95. Halifax's best kept secret
By Andrew D. Wright
There's a place where Halifax people go to buy and sell things that's open
all day every day and most people don't even know it's there.
Back before there was such a thing as a web browser or home Internet
access, there was Usenet. On Usenet, there are several Halifax and Nova
Scotia-based newsgroups that anyone may post items to.
Local newsgroups ns.forsale and hfx.forsale receive more than a hundred
posts a day each despite their low profile with the general public,
selling everything from cars to video cards.
There are several things it is good to know before doing anything on
Usenet. The first thing is to always munge your email address when posting
to Usenet. Munging an address means to change it slightly to make it
incorrect so that it won't work properly as written but can be corrected
by a person reading the message.
This is to prevent your email address from being picked up by spiders,
programs written by spammers to gather new addresses for their bulk-mail
lists. One local wit used to put the words "YOURPANTS" in his email
address with the helpful instruction that respondents should remove them
Another good thing to know is that Usenet is both free and a free-for-all.
People can post items for sale and reply to these posts. Unlike online
marketplace eBay, there is no central registry of users or anyone taking a
share of any money. Deals are made between individuals and usually any
warranty is of the "gutter curb" variety, i.e., you got it to the curb,
it's yours now.
Persons of a sensitive disposition should be aware that strong language is
not uncommon on Usenet and sometimes discussions can become heated.
For the most part though the local for sale newsgroups are remarkably
self-regulating. Prices are always quite reasonable as people will be
quick to denounce anything priced too high. Similarly people are not shy
about letting folks know they've been taken advantage of so the quality of
merchandise is usually quite good as well.
Here are some common abbreviations you might encounter on the for sale
FS: For sale
LF: Looking for
OBO: Or best offer
WTB: Wanting to buy
WTT: Willing to trade
Usenet is a text medium and pictures are not welcome on the local
newsgroups. It is considered good "netiquette" to post a link or web page
address if your for sale post requires pictures rather than include any
binaries (non-text content) with the posting.
There are several ways of accessing Usenet. Check with your Internet
Service Provider to see if they provide a Usenet news server and if they
do, get the machine name for it. With that name you can set up newsreader
software and subscribe to ns.forsale and hfx.forsale. Most email programs
support Usenet news reading.
Internet information colossus Google provides web-based access to Usenet
through its Google Groups site and also has extensive archives of the
local newsgroups going back more than ten years.
Google Groups: http://groups.google.ca/
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Originally published 5 November 2006