Trygve.Com > Singles > Soc.Singles FAQ (long version)
singles FAQ

Archive-name: singles-faq-long
Last-modified: 2003.11.26 FAQ, short version, available at

Welcome to! is a place to hang out, discuss issues serious, mundane, and silly, flirt, share embarrassing personal secrets, and generally let your hair down and have fun. Whether you're just reading or are feeling brave enough to leap headlong into any of the ongoing conversations or start a new one, you'll find a varied collection of people from around the world all working to keep your newsreading time from getting boring. Just be warned: is not a place for personal ads, requests for penpals and/or sexually explicit email, commercial advertisements, or test messages. Remember that there are real people behind the messages you're reading and responding to, and if you treat them with the consideration and respect you'd give to a bunch of people you just met at a party, you'll be 77.4% of the way to being an accepted and valued contributor to!

This document is called the "FAQ" (short for "Frequently Asked Questions") and hopefully contains information that will make it easier to follow and join in on the various conversations happening on at any given time. No warranty is expressed or implied; for external use only; if rash persists, consult a physician.

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Think of this bit here as being sorta like a table of contents:

- Commonly encountered abbreviations and jargon
- What is a 'boink'?
- Should I post personals ads on
- How about commercial ads?
- What if my site doesn't carry alt.personals or soc.penpals?
- OK, if I'm not supposed to post personals, what kinds of articles should I post?
- Do I have to be single to post on
- Just what does "single" mean anyway?
- What's the difference between and
- Is there anything besides personal ads that should be avoided?
- Sometimes, seems very intimidating--it's like everybody knows everyone else and it's hard just to jump in to all the ongoing conversations.
- What if I don't like any of the current discussions or just find them all boring?
- I finally worked up the courage to post my first message and nobody responded to it. Do you think that the soc.singlers are conspiring to ignore me?
- Help! I just posted an article and got flamed horribly for it-- will I ever be able to show my face in public again?
- Hey--someone just posted a personal ad to! Should I flame the pants off this person?
- is just full of flaming and angry-sounding people this week; can't you guys all just get along?
- Sometimes I write stuff that is just so incredible I think I should crosspost it to every other newsgroup on the net. Is that okay?
- What is this "editing" stuff I keep hearing about?
- How about editing subject headers?
- What else can I do to improve my ASCII appearance?
- What do these weird combinations of punctuation marks I see frequently in people's messages mean?
- How do you pronounce "soc"?
- What's a ".GIF" ".JPG" or ".MPG"?
- Is there a World-Wide Web page for
- What, exactly, are "Disney Chemicals"?
- How do you pronounce "Trygve"?
- How come nice guys don't get laid?
- How come nice guys/gals/small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri get dumped for jerks/bimbos/hyperfungal Rigellian psuedoshoggoths?
- I met someone last week at a party; what do you think this person's deepest and innermost feelings for me are?
- Is it possible for men and women to be just friends?
- Do conversations on the net ever blossom into torrid romances?
- What about personal ads?
- Will this message ever end?
- How about posting articles asking for readers to send postcards to a kid in England who is dying of cancer and wants to set the world record for most cards received before he dies?
- How come there are so many kooks on the net?
- OK, we're getting near the end of the file now--what's this about "killfiles" that you promised to tell us about?
- Is there any copyright on this FAQ?
- Are you sure I can't post personals on

OK, you can stop thinking of this as being like a table of contents now.

Commonly encountered abbreviations and jargon:

