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A BRIEF HISTORY
OF TOY-RELATED
USENET NEWSGROUPS

Eric G. Myers - Copyright 1996-1999

LEGO & MISC

It all began with Lego(r). In early 1993, an alt.* group was created for the discussion of Lego(r) construction toys. The group, alt.toys.lego thrived almost immediately and after only 9 months of existence, plans were made to propose a more widely propagated rec.* group of similar content. In October of 1993, the first proposal was drafted for rec.toys.lego. The proposal for rec.toys.lego, written by David Koblas, also included a provision for the creation of rec.toys.misc. The proposal called for the creation of an entirely new hierarchy: rec.toys.*. As was the convention of the day, the miscellaneous group was added to serve as a "catch-all" for all non-Lego(r) related toy discussion. Though not the primary focus of the proposal, rec.toys.misc would soon become an active part of the rec.toys.* hierarchy. Interestingly, rec.toys.lego was almost called rec.toys.construction. Some felt that this would be a broader name and would lead to more inclusive discussion. However, David Koblas stuck to his guns. His original intention was wider distribution of the alt.toys.lego group. He felt that the name alt.toys.construction wouldn't be quite as appealing to Lego(r) enthusiasts, especially since alt.toys.lego would still be an active group. When the Call For Vote was issued, the name remained rec.toys.lego. The charter was as follows: rec.toys.lego charter: ---------------------- To provide a forum for the discussion of all things and experiences relating to the Lego(tm), Duplo(tm) and compatible construction toys. Including interesting models that one has built, experiences one has had using legos, or questions about how to build particular components. The original charter for rec.toys.misc is somewhat humorous in retrospect. It originally read: rec.toys.misc charter: ---------------------- To provide a forum for discussion of non-Lego toy topics, from Barbi [sic] Dolls to My Little Pony gift sets. Of course, these topics were not to be the focus of the rec.toys.misc group in actuality, but it is interesting to see how the group was defined in relation to the Lego(r) group. In the final Call for Votes, the charter was changed to the current version: rec.toys.misc charter: ---------------------- To provide a forum for discussion of topics relating to toys which do not have their own specific news group in the rec.toys.* hierarchy. It was this charter that was to set the stage for most of the other group creations that occurred within the rec.toys.* hierarchy. Topics were typically weeded out of rec.toys.misc. On January 3, 1994, the results of the voting were announced. Both rec.toys.lego and rec.toys.misc passed by substantial margins. rec.toys.{lego,misc} vote results - 243 valid votes Yes No : 2/3? >100 : Pass? : Group 219 20 : Yes Yes : Yes : rec.toys.lego 211 18 : Yes Yes : Yes : rec.toys.misc The toy groups really blossomed in their first few months of creation. Very soon, rec.toys.misc began to receive more posts per day than rec.toys.lego. The morass of various topics discussed in rec.toys.misc was the motivation for the first proposed split of the fledgling hierarchy.

FISHER-PRICE

As an interesting footnote, Fisher-Price toys have the distinction of being the first suggested split for the rec.toys.* hierarchy (though not the first official proposal). On March 9, 1994, Sandra Flor submitted a request for the creation of a group to be called either rec.toys.fp or rec.toys.fisher-price. However, Ms. Flor did not submit a valid proposal (only a request) and the idea was never followed up.

CARS

On January 22, 1995, almost a year to the day after the creation of the rec.toys.* hierarchy, the first official split proposal was presented. The proposal was for a group to be named rec.toys.cars. Written by Serg Palanov, the proposal was meant to give toy car collectors of all stripes a place of their own. Posts dealing with diecast cars had become a significant part of the rec.toys.misc group and constituted a fairly homogeneous topic area. Thus, the proposal for rec.toys.cars was born. The charter of the rec.toys.cars group underwent some changes during the proposal process. Originally, the charter read: CHARTER: rec.toys.cars will be an unmoderated forum for discussion of various collectible toy cars, accessories, related articles, stories, trades, wants, and sales of related items. This group will encompass but in no way be limited to: Hotwheels Lledo Matchbox Dinky Johny Lightning Majorette Tomica Racing Champions Micromachines Ertl Bburago Corgi and any other toy car and related manufacturers. This lengthy and specific charter was trimmed down to its more generic and inclusive final format by the time the Call For Votes was issued. The final version reads: CHARTER Rec.toys.cars will be an unmoderated group for the discussion of toy cars, including: values, trading, selling, buying, locating new and old items, updates on upcoming events and new releases, and history as well as collectability of toy cars and their related items. The group will mainly focus on, but in no way be limited to, diecast toy cars. On May 3, 1995 the result of the vote was announced. The new newsgroup rec.toys.cars had passed by a narrow margin, 122:15. Because of the Usenet new group creation rule that a vote must have 100 more YES votes than NO votes to pass, only 8 more NO votes would have sunk rec.toys.cars. This was the smallest margin of victory for any of the toy-related newsgroups.

