FAQ on FAQs [Part 2 of 2 parts]

This is a continuation of Part 1.

      3)  POSTING A FAQ
    3.1)  How do I post/distribute my FAQ?
    3.2)  Where do I post/distribute my FAQ?
    3.3)  How often should my FAQ be posted?

      4)  LEGAL STUFF
    4.1)  Do I need to copyright my FAQ?
    4.2)  Do I need a disclaimer?

    5.1)  Why bother getting a FAQ approved for *.answers?
    5.2)  How do I get my FAQ approved?
    5.3)  FAQ maintainers
    5.4)  FAQ maintainers mailing list



3.1)  How do I post/distribute my FAQ?

    If you only need to post your FAQ to one or two USENET newsgroups (or
    mailing lists), then you can just manually post it whenever the
    posting date rolls around.  It is also possible to cross post it to
    several groups at once.  Check with your system administrator for
    more details on how to do this.

    Some sites don't keep their news around for a long time, so your
    posting might disappear from those location sooner than you planned.
    For this reason, and to allow general access to your FAQ, it is a
    good idea to archive it somewhere if possible.  This might be on a
    friendly ftp site that agrees to keep the current copy available for
    ftp'ing, on a mail server, or on your own system (as long as others
    have some sort of access).

    If your FAQ is to be posted to a large number of newsgroups, then it
    might be a good idea to take advantage of the faq-server set up by
    the *.answers team.  The faq-server can be used to automatically post
    any periodic posting that is first approved by the *.answers team.
    It allows automatic posting at set intervals to as many newsgroups as
    required.  A big advantage of using the faq-server is that it is
    quick, easy, and automatic.  Check with the *.answers team for more
    details on this.

3.2)  Where do I post/distribute my FAQ?

    Among the many places that you might choose to post or distribute
    your FAQ:
          - USENET newsgroups
          - Commercial on-line services (Compuserve, America On Line,
            BIX, Prodigy, etc)
          - Bulletin Board Systems (BBS)
          - manufacturers' literature (I have given my permission to
            several major corporations to include portions of my
            microcontroller FAQs in various product/technical documents.)
          - published works (many authors or publishers like to include
            portions of the appropriate FAQs in their works, this gives
            the reader an easy way to find more information on the
          - a number of FAQs (as well as other articles that started out
            as information guides on USENET) are now being made available
            in print (these range from full-blown works issued by major
            publishers, to simple pamphlets printed privately)

3.3)  How often do I post/distribute my FAQ?

    Posting your FAQ once a month should be sufficient.  In some special
    circumstances, you might need to post your FAQ twice a month to keep
    it available in the newsgroup.  Adding an expiration date in the
    header also helps keep it from being purged too soon.  This doesn't
    always work, since your local system determines when the articles
    will be purged, and this doesn't always coincide with the expiration


4.1)  Do I need to copyright my FAQ?

    If you invest a lot of time on your FAQ, and most FAQ maintainers do,
    you might be concerned about protecting your work.  Under the Berne
    Convention (to which the vast majority of "Western" nations are
    signatories), as soon as something is published, then the
    writer/producer of the item is held to own the copyright.  You can
    add (C) copyright 1995 if you want, but it is no longer necessary
    (sort of like chicken soup, doesn't necessarily help, but it couldn't

    Protecting your work with a copyright protects your rights if someone
    else decides to steal your work and make a buck from it.  As
    mentioned above in section 1.5.5, it is very common for companies to
    compile information from the Internet, put it on a CD-ROM, and sell
    it.  While copyright protection won't prevent this from happening, it
    at least makes it illegal and gives you legal recourse if you need.

    Check the copyright FAQ for further details.  If it is important
    enough, you should consult with a lawyer experienced in copyright

4.2)  Do I need a disclaimer?

    In this "sue the pants off of anyone that looks at me cross-eyed"
    world that we live in today, many FAQ maintainers are using
    disclaimers to protect against possible law suits.  If your FAQ
    contains information that might be used in sensitive applications,
    and if something were to go terribly (and tragically) wrong, do you
    think that you would be sued?  Does a bear defecate in the woods?
    See section 2.4 (How important is accuracy?) for more information on
    this subject.

    I'm not a lawyer, so I won't attempt to give definitive advice here
    (yes, this is a disclaimer), but something such as the following
    might help cover your tush.  Whether it in fact really helps or not,
    I don't know.

       This article is provided as is without any express or implied
       warranties.  While every effort has been taken to ensure the
       accuracy of the information contained in this article, the
       author/maintainer/contributors  assume(s) no
       responsibility for errors or omissions, or for damages resulting
       from the use of the information contained herein.

    Another common disclaimer (that you have more than likely already
    encountered), is that used to disclaim any connection between the
    author's opinions and those of their employer.  If your article is in
    anyway related to what you do for a living, and if there might be a
    conflict of interest, it might be worthwhile to include something
    like this:

       The contents of this article reflect my opinions only and not
       necessarily those of my employer.


5.1)  Why bother getting a FAQ approved for news.answers?

