Discussion groups aren't the fanciest things around -- but they have been networking's "killer application" ever since people first decided to connect their computers together. From the first ARPANET mailing lists to DOS BBSs to the modern USENET, the ability to hold discussions has attracted people to electronic communication by the thousands. Electronic mail may be the most necessary application, and the World Wide Web may be the sexiest, but discussion groups become obsessions.
USENET, also called Netnews, is the world's largest discussion forum. It's a place for asking and answering technical questions, arguing about politics, religion, and society, or discussing most scientific, artistic, or humanistic disciplines. You'll be surprised by who you meet; it's common for a simple question to be answered by a noted authority. USENET is also a forum for distributing free software, digitized pictures and sounds, and many other things. With the appropriate licensing, you can even get a complete newspaper.
Although the Internet now carries a lot of USENET's traffic, USENET was around first, and still reaches many places that aren't yet connected to the Internet. If you have an Internet connection, you can read News as part of the deal; but if you don't yet have an Internet connection, you can still participate by finding someone willing to pass a news feed along to you.
This book unlocks USENET for you. It's not just a technical book, although it includes tutorials on the most popular newsreaders for UNIX and Windows (tin, nn, GNUS, and Trumpet). It also explains what goes on on the Net: where to look for information and what to do with it once you get it. It gives you an introduction into the culture: Net etiquette, the private language, and some of the history...including some of the more notable practical jokes and pranks.