DOLLS & STAR WARS

March of 1995 was a busy month for toys on the Usenet. Two new proposals were presented that had relevance for the rec.toys.* hierarchy as well as several other existing hierarchies. On March 7, 1995 Leigh Melton unveiled a proposal for rec.collecting.dolls. The very next day, Gus Lopez brought forth his ambitious reorganization of the rec.arts.sf.starwars hierarchy that would eventually result in the group rec.arts.sf.starwars.collecting. Although both of these proposals were for groups outside the rec.toys.* hierarchy, much of what was to be discussed in these groups would be toy-related. In the case of rec.collecting.dolls, posts were scattered among the rec.collecting and rec.toys.misc groups as well as several mailing list devoted to collecting dolls. It was felt that the rec.collecting hierarchy was the appropriate venue for this new group to distinguish is from the toys newsgroups that did not focus exclusively on collecting for collecting's sake. The charter for the group was as follows: CHARTER: rec.collecting.dolls is proposed as an unmoderated discussion group for those interested in collecting dolls for both amusement and investment. Discussion of fashion dolls, vinyl dolls, cloth dolls and any other type of doll or doll accessory will be welcome. On May 25, 1995 the vote result for rec.collecting.dolls was announced. The group had passed easily by a margin of 248 to 20. Almost immediately after its creation, rec.collecting dolls became an active and popular group. The path for Gus Lopez's reorganization of the Star Wars groups was far more ambitious. Star Wars has always been a popular subject on the Usenet and many felt that a partitioning of subjects within the general topic would be beneficial to futhering discussions. Gus Lopez (assisted by David Kemper aka Gallandro, the original moderator of the info group) proposed the creation of three new groups and the renaming of the existing group to comprise a new hierarchy consisting of four groups. Originally, these groups were proposed as: rec.arts.starwars.collecting rec.arts.starwars.games rec.arts.starwars.info and rec.arts.starwars.misc (renaming rec.arts.sf.starwars) Note the absence of the "sf" in the group names. This point of the proposal was somewhat contentious and was ultimately changed to its final format in a second draft of the proposal (March 22, 1995). With the "sf" added back to all the group names, the proposal with these four groups was put to a vote: rec.arts.sf.starwars.collecting rec.arts.sf.starwars.games rec.arts.sf.starwars.info and rec.arts.sf.starwars.misc (renaming rec.arts.sf.starwars) Of these four groups, the rec.arts.sf.starwars.collecting newsgroup was to focus on toys as well as other Star Wars collectibles. The charter for that group was as follows: CHARTER: This newsgroup will be open to discussion of all issues and topics pertaining to Star Wars collectibles: toys, posters, cards, ceramics, etc. This could include information about available collectibles and wanted/for-sale posts relating to Star Wars collectibles. On May 23, 1995 the voting results of this massive reorganization were announced. All groups had passed by a landslide with rec.arts.sf.starwars.collecting passing by a margin of 351 to 27.

VINTAGE

On January 2, 1996 Tom Rhone proposed what was to become the most discussed split to date: rec.toys.vintage. The group was proposed to give classic toy enthusiasts a place to discuss their interests without having to compete with posts dealing with contemporary toys. However, there were numerous points of debate regarding such issues as how the group should be named, how the scope of the group should be defined and how the charter should read. The evolution of the charter gives only a hint of how the discussion proceeded. Originally the charter was drafted to read: CHARTER: rec.toys.vintage An unmoderated newsgroup which would provide a world wide forum for the discussion of all aspects of vintage toys. To spread knowledge, and enjoyment, anywhere on the internet, surrounding the collecting and discussion of vintage toys. To provide a forum for the discussion of all interests surrounding vintage toys, who's audience grows daily. END CHARTER. Many felt that that this was too vague and needed more clarity in both definition and scope. One of the main points of contention was the plan to define "vintage" as anything 20 years or older. This "rolling timeline" definition presented a potential problem in that the group's subject material would be constantly "rolling over" as each new year passed. Despite the objections of some, the group went to a vote with the following charter: CHARTER: rec.toys.vintage The purpose of rec.toys.vintage is to provide a medium for those interested in expressing, sharing and exchanging their views, ideas and feelings about the collecting of vintage toys. For purposes of this newsgroup, a "vintage" toy is defined as a toy or game about 20 years or older which is valued as memorabilia or for historical value rather than for its "play value." Discussions encouraged in this newsgroup include; - Any type toy or game about 20 years or older - Toy restoration - Toy display - Rarity and value of particular toys - Original contents and parts of toys and games - Wanted to buy posts - For sale posts - Wanted to Swap posts - Toy company histories - Changing marketplace values of particular toys - Determining factors on value fluctuations - Vintage toy show dates, locations and reviews It is unacceptable to disuss toys that are not "vintage", as defined above, or any other irrelavant topics. END CHARTER. This is the longest charter of all the toy-related newsgroups to date. There was yet another controversy with the announcement of the voting results for rec.toys.vintage. On February 22, 1996 the first result announcement stated that the group had failed, 109:16 (failing the 100 more YES votes than NO votes rule). However, due to a problem with the voting software used to tabulate votes, some votes were not counted. A second, corrected result announcement was released and this time rec.toys.vintage had passed by a margin of 178:56. Rec.toys.vintage has the dubious distinction of receiving the most NO votes of any rec.toys.* proposal to date. Despite all the controversy, rec.toys.vintage has a faithful following and remains a group with moderate traffic and no apparent problems.

