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Why a list of Frequently Asked Questions?

The Net, as users call the Internet, and specially newsgroups, (i.e. Usenet) created a demand of knowledge without parallel since the invention of the printing press. Surprisingly, the type of knowledge demanded from and by the Usenet community had, in most cases, little in common --both in structure and content-- with that of printed in current publications. This defined Usenet as more of an alternative to books rather than a replacement thereofgif

In the Net, questions posed are, more often than not, at the level of an amateur practitioner --even in cases where the question was posed by a professional in the field. Similarly, the quality of the answers varies greatly, ranging from the incorrect or disrespectful, to summaries of the state of the art in the topic in question.

Other characteristics of communication on the Net are simply inherited from restrictions of the medium. The unit of knowledge is a screenful worth of text (a scrit, from screen and bit). Articles exceeding that limit are usually disregarded.

The lack of memory of the medium generates a repetition of topics, much to the chagrin of old time citizens of the Net. Frequently asked questions lists palliate some of these deficiencies by providing a record of relevant information while at the same time never being outdated.

Thus, typically a list of frequently asked questions is ``posted'' at least once a month, and updated at least as frequently. And, in what must be a first for an information based product, FAQ lists ``expire'' on a given date, very much like any other perishable item.

Alex Lopez-Ortiz
Fri Feb 20 21:45:30 EST 1998