|misc.*||A mixture of newsgroups that don't fit the other 7 hierarchies. Many are about the practical aspects of everyday life.|
The complete list of Big-8 newsgroups is in a special text file called faqs:big-8_list "Checkgroups".
A note on the soc.* hierarchy:
On Tue, 11 Jul 2006 21:14:08 GMT, Jim Riley (email@example.com) wrote in AwUsg.6099$PE1.firstname.lastname@example.org:
The soc.* hierarchy has always been mostly about socializing, rather than society or social issues. If you look at the groups placed in the hierarchy as the result of the Great Renaming, soc.singles might well be considered the archetype for the hierarchy. Groups such as misc.legal and misc.kids (about parenting) were not placed in the soc.* hierarchy because they were not seen as fitting the hierarchy, even though they are important topics relating to how society is organized. See the charters for soc.atheism and talk.atheism for an example. soc.atheism was designed as a place where non-theists could hang out with out harassment from theists. If they wanted to debate politics or religion (or the lack thereof) they could use talk.atheism.
Nevertheless, the soc.* hierarchy does indeed include some groups that are about society and not about socializing. For example, soc.org.nonprofit is about the creation and operation of non-profit organizations.
History of the Big-8"It is assumed in some quarters that if you missed the early days of
Usenet and didn't use Lynx from a Unix command line, you missed the
Magic of Internet Culture" (The Cluetrain Manifesto).
|[Usenet Wikipedia article on Usenet]|
|[Big_8_(Usenet) Wikipedia article on the Big-8]|
|A Google search--news.groups & history|
|Joe Bernstein's Web Site|
|Archive for the History of Usenet Mailing List|
|How the Management of the Big-8 Developed|
In the Beginning: "Let's Play 'Name that Froup!'"
(The 'froup' typo is attributed to Laura Zurawski in the alt.stupidity FAQ at MIT's RTFM site.)
On Sat, 18 Dec 2004 19:40:56 -0800, Richard Henry wrote: >I don't understand the logical foundation of the voting process, I guess.
Jim Riley replied:
Once upon a time groups were created simply by posting a message to the group. The news software would see an unrecognized name and create the group. New froups were created due to a misspelled name.
So a process was developed where a person who thought a group should be created would post a message to (example, "I'm thinking about creating a screenwriting group. Is there anyone interested?"). People would send the "proponent" e-mail expressing their interest, or perhaps expressing that they didn't think that the group was a good idea.
If there was sufficient interest in the new group, and not too much opposition, the proponent would post a message to the group, causing it to be created. A group that was created in accord with this process would be included in canonical lists of newsgroups, increasing the likelihood that it would be created on more, if not most, sites.
Over time, "sufficient interest" became quantified, and eventually became 100 more Yes votes than No votes. I don't know of any particular reason that the Yes and No votes are compared in the way that they are; it may be simply be a way to have No votes be registered with typically little consequence. At one time, most proposed groups received over 200 Yes votes, whether there were 10 or 30 No votes didn't matter.
At one point, there was talk of adding a 2/3 supermajority rule, but it was unclear whether this was to permit groups with margins such as 120:40 to be created or to stop groups that had a 500:300 margin from being created. The former group had sufficient interest, and not too much opposition. The latter group had a lot of opposition, despite achieving a 100 vote plurality.
A formula that included a supermajority could not be worked out, and the idea was dropped. About 6 months later, sci.aquaria was proposed. It was widely opposed because of its placement in the sci.* hierarchy rather than the rec.* hierarchy. The group passed by something like a 700:400 margin under questionable circumstances. Someone noticed that if there had been a 2/3 rule in place, the group would have failed, and the current 2/3 rule was added.
sci.aquaria was created under the old rules. Since that time, few groups have failed because of the 2/3 rule, since it is rare for a proposed group to receive 100 No votes, and even if there is a lot of No votes, there might be even more Yes votes.
At one time the average vote was 200+:30. Most proposed groups were created, and since they had sufficient interest they had some level of success. Groups with somewhat marginal interest might squeak by on a 135:30 vote.
A few groups would fail. If it was 20:30, the group probably would have been unsuccessful. If a group failed 120:30 it is not seen as a flaw in the system, but rather simply a disappointed proponent.
The proposals with massive opposition and massive support were rare, and had gone beyond the point of determining whether there was interest in a _newsgroup_ about Topic X, but were rather popularity contests aobut Topic X itself.
