OT? -- Newsgroup Moderation Software/Programs

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I try to never post any Off Topic (OT) messages here, but I decided to do so this time.
What I am hoping to research and learn about is what type(s) of newsgroup moderation programs are out there in the event that I wanted to created a "Moderated" Usenet newsgroup.
This is not a question about whether this newsgroup should or should not be moderated even though I am sure that people here will end up responding about that.
What I am wondering is whether there is software out there that can be used in aiding a "Moderator" or group of moderators in moderating a Usenet newsgroup to simplify and streamline the moderation process to make it quick and painless. One reason for asking is that I sometimes participate in a couple of moderated Usenet newsgroups that only have one or two moderators, and it takes so long for messages to be approved for posting that most people just give up on posting to those newsgroups. It is true that the moderators are all volunteers, and they probably don't have the time to moderate messages on even a daily basis let alone more frequently than that.
But, I thought that if there was some type of newsgroup moderation software program out there that would allow the moderator to just set 90%-plus of the posters as being "whitelisted" -- meaning automatic pass-through and posting of their messages -- that would speed the posting process tremendously. My thinking is that if the first time the moderator sees a normal post-able message from someone, the moderator could just "whitelist" that poster, then all further posts from that person would go through and be posted immediately. The only time that a whitelisted poster would be changed to a moderated poster would be if that poster posted complete obnoxious trash or topics that have nothing at all to do with what the group is about. If such software exists, then for all of the people here (just for example) who routinely post on-topic, non-vulgar, non-trashy posts, their posts would go just through automatically.
Again, I already know that a lot of people here would be opposed to any type of moderation in this newsgroup, but I used this group as an example in case I wanted to create a different moderated newsgroup. As everyone here knows, there are a core of serious posters here who don't post complete vulgar trash and who don't post political opinion posts etc. People's opinions on a particular on-topic post would not be screened out or moderated -- just the complete trash stuff, and the complete off-topic political opinion posts etc. My real reason for asking this is in regard to another couple of moderated newsgroups that I follow and sometimes post in, but for which the moderation process is just plain too slow for people to even want to participate in those groups.
Does anyone know of any such newsgroup moderation software or where I can find out more about that?
Thanks.
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if memory serves me right try alt.usenet.config
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wrote:

Thanks. I tried looking for alt.Usenet.config but found no such newsgroup. Then I tried just looking for all alt.Usenet newsgroup combinations but none of those newsgroups had any answers.
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On 3/8/2016 9:40 AM, TomR wrote:

That depends on just what you are expecting from the software.
Moderated newsgroups, of necessity, are handled differently than unmoderated ones. Each message posted to an unmoderated group simply goes straight to the poster's news server. From there, it is propagated to other news servers using normal NNTP mechanisms.
Moderated groups, instead, route each post to a specific email address. The moderator(s) receive those incoming messages just like regular email. A moderator decides if the message is acceptable and passes it along as "approved" -- in which case, it gets pushed out to the news server in much the same way as an unmoderated message would.
A disapproved message is rejected (usually with some statement of reason for the rejection so the original sender can elect to try to resubmit).
So, you can use many tools that apply to automated handling of email (esp mailing lists!) to handle some of the drudgery. For example, you can preapprove certain posters (whitelist), block certain posters (blacklist), filter messages based on keywords (like profanity), require a "key phrase" included in the message to indicate the poster has read the posting FAQ (which is where the key phrase was mentioned!), etc.
[I've seen STUMP used in a few places]
Virtually all attempts at automating moderation fail, in some way. They either get too aggressive (and discourage legitimate posts) *or* are too easily hacked (thereby defeating the purpose of moderation). In any case, you need a warm body that accepts responsibility for making it work -- or the newsgroup fails.
[Damn few people want to pick up the mantle of moderator -- esp for a failed group!]
Some years ago, I wrote a program that lets users share the moderation duties (among themselves) for a *mailing* list. This works with CLOSED lists (i.e., you can't join a list unless invited -- for reasons that become obvious) and typically best with very targeted lists (e.g., a group working on developing or supporting a new product).
As every participant has to see every post in order to decide for themselves if the post is appropriate, it can't discard individual posts (like a moderated USENET group could). But, individuals are free to censure specific messages. These censures count against the original poster. So, if a poster acquires enough criticism from enough *different* list members, the poster looses his rights to post to the group.
Of course, to discourage abuses, each censure also dings the person doing the complaining! Complain too much and *you* lose *your* rights! (i.e., if you don't like what people are saying -- despite the fact that OTHERS seem not to mind it -- then you should stop reading the posts :> )
In the places where this has been used, it seems to work pretty well. I think its sort of like the cold-war era "MAD" concept... folks are always aware of it and, as a result, try to avoid it!
If you are interested in newsgroup moderation, I suggest you visit one and see what it's like. Some are really disciplined; others... not so much. :>
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Thanks. I remember looking into STUMP before but I couldn't figure it out. And I tried writing to the person who posted the STUMP software info but got no reply.
Just now, I tried doing a google search for ---> Usenet newsgroup moderation software and got some results, including:
http://pages.swcp.com/~dmckeon/mod-faq.html#Q1.1 That had some interesting information, but it looks like it is 20 years old and it all looked too complicated for me to be able to figure it out and how I could do what I would like to do. It did look like -- if I knew how to use the software etc. -- I would be able to "program" it to automatically whitelist posters who post on-topic and not vulgar or trashy posts.
I'll keep searching to see what I can find.
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On 3/8/2016 5:59 PM, TomR wrote:

