MODERATION OR NO MODERATION
Moderation is a word we all know, but how does it apply to a newsgroup? An example of a moderated newsgroup is Rec.Arts.Sf.Starwars.Info which is a part of the RASS family. This group is overseen by a "moderator". All posts sent to the newsgroup run through the moderator, and it is his/her job to filter out any unwanted material such as binaries, offensive messages or perhaps just irrelevant articles.
During 1997, it was suggested that perhaps RASSM should be moderated, or for a newsgroup such as Rec.Arts.Sf.Starwars.Misc.Moderation to be set up. This was after frequent abuse of RASSM and the regular posters, with unnecessary binaries and offensive material becoming commonplace. Some people, particularly James Trory, felt moderation of RASSM was necessary if these types of posts were to cease. Others, like founder Gus Lopez, were against the idea, saying that one of RASSM's main principles was freedom-of-speech. There was in fact an unofficial vote taken over the idea, but it proved inconclusive. After several weeks of arguing and discussion, the binaries and pornographic stories suddenly stopped, and RASSM returned to its usual self. Moderation has hardly been mentioned again.
CHUCKY AND THE CHUCKY TRIAL
We all know what a troll is: a newsgroup user who delights in writing bogus - and often unpopular/annoying - posts that attract flames. Most newsgroups suffer the wrath of a troll now and again. RASSM is no exception. In fact some regular members are known for their ability to troll the group (Duggy has taken this to a level few can attain). Usually a troll is a one-off post. Sometimes it'll last several weeks, like Captain Caca on RASSM, for instance. Yet in mid-1997 this limit was stretched slightly by one Chucky Waldman.
Chucky Waldman's posts consisted of appalling english and all-caps. In the beginning, his posts mainly consisted of explaining, with no sound evidence, that Star Trek was superior to Star Wars because it was a "THINKIN MANS SHOW." After awhile, Chucky began to ask everyone if they were "CRISHUN" (Christian). Needless to say, these posts provided RASSM with some rather strange comic relief for a few months. In fact, Inertia went so far as to create a program called "Chucky Convertor" (a link to which is in the Humour Archive) which enabled anyone who used it to convert normal text into CHUCKY text.
Eventually, the novelty wore off and the infamous Chucky posts started to get very annoying. People demanded to know who Chucky was and he obliged by informing them that he was somewhere between the ages of 3 and 5. Needless to say, this only added fuel to the "Unmask Chucky Waldman" movement that now existed on RASSM. The first person to come under fire for being Chucky was Duggy. However, Duggy immediately denied being Chucky and Duggy always confesses when he has been caught trolling. Then people began to check the message-IDs of Chucky's posts and in the case of Chucky, the message-ID matched up perfectly with his ISP. After a somewhat extensive search of message-ID headers, the only person who shared the same ISP as Chucky was one Nathan Masters. Eventually, Nathan was accused of being Chucky for the above reason and the following:
The UK RASSMCon
The idea behind a RASSMCon is to get everyone who participates in RASSM to meet. As one can guess, this is easier said than done because of the intense planning involved to bring together RASSMers from around the globe to one location on one specific date. However, one individual, Snowy, decided to organize a regional RASSMCon in London to meet some of his fellow UK RASSMers during the spring of 1998. Never before had regional RASSMCons seriously been considered as most were focused on the idea of a worldwide RASSMCon. Needless to say, the UK RASSMCon stands out among the regional RASSMCons as it was the spark which ignited the RASSMCon fever. If you are interested in learning more about other RASSMCons, then be sure to check out RASSMCon.
A Look Back at 1998
Nineteen hundred ninety-eight was a year of transition for Star Wars and RASSM as the twin suns of Tatooine began to set on the Era of the Special Editions and rise on the Era of Episode I. While there were many outstanding discussions, no one topic dominated the newsgroup with the exception of people's reaction to the announcement of the title of Episode I and the release of the first trailer. As with any newsgroup, RASSM went through some small periods of turbulence, but it wasn't anything that couldn't be solved by parking a Death Star on someone's front lawn.