History of news.groups
- In the beginning, all users were expected to read net.general. The purpose of the group was "initial queries and announcements." Proposals for and announcement of new groups took place in that group.
- net.news.group was created to remove that traffic from net.general, according to Joe Bernstein's History:
net.news.group Proposed as net.names December 26, 1981 by Jerry Schwarz. (He had proposed a net.groups, similar in purpose to the net.newsgroups that Curt Stephens later proposed, on June 14, 1981! Obviously a far-sighted person.) Proposed as net.news.groups January 13, 1982 by Jerry Schwarz. Announced January 15, 1982 by Mark Horton. Archived January 15, 1982 to ... Listed January 26, 1982 to November 1, 1986 without interruption. Description line (1/26/1982): for discussions about proposed new newsgroups, Description line (11/1/1986): Discussions and lists of newsgroups (Joe Bernstein's comment: Sound familiar, anyone?)
- Two early posts described the purpose of net.news.group. The first post also shows the beginnings of the effort to maintain a list of newsgroups. The second shows that users could still create new newsgroups at will on some systems.
Message-ID: [bnews.azure.1484] Newsgroups: net.general From: curts@sri-unix Date: Sat Nov 20 10:30:44 1982 Subject: grouplist Some time ago, I regularly submitted a list of newsgroups to the net. Each entry to this list contained a brief summary of the purpose of that group. I had to stop, when I found myself too busy to keep up. Now, I am going to try to maintain the list again. ... A new newsgroup may be created by simply posting material to the net under a new newsgroup name. However, THIS IS NOT RECOMMENDED! There are limits to the number of newsgroups that can be supported by the net. If you wish to send material to the net, first try to find an established newsgroup that deals with a subject related to that material. If there is no appropriate newsgroup, suggest the creation of a new group via net.news.group. Usually, there will be enough feedback to establish whether there is an audience for the subject that you would like to discuss. ... -------------------------------------------------------------------------- net.news.group for discussions about proposed new newsgroups, -------------------------------------------------------------------------- ... Curt Stephens Tektronix Beaverton, Oregon, USA -------------------------------------------------------- From: cbosgd!mark (cbosgd!mark) Subject: official policy on creation of new newsgroups Newsgroups: net.news.group Date: 1982-05-31 21:52:27 PST Message-ID: [bnews.cbosgd.2329] The current official policy on creation new newsgroups is that someone is supposed to propose it in net.general,net.news.group (substitute whatever for net if it's a local group, or set up your own procedure) and all followups are supposed to go to net.news.group only. (The followup command in all recent versions of news does this automatically.) Once a consensus is reached, the person who originally proposed it should make a yes/no decision on the newsgroup and a name, announce it to net.general, and create it. (If he is not the netnews contact at his site, he should ask that person to create it, or ask me.) Modern versions of the software do not let people create new groups unless they are the local netnews contact, or the super user. There are many old versions still in use out there that don't enforce this, which shows that no matter what change we make, getting software to enforce it in the finite future is very hard. The net.sctv business has recreated the suggestion of a netnews committee who makes all the decisions. It has not been resolved yet. The last time somebody suggested this, there was overwhelming sentiment to not restrict new newsgroups, but rather to make the software wonderful, by such things as automatically expiring empty newsgroups, and making it much faster to do readnews or checknews. (This will probably happen in version 3.0, which is right now in the wishful thinking stage due to lack of time on the part of the authors.) As to natural language, the flaming has gone on for a while but the person who proposed it hasn't made a decision. Personally, I don't understand what you guys are going to talk about, but there is lots of stuff I don't subscribe to. So I'll make a decision: net.nlang is now created with no subgroups. Post to it and mention the particular language in your title. Any language that picks up significant activity that continues after the novelty wears off (the participants should decide this) should create its own subgroup. New natural language newsgroups can be started in the parent newsgroup. (Off the wall thought - once the 14 char limit goes away in the eventual version 3.0, you might want to call it "net.tongues".) Mark
- By 1982 (less than a year after its creation), net.news.group was nominated as "the silliest group on the net" and the first cries were heard to "go back to an earlier time" (!):