In the FOSS (Free Open-Source Software) world, "You get what you pay for" :> Often, folks throw something together to fit some need that THEY perceive. Frequently, it's not a complete "product". If you're lucky, other folks decide it's an idea worth pursuing and pick up the torch where you left off (cuz most folks want to move on to the next "shiny object"!)

I think you should step back and ask yourself what you are trying to achieve. And, how large your "audience" is likely to be.
E.g., the mailing list software that I mentioned upthread was intended for very small, very dedicated groups of product "beta testers" -- people who have an early exposure to some particular product (left-handed smoke shifter, tent peg grease, etc.) and want to discuss issues that they've uncovered or, perhaps, misunderstand.
They don't want to be bothered by others who have no experience with the product (indeed, may not even know that it exists -- yet). And, they might not want others to know that they are even interested in the product (my software anonymizes the messages so -- unless you tell someone your name and/or email address -- your identity is protected).
And, they typically have no patience for folks who want to rant: "This product sucks!" If it does, then that will be apparent from the test period. But, if the ranter is just frustrated and ignorant, they usually have no patience for those sorts of unconstructive posts.
If you've got a subject that you think has some widespread appeal that isn't already addressed somewhere in the USENET hierarchy, then you might consider petitioning to start a new newsgroup. Moderation is something you define in the proposed charter for the group. Will moderation make folks MORE or LESS apt to participate?
You can, instead, opt to start a subscription (no fee involved) mailing list. You can manage small lists yourself (even manually -- gack!). Anything that grows in size (number of recipients, volume of messages) may require you to find a hosting service as many ISPs will see lots of mail from "your account" as a red flag (spammer, AUP violation, etc.).
Or, even a web forum or even just start a *blog* and invite folks to comment about the issues that *you* present.
These (newsgroup moderation, mailing list, forum) tend to require some form of hosting software. Chances are, *you* won't be running that on a machine of your own (see ISP comments) so think about how deep you're willing to tread into the quagmire...
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In typed:

I do know what I would like to achieve if it is possible and do-able.
I participate in other types of groups, including Yahoo groups etc. -- a few of which I have created. Those are the closed -- single topic area -- types of groups that I think you are describing below. But, they too, can be cumbersome and complicated for people to join and follow.
And, I participate in a couple of moderated Usenet newsgroups, but as mentioned before, the moderation process is too slow.
There is one Usenet style newsgroup that I participate in that continues to work well. It's a computer related group that uses the NNTP style of posting etc. called -- annexcafe.general.user2user . But, people have to register to join, even though it does not require using a real name, and people who post there don't see each other's real email address. All of the posts there are sane, normal, on topic, and not trashy or crude. And, the people who post there have a lot of knowledge. There are no trolls or bogus posters because if anyone did post nonsense and crap, their registration would just get deleted. And, the posts are instantaneous because they are not moderated before being posted. The people who run it and similar groups have their own servers or whatever and the groups are not found on the general Usenet newsgroups lists.
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On 3/10/2016 2:45 PM, TomR wrote:

Understandably -- when you consider that some one(s) have to decide they are in the mood to read through some unknown number of posts to decide which they think are appropriate to pass through. And, at the same time, respond to complaints from folks who have NOT seen their posts appear (yet) -- or, who have been notified that their post has been rejected. Each day you *don't* do this means your backlog will be that much larger the NEXT day!

