Update: 25 April 1994
This file is intended to answer some of the "Frequently Asked Questions"
concerning messaging on FIDOnet. To help, I've divided it into questions
concerning messages themselves, echoes, netmail, and special terminology. This
should explain how messages are written, get from place to place, as
well as various abbreviations and terms that are used within FIDOnet
FIDOnet is an amateur network started by Tom Jennings, who wrote
software called FIDO. Thus, FIDOnet is a trademarked term. It started
primarily as a way for sysops to communicate with each other. Netmail
was (and still is) its primary responsibility. Echomail is a subsidiary
and still isn't addressed very well within FIDOnet standards.
How do I reply to a message?
This will vary on each BBS, as there are
different software and editors used from board to board. Look on the
bottom of your screen for a menu line, for the key to use to reply. In
many cases it is R, or Alt-R. If in doubt, ask your sysop.
How do I enter a brand new message?
On the message menu, there will be a
key to use to Enter a New Message. If in doubt, ask your sysop.
How do I quote someone else's message?
There are as many ways to do this as there are medicines in this
world. The best suggestion is to look for a menu bar, or ask your sysop
It seems like some people have a preoccupation with colons and
parenthesis markings. What are those?
Turn your face sideways. You will see a smiley face. :-)
Occasionally, other symbols are added or substituted. See a wink, ;-), a
halo @:-), a sad face :-(, a face with glasses 8-), a surprised
expression :-0. We can't see facial expression in writing, so this is a
way to ensure that our writing is taken the way it would if we were
discussing this face to face.
You may also see ((grin)) or (VBG)-very big grin, and others in
message writing. Once again, this will convey feeling to your message.
Please feel free to use these, particularly if you are making a joke or
play on words.
I see lots of abbreviations that I don't understand. What do they mean?
IMHO - In My Humble Opinion.
BTW - By The Way.
OTOH - On The Other Hand
MIL, FIL, SIL, BIL - your inlaws
There are many of these, but these are the most common ones.
In addition, some echoes will have abbreviations that are common only to
their echoes. If in doubt, question it! You'll probably get a friendly
reply...we were all new at this at one time or another.
What's an offline reader?
To save time on-line, and perhaps your phone bill, consider the
use of an offline reader such as BlueWave, XRS, OLX, etc., if you find
yourself hooked on messages. Ask your sysop if his/her bbs supports an
offline reader, and for suggestions for your system.
Anything I shouldn't do?
First of all, watch out for an echo's guidelines/rules. Know
them before you post (write) your first message. One thing that gets
many first-time-posters is typing in all caps. That's like shouting! so
turn off your Caps Lock key if you have one. Another thing...if it isn't
easily typed from the keyboard, don't use it. Some first-timers love to
use that "high ASCII" that has to be typed with the Alt key held down.
This is highly controversial within FIDOnet, so be careful where you use
it! Also note that most echoes cannot handle Private messages, so be
sure to send anything private via netmail. (See Section below about
What is the terminology I would use to describe a message?
Header: part containing the From/By, To, Subj/RE, and Status
MSGID: Message Identification. The normal user and sysop doesn't
really need to worry about this line.
Quote: The portion of the message quoting the message one is
replying to. Usually 4 lines is sufficient to remind the recipient what
one was talking about. Usually preceded by >, initials, or **. Most
offline readers will indent these or place them in different colors,
with proper configuration of the offline reader or editor.
Body: The actual message itself.
Tagline: A funny or political saying, usually short.
Origin line: Usually the name of the originating board and the
FIDOnet address in parenthesis. Some editors eliminate the tagline, so
the origin line doubles as a tagline.
Path statement: Helps the sysop determine how the message got
from the originating system to his/her system.
What are echoes?
Echoes are also known as conferences or sub areas. There are
three main types of echoes: local, regional, and national/international.
Local echoes are only on one or two bbs's in a given area. An example
would be the (C)omment to the Sysop area on most bbs's. (It should be
noted that the [C]omment to the Sysop area is a private area, not
readable by anyone else except the writer and the sysop.) Another type
of local area might be a User Chat or Forum area. This one is only
readable by users of that system, and is usually a place where one user
can leave another user a message. A regional echo
is an echo that is carried only in one net or region. Many nets have
echoes for chatting and so forth. Your sysop can point these out to you.
A national/international echo goes out of the region, and you can find
yourself chatting with someone across the country or in another country.
International? Do I need to know another language?
Most international echoes use the English language as a
standard language. You could find yourself in trouble posting in a
How are echoes run?
Each echo has a moderator, or a host/hostess, that sets the tone
for the participants. Echo rules or guidelines are usually posted
monthly, or more often. A list of echo moderators is available in a file
called the ELIST, published monthly. Moderators are generally either the
originator of a conference, appointed by the originating moderator, or
elected democratically on the echo.
What kinds of rules are common?
Most moderators seem to use the Golden Rule as an example: do
(write) unto others as you would have them do (write) unto you. Be nice,
play fair, no foul language, stay on topic, and don't overquote, are
those that are common. When in doubt, wait until you have seen the
echo's rules/guidelines before you post (write) a message.
