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The sbay.* Newsgroup Hierarchy Policies

Table of Contents

Related Topics Also Available at www.sbay.org


SBAY Newsgroup Charters

The sbay.* newsgroups are a regional news hierarchy covering the South Bay/Silicon Valley Area of Northern California. All regional hierarchies on UseNet were created for the use of their local areas and may have additional rules of use. The sbay.* newsgroups do have additional restrictions which were put in place as a result of past abuses. Primarily, all the sbay.* newsgroups have a requirement that articles must be at least partly specific to the South Bay Area and applicable to the topic of the newsgroup.

Each newsgroup also has its own more detailed charter which extends this basic requirement. The charters are the rules and must be followed. Any member of the local community may respond via e-mail to charter violations.

If parts of a charter are found to be undesirable or become outdated, changes may be implemented via local discussion and consensus in sbay.news.group.

Creating New SBAY Newsgroups

As with most local news hierarchies, there is no voting procedure for creating new newsgroups. Discussion in sbay.news.group is the determining factor on whether a newsgroup will be created or not. Please be sure to take into account whether a given subject is already covered by an existing newsgroup in sbay.*, ba.* or any global hierarchies.

Decision-Making for the sbay.* Newsgroups

Operational and day-to-day decisions regarding the sbay.* newsgroups are made by the newsgroup coordinator in accordance with the newsgroup policies.

Decisions regarding the newsgroup policies and final decisions in the newsgroup creation process are made as internal decisions by sbay.org, by sbay.org participants according to the decision-making guidelines in the sbay.org policies.

The priority levels of the decision-making process define who has responsibility to make decisions regarding policy amendments and to carry out the newsgroup creation process. People at higher levels of priority must hear and should consider inputs from those in lower priorities. The decision-making may be delegated from a higher-priority to the next-lower priority.

Policies on Advertising

The policy on advertising in sbay.* is different for local and non-local articles.

Advertisements which do not have and state any specific relation to the South Bay Area are prohibited in the sbay.* newsgroups.

Advertisements which are specific to the South Bay Area are allowed but have some restrictions. Ads may not be reposted with the same or similar content within a 4-week period because many news servers keep articles for their own local newsgroups for a longer expiration period. Ads which are different or significantly updated but from the same organization should not be posted more often than 2 weeks after the previous one, in order to make efficient use of network bandwidth.

For the most efficient use of network bandwidth, advertisements should use the World-Wide Web instead of UseNet, because WWW is more efficient for wide-area or targeted broadcasts. There is a Frequently-Asked Questions (FAQ) on advertising on UseNet at http://www.danger.com/advo.html.

Netiquette

There are currently no moderated newsgroups in the sbay.* hierarchy. Standard UseNet netiquette guidelines apply. (See the news.announce.newusers newsgroup.) As with any other unmoderated newsgroup, conflicts should be avoided. When they occur, they should be resolved among the residents - the sbay.* hierarchy administrators will not intervene except to oppose cases of net abuse.

When serious conflicts arise, the newsgroup participants may make guidelines using input from all sides toward avoiding repetition of the conflicts. These agreements then become part of the policy for the newsgroup(s).

Usage Restrictions

After the sbay.* newsgroups were opened up for the world to carry, we began to experience problems with spamming in some of our newsgroups, especially sbay.forsale. In about 9 months, the traffic volume from net abuse grew to the point that local readers were obviously going away and not reading the sbay.* newsgroups any more. Discussion dropped to next to nothing.

This puts us in an awkward position. We don't want to go to some of the extremes that some self-appointed net.police go to. But it was getting pretty obvious that if no action was taken, the newsgroups would have died out.

The sbay.* hierarchy administrators have begun a more active approach to oppose net abuse in the sbay.* newsgroups. This policy attempts to strike a balance between one side with self-restraint and caution and the other side with firm enforcement of newsgroup policy.

Since the time the CancelCritter (originally known as the sbay.* cancelbot) was launched on November 1, 1995, all the periodically-recurring abusive articles have been stopped. One-on-one e-mail communications with other net abusers, now usually people posting for their first time on UseNet, has resulted in most of them respecting the wishes of our community and choosing not to post in the sbay.* newsgroups. (And we hope we're educating some not to spam at all.)

By mid-December 1995, some discussion had begun to return to the newsgroups. However, the recovery phase has continued since then because this problem didn't develop overnight. But at least the recovery has begun!

