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computers / news.admin.hierarchies / The free.* FAQ (version 2.0.1)

o The free.* FAQ (version 2.0.1)Tim Skirvin

Subject: The free.* FAQ (version 2.0.1)
From: Tim Skirvin
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Date: Wed, 1 Jan 2020 00:04 UTC
From: (Tim Skirvin)
Newsgroups: news.admin.hierarchies,news.admin.censorship,alt.config,news.groups,free.control,free.hipcrime,free.answers,alt.answers,news.answers
Subject: The free.* FAQ (version 2.0.1)
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Date: Wed, 01 Jan 2020 00:04:02 +0000
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Summary: This is the charter and FAQ for free.*, a new hierarchy that can
pretty much be summed up in the phrase "no rules". Since I
created it, I guess I'm stuck with writing it too...
View all headers
Archive-name: usenet/free/charter
Posting-frequency: twice monthly
Last-modified: 2001/07/11
Version: 2.0.1

      "Everything is permitted.  Nothing is forbidden."
        The Free FAQ
     by Tim Skirvin

This document is an introduction to free.* and the issues surrounding it.
It assumes that you have at least some basic knowledge of Usenet history
and administration; if you don't, well, either go get them and come back,
or accept that there's going to be some parts of this FAQ that you don't
understand.  All standard disclaimers apply, void where prohibited, you
may cancel at any time for a full refund, trust no one, <FISH><, fnord.

   Table of Contents * = new material

I.   General Questions
 1.  What is free.*?
 2.  Why was it made?
 3.  How can I get access to free.*? *
 4.  What groups are available?
II.  Policy Questions
 1.  So, free.* has no rules then?
 2.  What about [fill-in-the-blank] cancels?
 3.  Won't the groups become massively abuse-ridden?
 4.  How are the rules enforced?
 5.  What about "(Free == absolutely NO rules)"?
III. User Questions
 1.  Why would I want to read free.*?
 2.  Can I post [fill-in-the-blank] here?
 3.  Can I make my own group?
IV.  Other Questions
 1.  Can I issue cancels for articles cross-posted out of free.*? 
 2.  Can I make my own hierarchy?
 3.  Why did you negotiate with terrorists?
V.   Other documents
 1.  The free.* charter
 2.  The Freedom Knights
 3.  Other hierarchies
VI.  Three Years Later - A Retrospective *
 1.  How well has free.* worked? *
 2.  Would you do it again?  *


I.   General Questions
 1.  What is free.*?

free.* is a Usenet hierarchy where the only rule is "do whatever
you want as long as you're not destroying somebody else's words".  If you
know Usenet already, you can think of it as a more chaotic alt.*; if you
don't, know Usenet, the closest analogy is probably to a true anarchy. 

 2.  Why was it made?

By the time free.* was created on July 18, 1998, the idea of free.*
had been kicked around for years - in fact, the idea had already been tried
once in 1994, though it met with limited success.  The idea of a hierarchy
was appealing to many, from users that wanted a place where they wouldn't
be watched over to administrators that wanted to experiment with a true
anarchy; many others were disgusted by the idea, fearing that it would be
a barren wasteland filled with spam populated only with kooks and morons. 
Nobody had any idea who was right, and it was left at that.

The initial catalyst for the creation of free.* was a continuing
cancelwar in news.*, reportedly over the rights of users to control their
own posts.  Annoyed by the cancels and reposts, Tim Skirvin, a fairly
prominent poster to news.admin.*, decided to see what he could do about
the problem, so he entered into mock negotiations with the rogue canceller.
After several aborted attempts to figure out what the canceller wanted,
Tim remembered the idea of free.* and mentioned it off-handedly; he was
genuinely surprised to find that the canceller was actually interested in
the proposal.  Confident that the hierarchy was a good idea whose time had
come, and not caring that he would probably be reviled for years to come
over his apparent negotiation, he posted a charter, sent out a few newgroups,
and declared the hierarchy open for business.