[ A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z ]
As Far As I Know
As Far As I Can Throw You
American Standard Code for Information Interchange; technically, this refers to the encoding scheme whereby the internally stored binary numbers used by computers correspond to human-readable symbols like "A", but in common usage on the net, ASCII also refers to anything that's made of standard text characters: "@}--,--`---" is an ASCII rose, for example.
Basis In Fact
Been There, Done That
By The Way
"Disney Chemicals" ( see below )
"Dreaded Monogamy Virus"
Evil Grin (usually written in brackets: <EG>)
Frequently Asked Question(s)
An emotional, often personal attack on another person's article; "I disagree with your statement because of X" is not a flame, whereas "I disagree with your moronic statement and the fact that you would say such a thing proves you're a complete idiot" is.
Something posted publicly that appears designed to inspire flames; usually this is a postion that is not only likely to annoy a lot of people but is also worded in such a way as to arouse the ire of readers.
Friend Of A Friend (Generally used for apocryphal stories.)
Face-To-Face (in person, rather than over the net)
File Transfer Protocol; a way to transfer files between your computer system and another.
"Friends With Benefits" (friends who have sex without romantic involvement or the expectation thereof)
For What It's Worth
For Your Amusement
For Your Information
Hope This Helps / Happy To Help
Another kind of "chat" program for Windows-based machines. Each ICQ user is identified by a unique number.
If I Recall Correctly
In My Humble Opinion (engineers often prefer to use JMHO)
In My Not-So-Humble Opinion
Internet Relay Chat -- "chat rooms" where several participants can type at each other in real time as opposed to leaving messages to be read later as one does on newsgroups.
Love At First Sight (Alternatively, "Love At First Site" for those in a hurry.)
Long Distance Relationship
Let's Just Be Friends (now considered a verb)
Lust Object (occasionally also Love Object)
Laughing Out Loud
Long Term Relationship
Someone who reads a group, but doesn't post; doing so is called "lurking"
Member Of The Opposite Sex
Member Of The Same Sex
Member Of The Appropriate Sex
Member Of the Inappropriate Sex
Compressed format for sound files commonly used for distribution over the net
No Basis In Fact
Nice Guy/Gal (also NewsGroup)
Nude In Front Of Computer
Not That There's Anything Wrong With It
(e.g., "ObSingles: [some statement about single life]") Typically used at the end of an article in a thread or newsgroup that's labeled as being about something, where the article has wandered off on some other topic and would otherwise not contain anything related to the thread or newsgroup topic.
Off Topic
Usually used in front of a thread topic that's off-topic for the newsgroup. e.g. "OT: Movie Review"
On The Other Hand
Public Display of Affection
The "sound" of a poster being added to a killfile; also used as a verb: "I plonked Sylvia 'Snuffelupagus Slayer' DeCrisco, so I missed her discussion on foot odor."
Person of Opposite Sex Sharing Living Quarters
Point Of View
ProblemYoungerMan (also ProblemYoungerMutant)
Romantic Interest
Real Life
Rolling On The Floor Laughing (also ROFL)
Romantic Partner
Real Soon Now
Stay-At-Home (as in SAH parent)
sig or .sig
"Signature," a short, standardized message tacked on to the end of all one's posts; usually consisting of 1-4 lines of text, containing one's e-mail address, employer, favorite pithy quote, and/or other pertinent (or impertinent) personal information.
Sexual Market Value
Sensitive New-Age Guy
Significant Other
Articles that are inappropriately posted to large numbers of newsgroups; these are usually, though not necessarily, commercial ads, but whatever their nature or content, they're considered a Bad Thing[tm].
Thanks In Advance
Three Letter Abbreviation
"Too Much INformation"
True Love & Eternal Happiness
Someone who posts articles just to get attention or annoy the other readers and posters; also used as a verb and, if you take the [flame]bait and respond as if it were a serious post, you've been "trolled."
Very Big Grin (often written in angle brackets: <VBG>)
Waiting For You In The Bathtub Wearing Nothing But Lime Jell-O
What The Heck
Your Kink Is OK
Your Milage May Vary
Gender-neutral pronoun equivalent to "She or He" (Alternate spelling: "Sie")
Gender-neutral pronoun equivalent to "Him or Her" or possessive pronoun equivalent to "His or Her" (Alternate spelling: "Hir")

The rest of the FAQ:

What is a 'boink'?

Any publicly announced gathering of participants and lurkers. Frequently these last for days and involve the flying in of out-of-town celebrities.

Should I post personals ads on

No. Personal ads belong in the alt.personals groups; there are even groups for people with specific tastes (e.g. alt.personals.poly, alt.personals.bondage, alt.personals.hamster.duct-tape). If you want to post a request for pen-friends rather than a personal ad, there's also soc.penpals which is dedicated for just that very thing. Do not post personals in, you will annoy the readership and not get any positive responses.

Many, many web-based personals ads sites are available, both free and pay services. Checking Yahoo shows several hundred category matches if you search on "personals"; so, you may wish to add some more search words or just start browsing.

How about commercial ads?

They should also be avoided. Indeed, on the great majority of newsgroups, any commercial advertising will be received with hostility. The net is built on the voluntary cooperation of many machines across the world, owned by businesses, governments, and educational institutions, and because the owners generally don't want to be paying for the distribution of competitors' advertising and, in the case of educational and governmental machines, they may have strict policies against carrying any advertising at all, one of the basic premises of the net is a "gentleman's agreement" not to post commercial messages outside of the groups specifically set aside for that purpose (comp.newprod and biz.*). Even for pragmatic reasons, it's best to avoid commercial messages, simply because you generally don't want to kick off an advertising campaign by irritating your potential customer base. For more details concerning the commercial use of the net, you may wish to check out the articles your system should have available in the group news.announce.newusers.

What if my site doesn't carry alt.personals or soc.penpals?

Even if your site doesn't carry a given group, it's still possible to post to it; fortunately, that's really all you need to be able to do with a personal ad, since you would normally be getting responses back in email anyway. A number of "mail-to-news gateways" exist that will take email messages you send them and post them to any Usenet group, whether it's on your system or not (and even if your system only gives you mail capability and doesn't support news at all).

If you have web access, you can read news and post from DejaNews , which allows you more to search other people's personal ads more easily than most newsreaders. If you are using a newsreader / posting program that allows you to modify your headers, many if not most will still let you post to a newsgroup that your site doesn't carry; it may just ask you to confirm that you really do want to post to the specified newsgroup and haven't just mistyped it.