Message-ID: [bnews.unc.3498] Newsgroups: net.news.group Path: utzoo!decvax!duke!mcnc!unc!wm X-Path: utzoo!decvax!duke!mcnc!unc!wm From: unc!wm Date: Sat May 29 07:12:46 1982 Subject: DOWN with net.news.group Posted: Fri May 28 15:51:51 1982 Received: Sat May 29 07:12:46 1982 Personally I think half the news groups that have been started are silly. Natural language groups fit into this category, but WHO CARES? Anyone can start a new group, and there are several new groups started every week or so by someone who doesn't know the "rules" yet. The only purpose net.news.group seems to serve is as a forum for people to flame about how other people's ideas for new groups are silly, or how something should be a mailing list, or should be in net.misc, or shouldn't be in net.misc, etc. I therefore nominate as the silliest group on the net, you guessed it, net.news.group! Let us go back to an earlier time, when all you did if you thought there was an interest in a new group was to post an article to it. If nobody responds, or if the group sees activity for two weeks and then dies, it should be deleted by some automatic deletion mechanism. What are the chances of seeing this installed in the near future? Of course, we will still see long discussions about what the name of a group should be (you know, I think I will go back into the archives and see what percentage of articles in a group are related to what its name should be. Any bets?). unc!wm
- In 1986, net.news.group became news.groups:
From: mark@cbosgd.ATT.COM (Mark Horton) Newsgroups: net.news.group,news.groups Subject: net.news.group is being renamed news.groups Message-ID: [3039@cbosgd.ATT.COM] Date: Fri, 7-Nov-86 15:14:38 EST Article-I.D.: cbosgd.3039 Organization: AT&T Bell Laboratories, Columbus, Oh This newsgroup is being renamed from net.news.group to news.groups. This renaming will gradually take place over the next few weeks. More and more messages posted to this newsgroup will be aliased into the new newsgroup as they pass through the net, and people will begin to post to the new group. After a few weeks, the old name will be removed. This note is to inform you of the renaming so you can begin to read the new group as well as the old group. Mark Horton Director, the UUCP Project
- A comment from Jim Riley on the early history:
Message-ID: <email@example.com> Date: Wed, 11 Oct 2006 06:32:02 GMT ... The name of news.groups is more or less an accident. net.news.group was chosen because it fit in 14 characters, and the last 's' was added during the great renaming. ...
- Published the first set of newusers documents for Usenet ca. 1982 (and continued to maintain and post them for the next 11 years).
- Developed the concept of the Usenet backbone ca. 1983.
- Created the idea of the Usenet newgroup "ballot" ca. 1987.
- Was moderator of one of the first moderated newsgroups not represented by a gated mailing list (news.newusers).
The Failed Trial Group System (1991)
tale's Reform Proposal (1993)
Available in <a href="ftp://ftp.isc.org/pub/usenet/news.announce.newgroups/comp/comp.dcom.telecom.tech">ftp:ftp.isc.org/pub/usenet/news.announce.newgroups/comp/comp.dcom.telecom.tech</a>.
From firstname.lastname@example.org Thu Oct 14 20:50:30 1993 Path: uunet!tale From: email@example.com (David C Lawrence) Newsgroups: news.announce.newgroups,news.groups,news.admin.policy,news.admin.misc Subject: comp.dcom.telecom.tech and Changing the Guidelines Followup-To: news.groups,news.admin.policy Date: 14 Oct 1993 19:01:27 -0400 Organization: UUNET Communications Lines: 78 Sender: tale@rodan.UU.NET Approved: firstname.lastname@example.org Message-ID: 29klo7INN5sq@rodan.UU.NET References: 29esvpINN4ae@rodan.UU.NET NNTP-Posting-Host: rodan.uu.net Xref: uunet news.announce.newgroups:4160 news.groups:84553 news.admin.policy:7211 news.admin.misc:5076 This message is intended to address my recent suggestion that the comp.dcom.telecom.tech group be created despite its failing vote result, and to give an introduction toward ideas I have had for a while regarding restructuring the Guidelines for USENET Group Creation. I would like to keep it relatively short, and some people might believe there are glaring omissions. I hope that all points will be addressed in the ensuing discussion. First, I thank everyone who has written to me over the past two days. Nearly all of the messages that I received were carefully written and well presented. I'm sorry that I cannot reply individually to all of them. The diversity of the mail has been surprising at times. I've got messages from people who voted for the proposal asking me not to create it, and messages from those who voted against it remarking that I should create it. I've got praise from people who are happy to see the spirit of the Guidelines upheld, and derision from those who would hold me to the letter of them. I've got more than ample indication