An FAQ on FAQs - NetLingo The Internet Dictionary: Online Dictionary of Computer and Internet Terms, Acronyms, Text Messaging, Smileys ;-)

A few FAQs about FAQs:

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      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?


1.1)  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

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 ftp site (and all of the mirror sites) in the
    following directories:

    By subject line -

    By subject category -
          and for the other *.answers newsgroups
       /pub/usenet/*.answers (eg. comp.answers, sci.answers, rec.answers)

    By newsgroup hierarchy -

    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.  

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