Forms of Net Abuse

This section presents and defines of the kinds of net abuse which are being actively opposed by the sbay.* newsgroup community.

All the forms of net abuse listed here deal with posted UseNet articles. If you're looking for ideas on how to oppose an e-mail spam you may have received, try the Blacklist of Internet Advertisers page.

In all cases of abuse, first contact the originator, then their site administrators, before resorting to posting negative public statements about them. (Never e-mail-bomb a net abuser - that's net abuse itself.) Some are posting on UseNet or using the Internet for the first time and usually have not been given any instructions about netiquette from their Internet provider. A polite, firm, and well-written response is often sufficient to educate them not to "spam the Net" again.

Nonlocal Articles (formerly listed as Out-of-the-area Soliciation/OOTAS)
This is only a concern in local-area newsgroups so the news.admin.net-abuse followers don't have a common derrogatory term (such as "spam" or "velveeta") for it. But in local newsgroup hierarchies, this is the main issue. Solicitations from outside the area are usually part of the commission of an EMP (spam) or ECP (velveeta). Generally, the people who do this are motivated by all the "forsale" or "market" newsgroups they see when they get new Internet access. They usually either don't know that it's wrong or greed makes them pursue it anyway. The effect when lots of people do this is to make it difficult, if not impossible, to sustain local discussions and keep the readers subscribed to the newsgroups.

Most new users don't have the experience to know the prime question behind all of UseNet netiquette, "If everyone did what I'm thinking of doing, would UseNet be a better place?" The answer is pretty obvious, since we just narrowly avoided letting this situation get far enough to kill off the local discussion in the sbay newsgroups. No, it would not make UseNet a better place. The relatively few people who do out-of-the-area solicitations are having a profoundly negative impact on the Net.

We used to abbreviate this violation "OOTAS" for "out-of-the-area solicitation". The term has always been awkward and unintuitive. Since there is essentially no difference in use any more between an out-of-the-area solitication and a non-local article, we simplified the term in July 2000 to be just "Nonlocal" (capitalized to indicate we use the term as a category name.)

Implementation in sbay.* policy: Unless another reason (such as ECP, EMP, or repeat offender) makes it cancellable, first-time commisions of Nonlocal articles `are responded to by e-mail. This e-mail constitutes a warning and should also include some instruction about netiquette. A second offense after a warning invokes the "repeat offender" policy.

By definition, Nonlocal article policy does not apply to residents of the South Bay Area. Since the South Bay/Silicon Valley Area is a significant part of the economy of Northern and Central California, the sbay.* newsgroup coordinators give the benefit of the doubt to residents of the surrounding region. However, e-mails discouraging distant advertising may still be sent to them, though without a warning of future article cancellation. Specifically, the part of California included is the counties north of and including Monterey, Fresno and Mono Counties. Economic ties also include San Luis Obispo as a borderline case.

Excessive Multiple-Posting (EMP)
EMP is known on the net by the derrogatory term "spam". If you post the same or similar article text 20 times or in 20 different newsgroups, you are spamming. People literally all over the world (from Australia and Korea to Finland, with lots in North America too) will cancel your articles with the full support of most of the Net. Other numerical combinations can reach the same result. Spam is not based on the content of the article but, rather, just on the numbers of copies of the article posted and to how many newsgroups. See the newsgroups news.admin.net-abuse.announce and news.admin.net-abuse.misc for more information about the "Breidbart Index" (BI) used to compute the threshold for violating this criteria. If the BI exceeds 20, your articles are cancellable on sight.

Implementation in sbay.* policy: Spam is not generally determined as such by the sbay.* administrators. The wide multiple-posting is outside the scope of this policy to catch on a first offense, though other people around the world do take an interest in it. Usually the response for a first-time Nonlocal articles takes care of this type of article when posted in an sbay newsgroup and the repeat offender policy takes over after a second one.

Excessive Cross-Posting (ECP)
ECP is known on the net by the derrogatory term "velveeta". If you post a single article to lots of different newsgroups, usually 20 or more, then you are committing "velveeta". The limits vary because often these are also posted to local-area newsgroups, which are allowed to set their own limits for acceptable use.

Some local area hierarchy coordinators respond to this by just simply cancelling the article including, of course, on all the newsgroups it was cross-posted to since you can't separate them. However, cancelling someone's article without making an attempt to notify them is arguably net abuse in itself.

