|Date(s):||February 14, 1998|
|Click here for related articles on Fanlore.|
Alt.tv.sentinel was originally proposed in alt.config on February 14, 1998 and newgrouped on March 12, 1998.
FAQs and Information
1.1 What is alt.tv.sentinel?
Alt.tv.sentinel is an unmoderated USENET newsgroup for discussion of the television show The Sentinel. Newsgroups are not mailing lists, and do operate within different parameters. If you're new to newsgroups, please review the information in news.announce.newusers or at the news.newusers.questions website at http://www.geocities.com/ResearchTriangle/8211/ before jumping in.
1.2 How can I participate in alt.tv.sentinel?
1.2.1 My server doesn't have alt.tv.sentinel! What do I do?
1.2.2 What can I post to alt.tv.sentinel?
On-topic posts include discussion and interpretation of past or future episodes, character interaction, theories behind what we see on the screen, and general drooling. Episode spoilers are welcome, but please be meticulous about using spoiler warnings -- even if you think it's an old episode. USENET is international, and that episode you saw a year ago may be brand new to fans outside the US. News about the show and about other projects that the cast and crew are involved in are welcome; however, speculation about the cast's private lives is frowned on. Discussion of Sentinel fandom and fan activities are also on-topic.
USENET newsgroups reach thousands of servers with potentially millions of readers, and unlike a mailing list, no one keeps a registry of who's lurking and who's not. Your neighbor's children, your niece, and your boss could be reading your words. Remember that when deciding whether something is appropriate to post.
1.2.3 What shouldn't I post to alt.tv.sentinel?
Binaries of any kind are not welcome on alt.tv.sentinel -- even if they're Sentinel-related. They clog up the servers and many readers won't be able to download them properly. If you have Sentinel image files or sounds that you'd like to share, your best bet is to put them up on a webpage and include a very brief note about the site in a longer, on-topic message.
Please do not post html or MIME-encoded documents to alt.tv.sentinel. Many newsreaders can not handle these formats properly, and your message, no matter how relevant, will only cause frustration.
Advertising, website announcements, and other "public service announcements" which do not directly relate to the Sentinel are not welcome here, nor are messages which have been cross-posted to more than three newsgroups.
Do not cross-post or carbon copy messages between the newsgroup and any of the mailing lists. If you need to reach both audiences, send two separate messages. Cross-posting or CC:ing is likely to result in the mailing lists being flooded with follow-ups from non-members.
Never post or forward an email message unless you have the explicit permission of the sender. This includes messages which you have received from a mailing list. The mailing lists, while large, are still private discussions. Likewise, messages posted to alt.tv.sentinel should not be forwarded elsewhere without the explicit permission of the original poster. Popular mythology to the contrary, messages posted to the Internet are not public domain. They are copyrighted material, whether marked as such or not.
Don't post personal messages to one or a few people to the newsgroup, where it will take up space on thousands of servers, time on thousands of phone lines, and annoy thousands of people. Use email instead. If your email is bouncing, first check to see that you haven't missed any spam-blockers in their address. If you're sure you have the right address and it's still not working, try contacting a mutual friend instead.
Don't post your (or anyone else's) phone number, snailmail address, or other personal information to the newsgroup. It would be safer to take out a billboard, or maybe skywrite it. If someone you know and trust needs the information, email them privately.
1.2.4 What if my ad is Sentinel-related?
Ads for Sentinel-related merchandise such as zines or conventions are allowed, but should not be posted more than once per month and must be labeled with the [AD] keyword in the subject header. Please do not post solely to make a website announcement; instead, include your URL in your signature file or mention it as an aside in a longer, on-topic message.
1.2.5 What about fiction?
Snippets (defined as fiction 200 words or less) are welcome on alt.tv.sentinel. Fiction longer than 200 words is welcome only until such time as alt.tv.sentinel.creative is established.
Subject headers for fan fiction should be in the [STORY] Title x/y [Rating] [Warnings] format, where x is the number of the story fragment, y is the total number of fragments in the story, and the rating is G, PG, PG-13, R, or NC-17. Warnings should be included in the beginning of your post if there isn't room on the subject line and should include enough information to allow readers to avoid content that might disturb them, such as non-canon pairings (slash or het), death stories, or discussion of sensitive subjects (such as abuse or rape). You should also include a brief note at the beginning indicating whether or not you want your story archived at Guide Posts (the gen archive) or 852 Prospect (both care of Merry) or the Sentinel Slash Archive (care of Michelle).
