I had heard of USENET before this class but was never sure of what it was. In the first week of this class, however, when reading about the history and development of the internet, I got a little better feeling for it and its purpose. Then, in this week, I not only did some more reading on the subject but also got experience using it.
Using Google Groups to connect, I cautiously browsed my way through USENET, just trying to get comfortable, before joining or posting in any specific group. I clicked on a few different categories and looked at some of the more popular groups. The variety of topics the groups covered impressed me. There seemed to be a group for everyone to discuss everything. I clicked on a few of the more interesting ones and just browsed their content. One of these interesting ones was on the subject of "spanking," in a sexual sense. My curiosity allowed me to enter the group and read a few of the posts, but I couldn't stay long. It was just too weird for me.
Upon leaving the "Spanking" group, I was a little hesitant to continue my random browsing, so I went ahead and started to search for groups that I knew would be of some interest to me. The first subject I searched, since I had just finished a session, was those related to hookah smoking. I did this but had little luck. There was only one group dedicated to the hookah and it only had a few members. Next, since I am currently reading a book by him, I decided to search for a Kurt Vonnegut group. Although, like the hookah groups, there was little to be seen, I did find a small membered group about Vonnegut that actually had a interesting topic relating to a new book that is supposedly to be published this year. I responded to the topic, and that was that. It properly, because of the lack of activity, be read for months.
I did some more searches, hoping for better luck, but found the same: lots of groups but all with low activity. Maybe I was expecting too much, but my experience with USENET was disappointing. Being, as Wikipedia says, one of "the oldest computer network communications systems still in widespread use," I was expecting something awe inspiring. What I saw in the place of my grand expectations was thousands of inactive, spam ridden, groups connected by a horribly confusing categorical search interface.
After my USENET experience, I doubt I will ever return. With plenty of new, more user friendly and active discussion boards popping up all over the net, I really don't see the purpose of USENET groups. For example, a newer site, http://www.librarything.com/, offers, in addition to its main purpose of book cataloging, an abundance of very active groups on hundreds of topics. Unlike USENET, most of these newer sites are easy to navigate and learn.
So, although I give credit to USENET for creating the starting point for internet communities, with members across the world, to communicate affectively in a timely manner, I think its days are done. More specialized and organized discussion boards, webpages, and blogs will take its place.