Herewith, some tips on where to post your first message, depending on what kind of message it is:
1. If you just want to practice the mechanics of posting (which are sometimes not trivial) and verify that your messages really do go out to the rest of the world, you should post to MISC.TEST or ALT.TEST. Several sites monitor these newsgroups and automatically send e-mail responses to all messages that appear in them. ("Greetings from beautiful Contra Costa County, California!") These groups are also nice for practicing how to write messages with your text editor, because you don't have to worry about real people seeing your typing mistakes and formatting blunders.
2. If you want to exchange messages with "real people," but don't have anything in particular to talk about ("Hi, I'm Wally in Podunk, Iowa. Please send me mail!"), try the newsgroup SOC.PENPALS, which is intended specifically for this sort of thing.
3. If you actually want to ask a question, then you *may* be in the right place (NEWS.NEWUSERS.QUESTIONS). Strictly speaking, this newsgroup is for questions about Usenet in general, but most of us don't mind questions about other network services such as FTP and e-mail. If your question is rather specialized, though, be prepared to be referred to another newsgroup where "real" experts hang out.
4. Exception: If you have a question of the form "Is there a newsgroup about xxx?", you should post it in NEWS.GROUPS.QUESTIONS, which was created specifically for this purpose.
5. If you're using an on-line service which has its own proprietary software (e.g. America Online, Netcom Netcruiser, CompuServe Information Manager), you should ask questions about that software in a "local" forum, where you are more likely to get a response from an expert.
6. Finally, before you post a question here, *please*please*please* scan through all the message titles in this newsgroup first. Certain questions get asked (and answered) over and over and over and over and over and over again. There's a fair chance that your answer may already be sitting in your news server. Don't forget to check the "previously-read" messages, too (how you do this depends on the software you're using). If you don't see what you're looking for, and you're not in a life-or-death hurry, you might consider waiting and watching for a few days, especially if you suspect that your question might be a FAQ (Frequently Asked Question).
"How do I view the pictures that are posted in some groups?"
"Where can I get a complete list of newsgroups?"
"How do I make a signature file?"
"How do I set up a home page?"
"How can I create a new newsgroup?"
"Why does my message disappear right after I post it?"
"How do I 'chat' in real time (IRC) with other people on the net?"
"Don't these people who answer questions have a real life?" :-)
If you're thinking, "hey, don't be so anal-retentive about it, I'll post where I jolly well please," consider this: I recently scanned through a week's worth of messages in this newsgroup, and discovered that at least 85% of them (about 5000 out of 6000) fell into categories 1 and 2. That's a lot of extra material to wade through, for someone who's looking for an answer to a real question that he/she posted! :-)
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Last Updated: Monday, January 3, 2005