Why use News Groups?

Updated: August 2, 2005

I've been using news group software since the University of Waterloo went on the Internet in the early 1980's.  News groups are my preferred way to make announcements and carry on discussions, including answering questions in a course or help desk setting.   This page explains why.

News groups generally fall into two categories: Announcement groups and Discussion groups.

Announcement news groups:

Announcement news groups are generally one-way conduits of important information without discussion.  Some examples are:

In the absence of a news server, announcements are often made by EMail.  EMail is handy, since professors don't have to wait until a lecture to make an announcement.   This is especially important if neither labs nor lectures have mandatory attendance; without a news group server, the only way to reach everyone may be via EMail.

News groups have some advantages over EMail for making announcements:

Discussion news groups:

In contrast to announce-only news groups, discussion news groups are multi-way, with many participants. Some examples are:

Again, discussion may be attempted using EMail technology such as one-to-one EMail, a mailing list, or a LISTSERV; however, news groups offer significant advantages.  Many of the advantages are already mentioned with regard to Announce-only news groups (above).  Other advantages are:

Why not use EMail?

Public dicussions conducted by private EMail have some problems:

I use EMail for urgent and/or private one-to-few communications.  Anything public involving more than one or two people I prefer to move to a news group.

Why not use a "Web Board"?

Web Boards are web pages that attempt to behave like news groups and/or mailboxes.   They usually offer some of the advantages of news groups, such as message threading and public discussion.  Since the interface is your standard web browser, you don't have to learn any new software package.

The problems with Web Boards are these:

Web Author: Ian! D. Allen   idallen@idallen.ca

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