OK, if I'm not supposed to post personals, what kinds of articles should I post?

Think of as the electronic version of something that's partway between a cocktail party and a soap opera. Appropriate posts should be both interactive and entertaining--that is, their content should both invite the participation of others in the electronic conversation and be entertaining to its readers. You might pose an open question to the readership about some aspect of the human condition as it applies to singleness or you might reply to another contributor's post and add an observation that sheds light on a different aspect of the issue under discussion or just makes some people out there laugh and shoot Pepsi out through their noses onto their computer keyboards. Personal ads are a good example of what sort of posting isn't appropriate because they are neither of these--they aren't conducive to public discussion nor are they entertaining.

Remember, the best way to get a positive response on any group is to post something that will pique the interest of the other readers and entertain them as well. On, the best thing to do is simply to post a message that expresses a stunningly profound observation that is fundamental to the human condition as it relates to singleness, one that is unobvious yet clarifies many of the more confusing interactions between singles and MOTAS and is expressed with succinctness, humor, an easy, flowing writing style, and-- perhaps most importantly--good spelling and the effective use of an editor. Some days we'll just settle for someone who can spell and use an editor. Then, wait for fan mail while composing your next opus.

When in doubt, the best thing to do is read the newsgroup for a while, at least until you get a feel for what's going on; as the old saying goes, "lurk before you leap." (This is generally a good approach for any newsgroup, not just You may find it easier to leap into a conversation in progress. Don't feel shy about "butting in": one of the advantages of the net is that everyone can get a word in without interrupting anyone else or being thought rude for speaking up. Keep reading until you get to a message that inspires an interesting comment or observation of your own and put that in a followup message; or, if you're feeling really brave, start a whole new thread and invite others' comments on a subject that you think is interesting.

Don't forget who your audience is--people will be reading your words all over the world with all kinds of software and on all sorts of service providers. They might not have read an article you're responding to, gone to the dance club down the street from where you live, be using the same software you are, or know what the message numbers are on your service provider (they're different on every system); try to include enough information so that a typical reader will understand what you're talking about without feeling too confused.

Do I have to be single to post on

No. The only requirement is that you have been single at some time in your life, know someone who was, or are interested in some of the subjects that people meeting either of these conditions have been known to talk about.

Soc.Singles isn't exclusively for singles or where non-single people are unwelcome, but simply a place where it's normal to be single. The rest of the world often feels like it's built around couples as the basic social unit, leaving singles feeling awkward, left out, or like a "third wheel." The basic "social unit" for is the individual, where you're not defined by whom you're with or any less by not being with someone.

Just what does "single" mean anyway?

In the context of, it means "unmarried"; there's a tendency for "singles' issues" being discussed on to be directed towards people who don't currently have a long-term committed partner, but anything interesting and/or important to people who aren't married is appropriate.

What's the difference between and

As the name suggests, is a moderated group; that means that your articles get sent off to the the "moderator" to be approved before they appear. In this particular case, you just have to invoke the secret password (which is revealed in the FAQ) and all your subsequent articles will be approved automatically. This technique was taken to eliminate hit-and-run advertising and flamebait from people who aren't interested in taking the time to read the group and get rid of the massive cross-posting that's usually used to create long-running, pointless flamewars.

Many of the same people post to both groups or at least read them both and will occasionally drop in a comment in the group they don't participate in as much. It's also permitted to cross-post between and, but most of the time it's not appreciated and will tend to confuse readers who haven't gone through the approval process on, because their articles will get bounced back and not posted to either group.

Is there anything besides personal ads that should be avoided?

Of course there are other things that are best avoided--perhaps the most important of these are emotional issues for which other newsgroups have been created. Topics like abortion, politics, religion, anything by Robert McElwaine, and other such things are best avoided, not because they aren't valid issues, but because, like personal ads, it's too easy for them to take over the newsgroup and drive off those of us who participate on because we like Remember, anyone who wants to debate abortion can go to talk.abortion and anyone who wants to post and read personals can go to alt.personals*--but if gets turned into, there's no newsgroup where the soc.singlers can go to continue their discussions.

It's also good form to avoid messages that are pretty much content-free: don't, for example, quote an entire message that you agree with and then append "Yeah, what she said" to the end. Test messages should also be avoided--if you're unsure whether your messages are getting out or not, post something to misc.test and you'll get confirmation messages from various sites around the world to let you know your posting software is working.

On, like any other group, it's best to avoid the urge to post spelling flames--if you catch a spelling error or a typo in someone else's post, it does very little good to post a public message about it, since the other readers will either have noticed the error themselves--and don't need to be told about it--or they won't care--in which case they don't need to be told about it. If it's an informational post that's going to be reposted later or a signature, you may want to inform the poster in e-mail, but unless you can turn the spelling error into an outrageously witty observation (e.g. the original poster has just made a screamingly funny Freudian slip in print), there's no reason to post spelling flames publicly.

