How to Format and Submit a New Group Proposal

Original-author: Russ Allbery <rra@cs.stanford.edu>
Last-change: 10 Feb 1996 by rra@cs.stanford.edu (Russ Allbery)

This document is intended for those who are preparing to propose the creation or reorganization of a group in the comp, humanities, misc, news, rec, sci, soc, or talk hierarchies (known collectively as the Big Eight). The first step in such a proposal is to submit a Request for Discussion (RFD) to news.announce.newgroups. In an effort to aid computer parsing of RFDs and to ensure that each RFD is complete, a standard format for RFDs has been developed. This document describes that format.

This is a companion to "How to Create a New Usenet Newsgroup", posted in news.announce.newusers, news.groups, news.admin.misc, news.announce.newgroups and news.answers, and to "How to Write a Good Newsgroup Proposal", posted in news.announce.newgroups and news.groups. The former describes the requirements for group creation and the latter gives advice about the actual substance of presuasive proposals. It is recognized that this information can use reorganizing, and that is a project we hope to have done sooner rather than later.

To the first-time group proponent this may seem unnecessarily pedantic, but a standard format allows automation of a large portion of the newsgroup creation process making it more accurate and efficient. A standard format also helps you, the proponent, by ensuring that you don't forget to include important information.

First is a description of the format, followed by a blank template for an RFD and a sample RFD that illustrates most of the format. Many people will find it easy enough to work from the blank template, but if you are having trouble or want to understand why things are a bit better than the other two sections should be helpful. Search for "RFD Template" to skip to the blank template, and "Sample RFD" to find the sample.

Because of the increasing load of submissions to news.announce.newgroups that are not group proposals (and often aren't relevant to Usenet group management at all), it is planned that eventually all submissions will be verified against the format described here before anyone besides the submitter even sees it. Any submissions that are automatically returned will include error messages that can be reconciled with the described format.

RFD Format Description

There are three parts to the final article that will be posted in news.announce.newgroups: the header, the summary and the body.

I. The Header

The header follows the standards for Usenet articles. As the submitter of a proposal, your only requirement is to provide a From: header, a Subject: header, and a Newsgroups: header. (See below for more on the actual submission process.)

The following other headers will appear on an RFD:

Path: is used by the news software to manage propagation of articles. The final element is "bounce-back", to guard against old software which incorrectly tries to use the Path: header for routing mail replies to messages. Attempts to send mail to that address will result in a email rejection message being returned to the sender.

Date: shows the time and day the article was posted. This is the date on which other calculation of the process timeline are based. A CFV for a proposal cannot be advanced until at least 21 days from the date of the first RFD, or ten days from any subsequent RFD, whichever is later. If more than two months have passed since the most recent RFD on the proposal then another RFD is required before it can go to vote.

Message-ID: is a unique identifier for the article on the network; no other article should have the same message-id, so you can use it to specifically refer to just that message.

Followup-To: directs posted replies to your proposal to the group news.groups, where discussion about your proposal is supposed to occur.

Approved: shows who caused the article to appear in news.announce.newgroups. If the article is cross-posted to other moderated groups, it might also list the addresses of the moderators of the other groups.

Archive-name: shows where the proposal will be stored in the archive at: <URL:ftp://ftp.uu.net/usenet/news.announce.newgroups>.

II. The Summary

The first section of an RFD is the summary, which begins with the heading

                     REQUEST FOR DISCUSSION (RFD)
followed by a list of the proposed groups and/or proposed group changes. The first line always appears as above, even for subsequent postings of a revised RFD.

The entire summary is centered (the news.announce.newgroups posting software will do that for you if your software cannot) and contains no blank lines. Each line should be in one of the following formats:

unmoderated group foo.bar
Proposing the creation of a new unmoderated group named foo.bar. Replace "unmoderated" with "moderated" if the group is to be moderated.
unmoderated group foo.bar (renames foo.baz)
Proposing the renaming of foo.baz to foo.bar. Again, replace "unmoderated" with "moderated" if the group is to be moderated.
moderated group foo.bar (moderates existing group)
Proposing changing the moderation status of foo.bar from unmoderated to moderated.
unmoderated group foo.bar (unmoderates existing group)
Proposing changing the moderation status of foo.bar from moderated to unmoderated.
REMOVE foo.bar (renamed to foo.baz)
Proposing the removal of foo.bar. Whenever a group is removed, the removal is performed by renaming the group to the name of an already existing group (indicating that the traffic that is currently going to the removed newsgroup should go to that group instead).
If the summary line goes over 80 columns, let it; don't try to split it across multiple lines (this is to aid computer parsing of your RFD).