This is similar to the mailing list software that I described. Posting *to* the "list" is gated by that software (if you aren't "in the registration database", your message is discarded). The issue then becomes one of controlling that "registration database".
In my case, the members themselves control it (because I knew what a PITA and thankless job it would be for someone to actively "moderate" it) so anyone can effectively "retro-moderate" its content. The "twist" is that exercising that sort of censorship comes at a personal cost: YOU can find yourself removed from the list just as easily as the folks you've been censoring! (i.e., carrot and stick approach to the problem).
In the case you describe (below), the registration database is controlled by <someone> -- not really a moderator but more of an "administrator".

That;s what my mailing list software does: it "picks up" the mail addressed to a particular account (special_mailing_list@somewhere), examines who it's from, checks the registration database to verify the person is authorized to post messages; then rewrites the message to replace their specific email address with their "registered name -- c/o special_mailing_list@somewhere" and Bcc's the message to all of the REAL email addresses listed in the registration database.
So, you can, conceivably, run the software on your smartphone (if your smartphone can access email).
The only way to put a "gatekeeper" in the middle for USENET is to use the moderation mechanism. This ties in to email (to connect to the moderator) in a similar way.
The drawback with the USENET approach is that your group is now very publicly visible -- both its existence *and* the content!
[If you want to have a list of product prototype testers that can share comments and questions about a "yet undisclosed" product, you don't want the list's existence to be easily known and you almost certainly don't want its contents accessible, anonymously!]
I've found that I rely on private mailing lists for almost all of my "technical" dialogues. It's a lot easier to express issues (because you know EXACTLY who is reading your comments) AND a lot easier to evaluate responses (because you know exactly who is responding!).
If someone posted an "OT" message, it would undoubtedly be met with a fair bit of disdain ("If we wanted to talk politics, we'd go to a BAR!")
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Why bother. By the end of this year, Newsgroups will be history. There are something like 50,000 newsgroups, and of them, there are less than 100 that still get any use. Of those still used, most posts are politics. Even this newsgroup is being flooded with that sort of thing, when it used to be mostly on topic.
I guess all the old usenet persons have either died, or sold out to that miserable identity theft piece of crap called "Facebook".
One year from now, all newsgroups will be like ghost towns. If a few posts do happen in any group, no one will be there to even read it. (And it will be off topic garbage anyhow).
R.I.P. Usenet !
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In wrote:

Yes, it is true that Usenet newsgroups are fading fast and have been for a while now. Less and less people use them. And, some of the groups that used to be good (like alt.social-security-disability, or something like that) go annihilated by relentless spammers and trolls.
There are still a few groups left (like this one), but the spammers and trolls may end up burying them too.
I don't hold out much hope except possibly for a few of the moderated groups, but the moderated groups take so long for posts to be screened and appear that they too are becoming dinosaurs.
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Hi Tom,
On 3/10/2016 2:31 PM, TomR wrote:

Having posted to USENET for at least 25 years, now, this has always been the case, to varying degrees.
But, unlike junk mail that falls into your mailbox of its own accord, you have control over which posts you choose to open -- and, even *see*!
It's trivial to write a filter that looks for posts that begin with "OT" and automatically DELETE them. You can likewise write filters that delete posts that are crossposted (to particular groups or to *any* other groups!).
And, of course, you can filter messages from folks YOU deem to be not worth your time.
So, complaining about "having to read" something that you wished you'd NOT read is like walking into a bar and complaining about all the smoke! (I.e., don't go to that bar!) Otherwise, you're just whiney...
Other "communications media" are not immune to abuse. Mailing lists, blogs, forums, even FB/twitter/etc. have lousy S/N (signal-to-noise) ratios.
There are no prequalifications for folks posting questions OR replies. So, there's no guarantee the information you receive (*if* on-topic) will be accurate, etc.

Think about what's been said, above. You're complaining about all this "cruft" that you're likely to encounter. You don't want to use the tools available to you (filters) *or* "self-discipline" to remove the posts that you are pretty sure you'll be "disappointed with".
Yet, you want some *one* (or small number of ones) to put up with all of this, on your behalf. AND, inevitably catch hell from folks who see their posts censored, edited, etc. (some moderators will actually elide portions of your post that they consider superfluous, inappropriate, etc. -- without your consent).
Do you really think moderation is a viable long-term option? Esp when there are no restrictions on who can TRY to post??
Deal with USENET like any other noisey information channel: use some selection processes to decide what you want to address/read; who you want to listen to; etc.
A tip: be wary of new posters as they can just as easily be old posters who've realized they need to change their name in order to be "heard, again". There's no reason you can't reply to a thread *three* days after it was posted (and you can see who it attracts by way of replies -- those folks who add information and those who just whine about posts).
After all, isn't this how you deal with people in real life? You don't respond to every crackpot you encounter -- esp if you've encountered them before! OTOH, folks with genuine questions and/or information tend to merit your repeat attention.
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In typed:

