1) WHAT ARE FAQs? 1.1) What does FAQ stand for? 1.2) How is FAQ pronounced? 1.3) What do FAQs contain? 1.4) What are FAQs used for? 1.5) Where are FAQs found/kept/hidden? 1) WHAT ARE FAQs? 1.1) What does FAQ stand for? FAQ is an acronym for Frequently Asked Questions. It is also sometimes used as the singular Frequently Asked Question (Although when was the last time you heard only one question?). Some have called it Frequently Answered Questions as well. This isn't necessarily correct, but it isn't necessarily wrong either. It effectively has the same meaning. A compilation of Frequently Asked Questions (and their answers) is referred to as a FAQ list or FAQ article. Sometimes the term FAQ itself is used to refer to the article - as an example, I refer to this article as a FAQ about FAQs. The term FAQ has a meaning of its own that could almost qualify it as a word of its own. Sometimes, FAQs are full of answers. Other times they are policy statements for USENET groups, without the Question and Answer format that is popular. FAQs fall into the realm of articles called "Periodic Postings". In addition to FAQs, other articles or compilations of information are posted and/or archived. 1.2) How is FAQ pronounced? FAQ is pronounced three ways: 1. By pronouncing the letters individually: F - A - Q 2. As a word: fack 3. Obscenely: <figure it out on your own> The first two pronunciations are the most common, and are used about equally. Some will say F - A - Q if they are speaking with someone that really doesn't know the Internet. Those who are lazy (me for example) will use "fack", since it is easier to say. Often when initiating a conversation it is useful to say F - A - Q, and then once the subject has been established, "fack" should be sufficient. You will notice that in this document I use the phrase "a FAQ" rather than "an FAQ". This is because most of the time I say "a fack" instead of "an F-A-Q". Feel free to use whichever pronunciation you prefer and don't let anyone bully you. Both ways are acceptable. If you use the third way... well, you're on your own. 1.3) What do FAQs contain? FAQs are compilations of information which are [usually] the result of certain questions constantly being asked (posted) in a newsgroup - hence the name FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions). It seems that those who frequent USENET are a polite bunch. In my house, the "frequently asked questions" that my three rug rats come up with are usually referred to as stupid questions or pestering. There is a lesson to be learned from this... before asking a question in a newsgroup or mailing list, make sure that you've checked out the appropriate FAQs. A frequently asked question can be a stupid question if the answer is posted right in front of your face in one or more FAQs. Sometimes a FAQ or periodic posting is compiled as a result of extensive research on a specific subject. A convenient way to share the information with others is by posting the article. In this case, the article might not really be a FAQ - that is, it isn't necessarily based on frequently asked questions. However, the term FAQ is sometimes used as a catch all term for articles, periodic postings, compilations, etc. It is becoming common practice to refer to some "off-line documentation" as FAQs. Yes, it's true, off-line documentation still exists, I actually saw some a little while back ;-). All sorts of stuff now comes with support-staff-written FAQs, whereas they would have been called Q&A sections before. Many of the FAQs found on USENET or the Internet today (including mine :-) could actually be considered NSFAQBTIWTS - Not So Frequently Asked Questions, But Things I Wanted To Share (thanks to Robin Getz for this gem). I've also seen them referred to as LFAQ (Less Frequently Asked Questions). Is there no end?! Where is Chicken Man, now that we need him? 1.4) What are FAQs used for? Before asking a question in a USENET newsgroup, check out the appropriate FAQs. If you can't find the answer to your question there, then you can post your question to the newsgroup. Frequently asked questions in a newsgroup tend to make the news hard to read. With more news traffic, there is more to sift through. Do everyone a favor, first try to find the applicable FAQs. Then read them. If you can't find them, look for them. If you still can't find them, ask where they are. Then read them. If after reading the appropriate FAQs, you still can't find the answer to your question, then you can post your question to the appropriate newsgroup. It is recommended that after you receive your answer(s), you post a summary to the newsgroup. It might also be nice to notify the maintainer of the appropriate FAQ(s) of the answers so that they can update their articles accordingly (keep in mind that they don't always have the time to scan the newsgroups for new information). Don't assume that the FAQ maintainer is willing or able to answer every question he or she receives. Some make every attempt possible to answer as best as they can. Others either just get too many questions to deal with, or they're busy with other things. Please keep this in mind - it might be better to ask your question in a newsgroup. 1.5) Where are FAQs found/kept/hidden? Please do not ask the FAQ maintainer to mail you a copy of their FAQ. They just don't have the time - believe me, I know. Instead, make every possible effort to obtain the FAQ from the standard locations described in this section (USENET newsgroups, archives, etc). 1.5.1) USENET FAQs can be found all over the Internet. The most common place to find FAQs are in USENET newsgroups. USENET is a distributed discussion system that exists on the Internet and some other networks. Many newsgroups have a FAQ specific to the subject of the newsgroup. It is also common, in some newsgroups (that by nature cover more ground), to have a number of FAQs on different, pertinent subjects. Some FAQs that have been approved by the *.answers moderators team (more on this in section 3) appear in the various *.answers newsgroups (news.answers, comp.answers, sci.answers, etc). A quick browse through these newsgroups will turn up many interesting articles - do yourself a favor and check from time to time. 1.5.2) Mailing lists Many mailing lists also have their own FAQs. Some mailing lists automatically mail the FAQ to the list of subscribers. Other lists send a notice advising subscribers how to get a copy. The second option seems to be the most prevalent. An important reason for this is that most FAQs are fairly large (some are even multi-part), and it wouldn't make sense to periodically mail it out to an entire mailing list. Some mailing lists automatically mail the FAQ(s) out to new subscribers (probably with the hope that this will avoid stupid questions), and then letting the subscriber retrieve updated versions of the FAQ(s) by ftp. 1.5.3) Archives Many FAQs are also archived. One important repository of FAQs and other articles is the news.answers archive maintained by the moderators of the news.answers newsgroup. All FAQs that have been approved for posting to the news.answers newsgroup are archived at the rtfm.mit.edu ftp site (and all of the mirror sites) in the following directories: By subject line - /pub/usenet/news.group.name /pub/usenet-by-group/news.group.name By subject category - /pub/usenet/news.answers /pub/usenet-by-group/news.answers and for the other *.answers newsgroups /pub/usenet/*.answers (eg. comp.answers, sci.answers, rec.answers) /pub/usenet-by-group/*.answers By newsgroup hierarchy - /pub/usenet-by-hierarchy/news/group/name To find a FAQ by the newsgroup it belongs to, look in the directory /pub/usenet (which is the same as /pub/usenet-by-group). There you will find that each newsgroup has its own subdirectory (if applicable). As an example, if you are looking for one of my FAQs on microcontrollers, look in /pub/usenet-by-group/comp.answers/microcontroller-faq. There you will find three entries: 8051, 68hc11, and primer. You can also search for FAQs by working your way through the newsgroup hierarchy. Look in the directory /pub/usenet-by-hierarchy and you will find a subdirectory for each newsgroup category (news, comp, rec, alt, ...). Then just keep working your way down the hierarchy by entering the appropriate subdirectory to find the FAQs that you are looking for.