    When your FAQ is approved for posting to one or more of the *.answers
    newsgroups (news.answers, comp.answers, sci.answers, etc), it is
    brought to the attention of those who might not be regular readers of
    the newsgroup(s) that you usually post your FAQ to.  This means that
    a larger potential audience gets a chance to know about your hard

    One of the major reasons for getting your FAQ approved by the
    news.answers team, is that a FAQ that is posted to one of the
    *.answers newsgroups is automatically archived.  This is important
    since some sites purge old postings more frequently due to lack of
    space.  The archive makes your FAQ available anytime someone wishes
    to ftp it from rtfm.mit.edu (the archive site) or any of its mirrors.

    Another important reason to get your FAQ approved, is that you can
    then use the faq-server to automatically post to whichever newsgroups
    you want.

    Last, and least or most (depending on your personality), there is
    always the fame and glory associated with being a FAQ maintainer.
    Once your FAQ becomes widely read and distributed, you will be amazed
    at how many times your name will be mentioned in postings or other

5.2)  How do I get my FAQ approved?

    In order to get a FAQ approved for posting to news.answers, you need
    to submit your FAQ to the *.answers team.  For a detailed explanation
    of what you need to do to make your FAQ *.answers compliant, read the
    *.answers guideline.  Check in news.answers to see if it is posted
    there under the heading "news.answers submission guidelines".  If the
    document isn't currently available at your site, send a mail message
    to mail-server@rtfm.mit.edu with the command "send
    usenet/news.answers/news-answers/guidelines" (without the quotes) in
    its body.  You can of course ftp the document from the same place.

    Getting a FAQ approved is easy and doesn't require much on your part.
    The most important consideration for approval is a proper header.  A
    minimal example follows:

       From: russ@silicom.co.il (Russ Hersch)
       Newsgroups: comp.robotics,comp.realtime,sci.electronics,comp.answers,sci.answers,news.answers
       Subject: 68hc11 microcontroller FAQ
       Followup-To: poster
       Approved: news-answers-request@MIT.EDU
       Summary: This article is a collection of information sources on
                the Motorola 68hc11 line of microcontrollers.

       Archive-name: microcontroller-faq/68hc11
       Posting-Frequency: monthly

    This is a real live header taken from one of my FAQs.  Another
    example would be the header to the FAQ you are currently reading.
    The news.answers guideline document clearly explains the purpose of
    each line of the header.  To make things simple, you can just take
    the above example and adapt it for your FAQ.  Just a few cautions:
      - All of the fields in the above header are required and all must
        be included.  There are additional, optional fields which may be
        included if you want to take the time to figure out what they're
        used for.  Personally, I'm too lazy.
      - The Newsgroups line must have one space after the colon.  All of
        the newsgroups must be listed on one line with no spaces or
        extraneous characters (which is why the Newsgroups line seems to
        fall off the edge of this document - it is not a mistake).
      - Followup-To must specify either "poster" (which directs followups
        back to the author of the FAQ) as done above or the home
        newsgroup of the FAQ (which directs followups to the newsgroup).
        Do not forget this field since responses then might be directed
        to the news.answers team, and they will not be very happy about
        that.  Do NOT put an E-mail address in the "Followup-To:" field.
      - *** IMPORTANT ***  The Approved heading is ONLY used when your
        FAQ is actually approved.  When you are notified by the
        news.answers team that your FAQ has been accepted, then you may
        add this line to your header.  DO NOT include this field until
        your FAQ is approved, or you will find yourself in deep doo-doo.
      - For a multi-line summary, the second line of the Summary field
        should start with at least one space.
      - One blank line should appear before the Archive-name line.
      - Archive-name should be fairly descriptive but short.  If you
        aren't sure about this, take your best shot at it and the
        *.answers team will adjust it if necessary.

    Once you've added the appropriate header to your FAQ, you can submit
    it to the news.answers moderators for approval.  Send it to the
    following address: news-answers@mit.edu.  Don't expect an immediate
    answer as these guys are REALLY busy.  They will send you back a
    letter indicating if your FAQ has been approved, and if not, what
    needs to be done to get it in order.

    If you have any questions, don't be embarrassed to ask the
    news.answers moderators, that's what they're there for.  Most of the
    time the problem is simpler than you think.  As you gain more
    experience, things will become clearer.  Send your questions to:

    To get your FAQ approved for posting to *.answers, you need to do the
     1. Get (as described above) the "news.answers submission guidelines"
        article before you do anything.  This is a good reference
        document which discusses many details that I chose not to delve
     2. Make sure your FAQ is accurate.  If you've already been posting
        it, then your readers have probably already helped you out on
        this.  If you prefer, you can begin by posting the article marked
        as "DRAFT" a couple of times, to get feedback - then submit it
        for approval.
     3. Make sure that your FAQ is organized so that the material is
        easily accessible to the reader.
     4. Similarly, make sure your FAQ is formatted nicely (proper margins
        and indentation).  This really helps when trying to read it.
     5. Prepare a header (as described above) to add to the beginning of
        your FAQ.
     6. Submit your FAQ for approval.
        The address for submitting your article:
            news-answers@mit.edu - ONLY for submissions (no questions!)
        The address for requesting information and for asking questions
        about the process:
            news-answers-request@mit.edu (questions and requests for
     7. Please be patient and don't ask the moderators about the status
        of your submission.  They are very busy and are not able to deal
        with "nuisance" mail.  Use your judgement - if your teenage
        daughter was in Kindergarten when you submitted the article, then
        you might be justified in sending them a note.  If she was only
        in fourth grade, think twice.

