Saving Usenet One Post at a Time

This pretentiousness Copyright 1997 Sean Barrett

How can we, as individuals, fix Usenet?

What do you do when email, flaming, and complaints to ISPs all fail to reduce the noise level in your favorite newsgroup?

If fighting fire with fire just doesn't work, fight noise with signal.

The Fight

My personal battleground is the newsgroup talk.bizarre, a newsgroup whose standards for "appropriate posting" are so subjective as to be nearly worthless.

Nonetheless, posts are appropriate, either more or less, in each individual's opinion, and it is only through the exercise of this opinion, through some sort of action, that Usenet can be improved. I choose to consider my own opinions as meaningful, based on their similarity to the opinions of others whom I respect.

A side note: One can consider how these opinions operate together en masse. t.b. even has an "official" scoring system, in which participants vote on articles as to whether they are good or bad. The result is made available to all, and a digest of the best articles is available.

Unfortunately, very few people contribute to the voting system. (Fortunately, whoever they are, they seem to care about improving the signal to noise ratio, rather than simply spamming the voting counts.)

Turning Lead Into Gold

There is one big advantage to talk.bizarre: since it is not oriented around any particular topic, it is easy to come up with "signal": just write something interesting, clever, amusing, or, especially, bizarre. I don't exactly have a lock on that last one, but I think I can do the other three ok--on the rare occasion when I come up with some subject matter from which to fashion my post.

One day, upon becoming fed up with one particular poster's frequent habit of writing one-line followups that in no way matched my opinion of an "appropriate post", I decided that I would followup each of his one-liners with an "appropriate" post which integrated his post, thus turning his noise into my signal.

Not long after, I began to apply this to other posts that matched my general mental image of the posts I was targetting. They had to be followups. They had to be short (I've replied to a few two-liners [and one many-liner whose many lines were all identical]). They had to be stupid, irrelevent, hypocritical, or things better taken to email. And I opened my sights on other posters as well.

Quantity or Quality?

Writing on demand is not trivial, but fortunately, I find the context inspiring. And I can skip the odd post that I cannot find any way to reply to. (I do not write followups to replies to my posts of this form, to avoid an explosion of posts.)

Of course, the inspiration I get is not always particularly endearing. Large quantities of these posts have been appropriate only in sofar as they incorporate the material from the targetted post, and are in verse--while their actual content is merely a flame of the offending author.

And in writing so much stuff, it's certainly possible I'm just producing utter crap. But I've gotten more positive feedback in one week than I had in my entire previous five years.

Maybe we'll just let the voters decide.

The Battle So Far

The ones I think are the best to read (at least in this context, where you never saw the original post's context) are indicated in boldface. It's about 20% of them. (hit-or-miss archiving and HTML-ization services provided by Deja News):

September 1997 The oneliner-followup-followup project in some sense really begins here, when I decided not to restrict myself to just one poster as a target. (According to the archive dataes, the following set of posts were made in just two days, two days when the oneliner-followup-followup project was at its peak.) October 1997 The following is from Alta-Vista. It apparently never showed up on Deja-News; I wonder if it got around poorly in general. Too bad, I think it was a decent one. (On the other hand, I only ever seem to see about half my posts on Alta-Vista. The new net sucks.) Back to Deja-News format... Novemember 1997 And I thought I was silly giving these files 3-digit numbers.

Pop Music References

There were so many of these, explicit and implicit, that they deserved their own section. A couple of these aren't actually to be found in this archive, because they were posted at the same time in non-oneliner-followup-followup posts, but in my head they all go together.

Spot the Reference!

Explicitly quoted material omitted.

The Most Extended Rhymes

(in the sense of being multi-syllabic) I don't expect to ever top "network computer".

The Worst Rhymes

(not counting those that appear on the above list)

Gratuitous Errors

Typos, Spelling mistakes, Grammar Errors, and Brain Farts
(But were some of them trolls? Only I know.)