Package - Netiquette
thou enter a city, abide by its customs." - The Talmud
to post to the lists and how to behave on the list: this has more to do with
out of character lists then anything else.
is tempted from time to time to evangelize, to stride boldly into the enemy's
camp and throw down the gauntlet. We will never see the end of people who pop
up on comp.sys.intel praising Macs and Amigas; who send mail to the SKEPTIC
list that flying saucers really, truly do exist; who enlighten the Buddhist
newsgroups that they're all bound for hell, and on and on.
the entire history of the net, no one has managed to do this without looking
like a complete idiot. If you believe you are the one person who will succeed
where millions have failed, then you're ready to learn about...
is nothing you can say that won't offend somebody:
>It's a bright, sunny day today.
You filthy *@#?$!, what have you got against Seattle?!
(violent verbal expressions of disapproval), misunderstandings, overreactions,
and hurt feelings are par for the course. Four lessons from experience:
- Hedge your bets: Rather than saying, "Metal rules! Death to
all that oppose!!" try saying "In my humble opinion (often
abbreviated IMHO) metal bands perfectly express my feelings, choices, and
lifestyle. Your mileage may vary." (another net clichť, less
frequently abbreviated YMMV). By the way, BTW is another frequent net
abbreviation, for what it's worth (FWIW).
- Apologize: When misunderstanding is the culprit, and especially
if you respect the person, who misunderstood, take the blame on yourself
for being unclear, apologize, say what you meant more clearly (if
appropriate) and put it behind you. As in real life (remember that?)
people who are quick to anger are often equally quick to forgive.
- Avoid flame bait: (Conduct, which gravely offends the norms,
mores and folkways of a particular group.) "Now wait a minute!"
you say. "Do you mean that something that's accepted behavior on one
list or newsgroup will draw dozens of stinging, ridiculing comments in
another?" I sure do. What can you do? Lurk a while before you post.
Read what's said like an anthropologist, trying to discover what the big
no-noís are. The beginning of a school term is a wonderful time to do
this, as you will observe the clueless newbies who weren't smart enough to
read this paragraph being torn to shreds. There are some things you should
NEVER do, and we'll list them in a minute, but let's get to the last bit
and Don'ts (or "How to Avoid Most Flames")
include the entire contents of a previous posting in your reply.
cut mercilessly. Leave just enough to indicate what you're responding
to. NEVER include mail headers except maybe the "From:"
line. If you can't figure out how to delete lines in your mailer
software, paraphrase or type the quoted material in.
reply to a point in a posting without quoting or paraphrasing what you're
responding to and who said it. Reason: a dozen postings may occur between
the original message and your reply. At some sites your reply may get
there before the original.
quote (briefly) or paraphrase. If the original "Subject:"
line was "Big dogs" make sure yours says "Re: Big
dogs". Some REPLY functions do this automatically. By net
convention, included lines are preceded by ">" (greater
than signs). Some mail editors and newsreaders do this automatically.
Others require you to do it manually or set the "indent
character" to ">".
send a message saying "Why doesn't anybody say anything about
X?" or "Who wants to talk about X?"
always a risk to start a new topic (often called a thread). The group
may have just finished a long, bitter war about that very subject. But
if you want to take the risk, SAY SOMETHING yourself about the subject
send lines longer than 70 characters. This is a kindness to folks with
terminal-based mail editors or newsreaders. Some mail gateways truncate
extra characters turning your deathless prose into gibberish.
mail editor tools only SEEM to insert line breaks for you, but
actually don't, so that every paragraph is one immense line. Learn
what your mail editor does.
SEND A MESSAGE IN ALL CAPS. CAPITALIZED MESSAGES ARE HARDER TO READ (AND
IS CONSIDERED TO BE SHOUTING) THAN LOWER CASE OR MIXED CASE.
use normal capitalization. Separate your paragraphs with blank lines.
Make your message inviting to your potential readers. If you intend to
íshoutí indicate it in some fashion
betray confidences. It is all too easy to quote a personal letter in a
posting to the entire group.
read the "To:" and "Cc:" lines in your message
before you send it. Are you SURE you want the mail to go there?
make statements that can be interpreted as official positions of your
organization or offers to do business. Saying "Boy, I'd sure like to
have one of them Crays" could result in a truck at your loading dock
and a bill in the mail even larger than your student loan.
treat every post as though you were sending a copy to your boss, your
minister, and your worst enemy.
rely on the ability of your readers to tell the difference between serious
statements and satire or sarcasm. It's hard to write funny. It's even
harder to write satire.
remember that no one can hear your tone of voice. Use emoticons (or
smilies) like :-) or :^) --turn your head counterclockwise to see the
smile. You can also use caps for emphasis or use net conventions for
italics and underlines as in: "You said the guitar solo on
"Comfortably Numb" from Pink Floyd's _The Wall_ was *lame*?
Are you OUT OF YOUR MIND???!!!"
make a posting that says nothing but "Me, too." This is most
annoying when combined with (1) or (2) above. Ditto for "I don't
remember the immortal words of Martin Farquhar Tupper (1810-1889):
"Well-timed silence hath more eloquence than speech."
try to retract a message already sent. That is HST discretion.
Be certain of what your saying and who your sending it to.
It Is Worldwide
warning: the net is international. If you tell a Belgian she's being
un-American (or un-Canadian). SHE ISN'T OFFENDED. Of course she's un-American;
you're un-Belgian. She doesn't care about being lectured on the First
Amendment or Quebec separatism. She doesn't HAVE a First Amendment or a Quebec
and she thinks Belgian values are better. Many people have made fools of
themselves by forgetting this everywhere else. Let's try to behave a little
better on the net.
the FAQ List
many groups have had the sense to write down some of their norms and folkways
in a frequently asked questions (FAQ) list along with (what else?) the answers
to frequently asked questions. Many Usenet FAQs are posted monthly or so on
the news.answers. List owners of listservs are often quite willing to mail you
the FAQ for the list. In fact, they may have already told you where it is in
the letter you get welcoming you to the list.