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Chapter 8 Newsgroups - Social Networking - Forums and Reference Desks

Chapter eight topics
  • Newsgroups
  • Newgroup Reader Software
  • Social Networking
  • Forums`
  • The Downside
  • Reference Desks
Newsgroups can be an excellent source of information, but as with anything else on the Internet, sometimes you have to sort through a lot of dross to find the good stuff.

The alt. groups used to be especially bad about this, because they didn't have to jump through all the hoops that the "official" newsgroups did. Learn about alt. groups at Wikipedia,*_hierarchy.

It depends on the group, but some newsgroups are also subject to a lot of spam and flames. That's true also of some mailing lists. You can get a lot of leads to new web sites and mailing lists through newsgroups by lurking.

Getting quotes is much easier than you might think. It's as easy as formulating your question and asking it. When the response doesn't get the information you sought, send another question phrased more precisely to get the reply you're seeking.

I once attended a conference where the speaker, an expert on a specific topic, said he became the expert by contacting all the people he could locate who knew anything at all about the topic, and then he built exponentially on what he learned from each of them. And he eventually wrote a very successful book on the topic he'd only begun to research to write an article on! He had become
the expert!!

Getting quotes can be fun! While I was writing news stories for newspapers at least 50% of the information was quotes -- what some speaker said, usually at some pubic meeting or during an interview I'd arranged.

The first place to look for these helpful, online networkers is for online Newgroups and Forums; sometimes referred to as USENET Newsgroup used by people on the Net. These are subject-related groups where people meet to discuss a topic of common interest to the group. You'll find thousands of newsgroups on the net so you need to be able to zero in one the ones that are going to benefit you.

The best place to start is Google at, This is a website designed to help you find a newsgroup dedicated to your subject area.

It also allows you to browse online the messages posted to the group and to post messages yourself.

Lurk for a while to see what people are discussing before you post any messages to decide whether you have joined the correct group for your needs.

Read the groups FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) which will be a list of the questions asked by new members about the policy of the group, how to post, what types of messages are and are not acceptable, etc.

I suggest you participate in forums and mailing lists so you do not have to wade through the sea of rubbish before you get to what you're seeking on a newsgroup.

Try them out. You can always unsubscribe from a list if it does not work for you.

If you post messages to newsgroups, put something like NOSPAM in your out-going email address. Add a note to the bottom of your message saying, "Remove NOSPAM from the address before replying." It fools the programs that collect addresses for spammers.

Call your ISP if you don't see something clearly labeled as a newsgroup reader.

Most of the basic ones are free downloads. Search online, freenewsgroup reader for newsgroup reader software.

If you do not have a permanent connection to the Internet, and therefore it is costing you money to read the postings, you need to get a news group reader. This is a piece of software that will download the messages to your PC so that you can read them offline. This software will also let you join and leave newsgroups as you wish and will upload your postings in a batch.

Forums are another place to meet people. They are similar to newsgroups but generally all postings and discussions are conducted on the Web. A good place to start to find an appropriate forum is at Forum One: which has a search engine (top right corner of page.) You can also find forums by subject.

Another good place is Topica's discussion lists site,, where you can search newsgroups, forums, and other resources all in one go! You will also find mailing lists here where postings are sent to your email box everyday.

And, of course, don't overlook the multitude of Social Networking opportunities such as Twitter,, Facebook,, etc.

The downside: Many newsgroups tend to have messages posted to them that are totally irrelevant to the subject being covered. A lot of the forums and mailing lists are moderated -- a human being reviews each attempted posting before it is seen by everyone else -- and therefore most non-relevant postings are deleted.

Be aware of pitfalls. Read Debra Littlejohn Shinder's article on the TechRepublic site,, 10 Ways to Stay Out of Trouble when you Post to Social Networking Sites.

Reference desks
Many professional writers choose as the most popular reference site on the Internet. It's a huge site with over 20,000 links. From the home page at you can access hundreds of web pages.

Tip: Read, 3-3, Critiquing How-To:, and FAQ at Internet Writing Workshop,, and follow instructions.

  1. Get permission from an online source to quote material for a (real or imagined) story.
  2. Make the proper source citation in a (real or imagined) story.
  3. Join The Writing Workshop for one week and participate by critiquing three stories in any genre of your choice.
Advice FromThe Pros:

3-6, Words to Pages - book size:

3-7, Let Writing Careers and Writers and Artists Glossary Terms Enhance Your Vocabulary:

Next, Chapter 9 - Querying and Related Issues:

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