Your Internet Consultant - The FAQs of Life Online

5.14. How can I search all newsgroups for stuff that interests me?

Until recently, you couldn't search all the newsgroups at once for information that interests you--for example, selecting only articles with certain keywords. However, this changed in February, 1994, with the introduction of the Stanford Netnews Filtering Service. This tool is free (even though the word "service" might suggest it's fee-based) and has changed the way I read Usenet news.

The Stanford Netnews Filtering Service is a tool for personalized netnews delivery. You subscribe to the service by establishing "profiles" describing your interests. Netnews articles that match your profiles are sent to you periodically via e-mail. The best part is that this automated program searches all newsgroups (well, all those available at for interesting articles. For instance, if you're interested in UFOs and a conversation about them should pop up in (an altogether unlikely place for such a conversation, admittedly), the filtering service will be sure you won't miss out, even if you don't normally read about Laurie Anderson.

The profiles are plain English text, with no boolean ands, ors, or nots--for instance, object oriented programming or nba golden state warriors basketball. Based on the statistical distributions of the words in the articles, scores are given to evaluate how relevant they are to your profile. You can specify the minimum score for an article to be delivered. After you receive useful articles, you can feed them back to the service to improve its search strategy. You can also adjust the frequency of delivery, the volume of articles, and the length of your subscription.

You can access the service from any World Wide Web reader, such as Mosiac:
The service also supports e-mail access. To get the instructions on the e-mail interface, send a message with the word help in the message body to

Here is an example to give you some idea of how the service works. Suppose that you subscribe to the service with a profile online information services. Then periodically you will receive e-mail messages like this:

Subscription 1: online information services

 Subject: HandsNet WEEKLY DIGEST 1/15-21
 Score:  84
 First 15 lines:
  HANDSNET WEEKLY DIGEST  January 15 - 21, 1994
  News from HandsNet's Information Forums
  HandsNet is a national, nonprofit network connecting organizations
 on social and economic justice issues.  Members use HandsNet to make new
contacts, work collaboratively and to find and publish information, news

 Article: ca.politics.38420
 From: (Robert L. McMillin)
 Subject: GOV-ACCESS #5:Cal.Emergency + Net-fax + MINN Pub Info
 Score:  82
 First 15 lines:
  Jan. 22, 1994
    <a recent exchange of messages>
  The state Emergency Digitial Information Service is working fine
    Telnet to telnet 5501

Table of Contents | Previous Section | Next Section