I already do a lot of what you suggested. I haven't tried doing all of the filters, but I have done some and luckily I don't have to wade through Colonel do-do etc.. And, yes, when I see a post marked "OT", and especially when the subject is something political.
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I meant to write:

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I do about the same thing, I abhor politics when it's posted on any newsgroup except those intended. I already see far more of that than I care to see, on tv and newspapers. I usually look at the subject on OT posts, because some are not really OT. If they're car related, I like to read those, and sometimes it's humor, which I often like to read, esp if it's repair humor. But the filtering is a never ending job with all the idiots who walk in here just to post trash.
When the newsgorups are dead and gone, I'll probably just switch over to a cellphone with internet access, because I wont touch Facebook with a 10ft pole, and FB seems to hav become the whole internet now. I may use the web to reference something, but I dont just go on the web to waste time. I can do my occasional reference thing on the phone, and if I really need to download something, I can take my laptop to any wifi spot. So, my main reason for the cellphone internet would be to do email, which I still do a lot.
I still remember when the entire internet was fun!!!! Those days are gone....
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On 03/10/2016 06:52 PM, snipped-for-privacy@unlisted.moo wrote:

http://www.dslreports.com/forum/homerepair
Warning: Keep your posts on-topic because the mods are humorless and heavy-handed (sort of like Seinfeld's Soup Nazi).
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On 3/10/2016 3:12 PM, TomR wrote:

The problem comes from folks who *don't*. Instead of ignoring posts (off topic, flames, etc.) they encourage those exchanges. "Feeding the Troll". So, the behavior gets reinforced. (Trolls that are ignored eventually go away -- "no one is paying any attention to me!")
I've been using USENET just as a source of "unsolicited contacts" -- to simulate "unsolicited telephone calls". This, so I could test some telephone screening software I'm developing to see how effective it is likely to be (I have just as little control over who posts on USENET as I do over who tries to telephone me!). As the whole point of that software is to "delete" undesired contacts (i.e., "don't bother answering the phone, you don't want to talk to him/her!"), this results in my USENET experience being severely filtered (automatically). Just as I wouldn't want to "answer" those contacts if they came into my home over the telephone lines! :>
[The statistics that BadGolferman posts monthly suggest almost half of the posts (here) are being intercepted before my news reader even *tries* to "offer them" to me/]
You have to consider the sorts of people that frequent particular "venues" (newsgroups, mailing lists, forums, blogosphere, etc.). Public venues tend to attract folks using the venue as an alternative to a "social life" -- their SO won't let them hang out at bars, they're retired/disabled/shut-in/underemployed/bored, etc. So, they have a propensity to encourage this sort of dialogue.
By contrast, the technical lists that I participate in tend to have folks who really don't have TIME for the list -- but, MAKE time as they consider it a resource (that they would like to be able to call on, for help, when THEY need it -- reputation becomes important; you can't take if you aren't willing to give!). So, there's a balance between *prompt* replies (technical issues often need a fair bit of thought before formulating a coherent, accurate reply) and informative replies.
E.g., if someone asks how to trisect a circle, they'll get a reply pretty quick (as many folks have already done this sort of thing). OTOH, ask how to differentiate an 'L' from an upside-down '7' and you'll probably have to wait a while for a reply worth using!
Do you have access to any of the services like the one you mentioned elsewhere (annexcafe.general.user2user)? Would/could those folks offer you what you seek?
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In typed:

I appreciate your thoughts and feedback on all of this.
The downside for the annexcafe newsgroups is that they are not connected to the general Usenet newsgroup network. That means that people can't just go to their news server (such as news.eternal-september.org or news.aioe.org ) and search newsgroups to find any of the annexcafe newsgroups. That means that too few people from the general public would be able to find and use any particular newsgroup there.
So, for example, if I wanted to create an alt.home.repair.moderated newsgroup, placing it inside a private NNTP-based system like annexcafe system wouldn't work since most people would never be able to find it.
And, to use the example of creating an alt.home.repair.MODERATED newsgroup, I would only want to do it if:
1) the moderation system would be virtually automatic in most cases where legitimate posters could be "whitelisted" and their posts would automatically go straight through and be posted right away;
2) I wouldn't have to spend an exorbitant amount of time screening out the obviously sick, demented, trashy, and obviously off-topic/political-opinion posts; and,
3) I wouldn't want to spend any time screening posts that are generally on-topic even if they represent ideas or contain comments that I wouldn't personally agree with. In other words, I wouldn't want to be moderating the content at all except to eliminate the obviously sick, demented, trashy, and clearly off-topic/political-opinion posts.
If the above were possible, I think that type of modestly moderated newsgroup would flow well and -- other than not seeing a bunch of total garbage that some people post -- the readers and users would see an easy-to-use, quickly responsive, and meaningful newsgroup.
As another example, there is a newsgroup called alt.social-security-disability that still exists, but has been destroyed by spammers and is no longer of use to anyone. It used to be an excellent resource for learning about, understanding, and figuring out how social security, SSDI, SSI, VA benefits, and disability benefits work. If it were possible to create an alt.social-security-disability.MODERATED newsgroup along the lines that I described above, it could be resurrected and would once again become a meaningful and useful newsgroup.
One problem with the automatic "whitelist" system is something that I think you may have already mentioned -- how to prevent spoofers and spammers from just adopting the posting name of someone who is already whitelisted and submit crap/trash/spam in that name. Somehow, I think the automatic whitelist system would have to be specific enough to do something like also identify the MAC ID of the poster who is whitelisted so a spoofer/spammer couldn't just use the same name and get their crap/trash posts whitelisted.
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Hi Tom,
On 3/11/2016 8:18 AM, TomR wrote:

They would have to connect to the server that is hosting the "private newsgroup hierarchy". Just like you have to go to google.com to SEARCH google. Just like *you* go to eternal-september.org to access *this* newsgroup.
[Sorry, it's too early in the morning for me... what am I missing in your argument?]

They wouldn't be able to find it on a news server that wasn't participating in that hierarchy.
Just like you can't participate in the "Home Repair Forum" without going to <http://www.homerepairforum.com/ . Or, the Old Classic Car forum without visiting <http://www.oldclassiccar.co.uk/forum/phpbb/phpBB2/
Granted, you can visit either of these just by pointing your browser at the URL; by contrast, you'd have to configure a "news provider" in your "news reader" software to access that "private" news service (assuming they allow folks to connect to it without preregistering, etc.).
If you set up a mailing list, folks would have to go to a particular "place" to join that list ("subscribe"). E.g., the FreeBSD mailing lists are accessed via <https://lists.freebsd.org/mailman/listinfo/ .
If you set up a blog, then they'll have to come to your blog's web page to read it (and comment on it).
My ISP doesn't host a news service any more (not enough demand to justify the maintenance). So, I went looking for "public" NNTP servers.
My ISP doesn't host a *mail* service any more (too much work, liability, etc.) so I use other mail servers.
I guess I don't see the problem -- given that you have to *do* something to get access to ANY news server (how did you find out about eternal september?). Is it such an impediment to have a web page that tells folks how to access that private hierarchy on that particular server? ("For OE users, do the following...")

That's relatively easy to do. STUMP has provisions for white and black lists. But, someone would have to maintain those lists!

Ah, there's the rub. How do you decide what's sick, demented, trashy, OT, etc.? I can write a subject line: "Something very pertinent to this group" and fill the body with something entirely inappropriate (OhMiGosh... I lied!).
I can sidestep keyword/badword filters by exploiting the fact that people can understand content that machines won't, taken literally: trunnp iz n S-hole!
(ever wonder why you see posts where digits replace letters, etc.? p3ni5)

A good moderator doesn't inject personal bias into what is considered "appropriate". However, a good moderator might prune posts to elide OT stuff that is embedded in an otherwise appropriate post.
<Insert discussion of political campaign, here>

Entropy is a bitch. :> In order to provide the "order" you crave, someone (something) has to exert effort to push back against the disorder.
This was the appeal of the user-moderated mailing list approach; the folks most interested in keeping the list "on topic" had the tools to do so! Rather than walking away, disgusted, when the list deteriorated, you could actually take matters into your own hands and *do* something about it (though at personal peril -- as is true of any moderator).
But, it's only as good as the "clientele" make it. I.e., if it attracts kooks and wackjobs, then there's very little you can do to keep things on-topic.
[For the "new product prototype" lists, you couldn't get ON the list without having been SELECTED to evaluate the product! This goes a long way to scraping off the "undesirables"...]