 3.  How can I get access to free.*?

Not too many educational or corporate news servers carry the
hierarchy; if you want to read it, you'll probably have to find yourself a
commercial provider.  Google Groups - formerly
DejaNews), a free Usenet service, carries the hierarchy; most of the
other large news resellers carry at least some portion of it, and are
generally open to add more.  Your best bet is probably to use one of them.

You could, of course, ask your news administrators to pick up the
hierarchy, which shouldn't be very challenging.  If sufficient interest is
there, most admins will pick it up, and interest is often determined by
user requests.

 4.  What groups are available?

Because this is a FAQ that doesn't want to be updated every couple
of days, it's not going to list off the newsgroups in free.* here.  Instead,
check out part of the ISC's
canonical newgroup/rmgroup archive.

II.  Policy Questions
 1.  So, free.* has no rules then?

In essence, yes.  More specifically, there is one rule: anybody
can do whatever they want, as long as it doesn't destroy somebody else's
words.  What this means in practice:

   o No cancel messages or any derivitives thereof are allowed within
     free.*.  If any are issued, they should not be honored.
   o rmgroups should not be issued for any group in the free.* hierarchy.
   o Servers should not filter their free.* feeds.
Other than that, everything is allowed by the hierarchy.
 2.  What about [fill-in-the-blank] cancels.

Spam cancels, binary cancels, spew cancels, forgery cancels,
persoanl cancels, and in fact every form of cancel are right out.  Any
filtering that needs to be done should be done on the poster- or user-side

 3.  Won't the groups become massively abuse-ridden?

Probably.  Then again, this might not be that much of a change -
much of alt.* is already effectively flooded, thanks to the tenacity of
the spammers, and even* survives in some fashion or another.  In
addition, the prohibitions on filtering do not extend to complaints about
abusive users; service providers are still free to cancel accounts for
usage violations as they see fit.  And, of course, it's possible that the
spammers will recognize a good thing when they see it and let the
hierarchy survive.

free.* will probably have more spam than most hierarchies; few
people doubt that.  What's in question is whether or not it will be able
to survive it - and, given a little ingenuity and hard work, there's few
reasons it wouldn't be able to. 

 4.  How are the rules enforced?

Well, in essence, they aren't.  Sure, it might be possible to
track down everybody that issues cancels within the hierarchy and beat them
upside the head with a clue stick, but that's hard to do when there's
nobody really in charge; all that's really possible is to encourage people
to pay attention to the hierarchy's rules or drop the hierarchy entirely.
Administrators that carry the hierarchy are also encouraged to update
their software to ignore cancels and rmgroups within the hierarchy, which
solves the problem permanently within that server.

As for the rules regarding filtering, well, it's not really much
of a rule anyway, and it's ignored to one extent or another by just about
every server out there.  It's more useful as a statement of principles
than a rule...

 5.  What about "(Free == absolutely NO rules)"?

*sigh*  Alright, a history lesson: free.* was originally created
in late 1994 by John Palmer, during a flamewar over alt.* creation policies. 
It enjoyed a brief period of semi-popularity, before fading into almost
complete obscurity for several years.  While several people continued to
use the hierarchy during this time, few noticed their crossposts; free.*
may as well have not existed.

That didn't stop the old residents from piping up and complaining
when the hierarchy was made.

The original charter for free.* was "(Free == absolutely NO rules)". 
This is, of course, not entirely compatible with the current charter; still,
to most it's close enough to make no difference.  While there is a slight
rift over the matter between the old and new hierarchy residents, it's
probably more practical to follow the new rules than the old.

III. User Questions
 1.  Why would I want to read free.*?

In most cases, you probably don't - there isn't a whole lot of
content there, and it's a lot harder to sift the wheat from the chaff in
an unfiltered hierarchy.  Still, it's got its advantages - your posts will
go out exactly as you made them, you can talk about things just about
anywhere you want to, you probably won't be made fun of for being silly,
and you can just generally do what you want. 

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