The Usenet is a distributed discussion system. Because it relied on interconnectedness, not everyone with Usenet service actually received the same number of articles. Some well-connected users received more, and those on the outer reaches of the Internet may have had less.
Whether you were well-connected, and even if you weren't, you would find that the Usenet was overrun by porn and spam. The higher goal of Usenet was to act as the largest psych ward in the history of the world. In the 1980s, the heyday of the Usenet, people had emotional catharsis, crackups, meltdowns, and life-saving talks. One time, there was a guy and a girl who knew each other, and lived at opposite ends of the city. Not really caring who read their private stuff they would post articles anonymously on the Usenet to each other. This was more of an acquaintance, really. But one day, the girl felt really sad and really needed help. Here's how that went:
>>>> I want to kill myself.
>>> Think about it first! We haven't even had sex yet!
> Shit! I'm a failure.
The Usenet began to peter out in popularity after the mid-1990s, since users began discovering that getting plastered at a bar or seeing a real shrink led to better therapeutic outcomes.
The Biggest Nutjobs of Usenet
During the heyday period, however, Usenet denizens witnessed the rise of several "Alpha males" of the uber-crazy world. They were Robert McElwaine, Serdar Argic, Archemides Plutonium, Alexander Abian, Gharlane of Eddore, Kibo, David D'Amato, and Mark V. Shaney to name a few. They could be referred to as the "Big 8", but that number has already been taken in Usenet circles. The most notable ones are mentioned below:
- Robert McElwaine (1948-2008)
Robert McElwaine, the kook by which all others were judged, lived in a trailer park in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. He was trolling the Usenet groups with his whacky science and religious beliefs, in newsgroups that did not suit the discussion (never mind: none of them did). If you ever wanted to know where he was, it was simple: go to Eau Claire, stop at a local library, then following the scent of jolt cola and body odor, the pudgy guy in front of the 80386 was him. He soon learned how to tap into the Internet, and pull together enough spare parts from discarded computers from the nearby Eau Claire campus of the University of Wisconsin to make his own Usenet server. Once his server deathstar.net was built, he was nearly unstoppable. While there were many valiant efforts to ban him from the newsgroups, many more would still let him get away with nuggets like the one about those bar code thingies on items you buy being "the Mark of The Beast". McElwaine died in February of 2008 when he ran his car into a telephone pole at full speed. A laptop was thrown clear of the wreckage, and on its monitor was an image of Hitler in a Tutu.
Robert McElwaine, posing for one of his singles' photos
- Serdar Argic
His spam was so famous, that pop culture reviewer Ken MacLeod called it "the lowest layer of paranoid drivel that infested the [Internet], spun out by degenerate, bug-ridden, knee-jerk auto-post programs. Kill-file clutter." The only way spam could be that good was if no human actually wrote it, which was the case. Nobody cares about the Armenian Genocide (except maybe the Armenians and Turks), but the spam bot programmers decided that in order to make people care it would be a good idea to flood the Usenet with 100 posts per day. This was seen as such a good idea that a newsgroup dealing in scripts cancelling these messages was set up (alt.cancel.bots) in his honor, upstream from Serdar's newsfeed.
Yeah, Serdar is a machine about 'yay' big...
- Known to his mother as James Parry. Also known for, among other things, issuing humorous posts using 900-line signature files. Doing text searches through Usenet articles of occurrences of the letters "kibo" together, and replying to any kibo-containing post he could find; establishing a newsgroup "alt.religion.kibology" in honor of himself and his greater works of prose, in which it is said he wrote close to 8 million words since the mid-1990s.
- Alexander Abian (1923-1999)
He was a math professor with a long list of papers published. A true Uncyclopedian, far ahead of his time. He once suggested that making the moon asplode would solve all of the Earth's problems. There is definitely a good Uncyclopedia article in that. He also said that mass and time were the same thing. See? Another good Uncyclopedia topic. Upon hearing of Abian's death, one newsgroup denizen suggested that we all pause for a gram of silence.
Dr. Abian, an Uncyclopedian ahead of his time
- Mark V. Shaney
Mark V. Shaney never existed except as a computer program. Named in honor of the Markov Chain logic used in its programming, it took posts from other denizens, broke them into sentence fragments, and and used randomness guided by Markov Chain logic to put the pieces together into new posts to the newsgroup net.singles. The posts looked like they were written by a tortured schizophrenic. ... Obviously seeking like-minded female companionship. Sample Translation by Mark V Shaney: Mark V. Shaney never existed except as a sentence fragment. Named in honor of the Markov Chain logic used in its programming, it took posts from other torturers, broke them into denizens, and used randomness guided by like-minded females to put the tortured schizophrenic together into new posts to the newsgroup net.singles.
Mark V. Shaney, also posing for a singles' photo
You've got to admit, M. V. Shaney almost makes sense.
The Crank Posting Party Game
This is done at your place with a bunch of friends. You need a computer with a projector and projector screen. Everyone gets a bottle of booze and a shotglass. Each partier takes turns at the computer, reading the next posting starting in sci.physics, then as the newsgroup becomes exhausted, move on to sci.bio, then finally to talk.bizarre.
- If you see the word "plonk", drink one shot.
- If you see the phrase "Godwin's Law", the phrase, "FAQ Nazi", or comparisons to Hitler, drink one shot.
- If you see the acronym RTFM ("read the ffffffine manual"), drink one shot.
- If you see any of these acronyms: IANAL, ROTFL, AFAIK, or FUBAR, drink one shot.
- If you show a posting containing the word, name or word fragment "kibo", drink one shot.
- If you see a posting about an exploding moon saving the Earth, drink one shot.
- If you see a posting about stock market determinism, drink one shot.
- If it contains the sentence: "UN-altered REPRODUCTION and DISSEMINATION of this IMPORTANT Information is ENCOURAGED, ESPECIALLY to COMPUTER BULLETIN BOARDS", you drink one shot.
- If the poster attempts to say that the universe is just an atom of plutonium, drink one shot.
- If the poster suggests that evolution is based on Free Will, drink two shots.
- If you just see incoherent, rambling sentences that do not seem to have a point, drink one shot.
- If it contains a nutty reference to the theory of Entaglement, drink one shot.
- If it talks about UPC symbols being the Mark of The Beast, drink one shot.
- If it mentions something about electrons with no charge, drink one shot.
- If it is an otherwise normal posting, control of the computer is passed to the next partier.
- If it is spam and/or is sexually explicit, everyone in the room drinks one shot, and control of the computer is passed on the next partier.