I suspect the easiest way to do so would be to create a "SSDI Forum" and advertise its presence -- perhaps with a post on that newsgroup. Of course, you risk drawing the undesirables -- which you will then have to un-register.
If you're truly obsessed with "purity", you can exploit some credential that is user-specific (e.g., your phone number -- not an email address cuz you can have multiple of those!) and implement an authentication/verification scheme based on that (call the number and tell them what to type in on their confirmation form)
This is impractical -- unless you are protecting something that THEY truly consider to be valuable!

Of course! And, to get that list of whitelisted users, they simply look at the posts that were "approved"!
With a private news server, the server can require authentication before allowing the connection (username, password).
Likewise, (with a private server) you can require a credential that is never visible in the final post (e.g., "Tom, you must begin each post with the word 'Frodbelg'. I will verify this against your name -- then, elide it from the ACTUAL post.")
Authentication in open systems is always a challenge. E.g., what's to stop me from acting *like* the moderator and sending MY posts directly to the "approved" mechanism?

Unless you and I are on the same network segment, you can't "see" my MAC address.
And, while you *could* see my IP address, that might change tomorrow... or, an hour from now -- depending on how my ISP allocates IP addresses.
Authentication is usually handled by layering a suitable mechanism in/on the actual data stream.
E.g., I can send you an email and *claim* to be someone else (by forging the email headers -- with an appropriate server in the middle). But, if I *sign* my message with *my* "key" -- which you can VERIFY using public mechanisms -- then the headers no longer are part of the authentication process (as they shouldn't be!). Instead, the authentication is handled by this other mechanism.
[But, that requires support for that mechanism among your participants!]
This is how you "know" that iexplorer.exe is a genuine Microsoft program and not something that *I* created (wipeharddisk.exe) and renamed to something that would fool you!
You have to remember, all of these protocols were designed in a non-adversarial envrionment. People WANTED to communicate. They didn't want impediments that stood in the way.
And, access to The Network tended to be via semi-official gatekeepers (school IT departments, etc.) so there was some level of accountability (albeit loose) -- misbehave and you loose your privilege of access! (you couldn't show up at the IT department desk wearing a wig and marx brothers glasses/mustache claiming to be John Doe #7 to get yet another account!)
Look at some of the forums that are available and see what you think about how "on-topic" they trend. I.e., if you find something that seems well behaved, in practice, that would be something you might suggest looking at in closer detail ("How would this format work for *me*?")
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In typed:

That's my point -- a private NNTP-based system like the annexcafe system uses a news server that does not participate in the broader Usenet hierarchy. So, placing a group there would make it virtually invisible to the general Usenet-using public where people find newsgroups like the one that we are on now. So, that wouldn't do what I would like to achieve.

That is probably my only option at this point. So, I may have to re-visit the STUMP website and hosting service to see if I can figure it out and try doing what I want to do.

I am not too concerned about that part. We all see some really sick, demented, trashy, and obviously off-topic/political-opinion posts here in this group. I am not talking about screening out anything that is in a gray area -- I mean just blocking the really sick, demented, trashy, and obviously off-topic/political-opinion posts. And, even if someone slips one past the goalie, that would be an exception and that person could just be blocked in the future.
About all of the alternative options -- mailing list groups, blogs, etc. -- I am not really interested in those even though I participate in such forums and have created my own that are up and running as we speak. But, none of them are NNTP-based forums. I am looking for an NNTP-based open forum that can be fairly easily and automatically moderated to keep it basically on topic and free from the obvious group-killing spam and crap posts.
Again, I appreciate all of your thoughts and feedback. Through what you have written and what some others have written, I am coming to the conclusion that the STUMP approach may be all that I need. And, since I don't know enough geek stuff to do the free version on my own, I would probably have to opt for the paid version.
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P.S. An example of a moderated, easily located and accessible, NNTP-based forum, there is one called: misc.taxes.moderated That newsgroup has only on-topic posts and no complete crap posts, and it works fairly well because the moderator(s) are able to turn posts around and post them fairly quickly. I don't believe that they have an automatic "whitelist" system, but if they did, it would probably make the newsgroup even more responsive. They could do that because there are a small group of posters who have the right knowledge and who do not post nonsense.
A similar group -- called misc.legal.moderated -- is somewhat functional, but it takes so long for posts to show up that I think that many people have given up on using that newsgroup. Ironically, I think the moderator(s) of the above two groups may be the same individual(s)/people -- but I am not sure.
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