III. The Body

0. General format information.

Lines should be ragged right with a right margin of column 70; this means that in free-form text (lines that do not have a formal requirement as part of the RFD format) there should not be more than 70 characters between newline characters. Please do not set the right margin less than column 60 or justify paragraphs to both margins.

Paragraphs should have no leading indentation and should be separated by an empty line; i.e., the format used for this document.

When the RFD is submitted, all tabs will be converted to spaces, all trailing whitespace on lines removed, and all trailing empty lines truncated. Other whitespace in text required by this format is significant; for example, section identifiers must have an empty line both before and after the line and cannot have extraneous whitespace ("CHARTER: group.name", not "CHARTER: group.name").

When e-mail addresses are required, like when listing the proponents or moderators, the address should be enclosed in angle brackets (<>). Anything that looks like an address enclosed in parentheses (()) will have the parentheses changed to angle brackets; this facilitates easier cutting-and-pasting directly to mail programs.

1. Noting changes for repeat RFDs.

If this is a second or later RFD on the same proposal, a section should be added here beginning with the heading "CHANGES from previous RFD:" and listing all changes from the previous RFD. A repeat of the RFD should only be posted if there was a notable change or it has been more than two months since the previous RFD. Notable changes include any change at all to the proposed name, a switching of the proposed moderation status, or a significant alteration to the charter. A minor change to the rationale or charter does not warrant a repeat RFD.

2. Brief newsgroup description.

Before the rest of the RFD should be a listing of the newsgroup lines for the proposed newsgroups. These are the one-line descriptions that are associated with the groups and shown in some news readers. They should look like:

Newsgroups line:
foo.bar                 foobar and associated topics.
(or "lines"). The description should end in a period, and (Moderated) should be added to the end of the description (after the period) if the group is moderated. There must be a newsgroup line for every group in the proposal except those which are being removed.

There is a limit on the length of the newsgroup line. The quick and dirty check is to make sure that the newsgroup followed by a tab and the description doesn't exceed 80 columns (not counting the (Moderated) tag). The more complex check, done by the posting software, is to add 24 or the length of the newsgroup name plus a tab (based on tab stops every eight columns), whichever is longer, to the length of the description (not counting the (Moderated) tag) and ensure that it doesn't exceed 80 columns.

Longer group names do reduce the amount of descriptive text that can be used, but they are generally more descriptive themselves.

3. Brief summary of what an RFD is.

It is also a good idea to add a short paragraph to this section explaining what an RFD is for those who haven't encountered one before. For an example of such a paragraph, see the template.

4. The Rationale.

The rationale is where you make your argument in favor of the proposal. See "How to Write a Good Newsgroup Proposal" for more information on what makes a persuasive rationale.

The rationale for a single group should begin with a header in the form:

        RATIONALE: group.name
If the proposal includes multiple groups and there is only one rationale for the entire proposal, use a header of the form:

        RATIONALE: all groups
There can be both a rationale for all groups and separate rationales for individual groups that need more argument, but every group in the proposal should have an associated rationale (either specific to it or an "all groups" one). "RATIONALE: all groups" can appear to be something of a cop-out to really doing the work if a specific justification for each group being proposed is not made.

There is no special marker to indicate the end of a rationale.

5. The Charter.

Every group in the proposal which is not being removed must have an associated charter, even if it is not a new group. The charter is a brief statement of what topics should be discussed in the group. See "How to Write a Good Newsgroup Proposal" for what is expected in a group charter.

It should begin with the header:

        CHARTER: group.name
and end with:

        END CHARTER.
Each of these lines must have an empty line preceding and following it.

Each group must have its own separate charter. If there is information common to all groups in the proposal, a separate section beginning with:

        CHARTER: all groups
can be added, and that information will be appended to the charters of each individual group. However, unlike the "RATIONALE: all groups", "CHARTER: all groups" is not accepted as a complete substitute for group-specific information.

