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Date:         Sun, 23 Jul 2000 16:28:45 -0700
Reply-To:     kmself@IX.NETCOM.COM
Sender:       "SAS(r) Discussion" <SAS-L@LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
From:         kmself@IX.NETCOM.COM
Subject:      Meta-topical:  Deja archives
Content-Type: multipart/signed; micalg=pgp-sha1;


Deja (the former Usenet archive formerly known as Dejanews), is going through a restructuring which is strongly impacting its usefulness as an archive. I'm raising the topic on SAS-L because it was the troika of Deja, SAS-L, and SI tech support, which I found to be an extremely effective support motif. Given that a preferred response to many questions is "that is a FAQ, search Deja" I'm hoping that both the readership of SAS-L, and SI itself, might take note of the situation.

Deja is a searchable archive of Usenet, available at Prior to a restructuring of the website late last year, the default page showed a clean interface to the search engine. The current search page is a mess (OK, it's getting better):

Several alternatives have been created, of which Jeremy Dixon's is one of the best (I use a locally hosted hand-tooled version of it myself):

...another increasingly popular mode is to use command-line tools such as "dejasearch" to pull down, unduplicate, and browse (locally) search results.

Among other changes, Deja has dropped older archives (reports are that earliest records are ~ May 1999), though information suggests the data still exist and the company may bring it back online. The company has apparently been trying to shape itself as a leading source of consumer information online, at the detriment of its general viability as a Usenet archive.

Slashdot has a good summary of the story and a (surprisingly) informative discussion accompanying it (at least with threshold >= 2), at:

...including a pointer to a reasonably informative Usenet discussion (including possible restoration of older archives):$79h$

What's most troubling about the changes in Deja's direction is that it was in part Deja's success and usefulness which drove alternative archives into the dust -- the JSE SAS gopher archive has been inactive for some time now, and I'm not aware of any equivalent replacement service.

There are several alternatives to the current situation:

1. Convincing arguments (words and more tangible support) to Deja that persistent Usenet archives are in fact useful.

2. Identifying technical support as a key business function for Deja. One option would be for companies to sponsor archival of specific newsgroups or topical areas of interest, e.g.: SI would *pay* Deja to provide X years of archives.

3. Identifying another provider. The two principle candidates at present are probably Remarq -- a Usenet archive/Web portal, though less useful than Deja IMO; and Google -- a company who has identified search and archival as its core competence and is doing a bang-up job of it.

4. Initiating (or cultivating) a new service. Modeling this along the lines of 2. above might be an option. LinuxCare, a Linux services company, which has compiled what's described as a large Usenet-style knowledge base. Non-technical groups might be sponsored by companies with interest in specific areas of entertainment, news, or local interest.

User-to-user support has been identified as a key component of the free software movement. It's a method I was very familiar with from SAS-L, part of what convinced me of the viability of the open source concept, and its usefulness extends to many proprietary companies. I'd very much like to see the prior functionality of Deja preserved in some form or another.

I've suggested to several folks at SI that extending involvement with the user community would be a Good Thing® (there's still that astronomy club whom might appreciate a cash infusion and new digs in exchange for "").

You can contact Deja through its website feedback form (, or Management and company info are at

-- Karsten M. Self <> Evangelist, Opensales, Inc. What part of "Gestalt" don't you understand? Debian GNU/Linux rocks! K5: GPG fingerprint: F932 8B25 5FDD 2528 D595 DC61 3847 889F 55F2 B9B0


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