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Distributed Computing Newsgroup Approved

A new newsgroup, comp.distributed, has been approved for discussion of distributed systems, applications, resources and platforms, including peer-to-peer and computational grids, according to co-founders Rajkumar Buyya and Dave DiNucci.

An official control message was sent out Feb. 5 to create the group, Buyya and DiNucci said, "so you should find it available on your Internet or Usenet service provider." However, they are finding that some ISPs and Usenet providers have been somewhat slow to carry the group, so if it is not available on your provider, they suggest that you specifically request that they carry it.

In the meantime, the newsgroup is available here on groups.google.com.

"Many readers may find this a much less satisfactory interface than traditional (NNTP) news readers, however, so we do request that you contact your news administrator to carry the group even if you can access it using Google," they said.

Creating a new newsgroup in the "Big Eight" international hierarchies -- comp, humanities, misc, news, rec, sci, soc and talk -- involves first proposing the newsgroup in news.announce.newgroups, then conducting a vote among those Usenet readers who have an opinion on the proposed group, according to guidelines at the Usenet volunteer site UVV.org.

The final vote for comp.distributed was 206 yes to 11 no, according to UVV. For a Big Eight group to pass, Yes votes must be at least two-thirds of all valid votes. There must also be at least 100 more Yes votes than No votes.

The main benefits of creating a newsgroup in the Big Eight, as opposed to less formal hierarchies such as "alt," have been the international reach and the speed and extent of propagation of the new newsgroup, but Buyya and DiNucci found that isn't always the case.

Usenet newsgroups are decentralized, DiNucci said; it is up to the individual ISP to decide to carry a particular group. However, it was considered a problem to have each individual ISP make a decision on each newsgroup, so a common set of guidelines was adopted for groups falling into the Big Eight hierarchies, he said.

A Fitting Home

When a group follows the guidelines and gets a passing vote, most ISPs should in theory create it immediately. Less formal hierarchies such as alt essentially only require that you convince each ISP to carry the group, DiNucci said.

"We followed the Big Eight guidelines for comp.distributed and got a passing vote, but many ISPs are not creating it," DiNucci said. Some large ISPs have told him that they now do not carry any newsgroup, even in the Big Eight, unless it is specifically requested by their users, making the advantages of Big Eight approval less clear. Buyya and DiNucci said they're now working to convince ISPs to carry the newsgroup, and they urge anyone who can't access the group to contact their ISP and request it.

Despite the hurdles, the newsgroup appears to have been worth what even UVV materials say can be a difficult process, already generating an active following and several posts a day.

"Until now, discussion in P2P and Grids have often been separated from one another, even though they are both ways to utilize and exploit collectives of distributed resources," DiNucci said. "P2P and Grids grew from different communities and mindsets, and they often focus on different goals and have different solutions approaches in mind. Comp.distributed allows cross-fertilization of these ideas, and a forum to broadly explore new ideas, or re-explore old ones, with no editorial control.

"The fact that the group is based on Usenet is very fitting, since Usenet itself is a global collective of distributed resources with no central control. The interesting posts we've had even in the very early days have been very rewarding, and interplay between different ideas has already begun."