6. Moderator Information.

Each group in the proposal which is to be moderated must have an associated moderator info section. This section begins with the header:

        MODERATOR INFO: group.name
ends with:

        END MODERATOR INFO.
and must contain a header in the form:

        Moderator:  Moderator Name <email@address>
As with the charter identifiers, each of these lines must have an empty line preceding and following it.

The moderator information section is intended just for information about the particular moderators who are being proposed for the group, like their names and qualifications. Declarations about expected moderation policies belong in the charter section.

7. Procedure

It is standard for an RFD to contain a boilerplate procedure section containing information for a person who has never encountered an RFD before. It is intended to be relatively brief and not a complete introduction to newsgroup politics. The text of such a section is given in the template. Rather than just using a different description, please suggest how this one can be improved.

The Procedure section begins with the heading PROCEDURE:.

8. Distribution.

Finally, all newsgroups and mailing lists to which the RFD is distributed should be listed in a section beginning with the header DISTRIBUTION:. As mentioned below, the total length of the Newsgroups: header is limited to 200 characters. If you plan to post pointers to the RFD to additional newsgroups, list them here, as well as any mailing lists to which the proposal is being sent.

If you are sending it to mailing lists, it is most helpful for potentially interested subscribers if you not only include the email address for the list but also include a brief description (one or two lines at most) of what it is about and the subscription address that new members should use to join.

9. Proposal Sponsor Information

If your signature is not included, or even if it is, you can include the information about who is advancing the proposal and which group-mentor helped.

The proponents should be listed as:

Proponent: Proponent First <email@address>
Proponent: Proponent Second <email@address>
And the mentor:

Mentor: Mentor <email@address>

10. Signature

The traditional "signature" section, often appended automatically by mail and news software, should be no longer than four lines. If it is longer than four lines, then it will either be edited to have most of the important contact information fit within four lines or it will be completely elided.

The signature will be separated from the rest of the body with a single line of the characters "-- ", per traditional network usage.

Submitting Your RFD

The best way to submit your RFD for publication is to mail it to newgroups@uunet.uu.net. Trying to post it with your news software has several more possible pitfalls that make it less likely that it will be properly delivered to the news.announce.newgroups moderator.

The Subject: header of your submission should look like:

        Subject: RFD: group.name
(with the word "moderated" following group.name if the group is moderated) if the proposal is for a single group.

Something reasonable like:

        Subject: RFD: group.name.* reorganization
should be used if the proposal is for multiple groups or a reorganization. If this isn't the first RFD, "2nd", "3rd", "4th" or so on should precede "RFD". The "RFD:" part is what will immediately identify it as submission of a formal proposal.

In the start of the body, include your normal email From: header and repeat the Subject: line. Also list the groups to which you wish your proposal to be posted. This line must start with:

        Newsgroups: news.announce.newgroups,news.groups
and is limited to a total of 200 characters (so you're allowed an additional 153 characters for the remaining newsgroups). Please note whether any of the groups are moderated. It helps speed the process and make the news.announce.newgroups's moderators life just a little easier if you contact the moderators of any of the other moderated groups and secure prior approval for cross-posting the RFDs, CFVs and RESULT to their group. It is possible that other moderated groups will otherwise be mailed separately for reposting when the article is processed for posting, and this is not the best use of resources.

Sample start of news.announce.newgroups submission body:

  From: dww@bnr.co.uk (David Wright)
  Subject: RFD: comp.ai.announce moderated
  Newsgroups: news.announce.newgroups,news.groups,comp.ai,comp.ai.edu,comp.ai.genetic,comp.ai.neural-nets,comp.ai.vision

  comp.ai.vision is moderated.  The moderator has approved
  cross-posting using his tag "vision@ads.com".
If a group does not exist at the news.announce.newgroups moderator's site, it will not be included in cross-posting. This is especially relevant to very low volume alt.* groups or regional newsgroups.

Messages intended for news.announce.newgroups should not publicly appear anywhere -- not in news.groups or other groups, not on mailing lists -- before they are published in news.announce.newgroups. The time of publication of an article in news.announce.newgroups is the official time by which the beginning of each stage of the group creation process is measured. The admonishment against submitting the message elsewhere is to combat confusion that can be caused by it, especially if some discussion with the group-advice crew leads to a change in the proposal.