5.3)  FAQ maintainers

    Once your FAQ is approved, you are now included in the fraternity of
    elite individuals known as FAQ maintainers (FAQers might not be the
    best term for obvious reasons).  Pass out cigars, throw a party, have
    a beer, and write and tell Mom about it.

    So what now?  Well, you should prepare yourself for Email.  Possibly
    lots of it.  You've now become a "personality" on the Internet (as
    Jonathan Horen, a good friend of mine put it), and an "authority" on
    the subject that your FAQ covers (whether you really are or not).
    You will more than likely become a central address for those who have
    questions about the topic that you've addressed in your FAQ.  Enjoy
    yourself - you will end up "meeting" a lot of very nice people from
    all over the world.  These new friends of yours will help you keep
    your FAQ up-to-date.  Everyone will benefit.

    It is very likely that you will find yourself very busy maintaining
    your FAQ.  Some FAQs require a lot of attention.  Others, once they
    hit their maturity, just sort of coast for a while.  My
    microcontroller FAQs keep me pretty busy and often keep me from
    working with the very microcontrollers that I originally set out to
    do.  Since I'm still learning a lot about the subject, I don't mind
    this too much.  However, I would like to apply what I'm learning and
    actually accomplish something.  I wouldn't want anyone to say (to
    paraphrase an old saying), "Those who can do, those who can't write
    the FAQ."

5.4)  FAQ maintainers mailing list

    As a FAQ maintainer, you might want to consider joining the
    faq-maintainers mailing list.  This is used for discussing issues
    related to the *.answers newsgroups and the maintenance of FAQs.
    There is also a faq-maintainers-announce list, which is used only for
    announcements.  Subscribers to the faq-maintainers list automatically
    receive messages sent to faq-maintainers-announce.

    Traffic on the faq-maintainers list is sporadic and the topics
    eclectic.  Sometimes I feel that this mailing list is really useful,
    other times I have no use for it whatsoever.  Lately, the traffic has
    been heavy and the topics varied, some interesting and some not so
    interesting (in my opinion).  Try it out for yourself and see if you
    get anything out of it.  You can always terminate your subscription
    if you don't find it useful (don't try asking for your money back
    though :-).

    You may send a subscription request for either one of these lists
    whenever you want.  Please send an Email request to
    faq-maintainers-request@rtfm.mit.edu with a short message in the body
    specifying which list you would like to subscribe to.

    The faq-maintainers list is not restricted to only those who have
    [approved] FAQs that are posted to news.answers.  Anyone who is
    interested in the fine points of FAQ writing/maintaining is invited
    to participate in the discussions.  If you are considering putting a
    FAQ together, even if you don't intend on getting it approved, the
    faq-maintainers list is a valuable source of information, and a good
    place to ask questions.


    I would like to thank the following individuals who have helped and
    contributed to this document:
       Jonathan Horen (a real personality in his own right) for his
          brilliant technical support and who has finally stopped
          calling me a Techno-Wimp just because I don't know UNIX
       Pamela Greene, Ping Huang (a true gentleman and a scholar), Thomas
          Koenig, Aliza Panitz, and the rest of the news.answers
          moderation team for their valuable help in getting my various
          FAQs approved for news.answers and for providing important
          suggestions to this document
       Mark Moraes (the news.announce.newusers moderator) for his
          valuable contributions and continuing support
       The subscribers to the FAQ Maintainers mailing list who from time
          to time provide valuable insight and who are always there when
          help is needed
       Mark Israel (the maintainer of the alt.usage.english FAQ) who
          pointed out a lot of errors a long time ago that I finally got
          around to fixing a short time ago!
       Carl Aude for his suggestions about copyrights.
       You, my readers for your support and encouragement, I'm glad I was
          able to help
       My three rug rats (son Menachem, and daughters Michal and Edya)
          for your "Frequently Asked (stupid?) Questions" :-)

    Special thanks to my Mom and Dad (Gloria and Morton Hersch) who never
    hear from me because I'm always busy with my FAQs.  I'm writing a FAQ
    about myself to send to them, so they'll know what I'm up to.


I disclaim everything.  The contents of this article might be totally
inaccurate, inappropriate, misguided, or otherwise perverse - except for
my name (you can probably trust me on that).

Copyright (c) 1995 by Russell Hersch, all rights reserved.
This FAQ may be posted to any USENET newsgroup, on-line service, or BBS
  as long as it is posted in its entirety and includes this copyright
This FAQ may not be distributed for financial gain.
This FAQ may not be included in commercial collections or compilations
   without express permission from the author.

Russ Hersch - russ@silicom.co.il or sibit@datasrv.co.il

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