From the February 21, 1997 ComputorEdge (Issue 1508)
By Jim Trageser
Conversing online sdnet
With the dramatic drop in the number of BBSs and the lack of active conversation areas on the Web (although new software packages promise to change that; more on that and existing BBSs in the weeks to come) where is the local online enthusiast to go for good conversation?
Of course, there are the real-time chat rooms. That's fine if you enjoy conversation on a level of "What's your sign?". But it's always been the conversation subgroups, better known as "subs," where any in-depth exchange of ideas occurs. If the chat rooms are the cyber equivalent of a pickup bar, then subs are a late-night dorm-room bull session or a university coffee house. It's here that you'll find arguments over Sartre's relevance in a postmodern world, debate over the death penalty, and passionate discourse on whether Bonnie Raitt is a true blues artist (hey, if B.B. King says she is, who are the rest of us to argue?).
The area of the Internet dedicated to these conversation subs is known as the USENET, and it's been around for far longer than the infant World Wide Web. I don't know when the USENET was begun (but if anyone does, drop me a line and I'll add it in a future column), but it was before I started calling BBSs in 1987, many of which carried various USENET subs. At that time, there were several hundred subs, each organized around a particular topic (at that time, subs all seemed to have something to do with computers, "Star Trek" or sex or a combination of the three). Today, there are more than 20,000 USENET subs, with new ones created every day.
The real busy ones are, not surprisingly, sdnet.singles and a cluster of job-related subs basically dedicated to posting classified ads sdnet.jobs.wanted, sdnet.jobs.offered and sdnet.jobs. Another classified ad sub, sdnet.forsale, is also pretty active, with a dozen or so new listings every day.
Probably the best sub to check out is sdnet.general. Recent posts had a couple threads going on KFSD changing from classical to classic rock, and immigration officers combing Amtrak trains for alleged illegal immigrants.
Most of the sdnet subs are pretty slow but I imagine part of that is that most folks haven't discovered them yet. If those callers who once habituated the local BBS subs were to migrate to sdnet, then San Diego's cyberspace could get back to the insane levels of argument and discourse we once had.
© Copyright Jim Trageser
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