To the uninitiated the idea of newsgroups can seem a bit esoteric. Basically a newsgroup is a public discussion forum where people can post messages in much the same format as people post emails to each other. However, news messages are stored on news servers around the world on a system sometimes referred to as Usenet. It is not necessary to go into the details here about how this is done, suffice to say that most Internet Service Providers offer access to some (although by no means all) newsgroups via their servers. If not, many newsgroups can now be accessed via the web at Google Groups and other web services.
Newsgroups are created in hierarchies with the top of the hierarchy defined by the hierarchy name followed by a full stop (period), followed by the sub group and so on. So alt.religion is a group about religion in the alt. hierarchy, while alt.religion.wicca is a sub division thereof, specifically concerned with wicca. However, saying that a newsgroup is a subgroup of another is not to say that it is in any way inferior, just to say that it is a more specialised area of interest. Try to keep your contributions specific to the appropriate topic of the group you are subscribing to. (This is called being on topic.) There is nothing wrong with subscribing to more than one group if you have more than one topic of interest.
The word moderated in a newsgroup title such as alt.astrology.moderated, tells us that there is a person involved who checks the articles before placing them on the server for distribution. Newsgroups without a moderator do not have this checking process, so your contributions are sent straight onto the server without any human involvement.
Basically there are ten main hierarchies called: alt., biz., comp., humanities., misc., news., rec., sci., soc., and talk. If you want to explore them for yourself either start with your news reader or visit Google Groups.
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