The World Wide Web may be where the current focus is, but Don Rittner shows that for great people-to-people interaction, it’s hard to beat Usenet. Written for the beginner, Rittner’s book is an in-depth look at how Usenet works and how to use it. He focuses on users whose primary access to Internet resources is through an online service–specifically America Online or CompuServe.
Rittner begins with an overview, explaining what Usenet is and the vast range of discussions that can be found there. His examples cover everything from obscure scientific research to discussions about baby strollers for joggers. He shows readers how to find a newsgroup of interest, how to post, and how to create a newsgroup of their own. Rittner gives due balance to the technical and social aspects of Usenet posting, showing how to read and post more efficiently and maintain good relationships with other users.
But despite his enthusiasm for Usenet, Rittner doesn’t pretend that it’s an online Utopia. He’s up front about Usenet users’ being prone to the whole range of human frailties and contributes many satiric observations. As he puts it, “There are 5,000 helpful people for every jerk on Usenet, but that’s still a lot of jerks.” An enclosed CD-ROM offers a free trial membership to CompuServe, and a companion Web site offers updates to the book’s information. — Elizabeth Lewis
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