How to Get the Best Answers on Usenet

Overcoming Initial Fears

First time Usenet users will eventually find themselves wanting to post a question to a newsgroup. After all, Usenet exists primarily to give users the opportunity to learn and explain information in a collaborative setting. Sadly, asking that first question through a newsgroup post can be intimidating for some. For example, new users need to know what particular newsgroup should see the post, or whether the post’s response requires an expert’s answer. This can be a scary prospect since many people are afraid to let anyone know of their ignorance on a subject. Once that fear is overcome, and users actually ask their questions via posts to a newsgroup, they will find Usenet highly rewarding.

Waiting for the Reply

Given the nature of Usenet, in most cases, users will receive quick answers. They may have to wait a little longer if they are looking for an expert answer. The reason for delay is simple. Since questions are rotated down by activity, a user’s question may get overlooked by those experts. Therefore, users should know a few Usenet tricks in order to get their question viewed without violating the netiquette required for Usenet newsgroups. Let’s look at how that’s done.

Usenet is not dead
Usenet is not dead (Photo credit: Alexandre Dulaunoy)

Inviting Elaborators to the Question

When users post questions, they will get a lot of short responses. Since these repliers only give brief answers, users can keep the post going by encouraging those individuals to keep their answers going. This will not only keep the discussion alive, but will possibly encourage the right answer from one of the members who have already posted a reply. For example, users looking for a specific cooking technique might receive a quick answer from another user about grandmother’s recipe. Having users elaborate on what they know about the recipe and methods used encourages others to post similar stories or information. This will help keep the discussion active. The tip here is to keep the discussion going until the question is answered with the desired response.

Ignoring Arguments

Though Usenet is a useful tool for obtaining information through group discussions, many groups have what are referred to as a trolls. Trolls are troublemakers. These individuals come into newsgroups and purposely start arguments or attempt to spark an argument in active discussions.

When an original poster gives into these sparks and argues back, a moderator will typically shut the discussion down. In the rare instance a moderator leaves the post open, the flame war can spiral out of control and the original topic will be lost. This means the user will not receive the desired answer. The tip here is to ignore trolls.

Reply Frequently

Original posters are primarily responsible for monitoring what is posted about their questions and giving feedback to responders. Fellow newsgroup members will assume that the discussion is inactive if the original poster does not reply. Therefore, questioners should read answer posts, reply to them, and continue to monitor the discussion for further activity. A kind word of thanks from the questioner to whoever answers the question is also in order. The tip here is to monitor the conversation and state clearly that the question has been answered satisfactorily.

New Users Should Reply When Appropriate

Users should look at relevant discussions other than the ones they initiated and offer replies where appropriate. This tells others that the user is genuinely interested in furthering the aims of the newsgroup. This in turn helps speed up replies because other devotees know the new user wants to be a serious collaborator.

Users Get What They Put into It

Users who ignore other posts, start arguments, or give into trolls, will not have as positive an experience on Usenet. On the other hand, users who are active, provide valuable feedback, and stay on top of their posts, will have a rewarding Usenet experience. Lastly, new users should promote a good image on their newsgroup. This will help other users instantly recognize them and others will be more willing to respond to the new user’s discussion posts.