1.2.6 When should I use keyword headers?
Including keyword tags in your subject headers is an important way to help readers with limited time choose which threads they want to download or read first. As already mentioned, fiction and Sentinel-related ads are borderline topics and should always be prefaced with the [AD] or [STORY] tags. Posts that have more to do with One West Waikiki than with The Sentinel should be marked with [OWW]. Off-topic posts should be kept to a minimum, and prefaced with [OT] when you do send them. Messages that contain episode spoilers should always have the [SPOILER] tag and should also identify the episode being spoiled in the subject header. Failing to mark these types of posts appropriately can generate a lot of ill will toward you.
Other subject headers are an extra courtesy rather than an expected custom. The [META] tag is used to mark discussions about the functioning of the newsgroup itself. Tags like [SW], [DC], or [AUS] can be used to mark threads that are of regional interest only, such as party announcements.
1.2.7 My posts are on-topic and tagged correctly, so why is everyone annoyed with me?
Think of the possibilities -- instead of bugging only your close friends, with USENET you can annoy thousands, perhaps millions, of complete strangers! Not to mention dozens of people who you might have become friends with it if you hadn't made a bad impression on them first.
The best way to annoy people on USENET is by posting off-topic messages or anything in the off-charter formats listed in section 1.2.3. But even if you're careful to keep your posts on-topic and plain text, you'll still have plenty of options for annoying people.
One good way is by typing in all capital letters. This is the online equivalent of shouting, and is guaranteed to irritate your readers, as well as making your post difficult on the eyes. Another is using multiple exclamation points, although this won't annoy quite as many people as using all caps. Since spammers use multiple exclamations so frequently, many readers have their systems configured to ignore all messages with !!! in the subject header, and they'll never even see your terribly important message. Which may be a good thing for your public image -- small children, kittens, and Blair may be cute jumping up and down in excitement, but very few other people are.
You can waste people's time and contribute to the overall slowness of the net by asking redundant questions or making redundant replies. How do you know if it's redundant? Well, if you're new to alt.tv.sentinel and are looking for information, check the FAQs first. Chances are someone has asked your question before, and the group has heard it too many times already. Even if you've read the FAQ in the past, look here anyway -- it may have been updated to include what you're looking for. When someone else is asking the question and you're answering, be sure to read through the whole thread before replying and make sure someone else hasn't already answered it. Messages show up on different servers at different rates, so you can't guarantee that no one else has responded, but it's still worth checking. When responding to any thread, make sure you have something unique to add. No one likes downloading 200 words worth of headers just to read "me too!"
Make sure your signature file is less than five lines. If the actual content of your post is only a few lines, don't include your signature at all. Long signatures or ones that are longer than the body of the message are another good way to waste bandwidth.
By far, the most common way to annoy people these days is by quoting long messages unnecessarily. Please, if your software has an automatic "quote when replying" feature, turn it off. Many many people will breathe sighs of relief. If you're intentionally quoting something, include only the parts of the original message that are directly relevant to your reply, and never include quotes-within-quotes. Again, make sure there's more original content in your message than there is quoted material.
1.3 What should I do if a message on the newsgroup is inappropriate?
First, take a deep breath. Go away. Do something else for fifteen minutes -- or 24 hours, whatever it takes.
Next, look carefully at their message. Is it off-topic? Is it in violation of the charter? Not do you wish it were in violation, but is it? And is it really worth your time and energy to respond?
If it is in violation of the charter or listed in the "things I shouldn't post" section above, a quiet, polite, private email to the poster will usually do the trick. Don't even get into the politics of it; just refer them to the charter or FAQ, diplomatically point out where they're in violation, and leave it at that. If someone continues to send verboten posts after you've sent them mail, a public (emailed and posted) but still diplomatic message may be appropriate. In extreme cases, a polite note to the offender's ISP may be called for, but this should be used only when someone is severely disrupting the newsgroup over a matter of time.
If it's not off-topic and it's not in violation of the charter -- breathe, remember? Is it really worth responding to? If it is, may I suggest repeating "I'm letting this go..." ten times before you start typing? The neighbor's children and your boss, remember?
