A. Usenet Basics
Tips for newbies


  1. Formatting Your Posts
  2. Replying and Quoting
  3. Trolls and Flame-Throwers

See also:

1. Formatting Your Posts

a. What settings should my newsreader have?

Please make sure your newsreader has the following settings. If you're having trouble, ask on the newsgroup or one of the groups above.

  • Plain Text:Please post in plain text *only* (no fancy fonts, no underlining/bold/italics, no HTML, no Word 97 documents).
  • Line Length: Please confine all posts to a maximum of 75 characters wide, as many newsreaders will not wrap the lines appropriately.

b. How do I put links in my posts?

If you want to post a link, put it on a new line and begin with http:// (not just www) as this will allow most newsreaders to make it into a clickable link, so it is a friendly things to do (save readers some work).

You can leave index.html off the end of any addresses as browsers will automatically look for a page with that name.
will do instead of


On the Internet in general, typing in all capital letters is considered shouting. Mixed case (small letters with appropriate capitals) is easiest for most people to read. Some people, ACs in particular, find it difficult to read all caps.

d. Can I send attachments to the group?

Simply put, no. Please do not post attachments (pictures, sounds, large documents etc). Most news servers will simply block any post containing an attachment posted to any group without "bin" or "binary" in its name. Some newsreaders will simply translate this into gibberish and send pages and pages of strange symbols to your reader's computers (not much fun). If you wish to share such things, it is advisable to put them on a webpage and put the URL (website address, link) in your post.

e. What should I do if I have lots of different things I want to discuss?

Please try to separate statements out so that different subjects come under different posts. This is not always possible or desirable, but posters who switch subjectseveral times in one post can be hard to follow and reply to.

f. How should I separate paragraphs?

It is conventional to place a blank line between each paragraph, as I have done in this FAQ. It makes it much easier to read, particularly in a long post. It should also be noted that many participants on a.s.a have difficulties with reading. Keeping paragraphs short can help readers understand your post.

2. Replying and Quoting

There are many arguments about how to reply to a post on Usenet. There are standard conventions and on a.s.a we have our preferred styles, briefly described below.

a. Should I leave in the post I'm replying to, or delete it?

Snip (delete) the parts of a post you're not responding to directly, but leave in some parts so people know what you're referring to.

Ian (Spyro the Dragon, aspie, and a.s.a's favourite dragon) explains why:

Any newsreader worth using threads posts (meaning, puts them into a little indented list, in order). This makes it easy to locate a previous post and see the discussion 'flow'.

In order that this system work well, it pays to remove all but the minimum of text from a message when replying. A rule of thumb is that if you are replying to a part of a message, quote at ***most*** 3-4 lines between your text. NOT MORE THAN THAT.

That should be enough to give someone who is following the thread the context for your reply. If they require more than that, the original post is right there in their newsreader, they can look it up.

PLEASE folks, learn to snip posts.

Anyone caught not snipping will be flame grilled and eaten by me.

b. Where in the post should I put my reply?

There are basically 3 options:
  1. On Top: (top posting) Encouraged by Microsoft software and hated by all computer nerds, top posting is strongly discouraged. The main reason for this is that the "conversation" comes out backwards.
  2. On the Bottom: (bottom posting) Is much preferred. It is important to remember to snip all but the most relevant part of your post so people don't have to scroll past pages of text they've already read.
  3. Intespersed: (quote, reply, quote, reply) This is the best way to reply to a long post. It makes it easy for the reader to tell what statement(s) you're replying to and to follow the "flow" of the conversation. You should still snip all but the parts that are absolutely necessary in order to understand the context.

    c. What are those '>' things?

    Most newsreaders put > at the beginning of each quoted line (">>" indicates a quote of a quote, etc). Try to avoid: << quoted text >> and (worse yet) "quoted text" to indicate quotes as it gets very confusing very quickly (and defeats the feature in some newsreaders which will italic, colour, or otherwise denote quoted text for easy reading)

    d. Example

    In the example below, one line quotes are used, but it's fine to quote several lines before each reply.

