Before the internet existed (not so long ago!), there was a method to communicate with other people with similar interests by computer and modem. This was the Bulletin Board system, started in 1978, where a person would allow their own computer system to be accessed by phone and modem for people to discuss topics and perhaps download files. This was limited to the local level because of long distance telephone fees. In 1979, the Usenet newsgroup system was started, which avoided long distance calls but was available only through university computers. By the early 90s, Internet Service Providers such as Compuserve were providing access to these newsgroups, (back then internet service was charged by the hour and costs added up quickly)
Times have changed. You can still access these newsgroups using AOL (keyword newsgroups) or your Netscape browser, or Microsoft Outlook. Rec.gardens.roses, still in existence, was a wonderful resource for rose gardeners, where questions and comments could be exchanged freely and without a moderator to censor it. Unfortunately, lack of moderation led to this newsgroup being filled with posts not only by rose lovers, but also by deviants and hateful people of all sorts, making it a bad place to share your email address or personal information. The best way to take advantage of the years of postings is to go to http://groups.google.com/ , where they have a searchable archive of 20 years of Usenet postings. This is a great new resource I found while writing this article. For example, the search term “Brownell roses” brought 297 hits.
Fortunately, about the time that rec.garden.roses began to deteriorate, the new type of Newsgroup started to emerge, the web-based newsgroup. These come in many varieties. Some, like the List-Serv run by Linda Shamoon for Rhode Island Rose Society members, is accessed entirely through e-mail. What one member posts to the list-serv with their email can be read by all the members (contact Linda at email@example.com to join the list-serv). It’s a great way to keep in contact with everyone just to chat about rose or the society or to post important notices. Other web-based newsgroups give you the option of receiving the posts by e-mail individually (which could be hundreds per day for a large group), receiving one e-mail daily that is a “digest” of the previous day’s posts, or reading and posting entirely on-line at a website. Groups vary as to whether photos can be sent, some allow them in the e-mails, others have a special place on-line for them or only allow links to posted photos.
A good place to start looking for newsgroups to subscribe to, is at Yahoo groups, found at http://groups.yahoo.com/. After signing up, type in roses in the search box. You’ll have a choice of several categories, pick Science > Biology > Botany > Plants > Roses . You’ll then have a choice of about 47 rose groups to join. Some of these groups keep searchable archives of the postings, so that you could search for aphids for instance. While some of the archives are public, many require you to join (no cost). You’ll find groups interested in Old Garden Roses, exhibiting and growing. Once you’ve subscribed to some groups, when you come back to the Yahoo groups page and log on with your username and password, all your groups will be available to view.
Another source of rose discussion groups can be found at Garden Web http://www.gardenweb.com/. Follow the forum lists until you get to roses and you’ll find 9 different groups. One is on propagation and exchange, another on organic rose gardening and yet another on photos. These are very easy to use and to post to and is generally a very friendly place.
A rose forum which may be worth checking out is The Rosarian Corner at http://www.rosekinggardens.com/forums.htm. This is almost brand new, so it doesn’t yet have a lot of users.
So, why bother with newsgroups or discussion boards? Well, chances are that someone has an answer to your question or is interested in the same aspect of rose culture as you. You can get advice from noted rosarians and hybridizers from all over the country and indeed, from other English speaking countries such as Australia. Conversely, you may have experience or information to share with others that they couldn’t find otherwise. If you’re not feeling gregarious, you can “lurk” in the background of these forums, reading and learning without interacting. But, over time, you may even strike up a cyber friendship with other rosarians who you would not otherwise meet.
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