soc.sexuality.general FAQ

SSG has never maintained much of a FAQ; this is partly from lack of time/energy, and partly because a vastly superior one was for a long time maintained for alt.sex. That FAQ can still be found here; you can also use our local mirror. You might also find the Moderated Newsgroups FAQ informative.

Such questions as the SSG FAQ does address concern the functioning of the newsgroup itself, and basic procedural topics.

I posted a message to the group, but it hasn't shown up. Now what? [link]

Well, then we've got some quesions for you:

  1. Did you receive an automatic acknowledgement of your message?

    Anytime you post to the group, you'll get an automatic response emailed to you from our moderation system. It's sent to confirm that we've received your article and tell you what to expect next. If you didn't receive it, then either the autoresponse mail couldn't reach you, or we didn't receive your message.

    If you did receive the autoresponse, then read it; the auto-response includes, amongst other things, a URL where you can check the status of your message. It will look something like this:

    http://socsexualitygeneral.org/robomod/article.cgi?id=n8uTQn1Io3hFUePhN900xw
    (this URL won't actually work, it's just an example)

    Check the status URL to see what's happened to your article -- when we received it, whether it's been processed yet, when it was posted, etc.

    One of the more common reasons why articles don't reach the s.s.g moderation system is that your ISP's news server doesn't recognize the group as moderated and so doesn't follow the special procedures used for moderated articles. This can be particularly confusing because you'll often see the articles immediately yourself, but no one else will.

  2. Did you receive a notice that your message had been approved?

    If you got a notice that your article was approved, then it's either on its way or for some reason your news server isn't showing it. Articles are posted immediately after the approval notice is sent, and generally propagate to most of Usenet within a few minutes. If you use an ISP with an unusually isolated news server, or one that does its transferring in large batches, you may have to wait a while before your article appears.

  3. Are you munging your email address?

    Many people modify their email addresses in various ways to keep spammers from harvesting their address and sending them spam. If you do this, though, it can prevent our moderation system from sending you confirmation or approval/rejection notices. The system will attempt to undo the more common forms of address munging (dropping "nospam" and similar), but if you're munging it in an unusual or complicated way, you won't receive any notices at all from our system.

    If you regularly munge your address in a way our robomod can't decipher, you can contact us to let us know what address to send your notices to.

  4. Are you reading Usenet via Google Groups?

    As of this writing, Google's Usenet system imposes a delay of 8-12 hours for indexing before any article will become visible there. This does not affect the rest of Usenet, and other people elsewhere can see and may reply to your article even before you can see it yourself.

    If you aren't reading news through Google, and can't find your article, we encourage you to check there (after a suitable interval, of course) to see if it's appeared there but not on your own news server.

Why did you reject my post? [link]

One of these reasons. Every rejection notice includes an explanation of the reason, and a link to the relevant section of the charter.

Except for very obvious spam, articles are never silently rejected. If you posted with a valid return address, you will always be sent a reject notice. If you didn't get one, see above. If you got the notice don't understand the reason, contact us and ask for further explanation. If you don't agree with the reason, you can ask the moderators to reconsider.

Articles are approved or rejected on the basis of their conduct and topicality, not the merits of their opinions. The moderators never reject articles because they're offensive or distasteful -- and we're a difficult bunch of offend to begin with. The charter gives the moderators no leeway to judge opinions or evaluate facts, just to keep the peace, keep things on topic and reject abusive behavior.

How can I contest a rejection? [link]

If you diagree with the moderation of a particular article, contact the moderators and indicate as much, along with the reasons why you think the article should have been approved. Be sure to identify the article in question (include a copy if possible). The moderators will consider your objections as a group and reach a decision.

A contested rejection will be evaluated in terms of the newsgroup charter -- we suggest that you formulate your argument in light of the charter's requirements.

Why is the group moderated? [link]

Because Usenet, like the rest of the Internet, is infested with spammers -- spam destroyed alt.sex, and poses a serious threat to any unmoderated group on Usenet. To a slightly lesser extent, s.s.g is moderated to keep the most troublesome Usenet behaviors in check -- flames, substantially offtopic discussions, trolling and harassment, etc.

The newsgroup is not moderated with respect to the quality of a post, only for form and intent. We do not reject posts on the basis of the correctness of their facts, or the virtues of their opinions.

Isn't moderation censorship? [link]

In the sense that the moderators reject articles not conforming with the charter, yes. In the sense that s.s.g's moderation attempts to facilitate the exchange and promulgation of ideas, no. The newsgroup charter was designed to restrict the moderators' actions to the enforcement of apropriate conduct and protection of the overall conversational facility of the group. The charter does not provide the moderators with the power to suppress material they or others find objectionable.

