It’s been about six months since I ventured back onto Usenet, after essentially forgetting about it for several years. I moved to Dublin to work for my current employer, and I’ve only had limited Internet access at work. I’ve gradually learned that some of the limitations can be worked around, and some aren’t limitations at all.
A classic example is the way Telnet terminal sessions are not permitted to or from my company’s network, for security reasons. Telnet is about as basic as it gets: no encryption, passwords transmitted in plain text: no thanks. When I investigated hosting services for this web site, a few years ago, SSH (secure shell) access was on offer, and I initially ignored it, thinking it would be frowned on too… but it’s not, because of its secure functionality. I use it regularly in the management of this site, through the corporate firewall, and haven’t managed to break the server yet.
Usenet is another example, one I had no real success with when I landed here, so I gave up on it. I could have used a web gateway to Usenet, such things were available long before Google Groups cornered that market, but I had too much else going on to bother about it. It turns out that my company manages its own internally-accessible Usenet server, It doesn’t carry the suspicious newsgroups, such as those offering binary files, but I have no problem with that.
Since I ventured back on to Usenet, the results have been mixed. Some newsfroups* I looked at have cliques of entrenched characters who delight in the most abusive language conceivable, safe in the knowledge that the other cliquista won’t get offended, and everyone else should take the heat or get out of the kitchen.
One of the good newsfroups* is alt.music.mike-keneally, a generally safe environment with only a few nutters. (Hi Dougie!) I picked up the Mike Keneally Band’s new album “Dog” last year, and was bowled over by a few songs. “Bober”, in particular, sounded like nothing I had ever heard before: it’s what happens when technical and lyrical virtuosity are not ends in themselves, but work in the service of a larger and more emotional concept.
I allowed myself to run off at the keyboard a little, in the spirit of the newsgroup, describing what the song meant to me; not much exaggeration in there, but I’m normally more restrained about such things. I discovered yesterday that my Usenet post has been adopted by Mike as a positive review, and he’s had it posted on his official website as an endorsement of the album.
I couldn’t be happier, though I wrote to the webmaster with one slight correction to make: take off the Usenet nom-de-plume (stereoroid, of course) and put my real name on the quote. The way I put it was something like this: I don’t need to hide my appreciation of great art under a bushel. I have no problem standing up for music like Mike’s.
* Yes, that’s what I said: newsfroups. Look it up.
ps: I’ve just fixed a horrendous number of typos and grammos in this entry – think I was in a hurry when I wrote this…