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NETIQUETTE

Netiquette stands for Internet Etiquette, and refers to the set of practices created over the
years to make the Internet experience pleasant for everyone. Like other forms of etiquette,
netiquette is primarily concerned with matters of courtesy in communications. The following
sections provide more information.

• Netiquette Basics

o Help the newbies

New users on the Internet are sometimes called "newbies". Everybody was a
newbie once. It is considered to be very good netiquette to share your
knowledge and help others who ask questions by email, in news groups, on
mailing lists, and in chat rooms, thereby passing on some of the knowledge
you have gained. Help the newbies as you wish you were helped.

o Research before asking

People on the Internet often get far more email than they can deal with. As a
common courtesy to do your part to minimize this email, you should always
check the Frequently Asked Questions files, search the Internet, and search
the newsgroups for the answer to a question before sending email to a human
being. If it turns out that the question was easily obtainable in an obvious
place, you may annoy the other person and embarrass yourself.

o Remember emotion

Don't use capitals unnecessarily in email -- it designates shouting, and is considered


rude, as in the following:

I THINK THE FACTS PROVE THIS POINT.

If you want to emphasize a word, use stars or underlines sparingly.

I think the facts *prove* this point.


I think the _facts_ prove this point.

You can use smileys sparingly to signal emotions like smiles, winks, sadness,
surprise, etc.

I wish I'd read this before! ;-)


I wish I'd read this before. :-(

Remember that subtle emotions and meanings do not transmit very well over email.
Satire and humour is particularly hard to transmit, and sometimes comes across as
rude and contemptuous. Particularly avoid sarcasm, which rarely communicates well.
Similarly, don't over-react to email or postings you receive. What looks to you like an
insulting or mean message may only be an absent minded and poor choice of
phrasing, and not meant the way you perceived it.

Be particularly polite when disagreeing with others. Wherever possible, acknowledge


good points made, and then respectfully describe the areas where you disagree to
produce the most productive conversation.

o People aren't organizations

Many people send email from their work email accounts because that is the only
email account they have. Never assume that a person is speaking for the
organization that they work for.

To ensure that people can make this distinction, some folks put a sentence in the
signature of their email at work that says something like the following:

"All opinions are personal expressions of the author alone".

• Netiquette Of Sending:

o Be brief
• Be brief. It takes considerable time and effort to read long messages. If you get a lot
of email, and a lot of them are long, then it is likely that you won't be able to read
them all. You can do your part to reduce this workload by using brevity to maximize
clarity.
• This rule is less absolute on mailing lists, and much less so again for newsgroup
postings, since the obligation to read these messages is correspondingly less. If you
have a good five page essay, you should feel free to post it to a newsgroup. Potential
readers will open your message voluntarily by clicking on your subject line, and if
they don't like the first sentence of your message they are completely free to close it
and proceed to another.

o Use white space

Use white space to enhance readability. Put a blank line at the beginning of messages, so
that when they are read by someone the message will have some blank space between it
and the header. You can send an email to yourself, or post a message to a test newsgroup,
to see the effect.

A blank line between paragraphs greatly helps readability.


Put a URL on a separate line, and indented a couple of spaces.

http://www.livinginternet.com/i/iw_packet.htm

o Use descriptive subject lines


• What with work, friends, mailing lists, and spam, many people get more email than
they can easily read. You can greatly help potential readers remember what your
message is about, and decide whether or not to read it, with a descriptive subject
line.
• The subject line is one of the only fields displayed in an email Inbox or Usenet
newsgroup listing. A short, meaningful subject is the most useful element of
information when one wants to identify an email's purpose at a glance. Some
examples of ambiguous and meaningful subjects are provided below.

Bad Subjects Good Subjects

Misc Cirque du Soleil tickets

Request Request for part number

Meeting Meeting 9:00 Tues -- room 6

o Stay on-topic

Never post off-topic messages, not related to the subject of the mailing list or newsgroup.
This takes judgment, and you should ask yourself a basic question: is this posting likely to
be of interest to this newsgroup or mailing list, or is there another forum that is more
appropriate? You might get a better response by searching for a newsgroup or mailing list
more directly applicable to your message.