    > Where to you live?

    I'm in the UK

    > Are you on the spectrum?

    I was just diagnosed with Asperger's last week.

    Return to Top

    3. Trolls and Flame-throwers

    a. What is a troll?

    The Usenet "Troll" is not a hairy creature that lives under bridges, but a person who joins a newsgroup deliberately intending to cause fights and schisms between members. All newsgroups have their Trolls, and a.s.a. is generally considered to be not too bad - some newsgroup have almost been destroyed by them.

    b. Why do trolls do what they do?

    Trolls do what they do because they are callous, cruel people who enjoy hurting others. For example, we had a troll who joined the group and accused the parents of having caused autism in their children by abusing alcohol in pregnancy. This was obviously very hurtful to them, even though they knew it wasn't true.

    c. Am I being a troll?

    If you worry that you are troll, you are not!

    Trolls don't care about being accused of being a troll - it's in their nature.

    However, it is worth warning Newbies about them: With so many ACs on this newsgroup, who are vulnerable to manipulative and cruel people, due to their social skills deficits, and so many parents who are feeling guilty and afraid, these trolls can cause real emotional damage. They are the Internet equivalent of the playground bully.

    d. How do I recognise a troll?

    On a.s.a., the most common things trolls try to do are:

    • Set ACs and NT parents of ACs against one another.
    • Claim that ASDs are the result of bad parenting, child abuse, alcohol, drugs etc.
    • Make extreme statements about some therapy or practice used with AC children, implying that you are abusive if you don't agree with them (accusing parents of child-abuse is a common ploy, since they know how upsetting this can be).
    • Attempt to engender unwarranted sympathy by telling exagerated stories that don't make sense. For example, claiming to know a child who died/was severely brain-damaged when a psychiatric drug was used (usually Prozac, Ritalin or Paxil) but being unable to give any real details of the case (including miss-spelling the drug name, a tactic used to avoid being sued by the drug companies for libel). Sometimes these stories are actually listed on websites as urban legends. This is the most subtle form of trolling, and you are advised to be cautious if you think a story isn't true, but be careful about acusing potentially innocent people. Asking for clarification is probably the best tactic.

    [However, a post could meet all of these criteria and still be innocent - with the large numbers of ACs, and people with various neurological and mental health differences on the newsgroup, misunderstandings are probably inevitable. But remember: It's OK to make a mistake!]

    Some people on a.s.a. appear to be trolls, and do as much damage, but in reality, they may be mentally ill individuals who probably aren't aware of the harm they are causing. And some apparent trolls are simply ACs who have unusually strong opinions and don't understand the impact of those opinions on others. However, the treatment is the same.

    e. What should I do if I think someone is a troll?

    The most effective way we have found to avoid troll damage is not to respond to them. It's difficult to do, since many are extremely clever at provoking a reaction, and sometimes they make statements which absolutely must be challenged, but they won't stay on the newsgroup if no one is responding to them. Hence, our advice to you is:


    If you suspect someone is trolling you, don't respond, don't email him, don't post about him. Do nothing. Should he turn out simply to be a hot-headed AC with a determined opinion that he is perseverating on, no harm is done and if he is a troll, your lack of response should deter him. You will probably notice certain prolific posters who post controversial stuff and yet no one ever seems to respond to them - the chances are, this person is a troll who is being deliberately ignored.

Return to Top

previous index home next

Originally compiled by Anna Hayward on behalf of the alt.support.autism newsgroup, November 2000. Original site design and HTML by Kalen Molton. Please address any general queries to Mike Stanton. Broken links and problems of a technical nature should be addressed to John Muggleton by entering details in the comments box of the form here. Any opinions expressed in this article are personal and should not be construed as medical advice. We are not representatives of any of the companies discussed, nor do we receive any form of commission.

The latest version of this faq is at www.mugsy.org/asa_faq