[snipped here is information about]:
- 1.4 What do all these acronyms mean?
- 1.5 Where is the a.t.s charter?
- 2.0 About "The Sentinel"
- 2.1 What is "The Sentinel"?
- 2.2 Where can I see it?
- 2.3 Who are Bilson and Demeo and why should I care?
- 2.4 How can I contact the show?
- 3.0 About the Fandom
- 3.1 Where else can I find Sentinel fans online?
- 3.1.1 What other newsgroups are there?
- 3.1.2 What about mailing lists?
- 3.1.3 What's available on the web?
- 3.2 What about off-line fandom?
- 3.2.1 Are there any off-line fan clubs?
- 3.2.2 Where can I buy zines?
- 3.2.3 Hey, when's the convention?
- 4.0 Miscellaneous Questions
- 4.1 Where can I get tapes of previous episodes?
- 4.2 Who is Mack, what is One West Waikiki and why do they keep cropping up in discussion?
- 4.3 This isn't a music group -- why do people keep mentioning Fiona Apple?
- 5.0 About this FAQ
A 1999 Discussion About the Rules and Warnings
Someone asked recently about who "made the rules" for the newsgroup. Shannara issued the controlgroup message for ats, and she wrote the charter. I wrote the FAQ, but that's not quite the same as "making the rules". Most of the rules listed in the FAQ, such as not posting binaries, are the common rules and guidelines of USENET culture -- part of the "social contract" that has evolved over time since the beginning of the Internet. Many of these rules have technical reasons behind them, mostly concerning the conservation of bandwidth; others are things that the early users of the Internet discovered through experience to simply be the best way to keep the newsgroups productive and satisfying for the most number of people. Once upon a time, most Internet readers who were no longer newbies knew these guidelines. :-) Unfortunately, once we were discovered by the mass culture and newbies suddenly outnumbered the old-timers, passing on these guidelines to everyone who needed to know became a much more difficult proposition, with the result that we now have chaos, with a large minority of people who couldn't care less about proper Internet behavior, a very large majority of people who would care if they knew there was such a thing, but were never exposed to it in their newbie days, and a very small minority of net.cops running around desperately trying to keep our cultural structure intact. :-)
Obviously, not everything in the charter and FAQ fall under that category. The charter had to pass approval on alt.config before the newsgroup could be created, and both the charter and the FAQ were sent for discussion and approval to a small group of the newsgroup's original proponents. We went to some effort to make sure everyone on the mailing lists (sentries, senad, and the raft, at least; I think those were still the only lists back then) knew about the discussion and was invited to join. I think the final group ended up with about 20 people; I don't know how many of those are still here. Actually, I'm not sure how many of them ever showed up here; I suspect I'm not the only one from that group who knew they wouldn't have time to participate in the newsgroup regularly, but just wanted to make sure the newsgroup had the benefit of experienced USENET users to allow it to get off the ground properly.
There are a few things in the charter and FAQ that I personally disagree with. Changing the charter of a newsgroup, however, should be undertaken only when it's truly necessary and with the active participation of a large number of readers. Changing the FAQ is much easier; it merely requires changing the FAQ-writer's mind. :-) Hopefully, anyone who volunteers to handle a FAQ will be responsible enough to allow the newsgroup or majority consensus to take preference over hir personal feelings (hence, the parts I disagree with, even though I wrote the durn thing).
Since it looks like you've been discussing them anyway, I'll mention those things I disagree with. I personally would rather this was a discussion-only group (with maybe the occasional snippet). It would avoid a lot (not all, but a lot) of the slash-vs-gen bickering, and more importantly (in my opinion), the lower the volume of a group is, the more likely messages are to stay on a given server, and the easier it is for people who can't read news every day to keep up with the discussions. Fiction is easier to read from the archives anyway. Obviously, however, there are a lot of people who _do_ want fiction available on a newsgroup, either this one or the hypothetical a.t.s.creative. With that in mind, we had to determine what kinds of fiction and what kind of headers were appropriate.