If you get the urge to add to a pun chain, please don't quote all the puns so far and then add a pun that already appears earlier in the message. If you do think of a pun or other witty rejoinder to add to someone else's article, it's a good idea to read any followups that have already been posted before posting your witty response, just to make sure that three or four people won't have made the same remark already.

Finally, don't ever post chain letters, regardless of whether they're disguised as plans to create "mailing lists" for big bucks or not--posting such a message on or any other newsgroup is likely to get your account revoked. It's been remarked that the "Make Money Fast" chain letters are one of the few crimminal activities in which the perpetrator signs his name at the bottom; not only does this make it easy to report the person posting the article to his or her sysadmin (and getting the account in question revoked), but the IRS does consider illegal income taxable and would probably want to check up on whether the writer claiming to have received hundreds of thousands of dollars in the mail has paid everything from income tax to self-employment tax on that money. (In the unlikely event that the writer actually has received that kind of money, there may even be a reward to the person who brings this to the attention of the IRS.)

Sometimes, seems very intimidating--it's like everybody knows everyone else and it's hard just to jump in to all the ongoing conversations.

Remember that every poster on had to post his or her first message sometime and, even now, it's no more difficult for you to press the followup-key than it is for anyone else. Sometimes it helps just to read the newsgroup for a while--get a feel for what's going on and what the other posters are like, what sorts of topics have already been beaten to death many times over, and what sorts of insights, knowlege, and experience you might have to add that others might not think of. When you do decide to leap into the fray and post something, don't be discouraged if it doesn't get a response right away or even if it gets a negative response--after all, the net is an imperfect medium and it's easy to be misunderstood, so don't feel too bad if you sometimes don't get your ideas across in quite the way you had intended. If you keep your cool and continue participating, people will get to know you, you'll get to know them, and misunderstandings will become less frequent.

What if I don't like any of the current discussions or just find them all boring?

On the net, just like in real life, when you don't like something, you're better off working constructively to change it instead of just complaining about it. If you'd like to talk about something else, then post a message about it and add enough of your thoughts about it that the other contributors will have something to bite on. Writing, "what do you think about single people who bring their pet squids on dates?" is good, but "what do you think about single people who bring their pet squids on dates? I was on a date last week with someone who insisted in bringing 'Sigmund' the squid along and taking pieces of food off my plate to feed to Sigmund without asking first." is even better.

In general, the worst thing that you can do is post a message along the lines of "this group sucks; I've read every single message on this group every day for five years now and each one has been worse than having my toenails ripped out using a badly misaligned electric can opener." Remember that all the people posting to and reading are real people and tend to react rather like people would if you were to walk into a party and sulk in the corner, loudly shouting out "this party sucks" every few minutes while the people all around you are busily having a good time. If the messages aren't to your liking, either try to contribute positively towards making the group more what you'd like it to be, use killfiles more extensively, or locate another group that is more to your liking. Just announcing your displeasure is unlikely to motivate the other participants to post things that you'll want to read, since obviously they must be enjoying the current tone and content of or they wouldn't be contributing to it.

I finally worked up the courage to post my first message and nobody responded to it. Do you think that the soc.singlers are conspiring to ignore me?

Alas, the contributors to soc.singlers are far too disorganized to conspire against anyone. Most messages don't generate responses anyway, otherwise the volume of would be even greater than it is. So, you may need to post a few messages before anyone responds to something you've written. If you want to maximize your chances of getting a response, try to make sure that your articles contain room for others to respond--they should invite others to add their thoughts to yours and, ideally, say something new and different that will get the attention of your readers. Sometimes messages can even be too good--they can simply cover the whole subject and do it so authoritatively that there's nothing left for anyone to say, so not getting a response to a message doesn't mean that people aren't reading it or aren't interested by it.

Help! I just posted an article and got flamed horribly for it-- will I ever be able to show my face in public again?

Yep; just make sure you don't show it by posting a .gif of your face to a non-binaries group. The truth is that most people flame articles, not people--you could post two messages in one day and have one flamed mercilessly and the other lauded with ASCII roses by the same people. Just because someone flamed you for something you said doesn't mean that the person in question hates you--the best thing to do is just take it all in stride and keep on going. In the event that you do find that you're getting flamed an awful lot, you may wish to consider your presentation: even if you're saying perfectly reasonable things, a lot of people will have trouble with what you're saying if you 1) sound like you think you speak for all humanity or 2) keep saying the same thing over and over instead of listening to how people are responding to you and responding yourself to what they say.

Contrary to popular belief, there is no requirement that one respond to each and every flame directed one's way. Even if someone stoops so low as to call you a "pompous spamhead" or impugns your ability to make use of groceries that haven't been pre-chewed, you are still free to ignore it and get on with your life; in fact, doing so is often recommended, since people tend to skim a lot of messages and running across a whole stream of articles arguing over whose head bears the greatest resemblance to lunchmeat is a lot more likely to leave the casual reader with the impression that you _are_ a pompous spamhead than one or two ignored flames would have. Responding to flames and personal attacks tends to focus attention on them, which encourages those who flame you and is likely to make casual readers see you in a worse light. So, when in doubt, ignore the flames and respond to the articles that inspire you to say interesting and thought-provoking things.