that if I did send the newgroup without further debate that it would be widely honoured and the group well propagated. Before I continue, I want to make clear my primary source of bias regarding USENET group creation. I support the creation of well focused newsgroups which are not duplicitous. I have yet to oppose a USENET newsgroup based on its content. Voting by the hundreds is not a good way to administer a classification system. "No" votes are not particularly effective at the job they were intended to do, which was to stop poorly formed proposals. They have been used to stop groups which should have been created and have not stopped those which shouldn't. I don't believe that any manner of playing with the numbers and ratios will resolve this inequity. They should be abolished. Namespace management is best served by a small working group who can help ensure consistency and coherency. The net supported this idea two years ago when a proposal to use a "trial" process to create groups was approved by a traditional USENET vote. One of its features was that a small group of people were to chose the name of the group. I would like to advance a proposal for new guidelines for group creation. The essential differences would be to make new group creation easier and shorter for people interested in the topics to be discussed, at the cost of not being able to push any name and ill-formed charter forward. I will be working on the draft of these Guidelines and submitting them for discussion in the near future. Please do not start debating these ideas until you see how they come out in the proposal.
Allbery's Reform Proposal (1996)
From: Russ Allbery <email@example.com> Subject: [DRAFT] RFD: news.groups reorganization Date: 1996/10/24 Message-ID: firstname.lastname@example.org X-Deja-AN: 191793806 sender: email@example.com organization: The Eyrie newsgroups: news.groups [ This is a draft only. Comments are very much welcome. Anyone else who is considering a reorganization of news.groups, please contact me; I would greatly prefer to work together rather than end up with competing proposals. ] From: Russ Allbery <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: RFD: news.groups reorganization Newsgroups: news.announce.newgroups,news.groups REQUEST FOR DISCUSSION (RFD) moderated group news.groups.creation moderated group news.groups.reorganization moderated group news.groups.innovations unmoderated group news.groups.pre-proposals unmoderated group news.groups.policy (renames news.groups) Newsgroup lines: news.groups.creation Creation of single newsgroups. (Moderated) news.groups.reorganization Reorganization of newsgroups. (Moderated) news.groups.innovations Innovative newsgroup concepts. (Moderated) news.groups.pre-proposals Preliminary newsgroup proposals. news.groups.policy Policy issues of newsgroup creation. This is a preliminary Request For Discussion (RFD) for the reorganization of news.groups. This is not a formal RFD. Procedural details are below. RATIONALE: all groups news.groups is becoming increasingly difficult to follow because of the noise, poor use of subject lines, and overload due to multiple group discussions happening simultaneously. This proposal is designed to break up that discussion and mark the actual group discussion so that it can be easily filtered and followed by people only interested in one proposal. The core of the proposal is robomoderation of the two main groups to require that every post be marked with a tag specific to a particular proposal. ...
On Fri, 20 Oct 2006 10:20:52 +0200, Kjetil Torgrim Homme <email@example.com> wrote in <firstname.lastname@example.org>: > > I run the gateway at fa.*, including fa.haskell. I'm sorry to > > say I haven't put much effort into maintaining subscriptions the > > last few years, and as you allude to, many of the groups in the > > hierarchy are dead. > > Are you saying that the gated mailing lists themselves are dead? > That's too bad. a little of both, I think. (I know fa.haskell is alive, though.) > > all the fa.* groups are one-way, btw. > > I didn't know that. Was this always the case, or a deliberate > attempt to keep Usenet spam out of Mail? our gateway has always been one-way. a little background: as you probably know, the FA name is from before the Great Renaming (it stands for From ARPAnet). I don't know how it worked back then. some years later, Anders Ellefsrud, my predecessor as news admin here at ifi.uio.no, thought that it was wasteful that our students subscribed to mailing lists individually, and set up a gateway to save bandwidth and to get automatic expiration. he chose to reuse the name fa.* which was no longer in use on Usenet. this was a local hierarchy at first, but some neighbours thought it was useful and wanted feeds, and in 1998 it started leaking to the Usenet at large. this was under my watch, but I thought "hey, indexing at Google is actually pretty neat", so I didn't try to find the leak.