In regards to the ORHP, the two biggest events of '98 were a change in location and a new maintainer. During July, the ORHP was moved to www.lucasfan.com due to storage limitations at Demon Internet. The move places the ORHP in position to continually expand without hesitation. Less than one month later, James Trory handed maintenance duties of the ORHP over to Chris Hawkins as he was no longer in a position to sufficiently maintain the ORHP. Shortly after this, the ORHP underwent changes in almost every section and a new section was added which focused on the various groups which have existed on RASSM. In the beginning, there was interest from the group in helping maintain the ORHP. However, by the end of the year when a request for assistance was made, there was virtually no response from the group.
The Newbie FAQ was replaced by The RASSM FAQ during mid-summer due to the facts that the Newbie FAQ had not been updated since its creators, Scott Chitwood and Daniel Miller, quit participating on the newsgroup for various reasons, and there was a desire to make the Newbie FAQ friendlier to new members of RASSM and more up-to-date. The most notable of these modifications was a change in the FAQ's name and tone. Also, the FAQ was placed on several websites and posted weekly to better inform and introduce new members to RASSM.
As previously mentioned, two prequel topics domained RASSM: the announcement of The Phantom Menace as the title of Episode I and the release of the very first trailer. The announcement of The Phantom Menace as the title of Episode I in late September was greeted with lots of discussion on the meaning of the title and plenty of debates about whether or not it was the legitimate title of Episode I. While there was a fair share of doubters after the announcement, their numbers dwindled upon seeing the announcement on the Official Star Wars Website and the release of the trailer in mid-November. Yet, there were still some individuals who refuse to believe that TPM is the title of Episode I. Only time will tell if they are or are not correct. The Episode I trailer was the first new Star Wars material on the big screen, with the exception of some additions to the Special Editions, in fifteen years. Needless to say, the response on RASSM was more than overwhelming. Every aspect of the trailer was analyzed, discussed, and debated by the members of RASSM. There were some who even went so far as to speculate on the quality of Episode I just by what was contained in the trailer.
In regards to the members of RASSM and real life, there were two events which stand out among all that has happened throughout the year. The first of these events was the 1998 UK RASSMCon held on April 4th. This marked the first organized gathering of RASSMers to meet one another in person. The success of the UK Con brought about cons in San Francisco, Houston, Atlanta, and New York City. There are also more RASSMCons being planned for 1999. The second event was the engagement announcement of Chris "Dark Lord Karno Dal" Layne and Mary "Lily" White in late December. This was the first time individuals who met through RASSM were getting married. The ORHP wishes them the best of luck in their life together.
It is safe to say, that 1998 was a very unique and exciting year in RASSM City and 1999 looks to be even more exciting with the premiere of Episode I and the first ever Official Star Wars Convention.
Spoilers: The Real Phantom Menace
While much can be said about The Phantom Menace and its impact on RASSM, as well as the rest of the Star Wars internet community, spoilers are, without a doubt, the single element of TPM which had the most resounding impact on RASSM. After all, the debate over spoilers led to the proposal of a new Star Wars newsgroup in hopes that such a group would rid RASSM of prequel spoiler posts.
When individuals on RASSM first began discussing/posting spoilers on RASSM, they were, for the most part, careful to make vague subject lines that began with [SPOILER] and leave twenty five blank lines in the body of their message before any text began. By doing this, individuals who did not want to be spoiled (ie, wanted to know as little as humanly possible about TPM before they saw it in the theater) were pretty much safe from being spoiled when they were reading RASSM.
However, there were first time posters, who failed to read the FAQ or follow any form of netiquette, that created small amounts of chaos by revealing spoilers in their subject lines or not leaving enough blank lines in the body of the message. These posts were, for the most part, immediately followed up by posts which removed the spoiler material from the subject line and had the appropriate number of blank lines in the body. Usually, the individual who made the original post apologized for what he/she had done and quickly adopted the way of posting spoiler material that is suggested in the FAQ. Unfortunately, there were some individuals who enjoyed revealing spoilers in the subject lines and bodies of their posts so much that he/she refused to correct the way he/she was posting. These users, with the exception of a few who refused to leave, were usually flamed and chased off RASSM after their second or third post.
