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What ettiquette was there in the days of Usenet?

Posted: Sat Mar 21, 2020 7:25 am
by Fireminer
I have come across a few article on the Internet in the 1990s, and some of them bemoaned that the early Internet was a much more polite place with its etiquette and self-policing. One even pointed to Eternal September was when the dams broke. So I just wonder what kind of etiquette was there at the time, when the majority of Internet users were college students?

Re: What ettiquette was there in the days of Usenet?

Posted: Sat Mar 21, 2020 8:19 am
by Captain_EO
Disclaimer: My era of anime fandom is from geocities/angelfire/*insert other web host here* sites, so I never went on Usenet back in the day.
However, I still think I can give some insight on how it was, until someone a tad older than me posts here and gives their two cents.

My impression is that while the college-aged users were generally more mature pre-Eternal September, you still had your mud-slinging. Keep in mind the terms "Flaming", "Flame War", etc. were all coined in the 80's on Usenet and BBS's.

Re: What ettiquette was there in the days of Usenet?

Posted: Mon Mar 23, 2020 6:02 am
by SteveH
*shrug* I don't know if I would call it etiquette so much as reason and common sense and understanding civilized behavior. For the most part.

I suspect the thrust of the question is really 'why is Twitter a hellswamp and USEnet was so nice?' and of course it's not that clear-cut. The difference I think is that we generally thought of rec.arts.anime et al as a room in a building, possibly a school building. One did not act out in class. Twitter is an open field filled with cow dung where people feel they MUST SHOUT LOUDLY because their opinion is CLEARLY much more important than ANYONE ELSE and if you DO NOT AGREE then you get cow dung flung at you.

Yes there were people who were attention whores on USEnet. Yes there were trolls trying to ruin everything just because they could. But most newsreader applications had good strong filtering tools. My memories are that overall USEnet was reasonable people who could generally articulate a position and discuss it.

Other differences are of course the character limit of Twitter and the entire concept of begging for 'likes'. For some reason I will never understand people today NEED 'likes' from faceless people around the world or their self-image is COMPLETELY DESTROYED. Constant approval from complete strangers who otherwise don't care jack crap about them. Just click that like and hope someone clicks your like right back!

I seem to recall USEnet had a form of 'like' as well, and I recall a couple of people who felt that having a big 'like' number meant their words carried more weight, they were more 'expert' or some crap. Most of the people I talked to mocked that attitude.

I think that's a good discussion starter. :D

Re: What ettiquette was there in the days of Usenet?

Posted: Mon Mar 23, 2020 6:46 am
by usamimi
Yeah, idk if there was that much of a difference in "etiquette", so much as there were some groups where people just got along better? There was still plenty of jerks online, I remember plenty of drama in some mailing lists I was on back in the day. I think that now that online socializing is way more common, it just feels like it's a bigger problem (whereas before, only a small percentage of folks were online, as computer stuff was more of a "hobby" than a tool that practically everyone uses in their daily lives now).

Re: What ettiquette was there in the days of Usenet?

Posted: Mon Mar 23, 2020 12:07 pm
by davemerrill
There were always jackholes starting fights and being jerks online; USEnet, Fidonet, GEnie, Compuserve, AOL, you name the community, it had jerks.

Re: What ettiquette was there in the days of Usenet?

Posted: Thu Mar 26, 2020 1:05 am
by mbanu
usamimi wrote:
Mon Mar 23, 2020 6:46 am
Yeah, idk if there was that much of a difference in "etiquette", so much as there were some groups where people just got along better?
Definitely demographics. I know something I struggled with looking back was that I original saw Usenet as being sort of like a Twitter or Reddit of the early 90s, but that is not really true. There were anime fans, then there was the much smaller group of anime fans who owned a personal computer, then the even smaller group of anime fans who owned a modem, then the even smaller group of anime fans who tried to use it to find people to talk about anime with, and most of those did it on BBSes. Usenet was a slice of a slice of a slice of a slice.

I think it would be fascinating to know who that slice was exactly.

Re: What ettiquette was there in the days of Usenet?

