Utilizing Usenet Hierarchies to Find Information
Generally speaking, there are more qualified individuals posting on Usenet newsgroups than there are on most web forums. Web forums, when it comes down to it, are very easy to join and to use. Usenet is also easy to use, but it™s not as well-known as are Internet forums. Usenet is broken up into hierarchies and the newsgroups within them are places where you™ll find serious debates going on about a range of topics and, sometimes, posts from very interesting individuals who are experts in the field being discussed.
The hierarchies that are the most important if you™re looking for good information are those that belong to the œBig 8. The Big 8 hierarchies are the most established and the most difficult to get a group in. They are carried by just about every Usenet server out there. The 8 hierarchies include: comp, or computers; humanities; misc, for miscellaneous topics; news, which is about Usenet; rec, which covers recreational topics; sci, which covers scientific topics; soc, a hierarchy devoted to social issues; and talk, which is the place to go for passionate and lively debates. These hierarchies will be the first part of the name of any newsgroup. Among these 8, the match between topic and name is very accurate.
The computer and science hierarchies tend to have a lot of very informed, very accomplished people that talk within the newsgroups. The comp hierarchy tends to draw people who have an interest in computers beyond the fad of the moment and, because of the longevity of the Usenet system, it has a lot of people who have been involved with computers since the advent of the home PC. The science newsgroups have a lot of actual scientists in them. You™ll find much of the discussion very advanced and very detailed.
You can use the hierarchy to find the newsgroup that addresses your interest in the broadest sense and then narrow down by the rest of the name. For instance, if you were looking for a group about people who search for comets, you may want to look for a group name such as sci.astronomy.comets. There are usually several different newsgroups for any given topic. Make sure you look for the most active of them. Some newsgroups do drop off after a while, but many of them have been around for decades and have a loyal following.