The Usenet Hierarchy And Research

There are quite a few newsgroups on Usenet where experts routinely post on the topic at hand. By and large, you will find most of these newsgroups within the Big 8, the most established of hierarchies. These hierarchies include comp, humanities, misc, news, rec, sci, soc and talk. Within each of these hierarchies, there are a huge number of groups that get more and more specific in their topics. One of the advantages of Usenet, as compared to Internet forums, is that the focus of a newsgroup is often exceptionally specific, but the hierarchy offers a broad selection of other related discussions.

The sci and comp hierarchies – science and computers, respectively – offer a lot in the way of expert advice. Some of the regulars in the comp newsgroups have been using them since the 80s, when the Usenet system really took off as a way for people with related interests to network. If that date seems early for online communication to you, it is because it is. The Usenet newsgroups predate the consumer Internet by many years. Their text format has proven useful in the past and, today, it offers a more serious, less distracting option from forums.

Usenet is designed around a decentralized model of communication, but there are bodies that govern which groups get made. In the Big 8, it is very hard to get a new group going, so there are few garbage newsgroups in these hierarchies. In the science and computers hierarchies, there are plenty of experts and those who post information that is bad are usually called out on it. While there is some spamming on Usenet, the Big 8 hierarchies tend to be relatively free of it due to good moderation. All in all, this means that the Big 8 hierarchies are convenient and reliable for finding good information.

You can always join the discussion if you did not find the information you need in previous posts, of course. Most often, people in these newsgroups are glad to answer questions, particularly if they happen to be an expert. The difference is that you will find people who really are experts on Usenet more often than you will on Internet forums. Usenet is not hard to use, but it requires some learning for most people. For those who just post at random, it is usually not worth the effort. For those who want good information, it most certainly is.

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