Why Newsgroups ?



There are a number of ways that people can talk to each other on the internet about a number of subjects. Whether it be computing, photography, chess etc. To help you better understand why I suggest using newsgroups I am comparing them to the other main options that internet connected people have.




This is perhaps the most common way that people talk to each other on the internet. Let us suppose however that I want to discuss something with Tom, Dick and Harry. If I email Tom, Dick or Harry then there is a problem. The other two do not see what I have written. Conversely if they reply then the other two don't see what the reply is either !


Now, if you are reasonably familiar with emailing then you will no doubt point out to me that I could send the one email to all three of them. True, but what about any reply to my email ? It may/may not be sent to the other two as well. This results in a conversation having gaps in it for one, or more, of the participants.


Also, suppose there are 50 people interested in what I have to say about a topic. Do I send all 50 an email ? Yes, I could, but what happens if only 20 are interested in further discussion ? Do I keep adding/subtracting names from the recipient list ? In any case how am I to know only 20 of them want further discussion and/or how would I know which 20 ?


Not only that but what if the number was 500 ? If I sent them all the same email then unless one has a particular type of emailer it might be difficult to sort out the 500 from all of the address' in one's address book. I could also get into trouble with my ISP if they (incorrectly) think the emails are spam.


Suppose also that Fred joins the discussion on the first day of February. He would likely miss the discussion that took place in January.


All these problems are solved with newsgroups. When one looks at newsgroup discussions one sees both sides of the conversation. Also one can join/leave a newsgroup at any time (most newsgroups are free to read/contribute to). One can also read only the topics that interest them.


Newsgroups also have a historical factor. It is quite common for example for the computer that one gets one's newsgroup messages from to have past messages (posts). Sometimes going back months. Very handy if you want to catch up with what has been discussed recently.


Most newsreaders allow one to keep messages on one's computer even after they are no longer on the server that one downloads the newsgroups from. So one can "archive" messages that one may not find of interest now but may find of interest at a later time. A programming newsgroup perhaps.


Then one could do a "search" of past messages at a later time. Most news posts are text messages so keeping even thousands of them does not take up a lot of space on one's computer.


They are hugely scaleable as well. Newsgroups can effortlessly manage 5, 50 or 5,000 people reading/contributing to them.


Mailing Lists : Some mailing lists are sent by email and also available via a web browser. Some are only email. I am purposely ignoring the former type here, and discussing the latter, as I will be talking about web forums below.


With mailing lists one sees both sides of conversations. That is of course very handy if one wants to see everything said on a particular topic (thread). What if you aren't interested in everything discussed on the mailing list though ? Too bad. All the emails will still be sent to you.


With mailing lists you need to give someone an email address that works. Otherwise you won't get any of the messages sent to the list (of people). For privacy/security reasons you may not want to do that.


Some people who provide mailing lists do so to better spam you/others. Added to that your details may be given/sold to another party, who you don't want to hear from.


Also, mailing lists can have problems. If one/more members of the list go on holiday and they have an automatic (auto-response) setup you can end up receiving heaps of these "I am away" emails. Sometimes one for each email received on the list. Including ones sent by oneself.


As you can imagine this situation can very quickly get out of hand unless someone quickly removes the person from the mailing list.


With newsgroups you do not need to supply a valid email address. You also miss out on the "I am away" messages as well.


Chat Rooms :


Chat rooms have quite a lot of drawbacks when compared to newsgroups as well. What if you want to discuss something now (while you are awake) ? The person(s) you want to talk to may be overseas (asleep).


Keeping track of people in a chat room with hundreds of participants can be rather difficult. Not only in starting/maintaining but in keeping track of who is who. These sorts of things are far simpler in a newsgroup.


Also, even though one may keep some sort of a "history" of chat room conversations it may not be very long. Perhaps hours compared to a newsgroup situation of months.


Chat room conversations tend to be very short as well. This means that topics may not be covered in the depth that they could be. With newsgroups a particularly interesting conversation can last many days. Perhaps even weeks.


Web Forums :


There are two main types of web forums. Those that show all the emails sent to an email mailing list and those that only have the messages on the web page. Both are accessed via a web browser. The former tend to be read only while the latter usually allows people to read/write messages.


Both have drawbacks compared to newsgroups. Suppose for example you would like to keep a record of a post, or whole conversation, on your own computer. This is very easy to do with newsgroups. It is usually difficult/impossible with web forums.


Many web forums require you to "sign up". A potential concern, as already mentioned above, regarding privacy/security/spamming.


In addition to that issue is the one of convenience. How many usernames and/or passwords do I need to have if I want to access 50 web forums ? For good security the answer may be 50 of each. Keeping track of these can be a major irritation.


With newsgroups it doesn't matter whether I read 5 newsgroups, 50 newsgroups, or 500 newsgroups. If they are all from the one newsgroups provider then I need only remember/use one username and password.


Web forums are often hosted by a particular company. This means that if you say something critical about their product(s) you may not see your messages appear in the forum. Hardly an encouragement to open discussion.


Filtering newsgroup messages is not usually difficult. For example, you may only want to "view" posts that you have not read yet. Or posts that are a particular size. Or you might prefer to not see posts on a particular topic or by a particular author. Doing these sorts of things on a web forum ranges from Difficult to impossible.


Web forums are generally hosted on a single computer (server). If there are technical difficulties then you may not be able to view/contribute to the forum. With newsgroups the messages are spread out over perhaps thousands of computers around the world. If your newsgroup server went offline then you could easily go to another. Which would be close to being identical as regards messages.


Lastly, with newsgroups, if one has a limited time internet connection it is very easy to download newsgroup posts (messages) quickly/easily. One can then read them later. When not connected to the internet. Something that is usually very difficult, or impossible, with web forums.


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