Hey--someone just posted a personal ad to! Should I flame the pants off this person?

That depends; if you can think of a wonderfully witty and entertaining way to flame the ad, go ahead; otherwise it's not generally worth the trouble of putting up a public post about it for the whole world to read and it might be better just to send a note to the poster in email suggesting that this is uncool. If you do want to respond publicly, you might want to change the subject from "lonely speedboat owner seeks fellow marmalade enthusiast" to something more like "No Personals, Please (was: lonely speedboat owner seeks...)"; that way people just scanning the topics or reading the newsgroup with nn or other newsreaders that just show you the subjects unless you select the article won't get the impression from reading the headers that personals are the mainstay of, those people who don't want to read the flames generated by personals can just put "/No Personals, Please/:j" into their killfiles. is just full of flaming and angry-sounding people this week; can't you guys all just get along?

Not everybody logs onto the net to meet people and enjoy friendly conversations; a lot of people just enjoy being obnoxious and feeling like they have a lot of power and are really cool if they can piss other people off, especially if they can get someone else to lose his or her cool and act like a twit too. Posting a message saying that somebody like that is a rude and annoying twerp with no social skills and probably has the personal hygiene normally associated with week-old roadkill isn't going to make them rethink their ways, it'll only encourage them.

On any newsgroup, if you don't like flaming and angry words, don't add to them; what you write is part of the newsgroup just like everybody else's articles, so the best way to make the newsgroup have the style you enjoy is to post the kind of articles you'd like to read if they'd been written by someone else.

Sometimes I write stuff that is just so incredible I think I should crosspost it to every other newsgroup on the net. Is that OK?

No. In general on any newsgroup, crossposting should not be done more than necessary. Inevitably, when you crosspost a discussion about your taste in swimwear to, alt.personals, rec.scuba, rec.nude, and alt.culture.urdu, the thread will quickly diverge in directions that most of the groups don't want to read about. If you do this too often, people from the various groups will start showing up at your house and tearing up your flowerbeds. If you reply to a message that is crossposted, be sure to trim off the newsgroups for which your reply is not appropriate or at the very least set the Followup-To: field to the group for which the subject matter is most appropriate.

Unfortunately, the net tends to attract people who can't get attention or satisfaction in life except by cross-posting obnoxious and self-important messages all over the place in hopes that someone will pay attention to them. Usually it's not worth bothering to reply to these sorts of articles; the original author probably doesn't care what you say or have much interest in reading it, but simply enjoys knowing that you were annoyed by it enough to respond.

What is this "editing" stuff I keep hearing about?

"Editing," which is most commonly used in the phrase "please learn how to edit your messages" refers to deleting unnecessary quoted material. It's not at all unusual for newcomers to the net to reply to long messages by quoting the entire thing and then responding to a comment made somewhere in the middle of the original post by adding a single sentence onto the end. It's much better to delete quoted text from the original message if it isn't necessary to what you're trying to say. Remember that many people out there, when they see huge reams of quoted material that obviously hasn't been edited down, will simply skip over to the next message without bothering to read your sterling prose at the end, so a little attention to the mechanisms of cleaning up quoted material will help you get your points across. Also be sure to delete any quoted material left at the end of your message--it's easy to respond to something in the middle or even the beginning and forget to lop off the quoted stuff at the end that you aren't responding to.

Don't be too industrious when deleting text, though--be sure to leave enough quoted text so that the readers will know what you're talking about even if they don't remember the message that you're responding to and be careful not to trim off the attributions (the names of the people saying the things you're quoting) that go with the text you leave in. (Do feel encouraged to remove the names of people whose comments have been entirely deleted, though.)

How about editing subject headers?

This is an important and much-neglected art. Often the topic will have strayed far from its original one and a discussion on gerbil rolfing will be carried out under the heading "Favorite skiing lingerie." When this happens, it's entirely appropriate to change the heading to something a little closer to the topic under discussion. On the other hand, it's best not to change the topic too often, especially when it's a hotly debated topic that is only peripherally (if at all) involved with singledom and it is likely that many people will be killing the topic (see the section on killfiles later in this file) in an attempt to avoid reading about it. Sometimes, when you do change the subject header, you may wish to list what the previous topic was as well; for example, if the topic being discussed under "Spiders vs. Lemon Pate'" had strayed to an in-depth examination of the sexual habits of people with mohawks, you might want to change the subject to "Mohawk Sex (was: Spiders vs. Lemon Pate')" which would allow those who are following the discussion under one heading to continue to follow it under the new heading.

