Aquaria Newsfroups

Aquaria Newsfroups

I've been seriously into tropical fish for a very long time and not in a "Oh that's a pretty tank here in the living room." way but more in a "Why do you have all these tanks?" sort of way.

I wish this is what my place looked like, but these belong to my friends Alf and Anita.

When I first found usenet, around 1986 or so I looked for anything about tropical fish but there were not really any newsgroups where that kind of thing could be found. Keep in mind that as of this writing, the half dozen or so current aquaria newsgroups can have several hundred messages a day. But back then, once a month somebody might post "oscar for free" or something to rec.pets a newsgroup for "pets". But that was it. There was nothing else, and this is perhaps difficult to understant in a post Facebook/Youtube word, but back then there was email and there were email mailing lists and there were the usenet newsgroups - all on the UUCP network. Over on the tcp/ip connected Arpanet there was email and ftp, and at that time there was nothing for or about tropical fish, anywhere.

So I postulated that rec.aquaria would be a good newsgroup to create. You build it, I'll post my brains out, people will swarm, it'll be great, lets do lunch.

The way a newsgroup was created wasn't just "Hey we need this name added..." there was a process - there had to be a discussion, and then a vote and you needed more yes votes than no votes a simple majority. So, I went and did that. Did it work? No. Although hundreds of people voted there were enough pinheads that thought this was a waste of precious network resources (which were being used for much obviously more important things as debates about creationism, abortion and Randian theology) that the proposed group came 3 votes away from passing. Three votes. I think the vote count was 104-101 against:for. The argument had been contentious: no real need was seen for that newsgroup, usually newsgroups were made when discussion of a topic became so frequent and and widly participated in that it was split off from tha main group into a group of its own, and anybody that tool a brief look at rec.pets could tell there was no groundswell of postings needing to be split off and put somwhere else.

My position was, of course not, nobody it going to sift through dozens of articles a day in rec.pets in hopes maybe something about fish tanks will show up in the endless stream of dog and cat postings, at that time the mainstay if the goup, and experience had shown asking questions about fish yielded no responses. It is as if there were no aquarists reading and why should they? I believed if you simply created the goup then because there is a place for discussion of aquaria related topics than it would simpy grow under its own inertia. But, it was not to be, the newsgroup vote that was held killed it. I hadn't been on the net that long and didn't know what to do next, but the aquaria vote had become a noticable phenomena and gave fuel to those who had noticed in the net a slight tinge of autocratic rule, not the usual community collaboration that had built the net in the first place. The solution ended up being "alt", an alternative newsgroup hierarchy run in parallel to the regular usenet newsgroup namespace that was created by Brian Reid and John Gilmore. There were no rules in alt, no votes or anything, you just did it.

Bob Webber, a professor of computer engineering in New Jersey had his sysadmin, Mel Pleasant create the group alt.aquaria and for years we used the "alt distribution" for news. It worked and there were about 30 messages a day right off the bat and the and on commenter observed it was "the shining gem in that sewer otherwise known as alt". It was the 7th most popular alt group in terms of traffic. Or something like that.

But alt didn't get to Europe. We were an island of America and parts of Canada when it wasn't snowing or raining. And we wanted to talk to people around the world.

At the time there were only "news, comp, sci, rec, misc, talk" news hierachies, in descending order of importance (and distribution). You had to get news to be on usenet so that was universally world-wide, the computer stuff was considered vital, sci was mostly serious so newsgroups under these names went around the world (which at that time meant "Europe" and "sometimes Australia", but things began getting right recreational at rec and misc and these were condiered "optional" if resources were tight and talk was for bullshit like creationsm. And junk serious people though was a waste of time. Queue me and my friends who hung out in an odd bastion of the remnants of Paris in the 1920's, except more delusional: talk.bizarre

So when people started clammoring about moving the aquaria stuff out of alt the obvious answer to me was sci.aquaria, forget about that rec.aquaria crap. It went through the usual rules and procedure and the group was created. Although there was quite a bit of discussion and contention about it and they changed the rules about newsgroup creation because of this as there had been more votes for this than in the last 10 votes put together. The original "100 more yes than no votes" rule was pretty meaningless when you're looking at a total of 1700 votes, especially at a time when 2 or 300 was considered "a lot".

Rec.aquaria was voted on and created anyway and sci.aquaria suffered distribution problems mostly because of this genius.