The relationship between moderation and censorship has been debated on Usenet for years. For more, see the discussion of the issue in the moderated newsgroups FAQ.

How did that get past the moderators? Are you asleep at the switch? [link]

Every now and then you may notice a radically off-topic post, usually composed in an inflammatory fashion, which doesn't look like anything the moderators should have approved.

Well, chances are, they didn't. What you're looking at is most likely an approval forgery. Approval forgeries involve the exploitation of a misconfigured, compromised or rogue news server, which is accepting approved articles for s.s.g even though it should not. Once an article with a forged approval has been accepted, all of Usenet replicates it in the same way all news flows through the system. Rogue news servers are usually detected and killed fairly quickly, although there have been a few exceptions. Forgeries do not pass through the usual moderation process, and the moderators have no opportunity to reject the forgery as would be the case with a normal article.

Another, rarer form of forgery involves submitting an article through another moderated group -- it only takes one moderator approval to inject an article, even if two or more of the groups involved are moderated. For this reason, most moderation systems (including s.s.g's) auto-reject any article crossposted to two or more moderated groups. There have been incidents in the past where rogue auto-moderation systems were exploited by spammers to deliver spam to manually moderated groups.

As of 2005, most forgery attacks are done in large volume, so if you look in a few other newsgroups you may well see the same forgery. One of the most common forgery attacks is the joe job, in which the perpetrator attempts to damage the reputation and arouse animosity towards the victim, whose name is usually forged prominently on the posting. Don't assume that the sender of a suspected forgery is who they appear to be, and don't try to complain to the perceived sender -- in a joe job attack, that's exactly what the attacker is hoping for.

All articles legitimately approved by the moderators are cryptographically signed in a manner that is very difficult to forge. If you don't see both an Approved: header with the s.s.g signature address and a PGP signature in the X-Auth: header, it's a forgery. The moderators generally issue cancels on forged articles when they're noticed, and most large-scale forgery attacks are countered with mass-cancels to limit their impact. Since not all news servers honor cancels, participants on one server may see the forgery while those on another do not.

What's this about a whitelist? [link]

When (or if) the s.s.g moderators are satisfied that someone is capable of conducting themselves properly without continual proactive intervention, that poster may be added to a list of preapproved posters, whose articles generally are posted without human intervention (they are still moderated directly when participating in unruly threads, or if their messages look too much like spam.) Preapproved posters are monitored retroactively by the moderators reading the group, and may have their preapprovals quietly removed if their conduct warrants it.

The preapproval system exists for one reason: to reduce the load on the human moderators. It does not exist specifically for the purpose of improving conversational flow, or (as is occasionally argued) to elevate one group of posters above another. The moderators strive to process all articles promptly, regardless of their source, and do not apply different criteria or stridency in evaluating a post from a preapproved vs. normal poster.

Occasionally, when a thread gets unusually volatile, heads offtopic, or gets onto a particularly contentious or inflammatory topic (pedophilia and circumcision being two historical examples), the moderators will disable preapprovals for all posts in that thread, and handle all posts there by hand, regardless of who sent them.

My email address changed. Do I have to wait to be preapproved all over again? [link]

No, so long as we're able to verify your identity in some fashion, usually by contacting you at the old address. You can ask for a preapproval change by contacting the moderators.

Why do we need to contact you at the old address? It's because email (and Usenet) have no real authentication to tell us who sent something, so we have no way to know for sure that the person asking to have a preapproval changed to a new address (even if it's "sent from" the old one) is the same person who owns that address. So when you contact us, we'll send a note to the old address asking for confirmation; when you reply, you demonstrate that you're the same person who controls that address, closing the loop (learn more).

Can I stop receiving those notices whenever I post? [link]

Sure -- just ask. Be sure to include the email address under which you normally post to the group (in its munged form, if applicable).

Can I post via email instead? [link]

Yes, but it's a bit unusual. To make the submissions address resistant to automated harvesting by spammers, the address contains some punctuation characters -- these characters must not be removed from the address when sending mail to the group, or your submission will bounce. The address is this:

s.s.g submission address: submissions bang star at socsexualitygeneral dot org

Please, please, please never post this address to the newsgroup or elsewhere. If you need to tell someone else how to post via email, please refer them to this link.

When replying to a post via email, be sure to include a References: header with the Message-ID of the article you're replying to. Otherwise the thread will appear to split, appearing as a new top-level topic, much to the annoyance of other posters.