Posted: Thu Mar 26, 2020 6:26 am
by davemerrill
there was definitely some self-selection happening among the Usenet anime fandom. It was interesting, as someone who was organizing anime clubs and events in the non-digital world, to see a fandom appear among people for whom Usenet and BBS's were the primary method of interaction. There was a period of a few years where the internet anime fandom and the fanzine-newsletter anime fandom were moving in separate but parallel directions, and a lot of mystified looks from the Usenet crowd when I'd patiently explain that not everybody had a computer or an internet connection or an email or, later, a website.

It kind of mirrored the divide between the university anime clubs, which had hundreds of members, all young, technically proficient, upper middle-class (university students, remember), enjoying anime on the big video projectors in lecture halls, and the non-university anime clubs, which would be lucky to get fifty people showing up at a regular meeting, who could be anywhere from 15 to 60 years old, where kids living at home with mom & dad rubbed shoulders with middle aged single guys barely able to pay their share of the rent of a two bedroom apartment and successful parents who owned their own businesses.

Re: What ettiquette was there in the days of Usenet?

Posted: Thu Mar 26, 2020 6:41 am
by usamimi
mbanu wrote:
Thu Mar 26, 2020 1:05 am
usamimi wrote:
Mon Mar 23, 2020 6:46 am
Yeah, idk if there was that much of a difference in "etiquette", so much as there were some groups where people just got along better?
Definitely demographics. I know something I struggled with looking back was that I original saw Usenet as being sort of like a Twitter or Reddit of the early 90s, but that is not really true. There were anime fans, then there was the much smaller group of anime fans who owned a personal computer, then the even smaller group of anime fans who owned a modem, then the even smaller group of anime fans who tried to use it to find people to talk about anime with, and most of those did it on BBSes. Usenet was a slice of a slice of a slice of a slice.

I think it would be fascinating to know who that slice was exactly.
Exactly! It was a very specific sample size of a very specific anime fan. I would often browse Usenet at the library in the days before I had home internet access, and sometimes the tone felt very different than the feeling I'd get from my local anime club :lol:

Re: What ettiquette was there in the days of Usenet?

Posted: Tue Apr 07, 2020 3:06 pm
by Drew_Sutton
usamimi wrote:
Mon Mar 23, 2020 6:46 am
Yeah, idk if there was that much of a difference in "etiquette", so much as there were some groups where people just got along better? There was still plenty of jerks online, I remember plenty of drama in some mailing lists I was on back in the day. I think that now that online socializing is way more common, it just feels like it's a bigger problem (whereas before, only a small percentage of folks were online, as computer stuff was more of a "hobby" than a tool that practically everyone uses in their daily lives now).
I think it's what usamimi said, emphasis on it being very group dependent.

I was never active on Usenet but I've gone back and read some of the archives for odd things that interest me (r.a.a and computer/data networking for example) and it's the same but different problems we have around mailing lists, forums, Twitter, etc. The computer/networking usenets I've read all had similar drama - big personalities, you're-wrong-because-I-say-so, and other dumb stuff - in one fashion or another compared to more social places like r.a.a. The only thing that was different was that a lot of these people were professional folks: engineers who worked for Motorola, Cisco, DEC, NEC and a bunch of university engineering departments. You can tell because their Usenet emails were all their company/university emails. Essentially getting into flame wars on company time (under the guise of research!).

I think most people who look at 1980s and early 1990s Usenet and think of it being filled with less-drama-than-today are doing so with some pretty rosy glasses (and maybe a hint of gatekeeping).

Re: What ettiquette was there in the days of Usenet?

Posted: Fri May 22, 2020 6:55 am
by runesaint
One comment to add, was 'back in the day', every time you posted on Usenet, a warning popped up saying that it would cost 'hundreds, if not thousands of dollars' for the post to be sent out across the world.
Ah, quick search pulled it up:
"This program posts news to thousands of machines throughout the entire civilized world. Your message will cost the net hundreds if not thousands of dollars to send everywhere. Please be sure you know what you are doing. Are you absolutely sure that you want to do this? [y / n]"

It was a different time.