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What is a Kill File?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 16, 2024
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A kill file is used in Usenet reading programs to mark certain article subjects or writers so that future articles in that category will not appear for the reader again. Such kill files, sometimes called killfiles, twit lists or bozo bins, are typically used by newsreader programs that allow a person to read articles posted on Usenet newsgroups. Kill files allow users to more quickly filter out certain article subjects or writers that the user no longer wishes to read. The kill file makes future articles in a selected category or by a selected writer no longer appear for the user.

Newsreaders are programs created to help users navigate and access articles posted on Usenet newsgroups. These programs make the process of finding and reading these articles simpler, and toward that end they often include the ability to add to a kill file. In so doing, the user is able to filter out a subject that he or she is not interested in, or to eliminate the possibility of having to read an article by a particular writer. This action can be used simply to streamline the process of finding articles or as an intentional affront toward a writer the user does not care for.

The process of adding a person to a kill file is often called a “plonk,” or used in the verb form “to plonk” someone. This is meant to resemble the sound of dropping the person into a kill file, as though a user was literally dropping something into an empty trash can. Though this can simply be personal preference, it is sometimes used in an inflammatory way meant to insult the person added to the kill file.

Newer newsreader programs allow for more complicated types of kill files that allow a user to add more complex or specific categories to the file. This type of system allows a user to establish multiple rules for what articles are filtered and what are presented for reading by the user. These more sophisticated forms of kill files are often called score files and allow articles to be rated or scored to allow filtration based on a more fluid system.

Many modern Internet forums also use systems similar to a kill file to allow users to block messages posted by other specific users. These are often called ignore lists and adding someone to such a list can be used in a similar way to the “plonk” of Usenet groups. Some older Internet users may also refer to other similar processes on forums or bulletin boards as kill files simply out of habit.

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