Even more important than occasionally changing the subject to match the actual topic being discussed is eliminating inappropriate groups when replying to a cross-posted article; no matter what newsgroup you might be reading when you decide to respond to an article, if you see more than one group listed in the "Newsgroups:" line of the header, your article is going to appear in all of them, so make sure that you delete any inappropriate groups from the list before sending your article. There are enough people out there who crosspost to a lot of groups maliciously, just to see how many people they can irritate with a few keystrokes, that a lot of readers don't have much patience left when it comes to articles inappropriately crossposted to the newsgroups they read, so you can make a lot of people pissed off at you by responding to a heavily crossposted article without taking the time to trim off the groups where your message doesn't really belong. Be warned, too, that there's enough of a problem with crossposting that many readers simply kill [don't read] articles that are crossposted to more than a few groups or, sometimes, crossposted at all, so a lot of people won't even see your article if you leave the extraneous groups in.

If you simply must reply to a heavily crossposted article and have your article appear in all the groups the previous article was posted to, you also have the option of listing just the relevant groups in the "Followup-To:" line of the header; that way responses to your article will show up just in the newsgroups you list and you'll annoy fewer readers, since even if they think your article is inappropriate for the group they're reading, at least you'll look like you're making some effort to be considerate of other groups.

What else can I do to improve my ASCII appearance?

Any article posted to will be read by many, many thousands of people across the world who will be basing their impressions of you as a person entirely on the messages you post, so it's worthwhile to make sure your messages are clear and readable. Probably the single most common mistake is not putting in carriage returns when they are needed, either typing in an entire paragraph or message in a single line (which looks sloppy, is difficult to quote properly, and may be truncated by some offline readers) or only putting in a return after more than 80 columns (which looks even worse, since on most systems this will show up as alternating full lines and really short lines). Most of the time, it's best to limit your lines to no more than 72 columns, which leaves enough extra space that they will still be easily readable even when quoted a time or two. Even if your system can handle reformatting messages so they look nice anyway, remember that most systems don't do this and, if you aren't careful with inserting carriage returns, your messages will be harder to read by others.

Other obvious elements like correct spelling, punctuation, and grammar help make your message more readable too (and will make you all the more likely to generate positive responses rather than grammar flames). Another thing to avoid is typing in your messages in all-caps (LIKE THIS) which makes it seem like you're shouting--plus it makes it less likely that you'll be taken seriously, since the percentage of words in all-caps in a message has been linked in several studies to the psychoceramicity (crackpottedness) of the author.

If you're replying to someone else's article, it helps to quote at least some of what the other article says, just so people have a better idea of what you're talking about. Delete any unnecessary quoted material, but leave in the attributions (the list of who said what) of any text that you do leave in. If you want to refer to another article explicitly, it's best to mention the message-ID of the article in question--don't tell your readers the number of the article on your system, because article numbers will be different on every system.

What do these weird combinations of punctuation marks I see frequently in people's messages mean?

These are called "smileys" since the most common ones used are little pictograms representing a smiling face: ":-)". Because the net is inherently a text medium, it lacks many of the nuances of ordinary face-to-face conversation like facial expressions and tone of voice, so people try to make up for them in various ways, the most popular being the "smiley."

Standard smileys include:

      :-)  :)    smile              8-)  B-)    smile w/ glasses
      ;-)        wink               :->         ironic/lecherous smile
      :-(        sad/unhappy        :-O         surprise

There's an ongoing debate as to whether smileys are a good thing or a bad thing; some people like to use them whenever possible, others feel that writing should stand on its own without having to point out whether something was supposed to be funny or not.

You'll also note unrepentant programmer types adding variants of C compiler directives to their posts or use parodies of HTML tags to clue you in on the deep, inner feelings that lurk beneath the facade of their words. For example:



<VOICE="Bela Lugosi">Good Eeevening</VOICE>

In general, it should be pretty obvious even to the non-programmer what the writer means to convey with these directives.

How do you pronounce "soc"?

There's no currently accepted standard. The currently most popular pronunciations are "soak," "sosh" (like in 'social'), "sock," and "soas" (as in "sociological"). The least popular pronunciations include "sach," "sick," and "throat-warbler mangrove." The IEEE and CCITT are jointly working on developing an international standard for the pronunciation of "soc" and expect that the first draft of the standard will be available some time near the end of the third quarter of 2011.

What's a ".GIF", ".JPG" or ".MPG"?

GIF stands for "Graphics Interchange Format" and is a common format in which pictures are stored for display on a computer screen; when someone on mentions something that someone else would really like to have seen, the latter person may jokingly ask for a "GIF"--but even if you're asked for one, don't even think of posting it to, since they tend to be huge and are expressly forbidden on non-binaries groups. The same goes for .JPG or JPEG (another popular graphics format) and .MPG, MPEG, or .AVI (graphics formats for computer-displayed "movies.")

Is there a World-Wide Web page for

Yes. Trygve Lode ( faq maintainer and lunatic) maintains a homepage at
which is slowly being expanded as people give me suggestions for what they'd like to see there.