After an article has appeared in news.announce.newgroups, if you wish for it to have additional distribution beyond the original Newsgroups: line, then you can take the message as it appears in news, not the copy that you mailed, and forward it without additional comment to the other forums in which you want it to appear. Better still, just post a brief message stating that there is a proposal active to create or change a newsgroup on the particular topic your proposal is about, with a pointer to the proposal in news.announce.newgroups and a remark that discussion is being held in news.groups. For example:

  A formal proposal to create a new group on stamp collecting,
  tentatively named rec.collecting.stamps, has just been posted to
  news.announce.newgroups as <rec.collecting.stamps-RFD1@uunet.uu.net>.
  If it is not available at your site, you can find it in
  URL:ftp://ftp.uu.net/usenet/news.announce.newgroups/rec/rec.collecting.stamps.

  Suggestions for improvements to this proposal are welcome.
  Discussion about it should take place in news.groups.  A vote is
  expected to be held in about three to four weeks.
The news.announce.newgroups moderator can send it to the mailing lists at the time of posting, as long as he is provided with the submission address for the list and people not on the list are allowed to mail to it. Please make the request for him to do so at the start of the message.

RFD Template

From: Your Name <your@e-mail.address>
Subject: RFD: group.name
Newsgroups: news.announce.newgroups,news.groups,add.more.groups.here

                     REQUEST FOR DISCUSSION (RFD)
                     unmoderated group group.name

CHANGES from previous RFD:

[ List changes if this is a second or later RFD, otherwise delete this
  section. ]

Newsgroup line:
group.name    Group description.

This is a formal Request For Discussion (RFD) for the creation of a
world-wide unmoderated Usenet newsgroup group.name.  This is not a
Call for Votes (CFV); you cannot vote at this time.  Procedural
details are below.

RATIONALE: group.name

[ Rationale for the group goes here. ]

CHARTER: group.name

[ Charter for the group goes here. ]

END CHARTER.

MODERATOR INFO: group.name

Moderator:  Some Moderator <someone@somewhere.org>

[ Other moderation notes go here.  Delete this section if the group
  isn't moderated. ]

END MODERATOR INFO.

PROCEDURE:

This is a request for discussion, not a call for votes.  In this phase
of the process, any potential problems with the proposed newsgroups
should be raised and resolved.  The discussion period will continue
for a minimum of 21 days (starting from when the first RFD for this
proposal is posted to news.announce.newgroups), after which a Call For
Votes (CFV) may be posted by a neutral vote taker if the discussion
warrants it.  Please do not attempt to vote until this happens.

All discussion of this proposal should be posted to news.groups.

This RFD attempts to comply fully with the Usenet newsgroup creation
guidelines outlined in "How to Create a New Usenet Newsgroup" and "How
to Format and Submit a New Group Proposal".  Please refer to these
documents (available in news.announce.newgroups) if you have any
questions about the process.

DISTRIBUTION:

[ Newsgroup and mailing list distribution of the RFD goes here. ]

Sample RFD


From: Russ Allbery <rra@cs.stanford.edu>
Subject: RFD: rec.travel.* reorganization
Newsgroups: news.announce.newgroups,news.groups,rec.travel.ered-luin,rec.travel.mordor,rec.travel.rivendell,rec.travel.numenor,rec.arts.books.tolkien,alt.books.tolkien

rec.travel.mordor is moderated.  The moderator has approved
cross-posting using his tag "sauron@ritz.mordor.com".


                     REQUEST FOR DISCUSSION (RFD)
                  unmoderated group rec.travel.shire
                  moderated group rec.travel.valinor
unmoderated group rec.travel.blue-mountains (renames rec.travel.ered-luin)
   unmoderated group rec.travel.mordor (unmoderates existing group)
   moderated group rec.travel.rivendell (moderates existing group)
      REMOVE rec.travel.numenor (renamed to rec.scuba.locations)

This is a formal Request For Discussion (RFD) for the reorganization
of the Middle Earth groups in the rec.travel.* hierarchy.  This is not
a Call for Votes (CFV); you cannot vote at this time.  Procedural
details are below.

