This post by Uncle Fester was so well written and explained so much that I asked him if he would mind if I placed it here. With his permission, here is a very good description of the newsgroup alt.discuss.config

Group: alt.discuss.config
Date: Wed, Dec 8, 1999, 12:12am
From: (Uncle Fester)

Re: Research first!

What goes on in here would be very hard to understand for anyone coming in off the street. Just reading for a day or two won't do it. More like several weeks.

This is not directed at you, but to those people who are new to Config.

It's been a longstanding recommendation in Usenet that a newbie should lurk in a newsgroup for at least two weeks before posting. That doesn't apply across the board, but for certain newsgroups it is sage advice.

The admin and config newsgroups of Usenet are as complicated in nature as is this one, a.d.config for WebTV's little pond. Even more so, since the very nature of Usenet itself is more complicated (both in its history and conventions).

I can tell you this -- Usenet's config and admin newsgroups suffer from the very same symptoms you've described here and for the same reasons.

A newbie, not understanding what they are getting into, will often misunderstand what is going on. They will not have lurked long enough to understand the true nature of the activities and grab bits and pieces of things that alarm them. This is where words like "cabal" and "control freaks" emanate from -- ignorance.

Just as some wrongly believe there is a "central authority" for Usenet, the same happens here.

Usenet is controlled by its users in the same way as alt.discuss is controlled by its WebTV users. The admin and config newsgroups of Usenet have their own experts, who have through time acquired enough knowledge to be called "experts" by others. Some have been there for many years and are recognized as "authorities" in that business.

But (and here's the part that is soooo hard for many to understand), they have no more say-so than the next person (you or me). To be sure, many are system administrators or news administrators of their own domains and what they tell you should not be tossed aside -- they know what they are talking about. By the same token, they are not "Gods" (although some might jokingly call them that). WebTV's Config newsgroup has its own authorities and "Gods."

Just like those of Usenet, they acquired that status from experience. They didn't just wake up one day and say, "I think I will be an authority on newsgroup configuration." They had to work at it by actually being here and making constructive contributions. Over time, they learned what is likely to work, and just as likely what will not. If experience is not "authority," then there is no such thing. The term "authority" as used here does not mean the same thing as in, "the police" or "the government." Just as there are authorities in the field of bird-watching, there can be, and indeed there are, authorities on newsgroup creation.

You too, can be an authority! When people barge into a.d.config and ask, "Just who do you people think you are?" I just have to shake my head. Who do "we" think "we" are? As said in Pogo, "We have met the enemy, and he is us."

"We" are all of you and everyone. Not a one of us (excepting "nobody@munitions") has any "official capacity." Not a one of us have "appointed" ourselves to anything other than a desire to be involved in the process. How deeply involved any of us get into this process is our own decision to make.

It's your right as a WebTV subscriber and participant in Alt Discuss. No license required.

What _is_ required is enough patience to take the time to thoroughly understand what is being discussed before jumping in and possibly making a fool of yourself due to lack of information or ignorance of the history of any given topic under discussion. No "one" (or group) is in control of things here -- "all of us" are incontrol.

Hang around here for a couple of weeks and you will see who the _real_ authorities on the subject are, and who the cranks and trolls are as well.

Until you know what's going on -- trust no one.
Don't trust me, either. Trust only yourself until you make up your own mind as to who is trustworthy. How you make that decision is up to you.
YOU are in control!

The only news posts in here that you should take as "gospel," are those news posts from "nobody" at! Everything else is just like what you are now reading -- an opinion.
Nothing more, nothing less.

One last tidbit: The word "config" (for configuration) is used here and in Usenet in the truncated form -- for the same reasons that "admin" is used in place of "administration" or "administrator." It may not be pretty, or make sense to the uninitiated, but it's short. That's all there is to the "why" of using the word "config."

There is no cabal!