When the sbay.* CancelCritter cancels an article because it is programmaticaly identified as excessively cross-posted, it sends an e-mail to the poster if a reply address was provided. (Of course, some people know they're doing something wrong and make it impossible to reply, in which case no attempt is made.) Also, the cancel control message from the CancelCritter includes a list of reasons for the cancellation.

Implementation in sbay.* policy: Velveeta is automatically recognized and cancelled by the sbay.* CancelCritter. According to this policy, the program's configuration is maintained to correspond to the levels permissible for auto-cancellation. It operates unattended but reports all activity to an administrative mail list. Members of the sbay.* community may request to be added to the mail list if they wish to audit its activity or monitor its performance.

Re-posting old articles
Significant numbers of re-posted old articles are known on the Net by the derrogatory term "spew". This usually only happens in the case of a malfunction or operator error, such as restoring a backup of a news spool disk (you should never back up NetNews articles, for this reason) or a gateway between UseNet and a non-RFC1036 news system fails to stop articles originating from UseNet from being sent back out as if they were new messages.

Spew is a pure waste of network bandwidth. For that reason, it is generally agreed to be cancellable on sight. Please also make an effort to politely but quickly alert the originating site of the problem - that's the only way to prevent more from being sent out.

Implementation in sbay.* policy: Spew in an sbay.* newsgroup may be cancelled on sight by any member of the sbay.* community. Cancel controls must state a reason and provide a non-anonymous address to contact the poster of the cancel. It is also recommended to send e-mail to the poster and/or their site's news admins.

When recognized, the system which is the source of the spew will be added to the sbay.* CancelCritter's auto-cancel list as long as spew articles continue to arrive. The site will be removed from the list when it is confirmed repaired and spew articles have clearly stopped.

Binaries in non-binary newsgroups
Binary articles such as pictures, sound and animations are usually very large. They take time to transmit on the modems which people use to exchange news. Some sites deliberately do not include binary newsgroups in their newsfeed because the transmission time costs them money. This, more so than most other wastes of network bandwidth, is a serious economic issue for people who have news feeds at home or at small commercial or non-profit sites.

So, if you post a binary in a non-binary newsgroup, it's cancellable on sight.

Implementation in sbay.* policy: There are no binary newsgroups in the sbay.* hierarchy. There is a zero-tolerance policy for binaries.

Binaries in an sbay.* newsgroup may be cancelled on sight by any member of the sbay.* community. Cancel controls must state a reason and provide a non-anonymous address to contact the poster of the cancel. It is also recommended to send e-mail to the poster and/or their site's news admins.

The CancelCritter also automatically cancels some binaries. For cases that aren't obvious enough to trigger the CancelCritter, posters are immediately added to the auto-cancel list and all prior instances of their binaries are re-run though the CancelCritter. The posters may remove themselves from the auto-cancel list in the same procedure as the "repeat offender" policy.

Binaries result in an sbay.* UDP on a first offense so, if you cancel one, please e-mail the headers to the sbay.* newsgroups coordinators at critter@sbay.org so the CancelCritter can be configured to auto-cancel the poster.

Well-known Scam: Make Money Fast (MMF)
If you post a message with a title, "Make Money Fast", it won't live very long and your mailbox will be filled with hateful flame mail from the people who did see it before it was cancelled. If this sounds surprising to you, keep reading...

In 1985 someone wrote a pyramid scam in a chain letter and posted it on UseNet. (Both pyramid scams and chain letters are illegal in the USA and most countries around the world.) Over the course of more than a decade, people have been trying to stomp it out. Unfortunately, every time someone posts it, it seems like someone else sees it before the cancels go out. And the cycle starts over as they follow the instructions to post it to ten more newsgroups.

Today, as UseNet articles are available via CD-ROM and some sites do not honor cancel messages, the "MMF" scam is still available for unwary new users to follow.

Besides being stupid, chain letters are illegal. The United States Postal Service's Postal Inspector has more information online at "http://www.usps.gov/websites/depart/inspect/chainlet.htm".

The sbay.* CancelCritter is one of hundreds of automated programs around the world that will cancel an MMF at the moment it arrives on the system, and propagate the cancel instructions rapidly to other news sites.