Ross ridge maintains a page at

Additionally, homepages for the Dallas Poker Mini-Boink and the DenverBoink are available at
(courtesy of Thomas Russo; note that "DPMB" is in all-caps)

If you're not familiar with the World-Wide Web, but would like to be, you may wish to check out the WWW FAQ on news.answers or ftp it from rtfm (/pub/usenet/news.answers/www/faq/part1 and part2).

What, exactly, are "Disney Chemicals"?

"Disney Chemicals" refers to the hypothesized fizzy brain chemicals that can cause a person to believe in "happily ever afters," the impending appearance of the prince/princess of one's dreams on one's doorstep, and an eternity of true love and blissful togetherness.

How do you pronounce "Trygve"

It's sorta like "TREEG-vah" except that the 'EE' is between a long e and a short i.

How come nice guys don't get laid?

Nice guys do get laid; it's guys who whine a lot who generally don't.

How come nice guys/gals/small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri get dumped for jerks/bimbos/hyperfungal Rigellian psuedoshoggoths?

Mostly for the same reasons jerks get dumped for nice guys, bimbos get dumped for other bimbos, and hyperfungal Rigellian pseudoshoggoths get rejected in favor of lesser Altairian shaggy-toothed carno-weeds. No matter how much more keenly you feel it when it happens to you than when it happens to someone else, the fact of the matter is that getting dumped/rejected/passed over in favor of others happens to pretty much everybody, no matter how nice or mean they happen to be. Remember, too, that your perception of someone you've just been dumped for is unlikely to match that of the person who just dumped you: most people tend to view their rivals through a jaundiced eye to begin with; your dumper's tastes, turn-ons, and values are rarely quite the same as yours; and it's likely that your rival will feel jealous of _you_, which tends to get in the way of your rival showing you his or her best side. It's also worth noting that the person who dumped you may be trying to make you feel better by emphasizing your rival's bad qualities and failing to mention the good ones, figuring that bubbling over about his or her wonderful new partner would only make you feel worse.

No matter why you've been dumped or whom you've been dumped for, the best advice is generally the same: take it in stride and get on with your life. There's always tomorrow and very few people have ever found love and happiness by pining away and moping.

I met someone last week at a party; what do you think this person's deepest and innermost feelings for me are?

That's one of the most common questions new people ask on and, unfortunately, one of the most difficult ones to answer in any meaningful way. Trouble is, all people are different and what would mean something for one person is likely to mean something completely different for someone else--and if you have trouble figuring out someone you know and have first-hand experience with, imagine how difficult it can be for people who have never met this person and are dealing only with second-hand information to figure out what's on that person's mind. That doesn't mean you can't ask the other readers of what they think, but it does mean that you shouldn't take any advice you get too seriously or think of it as a substitute for actually talking to the person you're curious about.

Is it possible for men and women to be just friends?

Yes; many people have friends of the opposite sex without ever having any sort of sexual relationship with them. This, of course, doesn't imply anything one way or the other as to whether you or any other given individual can really be "just friends" with a member of the opposite sex.

Do conversations on the net ever blossom into torrid romances?

Yes; it's actually not even particularly unusual. Conversations over the net have the advantage of being a non-threatening way to get to know someone and, sometimes, if a person has managed to interest you through articles and/or e-mail and this person continues to interest you when you meet for real, well, all sorts of interesting things have been known to happen. However, this doesn't mean that simply by posting (even if you post an awful lot) you'll meet your dream mate; indeed, if it's obvious that you're posting for this reason, you'll tend to turn off most of the people who might otherwise be interested. So, basically, if you're open to finding a mate this way, the best thing to do is just to hang out and have a good time and if it happens, it happens--and if it doesn't, you'll at least have had a good time. (Strangely enough, there are even some folks who recommend this approach to mate-finding for real life as well.)

What about personal ads?

Don't post them on

Will this message ever end?

Well, it always has before.

How about posting articles asking for readers to send postcards to a kid in England who is dying of cancer and wants to set the world record for most cards received before he dies?

No, don't do it. He's been cured, has asked many times for people to stop sending him cards, and thoroughly regrets ever having had the idea in the first place. The "Neiman Marcus $250 Cookie Recipe" story and the "Good Times Virus" are also well-known urban legends; if you want to read about them or, for some reason, write about them, the newsgroup alt.folklore.urban is devoted just to that subject. Two other good places to dig up the details on these and other urban legends are the San Fernando Valley Folklore Society's Urban Legend Reference Pages ( ) and the alt.folklore.urban archives ( ) .

How come there are so many kooks on the net?

In a word, attention. It's an unfortunate fact of life that a turd in an art gallery gets a lot more attention than yet another Picasso. Getting people across the world to tell you that you're a disgusting twit seems like a strange thing to get turned on by, but obviously enough people out there derive sufficient enjoyment and satisfaction from it to keep the net well-stocked with fertilizer. Most net.kooks quickly find a few stock tactics that are sure to annoy enough people into responding that they can just sit back and repost the same stuff year after year and bask in all the attention it gets them with practically no effort on their part. Arguing with a net kook only provides further encouragement--if you want to keep all the Picassos from being replaced by wall-to-wall turds, the only effective approach is to ignore them until they go off in search of other people still naive enough to play the Pay-Attention-To-Meeee game.

