Your Internet Consultant - The FAQs of Life Online

5.18. What is a moderated newsgroup?

Answered by Dave Taylor (

I've seen lots of metaphors for the Usenet, and one of the most colorful is that it's an information tsunami--a massive wave of words that floods over your machine--divided into thousands of little waves showing up in each newsgroup. It doesn't take long to realize that a system where anyone can publish (post in Usenet parlance) anything results in an unbelievable flood of information. If you're interested in a specific topic like reviews of current movies, the last thing you want to read are fifty articles that start out talking about the type of camera used to film a particular sequence and end up in an esoteric discussion of Japanese export tariffs! Yet not only can this happen, it very commonly does happen in Usenet groups.

There are a variety of solutions, and one that has proven highly successful as the network has grown and expanded is to have a person or group of people act as newspaper editors, moderating the flow of information on the net, acting as moderators.

Groups that are designated as moderated have all articles posted by the moderator: postings from other people are sent to the central moderation site (which differs for each moderated newsgroup) and, if the article is approved and meets the guidelines of the group, it is posted by the moderator. I view it as analogous to a magazine editor: lots of articles may be submitted to the magazine, but only a subset of them are appropriate for the readership that is served by the group.

Many moderated newsgroups are reserved for very specific types of postings and consequently have a low volume of high quality information. Examples abound, including comp.sys.sun.announce for information of importance to Sun Microsystems users, news.answers with answers to common questions about the Internet, Usenet, specific newsgroups, and other topics, and comp.internet.library with discussions of Internet access issues that relate to public or institutional libraries.

I would estimate that almost 25 percent of the Usenet groups I personally read are moderated, and they are the source of some of the most valuable information I find on the network. Which groups? Some of the moderated groups I follow are

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