ACTION FIGURES

On April 8, 1996 the proposal for rec.toys.action-figures was formally announced. Over the course of its two year history, rec.toys.misc had become an extremely high traffic group with an average of well over 200 posts per day. The proposal, written by Eric G. Myers (EGM), was designed to separate out what had become the dominant topic of rec.toys.misc: Action Figures. There were two main points of discussion prior to the formal proposal process. The first involved whether a marketplace group should be proposed at the same time (or in place of the action-figure group altogether). The second issue was one of naming. Some felt that it would be prudent and future-oriented to add a .misc at the end of the group name to anticipate any future splits without necessitating a renaming. However, a straw poll held by Pam Green helped to resolve these issues. The straw poll showed mixed support for the marketplace idea and general dislike of the ".misc" apellation. And so the group rec.toys.action-figures was formally proposed with the following charter: CHARTER: rec.toys.action-figures Rec.toys.action-figures is an unmoderated newsgroup for the discussion of action figure toys and related accessories. The scope of discussion within this group includes action figures, as well as action figure playsets, vehicles and other accessories intended for use with action figures. The types of posts within this group may include (but not be limited to) posts of news, release dates, collecting, customizing, and reviews related to action figures and their accessories. Until the creation of a more appropriate forum, posts related to the buying, selling, and/or trading of action figures and related toys are acceptable in this group. Crossposting to other rec.toys.* groups is discouraged. END CHARTER. On June 13, 1996 the voting results were announced and rec.toys.action-figures had passed by a margin of 137:20. Currently, rec.toys.action-figures has the highest average daily traffic of all the rec.toys.* groups (rec.toys.misc is a close second). Addendum: Rec.toys.action-figures was split up into two groups: rec.toys.action-figures.discuss and rec.toys.action-figures.marketplace.

ALT GROUPS

The nature of the alt.* hierarchy makes recording its history more difficult. There are several alt.* groups that deal with toy-related topics. Most notable of these are alt.toys.gi-joe, alt.toys.transformers, and alt.food.pez. Although these groups receive sparser propagation than the rec.toys.* groups, the alt.* groups still thrive. To date, no attempts have been made to move these groups over to the more widely propagated rec.* hierarchy. However, this remains a possibility for the future. If anyone has more detailed information regarding the alt.* groups related to toys, please contact me at [email protected] or [email protected]

THE FUTURE

The future looks rosy for the toy-related newsgroups. The opportunity for new newsgroups exists in several forms. As previously mentioned, there is always the possibility of moving the existing alt.* groups over to the rec.* hierarchy. Without question, the idea that gets the most discussion is the idea of some type of marketplace group. However, there are many issues that need to be resolved before any marketplace proposal could be successfully launched. Not the least of these is the issue of where to place any marketplace group(s) within the existing hierarchy (or potentially even creating a separate sub-hierarchy). Informal discussions will undoubtedly continue. The existing toy groups are all healthy and thriving. It appears that toy discussions will be a fixture on the Usenet for a long time to come. EGM - Copyright 1996 References for specific proposals: rec.toys.lego & rec.toys.misc: ftp.uu.net/usenet/news.announce.newgroups/rec/rec.toys rec.toys.cars: ftp.uu.net/usenet/news.announce.newgroups/rec/rec.toys.cars rec.toys.fisher-price: ftp.uu.net/usenet/news.announce.newgroups/rec/rec.toys.fisher-price rec.toys.vintage: ftp.uu.net/usenet/news.announce.newgroups/rec/rec.toys.vintage rec.toys.action-figures: ftp.uu.net/usenet/news.announce.newgroups/rec/rec.toys.action-figures rec.collecting.dolls: ftp.uu.net/usenet/news.announce.newgroups/rec/rec.collecting.dolls rec.arts.sf.starwars.collecting (Star Wars reorganization): ftp.uu.net/usenet/news.announce.newgroups/rec/rec.arts.sf.starwars-reorg
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