Yes, I believe (perhaps incorrectly) that most of the original actively-involved proponents were either slashers or bifictional, and the charter and FAQ explicitly allow for slash. I believe strongly that inclusion should be the standard and that if people can't deal with being exposed to something they don't like, then they bear the responsibility for creating their own space. We created alt.tv.sentinel because we didn't want to read all the non-Sentinel messages on rec.arts.tv, get it? We didn't ask that rec.arts.tv become a Sentinel-only group. :-) And at the time (it may not be the case anymore, I haven't kept up with all the new mailing lists that have been created in the last couple years) there was a real, serious need for an inclusive discussion group. Both Sentries and Senad had problems of their own and there was nowhere really to go for intelligent discussion where your fictional preferences didn't matter.
Now, one of the reasons why I drifted away from the newsgroup is because, regardless of the preferences of the original proponents, it did seem to develop a gen majority, and I just wasn't in the mood back then to deal with homophobia, even if it is only the sort of quiet homophobia that requests that I clearly label my presence so people don't run into evidence of my existence without warning. But you know, the newsgroup has to serve the needs of the people who are actually using it, and if more genners were posting than slashers, well, then, that's that. If the slashers don't like it, it's up to them to post more, not complain about what's already posted. I knew that, and just didn't have time to write more; it was my decision to drift away; there wasn't any Big Bad Gen Majority stealing my keyboard. Even if they tried, they couldn't; that's why we made sure the charter was inclusive. Likewise, if it's the slash posts that are in the majority, and genners don't like it, well, then, it's up to the genners to post more. I have no sympathy for any notion of people being "scared away"; no one's forcing you to read anything, and no one's keeping you from posting yourself. No one can force a newsgroup to be anything (at least not in the alt.* hierarchy); all you can do is help it evolve by participating.
Now, off my soapbox tangent and back on track: once we decided to allow fiction, we had to agree on what headers were appropriate. What the charter says is "message headers should include STORY in the subject line, as well as a movie-type rating: G, PG, PG-13, R or NC-17 to indicate which audiences the story is appropriate for, and if the story is a romance, the first initials of the characters involved in the romance, such as J/B (Jim/Blair) or J/f (Jim/female) or S/B (Simon/Blair)".
Now, unlike the FAQ, which represents guidelines and common culture, a newsgroup's charter _is_ official rules, and you can be kicked off the Internet for violations of the charter, if your violations are disruptive enough to the newsgroup to prompt other readers to complain to your ISP. And yes, complaining to someone's ISP _is_ the appropriate response to someone whose charter violations are truly disruptive, certainly more appropriate than starting a flame war which will only disrupt discussion further. (And no, I'm not suggesting anyone's been disruptive; merely discussing hypothetical situations for the benefit of newbies.)
Unlike a mailing list, it's impossible to control or even monitor the audience of a newsgroup. With that in mind, I would have preferred that R and NC-17 rated fiction be excluded, but I was outvoted. Ah well. As for marking slash with a [SLASH] or similar header, it may bug the bejeezus out of me (I wear pink triangles because I like them; I thought wearing them because we were required to died fifty years ago, mutter grumble mutter growl) but as long as I'm NOT a regular participant in the newsgroup, what I think isn't worth a rat's ass. (actually worth quite a _bit_ less than some Rat's rears :-) Sorry, I'm on a Krycek kick lately.) If the majority of the group wants to add it to the FAQ, well, I refuse to write it that way, but I'm not going to be in charge of the FAQ much longer anyway. (Unless I hear some major objections before the end of the month, I'll officially turn it over to cmshaw with the new year.) However, remember that the FAQ does contain only guidelines (except where it's elaborating on the charter); if someone wants to ignore those guidelines, there's nothing you can really do about it. The only way to make it a rule is to go through the hassle of changing the charter.Regardless of whether you want everyone to use a [SLASH] header or not, it does not absolve writers, slash, gen, or het, from the responsibility of using the headers that already are required by the charter. There are a couple advantages that using the pairing headers has over a [SLASH] header. It makes it easier to find just the pairings you want, and it does not discriminate between slash and het stories. This is a pet peeve of mine: het stories are NOT gen, and it drives me just as crazy when a het story isn't marked as such as it does other people when slash stories aren't marked, especially when the het stories in question are also adult. Using the pairing headers gives the reader more information, and it's just as easy to put J/B in your filters list as it is to put [SLASH] in your filters list. And since most newsreaders show a limited number of characters in your Subject line, using the (shorter) pairing headers allows more information to show up in the Subject line. 
- FAQ, Charter, etc. (December 1999), see the post for MUCH discussion about warnings, labeling, photomanips, and more.