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95. Halifax's best kept secret marketplace

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 and 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 to reply.

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 newsgroups:

FS: For sale
LF: Looking for
OBO: Or best offer
WTB: Wanting to buy
WTD: Wanted
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 and 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:

The Mousepad runs every two weeks. It's a service of Chebucto Community Net, a community-owned Internet provider. If you have a question about computing, email or click here. If we use your question in a column, we'll send you a free mousepad.


The Mousepad Index


Originally published 5 November 2006


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