I see references to Privately Distributed and Backboned Echoes. What's
A Privately Distributed echo is not as easily available as one
"on the backbone". It means some sysop is calling another system
directly to obtain an echo. This could mean higher phone bills! An echo
"on the backbone" is distributed with over 200 other echoes,
consolidating the phone bills along the way. That means availability is
Yes, FIDOnet has over 200 echoes available "on the backbone".
Chances are that if you have an interest, there is an echo on the
subject already available. If not, start one! :)
My sysop tells me he can't get an echo for me. What do I do now?
There are a couple of ways to go. If you live in an area
populated by bbs's, try another board. If your sysop runs the only board
in town, you may want to try to find out what the trouble is...lack of
space on the board or in the bbs software, not available from the net's
mail server, or not on the backbone might mean financial liability for
What happens if I change boards? Will I still get my mail?
Most BBS software does a search for all mail addressed to your
name in the echoes that it carries. Therefore, you can get any mail
addressed to you at any board in the country, providing they carry the
same echo/es that you post in. This can be handy for those that like to
travel with a laptop, or visit someone else with a computer and modem.
Just be sure to always log in using the same derivation/spelling of your
name. The BBS will not know that Billy and William Jones are the same
What if I don't like a moderator, or the way they're running an echo?
The best thing to do would be to drop the echo. If you're really
interested, start your own echo with a different tagname. Moderator
policies vary. It's rather difficult to overthrow or oust a moderator,
particularly if s/he is the originating or duly elected moderator.
MESSAGE TRAFFIC PARTICULARS
What's an address?
All bbs's in FIDOnet have an address. It is broken down into
zone: net/node number/point number (opt). For instance, my system is
1:202/1311. Zone 1 signifies North America, 202 is Net202 (all of the
619 area code, in our case), 1311 is my specific "box number" within
net202. If I had a point, it would 1:202/1311.1. That would be someone
running a mailer under me.
I see these terms (board, hub, mail server, net, stars). What are they?
A board...another name for a bbs.
A hub....larger nets have several boards that act as a hub, in
much the same way that the airlines use hubs. Our net has 16 hubs, each
with about 6 to 9 boards under them.
Mail server...some larger nets have one computer dedicated to
the passing of echo and netmail. It's really nice for those larger nets!
Net....a net is a small regional area within FIDOnet.
Stars...there are six national mail servers within the US. The
nets mail server or acting mail server machine will contact one star on
a daily basis.
Cost-share...most larger nets will share the costs of the phone
bills from the mail server (or equivalent machine) to the star. Usually,
all nodes getting backbone echoes will contribute, in a manner similar
to the way a coffee mess is run in some businesses. (He who drinks the
coffee helps pay for it.)
So how does my message get to its recipient?
You type your message on your bbs' editor, or prepare it on your offline
reader. Your offline reader will create a special file which you upload
to your bbs the next time you call. The bbs will "pack it up"
and send it to the hub. This may be done immediately or at specific times
of the day, depending on the sysop. The hub will take the mail, process it,
pack it up, and send it to the mail server (if there is one). The mail server
packs all the incoming mail and sends it to the Star. The Stars all
exchange mail with each other. The Stars then send incoming mail down
the line, to the Mail Servers. The mail servers send to the hubs, who
send to the various boards under them.
This is the way that echomail is handled, as well as routed
netmail. It's similar to the local bus...lots of stops along the way.
That may account for the occasional message that gets lost..it got off
at the wrong stop and didn't get back on. :)
What is Planet Connect?
In a nutshell (and not technical), it is a satellite system
capable of sending echomail/netmail via satellite instead of using
the telephone lines.
What is netmail? How does it differ from echomail?
Netmail is a personal message. If you want to send someone a
message that you don't want everyone else to read, send it netmail if
you can. If echomail is the party line of years past, netmail is the
private lines of today.
However, "personal" can be misleading. Depending on how the
netmail is sent, more than just the sender and receiver could read this
message. If absolute privacy is necessary, send it snailmail!
How do I access netmail?
If you are a BBS user, you may want to discuss netmail
privileges with your sysop. Since netmail often costs money, you may
have to be a subscriber of a system, or offer a few dollars donation in
exchange for the privilege. It may be called Matrix Mail.
How does netmail get sent?
There are three ways to send netmail. One is Direct. Your BBS
calls the recipients' bbs directly. This adds to a phone bills if the
phone call is a toll call. That's why you may need to pay money for the
A second way is Semi-Direct. Your netmail may go from your bbs
to a receiving bbs, such as the recipient bbs's hub or NC.
A third way is Routed Netmail. Your netmail gets attached to the
echomail and stops a lot of places along the way. Important netmail
should *not* get routed.
Why does my sysop allow me to receive netmail, but not send a reply? OR
Why don't I get incoming netmail?
These are problems to discuss with your sysop. Your sysop should
be able to forward incoming netmail to you in another forum, if the bbs
software does not allow users to receive mail in the netmail area.