Trolling is the act of posting a message highly off-topic or otherwise calculated to arouse
controversy and hopefully cause a flame war. The best response to a troll's posting is no
response, to recognize the purpose and ignore the bait. Additional resources on troll control
are found below:

FAQ - Alt.Troll

FAQ - alt.syntax.tactical - Dealing with Trolls Crossposting and Flames.

o Be careful sending attachments


• Be careful sending email attachments. Unlike an email message, which is usually
about 1 kb in size, an attachment can be many kilobytes or megabytes. Besides the
fact that most email systems have an attachment limit, you shouldn't send large
attachments by email to people with slow Internet connections, since you could tie
their machine up for minutes or hours.
• Don't send attachments to mailing lists or non-binary newsgroups. Instead, send a
message inviting people to email you directly if they want a copy.

o Copy the minimum number of people


• You can send a message to more than one person or newsgroup very easily, greatly
multiplying the bandwidth your message will require, but with proportionately lessor
relevancy. You should only copy more than one mailing list or newsgroup if the
message is genuinely useful and on-topic, and do your part to reduce everybody's
email load.
• When you get a message at work with several CC addresses, it is usually considered
polite to reply to all addresses. However, there are occasions when it may be
appropriate to delete some addresses, such as when you are discussing routine
matters and senior personnel don't need to be distracted.
• If you mean to reply to just the sender of a message, always double-check the
addresses on your reply message before sending. It is very easy to reply to an email
sent by a friend to several of his friends, and then find that your email program has
replied to all of the addresses in the original message, and sending your personal
reply to everyone by mistake. Some applications let you change the default behavior
of the standard reply function, usually <ctrl>-r, between the options of "reply just to
sender" and "reply to all".

o Include your email address


• Always include your email address in your email or newsgroup messages.
• Sometimes people keep a copy of a message or newsgroup posting, but don't have a
copy of the header with the addresses, and so they won't know how to contact you
later. This can happen if your email or newsgroup posting has been forwarded or
copied without the headers.
• A common preventive solution to this problem is to put your email address in the
body of the message itself, so that it won't get lost if the headers get lost. Many
people do this automatically, by putting their name and address in their signature.

o Respect non-commercial spaces

There are many places on the Internet that accept and welcome commercial messages.
Therefore, you should never:

• Post commercial messages to non-commercial newsgroups.


• Post commercial email to non-commercial mailing lists.
• Send commercial email unsolicited to private organizations or people.

o Avoid flaming

There is a problem with this brave new world in that a lot of people
don't appreciate there's another human being at the other keyboard.
Flaming is a real problem -- especially in comp.misc. This is all a
new facet of the technology as well. People rarely trade insults in
real life like they do on Internet. There's a tendency to stereotype
your opponent into categories. I think this is because you're not
around to witness the results.

I find this more on Internet newsgroups than on Compuserve. I think


this is down to maturity -- a lot of folk on the Internet are students
who aren't paying for their time on the system. Those on
Compuserve are normally slightly older, not so hot-headed and are
paying for their time. Damn. Now I'm at stereotyping now. It just
goes to show.

- Scott Hatton, "The Net and Netizens: The Impact the Net has on
People's Lives", Fall/Winter 1994/1995.

• Flaming is the act of sending someone an outrageously insulting message, whether


by private email or in a public Usenet posting, usually because you disagree with
something they have said. A good flame mixes a razor sharp wit with a devastating
put-down so that the other person will only make themself look silly if they dare
disagree -- "The absurdity of your ideas is exceeded only by the incoherence of your
remarks, beginning with..."
• Some people support the use of flaming to enforce good netiquette on mailing lists
and the Usenet. A flame can sometimes be funny, and may feel good to the sender,
but should be resisted whenever possible. A flame can give the impression that you
are unable to respond with more reasonable language, and can genuinely hurt the
other person. In general, you should take a disagreement with another user off of a
mailing list or news group, and into a civil and personal exchange by email between
the two of you, letting others carry on with the discussion. Also, keep in mind the
considerable limitations on accurate communication of emotion in a text medium.

