Mar 172007

I’m close to a farewell to Usenet, aka “the newsgroups.” If my Usenet participation were an old game of Combat, the score would be blinking. This blog has rapidly become my primary writing outlet, and the pleasant interaction once to be had on Usenet has severely diminished. I’ve also noticed that it seems a very low priority for most ISPs whenever anything goes wrong (else Supernews wouldn’t have any individual business to speak of). I’d guess most people who have initially gotten online in the past five years or so have never heard of Usenet, and that’s probably got a lot to do with it.

Usenet was my first sustained exposure to the Internet, when I started my first net-connected job in 1994 (which hardly makes me a true granddaddy user, but I do remember when most companies didn’t have web sites, most people didn’t have email addresses, AltaVista and WebCrawler were kings of the search engine mountain, and their traffic was measured in hundreds of thousands per day instead of tens of millions per hour). The first group I remember reading was alt.tasteless, which was quite an introduction to this radical new world I’d “discovered.” I couldn’t believe people sat around and talked about their bowel movements and the so-called “delights” of used feminine hygiene products all day. But there it was. There it still is (insert your own content warning here).

Usenet has had a slight rebound lately. The tech groups, particularly the Microsoft-specific ones, have significant traffic. But there really isn’t much of the old spirit there.

I once monitored and/or participated in upwards of 20 groups. I’m down to a single newsgroup: hsv.general. It’s my hometown group, so even if I “quit” I may still put an occasional toe in it. It was once a vibrant community, but its traffic has dwindled to the point that daily monitoring of it is pointless. Just ain’t nobody out there no more, Mildred. And it’s the interaction that makes it worthwhile; otherwise, we could hold court with a few teddy bears in our living room floor and call it a day.

It was a great ride, Usenet. Thanks for the memories.

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 Posted by at 9:19 pm

  7 Responses to “The sun is setting on Usenet”

  1. Fairwell, usenet. You brought me information about what a grogan is and cool stories about Darwin Award winners. I haven’t looked at you for a long time, but I still miss you sometimes.

  2. I’ve been there less partly due to the pointless bickering with the lefties but mostly due to the fact that I don’t have much time. My work is eating up 12 – 14 hours a day and when I’m done I’m usually too tired to see what’s happening on hsv.gen. When I checked in recently I was surprised how little I missed…there was nowhere near the traffic there used to be. I’ll try to hang out there more…I’d hate to see it completely die out.


  3. Jeremy: My favorite post that I can remember was about a guy who used to spread canned cat food all over his crank and then call his kitties. Reassuring, you know? In a “nah, noways I’m sick” sort of way.

    There’s an old episode of Spiderman that has a bad guy named Mr. Grogan, and I think of that every time. Also Clare Grogan, the lead singer of Altered Images.

    Bob: Presume you mean the (other) Bobs, whom I haven’t actually counted as human in quite some time re: arguing reasonably. T.J. is very smart, but he’s not very prolific. The last truly challenging hard left poster I enjoyed was Dennis Boccippio, and that may have been before the turn of the millennium.

    In any case, I’ve been pleased with the signs of life over the past couple of days. Some old hands have been coaxed out of hiding.

  4. I think there are probably a lot of lurkers watching hsv.general. I know I’ve lurked there for probably 10 years now, but just never have posted anything. I’ve seen a lot of useful info there for sure. Most people have no idea what Usenet is anymore and if you talk about newgroups with them, they if anything, are familiar only with google groups.

  5. I think maybe even the lurkers are way down. I used to be “recognized” a time or two a year anyway, i.e. “are you the Bo from hsv.general?” And I’d always say “I don’t know; do you like that guy?” 🙂 Anecdotal, I know.

    You’re right, it’s useful for local merchant advice, etc., and it is my “home” group, hence my comment about keeping a toe in. It’s IT, though. I don’t look at anything else anymore.

  6. […] I first brought it up ten months ago, and now it has happened.  My last Usenet post was to the group hsv.general on December 24, and I am retired as of that date. […]

  7. […] fun to read, too—if you agree with them.  (My mind was trained to think this way back in the days of hsv.general, where such was […]

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