There are over 17,000 usenet groups with over 22 gig/day of messages. The scale of this persistent space, the messages across it, as well as its longevity make this an interesting interactive space. [whittaker]
Usenet interfaces bring messages from many remote users to the local user's space. Each user essentially sees the same messages within the usenet group. The inherent structure of usenet creates many of the boundaries and the notion this shared space. Usenet branches out from eight initial branches and continues to break into sub-branches. For example, the group comp.lang.java.gui originated from the comp branch.
The labels of the groups provide some background for the subject matter of the group. The previously mentioned java group discusses the issues involved in creating java gui interfaces. If someone were to post a message to that group about dog grooming, it would seem out of place (although there probably exists a group for such a question elsewhere).
Usenet is generally a public forum. Some groups have moderators which filter appropriate messages. Most don't. Anyone can read messages even if they do not participate in conversation. Those that post a message to a group can also cross-post or send it to other groups.
Even though the space is communal, usenet does have some governing laws. With some groups, the rules of the group are frequently posted. With others, users may find out what is appropriate by the responses they get to their messages. Common complaints are that the message topic is irrelevant to that group, the message is too long, the message is too mean, etc. Since it is not possible to remove someone from usenet, sometimes users get ostracized for violating these rules.
Usenet is asynchronous. Similar to email, one might receive a response immediately, months later, or perhaps not receive one at all. One interesting point is that sometimes the conversations go online. When this happens the conversation thread ends in the shared space and continues privately via email.
Interfaces for reading and posting usenet have not changed drastically. Systems such as rn and tin are text-based with key commands for the different functions. The Netscape interface very much resembles the Netscape email interface. It allows for more drag and drop functionality of the messages as well as a point and click interface.
Dejanews highlights the persistence of this shared space. One can access usenet messages from 1995 as well as seek all messages posted by a username. It also provides a means for users to post messages to usenet groups.