• Netiquette Of Replying

o Replying and forwarding

The basic rules of replying and forwarding are listed below:

• Reply to sender. When someone asks a question or posts an offer for information or
services to a mailing list or newsgroup, then you should send them an email directly
instead of posting a reply to the whole list or newsgroup which takes up a lot of
bandwidth for people that aren't interested in the topic.

Replying to the sender is also a good idea because the original sender may not see
your reply if they don't carefully review the list or newsgroup for replies, which
happens more often than you might think.
• Minimize forwarding. If you receive an email to several people and need to reply, you
should pare down the addressee list to those that need to know or may be interested
in the what you have to say, to do your part to reduce the overall volume of email.
However, copy more people rather than less when in doubt, in case people need to
know the information for reasons you aren't aware of.

• Forward when necessary. Make sure you don't forward an email to someone who was
copied on the original email, a mistake which is easy to make if you don't first check
the whole list of of To: and CC: addressees.

o Summarize for the group

Aihuxp.134
net.unix
utzoo!decvax!harpo!eagle!mhtsa!ihnss!ihuxp!grg
Fri May 7 22:13:32 1982
Distributed UNIX?

I am interested in collecting all references and information available


on network based distributed UNIX systems. Candidate examples
include Bell Labs F/S UNIX and UCLA LOCUS. I am primarily
interested in network based (multimachine) systems, although
multiple processor bus oriented systems may be discussed also.
Please mail all info and pointers to me directly, I will summarize to
the net if there is interest.

Greg Guthrie
Bell Labs
Naperville, Ill (312)979-7303

• If you post a question to a list or newsgroup, and you get several answers sent
directly to you, and they would likely be of interest to the list or group, then write a
brief message summarizing all of the responses and post it for the benefit of others.

o Check current information before replying

Often someone will send an email or post a message, only to send a


retraction or changed information a short time later. Always check your
recent email or the most recent posted messages before replying to someone
else's message, in order to make sure the situation has not already changed,
and that your response is still on-topic and useful.

o Reference past communications


Include a portion of a message that you are replying to when it is relevant.
However, don't include more than necessary, otherwise people will give up
reading. Use the word <snip> to indicate deletions.

o Acknowledge important communications

If someone sends you an important email, it is polite to send them a quick


acknowledgment so they know you got it. For example, if someone sends you
an email asking "can we set up a teleconference tomorrow at noon?", then it
would be polite to send them a note before the end of the day, for example
saying that you are working on getting a room, so that you don't leave them
wondering if you got their message.

• Netiquette Of Confidentiality

o Don't publicize other's email addresses

Don't distribute other people's email addresses to strangers by email or by


posting messages to the Usenet newsgroups, unless the email is on a public
work and obviously intended for distribution. Otherwise, you may be
responsible for someone getting spam email from commercial sites, and
strange email from unwanted strangers.

o Never send what you don't read

Never forward an email you haven't read, or send someone an attachment


you haven't examined. Many people have been badly embarrassed by
forgetting this rule, and the email or attachment turned out to contain
information they really shouldn't have forwarded.

o Remember archiving

Remember that many mailing lists, newsgroups, and even some chat groups
and email systems archive information. If you aren't prepared to have your
words archived and recalled at a later time, then don't send the message.
This is especially important to remember if your message contains
information about third parties.

o Respect copyright

It is easy to copy something from the Internet and put it in an email or on a web
page and give the impression by mistake that it is your work. Always clearly identify
the author of work that is not your own.

Similarly, if you are forwarding or posting someone else's work, don't alter or edit
their words -- even to change what you may think of as mistakes. There may be a
reason or importance to a missing comma or misspelling, and you don't want to be
responsible for passing on false information. A small change can have a large effect
later that you may not realize at the time.