OK, we're getting near the end of the file now--what's this about "killfiles" that you promised to tell us about?

Most newsreaders have a provision for "killing" messages; that is, marking them as read before you get to them, so your newsreader then skips over them automatically instead of showing them to you. I'm going to discuss how to do this in rn and its derivatives (trn, etc.) but most other newsreaders should have similar capabilities (though the command syntax won't necessarily be identical). Topics are the easiest things to kill, as you need only type the 'k' key and all subsequent messages with that topic will be marked as read; you can also kill things in more complex ways by typing in a "regular expression" followed by ":j", telling the newsreader to "junk" (mark as read) all the articles that match that regular expression. Remember, you still can read the messages that have been marked as read if you want to, either by typing in the message number or by using the 'N' and 'P' commands to move to the next and previous messages rather than the 'n' and 'p' commands.

A regular expression normally consists of a pair of '/'s with a pattern you'd like to match in the middle. For example, if you wanted to kill all messages whose topics included the word "banana" you could type in "/banana/:j" and hit a return (and it would list the numbers of the articles that were being junked--the topics "BananaSizeWar" and "vegemite and banana delight; mmmm-mmm" would be junked. The default is to check just the topic line and not differentiate between upper- and lower-case letters; that is, it wouldn't matter whether the topic had the word "banana" or "bAnAnA" in it. If you want it to be case sensitive and select "bAnAnA" but not "Banana", a 'c' should be placed after the trailing slash: "/bAnAnA/c:j". You can also have your newsreader check more than just the topic line--adding an 'h' after the trailing slash makes the newsreader check the entire header (allowing you to kill messages by a given author and/or from a particular site) and adding an 'a' will check the whole article; thus, "/grunting/a:j" would mark every article containing the word "grunting" as read. (And, of course, this may be combined with the 'c' option so that "/Grunting/ca:j" would kill off only those articles in which "Grunting" is capitalized.)

You can also type in an expression like this without the ":j" at the end, in which case it will simply locate and display the article that matches the pattern. Using question marks ("?") instead of slashes will make it search backwards instead of forwards and the "r" option makes it scan articles that you've already read. Thus, if you were trying to find the article in which somebody mentioned something about the use of badger dung as an aphrodesiac, you could type in "?badger dung?ar" for it to search all preceding articles for a mention of badger dung; if you want it to mark all the articles that mention badger dung as unread, you can type in "?badger dung?ar:m"

Kill commands like those above may be placed in a file where they will be performed automatically when you read a group. This file goes in a directory off your News directory corresponding to the group name and the default name for this file is KILL (note capitals). Thus, the killfile for would be

[your home directory]/News/soc/singles/KILL
Hitting a 'K' will not only kill the topic you're reading, but also add a command to kill that topic in future sessions to your killfile for that group, creating it if it doesn't exist, even creating the directories to put it in if necessary. While this is the easiest way to add to a killfile, it is also generally the least useful, since most topics do die or change after a while, but unless you edit that line out of your killfile, it will continue to live in there, eating up processor time and generally slowing everything down whenever you read that group. In general, keeping your killfiles to a minimum is a good approach, especially if you are sharing a computer with other users who don't like the system bogging down any more than you do.

A few examples:

killing messages from
/^From: *beavis@butthead\.edu/h:j

killing messages cross-posted from alt.boring.prattle:

killing messages crossposted to three or more groups:

killing all messages that even mention hairballs:

You'll notice that I used a few strange characters up there: these are characters that have special meaning when used in an expression like one of these: '^' indicates the beginning of a line so that the first example will only consider lines that begin with "from:"; '.' is a single-character wildcard that will match any character (that's why when we really want a '.', we have to precede it with a '\' as we've done in the above examples); and '*' means that the pattern should match an arbitrary number of characters matching the character immediately before it in the expression (in the first example, you can see that we use it to allow there to be an arbitrary number of spaces between "From:" and "beavis" and in the second example, we've used it after the '.' wildcard so that there can be an arbitrary number of characters of any kind between "Newsgroups:" and "alt"). More about regular expressions and killfiles can be found by typing "man rn" and "man ed" at your Unix prompt.

Is there any copyright on this FAQ?

Yep; the entire contents of this FAQ is written and maintained by Trygve Lode ( and is (c) Copyright 2000. Feel free to copy, transmit, and distribute this FAQ in unmodified form for any not-for-profit use in any medium you desire (electronic, print, interpretive dance, etc.). If you wish to include all or part of the FAQ in any for-profit publication or in connection with any for-profit service or wish to distribute a modified version of the FAQ for any purpose, get ahold of me for any necessary arrangements. (Even if you're going to distribute it for non-profit use, you may wish to get ahold of me anyway, just to make sure you have the most up-to-date version available.)

Are you sure I can't post personals on

Yes, completely sure. Don't even think about it.

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