Implementation in sbay.* policy: There is a zero-tolerance policy for MMF. MMF in an sbay.* newsgroup may be cancelled on sight by any member of the sbay.* community. Cancel controls must state a reason and provide a non-anonymous address to contact the poster of the cancel. It is also recommended to send e-mail to the poster and/or their site's news admins.

The CancelCritter also automatically cancels anything with the subject "Make Money Fast". Upper or lower case does not matter. Due to the need for rapid response, there are no exceptions for other articles with that subject even if they're not the MMF scam.

MMF results in an sbay.* UDP on a first offense so, if you cancel one, please e-mail the headers to the sbay.* newsgroups coordinators at critter@sbay.org so the CancelCritter can be configured to auto-cancel the poster.

Who May Cancel Articles?

This summarizes who is allowed by the sbay.* policies to issue cancels, since some of the types of abuse listed above are handled by the sbay.* newsgroup coordinators and other are subject to zero-tolerance policies and cancellable by any resident of the South Bay Area who has the experience to do so.

Remember: These only apply to messages which are posted or cross-posted in the sbay.* newsgroups. These policies are void for articles not appearing in any sbay.* newsgroup. Consult the applicable newsgroup charters and the Net Abuse FAQ before cancelling articles in any newsgroup.

Cancellation requests from members of the community to the sbay.* newsgroup coordinators should be directed to critter@sbay.org. Cancels issued by members of the community must state a reason and provide a non-anonymous address to contact the poster of the cancel. It is also recommended to send e-mail to the poster and/or their site's news admins.

The sbay.* CancelCritter

The sbay.* CancelCritter is an automated "cancelbot" was developed at the requests of many sbay.* readers. It operates under the authority of the sbay.* newsgroup hierarchy coordinators. It is an effort to enforce the local-use policy which has been blatantly abused by people outside the area. All regional newsgroup hierarchies are experiencing this problem and many are taking varying measures to curb the problem.

However, the CancelCritter will not touch messages which are not posted to sbay.* newsgroups. So people who insist on spamming the *.forsale newsgroups are still able to do so without interference from the sbay CancelCritter if they omit all sbay.* newsgroups from their articles. (Of course, spammers are net abusers by definition so they can expect resistance from other sources too.)

The CancelCritter uses the following parameters. We list them here for the purpose of public disclosure. However, we know the risk of publishing this information so these are subject to change without notice. (The situation has stabilized now that articles modified and re-posted specifically to circumvent the CancelCritter immediately qualify the poster as a repeat offender.)

These are the current policies regarding thresholds for automatically-cancellable articles.

The Definition of "Local"

When the program counts local and non-local newsgroups, the following newsgroup hierarchies, covering Northern California, are considered "local". All other newsgroup hierarchies are non-local and are counted by the CancelCritter against the non-local cross-posting thresholds. (There are others in the area which may be private, commercial, etc but the limit of non-local similar-suffix newsgroups was set high enough to cover their normal use, and then some.)
sbay.*
South Bay/Silicon Valley Area, Santa Clara County and nearby vicinity (see sbay.org Home Page)
su.*
Stanford University
ucb.*
University of California, Berkeley
ucd.*
University of California, Davis (see UC Davis UseNet FAQ)
scruz.*
Santa Cruz County, northern Monterey Bay Area
ccc.*
Contra Costa County, East Bay, Concord/Livermore areas
monterey.*
Monterey County and Monterey Bay Area
sonoma.*
Sonoma County, North Bay/Wine Country
yolo.*
Yolo County, southwestern Sacramento Valley (see Yolo County, CA UseNet FAQ)
sac.*, sacramento.*
Sacramento area (see Sacramento, CA UseNet FAQ)
chico.*
Chico area
davis.*
Davis area (see Davis, CA UseNet FAQ)
slo.*
San Luis Obispo area
ba.*
San Francisco Bay Area: Peninsula, North Bay, South Bay, East Bay and surrounding areas of Northern and Central California
ca.*
State of California (see California UseNet Project)

Restraints on the CancelCritter

In an effort to handle article cancellations as responsibly as possible... However, the thresholds have been set high enough that it is hard to imagine how something crossing them could not be net abuse - it is deliberately erring on the side of caution.

Administrative requests regarding the sbay.* CancelCritter should be directed to critter@sbay.org.


Updated January 21, 2012
webmaster@sbay.org