In the spring of 1999, some individuals proposed the creation of a new Star Wars newsgroup which would, hopefully, remove all spoiler posts from RASSM. However, the charter of the proposed newsgroup was poorly worded and would have caused more harm than good. When a vote was taken, the proposed newsgroup was soundly, and rightfully, defeated.
While spoilers were definitely a menace, mostly from May - July, for obvious reasons, the regular posters of RASSM did a wonderful job in self-policing the newsgroup so that the actions of those who failed to read the FAQ did not spoil TPM for someone who did not want to be spoiled. There is nothing wrong with posting rumours and/or speculating about an upcoming Star Wars film, or any Star Wars project for that matter, as long as individuals take the time to make sure that the subject lines and body of their posts won't spoil someone who doesn't want to be spoiled.
A Look Back at 1999
Nineteen hundred ninety-nine was, without a doubt, the year of The Phantom Menace. While there were other events in the Star Wars universe (The Star Wars Celebration, Vector Prime) and RASSM City (ORHP moving again) during 1999, nothing comes close to the amount of hype and discussion generated by The Phantom Menace.
The first official Star Wars convention, known as the Star Wars Celebration, took place in Aurora, Colorado during the first weekend of May. The general consensus of those who attended the Celebration was that it could have been planned much better. Rick Bors provided the ORHP with a report of his experiences at the Celebration. It can be viewed by clicking here.
The Phantom Menace, arguably the most anticipated movie in history, premiered in the United States on May 19. The reaction by fans and critics ranged from "outstanding" to "Lucas has lost his touch." Needless to say, RASSM was a wild place for a few months as people discussed the quality of TPM, its impact on Episodes IV-VI, and its impact on the expanded universe of Star Wars literature. The discussions ranged from the high-brow (well-articulated, insightful analysis) to the low-brow (personal insults if opinions didn't match). Various RASSMers provided the ORHP with mini-reviews of TPM, which can be found here.
In the fall, the first novel in the New Jedi Order series, Vector Prime, caused quite a stir in the Star Wars internet community. In the novel, one of the main, and most popular, characters meets an untimely fate. The reaction to this event was widely mixed, with many of those opposed to the event calling for boycotts of Del Rey books, creating petitions to bring the character back, and some even went so far as to threaten R.A. Salvatore, the author of Vector Prime. While the ORHP is saddened by the loss of this character, it is glad to see that LFL, Del Rey, and the authors are breaking away from the formula they were using for several years to create new post-ROTJ novels.
During the spring, Rakelle moved the Unofficial RASSM Page to Shaven Wookie, Ltd. as she was having problems with Tripod. However, due to various reasons, she has not had much time to update the URHP. Nonetheless, it is, and will always be, an impressive collection of RASSM humor and the home of the Sith War I & III archives.
During June, the ORHP moved to Shaven Wookie, Ltd. as well. This was done so that the ORHP maintainer would have easier access to the ORHP's files and be able to update more easily. This move proved very wise, when in the fall, lucasfan.com had some hosting problems and was down for a few weeks.
Due to various reasons, Kim Le and Michael Mierzwa stepped down from their positions as co-maintainers of the FAQ. Fortunately, Adam Burakowski, Jill Marie Fritsche, and Psycho "signed on" to help Chris Hawkins with FAQ maintenance duties.
During the last two months of the year, there were a few people who expressed their displeasure with the anti-spam follow-ups by Chris Hawkins, Cheetah!, and others. The ORHP firmly stands behind any individuals who are trying to keep RASSM free from spam. There are way too many Usenet newsgroups that have fallen into the hands of spammers and it will be a very sad day if the same happens to RASSM.
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