Outgoing netmail may cost your sysop some money. (See "How do I access
What is a freq?
"Freq" is an abbreviation for File Request. To aid in exchanging
files, a sysop with a mailer may access another sysop's files without
logging on to the bbs and going through the download motions. This saves
time, and ultimately, phone bills. If you wish to ask your sysop to
"freq" a file for you, be sure to have the full name of the file you
want (including proper extension), and the system's FIDO address that
has the file, including zone:net/node number.
What is a mailer?
Have you ever had to log on to a BBS and "Press Escape to Access
BBS"? If so, you are going around the mailer. It's like knocking on the
front door...and as a matter of fact, a popular mailer is *called* "Front
Door"! Other popular mailers are Binkley and Intermail. The mailer is in
charge of answering the modem when it rings, and supervises the chores
of packing and tossing mail, and maintaining the message base. Few
mailers run by themselves...most need a driver, a message tosser (such
as GEcho, Squish, FMail), a maintenance utility, and a nice long file
called a nodelist.
What's a nodelist?
It is a listing of all the nodes in FIDOnet. At full length,
with 6 zones and around 20,000 nodes, it takes up a lot of disk space.
It's like a big phone book!
What's a point?
It's an offshoot of a bbs. Most points are either someone that
*really* likes echomail, or someone about ready to set up a BBS and
needs a place to solve the problems before getting their own node
A point either uses mailer software that's specifically for
points, such as EZPoint or PPoint, or sets up like a bbs. It depends on
the point sysop's intentions and patience.
What does "crashmailable" mean?
The bbs can receive netmail or echomail at any time of the day.
What does "mail only" mean?
That's a system that is set up with a mailer and the software
required to make it run, but does not have a BBS under it. Only another
mailer can call an MO system. A human using telecommunications software
will be rejected. Some MO systems are crashmailable, others are not.
That's Zone Mail Hour, a one hour period of the day where all
FIDOnet nodes are up and capable of receiving netmail. Normally, BBS
nodes do not accept callers during ZMH. Zone 1 ZMH is from 4 am - 5 am
What is a "private node"?
This is a node that is set up for the operator's convenience. It
is up to the NC of a net whether the reason for the request for private
node is a valid one. Normally, private nodes are for extenuating
What's a "file distribution network/FDN"?
In order to get shareware/public domain software out to the
public quickly, there is a backbone method of sending files around.
There are various FDN's. Ask your sysop for further information.
What is the FIDOnet chain of command?
At the bottom of the heap, there is USER. Users are the reason
behind echomail, but users have no say in things. (If one wants to be
technical, users do not exist in FIDOnet policy. But we all know that
users do! That's why we have BBS's.)
Next highest is SYSOP. It is s/he to whom the "lowly" user may
complain. Sysops with a node number are worth one vote in any policy
that may be voted upon (if any). Hubs count the same as sysops unless
they hold an office.
Up from there is the NC, Net Coordinator. This person is
responsible for seeing that all the sysops conduct themselves in a
manner becoming to FIDOnet, and to take action upon any that don't. This
person is responsible for maintaining the net's nodelist and making
corrections/additions/deletions as necessary.
The NC is assisted by the NEC, Net Echomail Coordinator. This
person is responsible for the echomail coming in and out and to ensure
that the sysops/hubs are acting properly with echomail distribution.
NC's usually refer all echomail problems to the NEC. (Technically, NEC's
-and REC's- jobs aren't really discussed in FidoNet policy. However, like
users, we all know they exist. The job of the NC would be too big for
most nets to handle by themselves without the NEC.)
Over the NC and NEC are the RC and RECs, Regional Coordinator
and Regional Echomail Coordinator. These jobs are detailed in Policy 4,
but suffice it to say that they are "de bosses" of the NCs and NECs in
At the top are the ZC and the 1ZEC. The ZC is the Zone
Coordinator and the 1ZEC is the Zone Echomail Coordinator for Zone 1,
North American Continent. Their responsibilities are detailed in Policy
4, too. "Dems duh big bosses", folks.
For the names and FidoNet addresses of these personnel, ask your
sysop for the most recent information.
Where do moderators fit into this chain?
Mmm, excellent question. Policy 4 doesn't really cover moderators.
However, in the past, it depends a lot on what the problem is.
If they're posting a policy complaint, they have to be a sysop
or above. If it's a matter concerning their echo and not a policy
complaint, then they have other ways to take care of the problem.
If you're complaining about a moderator, there's no real answer.
It is difficult to remove an originating or duly elected moderator.
Sometimes it is best just to leave the echo, and start your own if
you're so inclined.
This is quite a lot of information to read and understand. Please feel
free to print it out, to learn in smaller chunks.
If you are a sysop or moderator, please feel free to disseminate this
information as it reads. If you are a user, please feel free to pass
this file to other users or bbs's. Please leave the file intact. All
corrections and updates should be sent to the author via netmail
The Education Station, MO
Moderator/Echo Mom, PARENTS