Net Etiquette

As in everyday life, good manners are welcome in the virtual
world of cyberspace. Here is a brief list of things to remember when
participating in newsgroups, and in general correspondence across the

– The person on the other side is human.
– People don’t always speak for their organizations.
– Be careful what you say about others.
– Be brief.
– Your postings reflect upon YOU.
– Use descriptive titles / subject lines.
– Think about your audience.
– Be careful with humor and sarcasm.
– Only post a message once.
– Summarize what you are following up.
– Don’t repeat what has already been said.
– Be careful about copyrights and licenses.
– Cite appropriate references.
– Make an honest attempt to spell correctly.
– Use upper and lowercase letters.
– Don’t overdo signatures.
– Don’t use Usenet as an advertising avenue.
– Avoid posting to multiple newsgroups.

Communication by computer is new to almost everybody, and there
are certain aspects that can make it a frustrating experience until you get
used to them. Refer to the guidelines below to communicate politely and
effectively and avoid common “newbie” traps.

Remember – the Person on the Other Side is Human.
People all over the world are reading your words. Don’t attack
people if you cannot persuade them with your view of the facts. What goes
around, comes around and abusing others (even behind the screen of email or
posts) only serves to make people think less of you and less willing to help
you when you need it.

Don’t Assume People Speak for Their Organizations.
Never assume that the person is speaking for the organization
that they are posting their articles from (unless the person explicitly says
so). Some people put explicit disclaimers to this effect in their messages,
but this is a good general rule. If you find an article offensive, take it
up with the person by direct email, or simply ignore it.

Be Careful What You Say About Others.
Information posted on the Net can come back to haunt you or
the person you are talking about. Think twice before you post personal
information about yourself or others.

Be Brief.
Never say in ten words what you can say in fewer. Say it
succinctly and it will have a greater impact. Remember that the longer you
make your article, the fewer people will bother to read it.

Your Postings Reflect Upon You — Be Proud of Them.
Most people on Usenet will know you only by what you say and
how well you say it. They may someday be your co-workers or friends.
Minimize your spelling errors and make sure that the article is easy to read
and understand. Take some time to make sure each posting is something that
will not embarrass you later.

Use Descriptive Titles / Subject Lines.
The subject line of an article is there to enable a person
with a limited amount of time to decide whether or not to read your article.
Tell people what the article is about before they read it.

Think About Your Audience and Post Appropriately.
When you post an article, think about the people you are
trying to reach. Try to get the most appropriate audience for your message,
not the widest.

One normally does not join a conversation by just walking up
and talking. Instead, you listen first and then join in if you have
something pertinent to contribute. By the same token, you should be familiar
with the group you are posting to before you post! Don’t post to groups you
don’t read, or post to groups you’ve only read a few articles from — you
may not be familiar with the on-going conventions and themes of the group.

Be Careful with Humor and Sarcasm.
Without the voice inflections and body language of
face-to-face communications, it is easy for a remark meant to be funny to be
misinterpreted. Subtle humor tends to get lost, so take steps to make sure
that people realize you are trying to be funny. The net has developed a
symbol called the “smiley face”. It looks like “:-)” and points out sections
of articles with humorous intent. No matter how broad the humor or satire,
it is safer to remind people that you are being funny. Frowns 😦 and winks
😉 can also avoid confusion.

Only Post a Message Once.
Avoid posting messages to more than one newsgroup unless you
are sure it is appropriate. If you do post to multiple newsgroups, do not
post to each group separately. Instead, specify all the groups on a single
copy of the message. This reduces network overhead and lets people who
subscribe to more than one of those groups see the message once instead of
having to wade through each copy.

Summarize What You are Following Up.
When you are following up someone’s article, please summarize
the parts of the article to which you are responding. This allows readers to
appreciate your comments rather than trying to remember what the original
article said.

Summarization is best done by including appropriate quotes
from the original article. Do not include the entire article since it will
irritate the people who have already seen it.

Don’t Repeat What has Already Been Said.
Before you submit a follow-up to a message, read the rest of
the messages in the newsgroup to see whether someone has already said what
you want to say. If someone has, don’t repeat it.

Be Careful About Copyrights and Licenses.
Once something is posted onto the network, it is *probably* in
the public domain unless you own the appropriate rights (most notably, if
you wrote the thing yourself) and you post it with a valid copyright notice;
a court would have to decide the specifics and there are arguments for both
sides of the issue.

You should also be aware that posting movie reviews, song
lyrics, or anything else published under a copyright could cause you, your
company, or members of the net community to be held liable for damages, so
we highly recommend caution in using this material.

Cite Appropriate References.
If you are using facts to support a cause, state where they
came from. Don’t take someone else’s ideas and use them as your own. You
don’t want someone pretending that your ideas are theirs; show them the same
Make an Honest Attempt to Spell Correctly.
Every few months a plague descends on Usenet called the
spelling flame. It starts out when someone posts an article correcting the
spelling or grammar in some article. This usually escalates into an
unproductive “war of the words” and tends to cause people who used to be
friends to get angry with each other.

Since properly spelled messages are easier to read and
understand, we all appreciate a good faith effort to spell correctly.
However, it is important to remember that we all make mistakes, and that
there are many users on the net who use English as a second language. There
are also a number of people who suffer from dyslexia and who have difficulty
noticing their spelling mistakes. If you feel that you must make a comment
on the quality of a posting, please do so by mail, not on the network.

Use a Mixture of Upper and Lowercase Letters.
It is considered rude to “shout” by typing your post
completely in caps. Submissions in a single case (all upper or all lower)
are difficult to read, so using common capitalization is appreciated.

Don’t Overdo Signatures.
Signatures are nice, and many mail programs automatically add
a customized signature to email and postings. While it is common to
personalize your correspondence in this manner, don’t overdo it. Signatures
can tell the world something about you, but keep them short. A signature
that is longer than the message itself is considered to be in bad taste.

Do Not Use Usenet as an Advertising Avenue.
Advertisements on Usenet are rarely appreciated. In general,
the louder or more inappropriate the ad is, the more antagonism it will stir
up. Try the biz.* hierarchies instead.

Avoid Posting to Multiple Newsgroups.
Few things annoy Usenet readers as much as multiple copies of
a posting appearing in multiple newsgroups. (called ‘spamming’ for
historical reasons) A posting that is cross-posted (i.e lists multiple
newsgroups on the Newsgroups: header line) to a few appropriate newsgroups
is fine, but even with cross-posts, restraint is advised.


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