Why should I not ask for a reply by email?
Many posters asking questions also ask for a reply to be sent to their email address instead of posted to alt.html. This does a disservice to the poster and people replying to that post and to other readers within the group.
Replying to the newsgroup is the norm, for a very good reason - peer-review. By posting to a newsgroup, all replies and answers are open to correction and clarification by the regular readers. This process allows both the original poster, and the participants in that thread to learn more about the topic of discussion since incorrect or inappropriate answers are pointed out and corrected, alternatives are suggested and discussed.
If a reply was done via email, then the onus is always on the original poster to check every single answer before actually implementing the solution. This treats Usenet as a lazy man's search engine, instead of a knowledge base of expertise and collaboration.
Many people ask for email replies because, they claim, that their newsserver doesn't keep posts for any length of time. This points out three common misconceptions about Usenet:
- Usenet is a helpdesk: This is not true at all. The reason so many experts spend a good deal of time on Usenet is to stay in touch with fellow experts, meet new people, keep informed of new trends and ideas - basically to socialise within a like-minded community. Their helpfulness is incidental - although completely welcome. They are looking to flex their skills with interesting problems and paradoxes - problems that they find interesting. No-one is compelled to answer any questions, and many posters displaying an expectance of an answer are normally ignored. Usenet is a discussion, not a game of twenty questions. It is a give-and-take community, what you put in, you always get back.
- Usenet posts are not archived: Again not true. Early in 2000 deja.com sold their Usenet archive to Google - the search engine specialists. A few months later Google launched a full Usenet Archive, with an archive history going back to early 1995. This archive is completely up-to-date, but not exactly realtime. So it is possible to find any thread discussed in alt.html and is widely available.
- Usenet is a realtime system: Yet again not true. It takes time for a post to replicate from one news server to another. This time span is anything from seconds to infinity. Sometimes posts are dropped because of network problems, space problems, filters or other preferences. Usenet is more of a batch processed system. For this reason, using the World Wide Web and a good search engine will give the poster an answer quicker, more completely, and a better chance of being correct than a Usenet post.