CHANGES from previous RFD:

If there was a previous RFD for this same reorganization, a list of
the changes between it and this RFD would go here.

Newsgroup lines:
rec.travel.shire        Travel to the Shire and surrounding areas.
rec.travel.valinor      Dreams of travel to Valinor.  (Moderated)
rec.travel.blue-mountains       Travel to Ered Luin (the Blue Mountains).
rec.travel.mordor       Travel to Mordor and the health risks thereof.
rec.travel.rivendell    Travel to Rivendell.  (Moderated)


RATIONALE: rec.travel.shire

Here would go the rationale for this particular proposed newsgroup.
This could be omitted if there is just one rationale for the entire
proposal, such as the next section....

RATIONALE: all groups

Instead, I could have a section like this covering the entire proposal
and starting with "all groups."  I could also have a combination of
the two, like this, if one particular part of the proposal needs a
special rationale section.  The only requirement is that every group
in the proposal have a rationale, whether one specifically for that
group or an "all groups" rationale.

CHARTER: rec.travel.shire

This is the charter for rec.travel.shire.

END CHARTER.

CHARTER: rec.travel.valinor

This is the charter for rec.travel.valinor.  It would be relatively
more important since rec.travel.valinor is being proposed as a
moderated newsgroup.  So it would probably have this subsection:

Moderation policies:

This is where you would describe the policies by which the moderators
of the group are expected to abide.

END CHARTER.

MODERATOR INFO: rec.travel.valinor

Moderator:  Russ Allbery <rra@cs.stanford.edu>

Each moderated group has to have a MODERATOR INFO section containing a
Moderator: line like the above.  Comments can also be added like this,
to describe the proposed moderators.  Moderation policies should be
described in the charter for the group.

END MODERATOR INFO.

CHARTER: rec.travel.blue-mountains

This is the charter for rec.travel.blue-mountains.

END CHARTER.

CHARTER: rec.travel.mordor

This is the charter for rec.travel.mordor.

END CHARTER.

CHARTER: rec.travel.rivendell

This is the charter for rec.travel.rivendell.  Note that every
proposed newsgroup, including those that are just renamings or
moderation changes, must have an associated charter, and each group
must have its own charter (no "all groups" allowed here).  If it is a
renaming, unless there is a reason to update the charter, you should
probably use the charter from the group as found in the control
message archive: 
<URL:ftp://ftp.uu.net/usenet/control/>

END CHARTER.

MODERATOR INFO: rec.travel.rivendell

Moderator:  Russ Allbery <rra@cs.stanford.edu>

END MODERATOR INFO.

CHARTER: all groups

This is a supplemental charter section that applies to all the above
groups.  It's optional and does not replace any of the above charters,
nor does it mean that any of the regular group charters can be
omitted.  When the group is created, this section will be appended to
the individual charter in each group's creation message.

END CHARTER.

PROCEDURE:

This is a request for discussion, not a call for votes.  In this phase
of the process, any potential problems with the proposed newsgroups
should be raised and resolved.  The discussion period will continue
for a minimum of 21 days (starting from when the first RFD for this
proposal is posted to news.announce.newgroups), after which a Call For
Votes (CFV) will be posted by a neutral vote taker.  Please do not
attempt to vote until this happens.

All discussion of this proposal should be posted to news.groups.

This RFD attempts to comply fully with the Usenet newsgroup creation
guidelines outlined in "How to Create a New Usenet Newsgroup" and "How
to Format and Submit a New Group Proposal".  Please refer to these
documents (available in news.announce.newgroups) if you have any
questions about the process.

DISTRIBUTION:

This RFD has been posted to the following newsgroups:

  news.announce.newgroups, news.groups,
  rec.travel.ered-luin, rec.travel.mordor,
  rec.travel.rivendell, rec.travel.numenor,
  rec.arts.books.tolkien, alt.books.tolkien

and the following mailing list:

  tolklang@dcs.ed.ac.uk (linguistic discussion of Tolkien languages)
          Subcribe via: tolklang-request@dcs.ed.ac.uk
-
Proponent: Russ Allbery <rra@cs.stanford.edu>
Proponent: Eagle <eagle@eyrie.org>


Assistance from volunteer "group mentors" is available by contacting group-mentors@acpub.duke.edu.

Last modified May 30, 1996