News groups are uncensored and unregulated in the "big brother" sense but don't be fooled into thinking you're in serious danger of just getting dumb answers from know-nothings. Yes, know-nothings, often join the groups and start posting nonsense. But genuinely knowledgeable people (at least most of the time in these two groups specifically but not in all groups) post "disagreeing" messages to the group or debate the know-nothings on the group. It is, of course, up to you to determine who in any news group knows what they are talking about or not.
Another word of warning: Just because someone has some credential, for example is an attorney admitted to the bar, or a patent agent's license from the PTO it DOES NOT mean they always post sound information. The least competent "experts" may simply have more time available to spend trolling news groups for clients. Comfortable yet?
The Bang for the Buck
Getting the most benefit from a news group is up to you too. First and foremost I STRONGLY recommend you read at least two weeks of posts BEFORE you post any questions. While you read constantly evaluate the answers and their posters. If a poster has a web link in their signature click on it and READ the material at their web site---it may answer your question before you even have to ask it. You can read two weeks of posts all in an afternoon, you don't have to wait for two new weeks of posts after joining.
Also mine, mine, mine the archives looking for the answer to your specific question. You can search the archives via Google Groups $ . It is not unusual to find that someone else asked your very question in the last 2 weeks or month or 2 months and if that is the case you should NOT expect a polite and thorough answer if you ask it again. In fact expect the heat from flames to be intense except from those who want to butter you up to charm you out of some of your money.
And while you're mining keep your eyes open for the frequently asked (don't laugh) "How do I legally STEAL someone else's invention, copyright, trademark?" question. Hardly a week goes buy without someone trying to get an answer that will say it's OK for them to steal if they just do X. Of course they don't put the question quite in those terms but everyone (except them who think they cleverly disguised it so it can't be recognized for what it is) can see that's exactly what they mean. If that's your sort of question it would be best if you bowed out now, before you enhance the "greedy kook" impression much of the population if the world already has of independent inventors.
Expect to be treated like a total idiot and/or a lazy jerk if you ask a dumb question that is relatively easily answered in the obvious place to find the answer, such as www.uspto.gov. Expect to be treated like a total idiot and/or a lazy jerk if you ask a dumb question that is relatively easily answered in the obvious place to find the answer, such as www.uspto.gov. Got that?
Do not be afraid to ask a question if you're genuinely lost or perplexed because that will come through in your question just as clearly as faking perplexity will or excusing yourself for laziness or faking more knowledge than you actually possess. It's all been seen before dozens of times and it's very easy to recognize just like it's easy for the parent to spot the kid who stole the cookie.
Do provide sufficient detail and a narrow enough question that it can be answered in a paragraph or two at the most. Idiots routinely ask "How do I get a patent," the short answer of course is "pay a patent agent or attorney to prepare and prosecute a patent application" while the long answer is in 500+ pages of the book "Patent It Yourself" $ and the even longer answer is spelled out in the (warning: large document links) law, the Code of Federal Regulations, and the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure.
Do not expect someone to do your research for you. If you're looking for some specific information that could likely easily be turned up by a Google $ search then DO THE GOOGLE SEARCH yourself first. Then if it's still appropriate to ask the question, tell what you've done and the resources you found and what is still leaving you confused or whatever.
Do not ask for or expect private answers. Asking for a private answer simply shows you are both too lazy to read the news group and not serious enough to discover what else you can glean from reading the questions and answers of others. In fact, if you do get a private answer you should expect much of the time that that party is angling to get some money out of you. They probably know that if they posted their answer publicly they'd get shot down in flames pretty easily but they make themselves sound pretty authoritative and believable to naive novices.
Does any of this sound like "do unto others as you would have them do unto you?" Don't abuse other people and they won't abuse you. You were expecting perhaps that the Golden Rule was only to be applied from one side, you abuse someone then they are to treat you politely like they'd like to be treated? Sorry, due to the easy abuse (taking unwarranted advantage) of people on the internet that one way behavior after being abused will get less and less over time. (Do you politely appreciate e-mail spam and buy products from the spammer? See what I mean.)
BE VERY AWARE THAT YOU MAY NOT KNOW "THE" QUESTION TO BE ASKING or even have a clue what the questions are that you should be asking. EXPECT TO BE CHALLENGED in this regard. A "challenge" IS NOT a personal "attack." Flaming someone as if it were is a VERY BONE HEADED thing to do. Most budding wannabe successful inventors enter the news groups with the totally naive notion that "you get a patent and the riches follow (nearly automatically)." If your question indicated your plan is to get a patent and provides no clue about whether you've addressed the question "Will it sell?" for instance, expect to be challenged as to why you think a patent is a good idea since less than 2 out of 100 patents actually make any money for anyone.