Internet Netiquette -- Newsgroup Netiquette

(historical document circa 1994, author unknown)

Q: What is Netiquette?

A: In any social interaction, certain rules of etiquette can lead to more enjoyable and productive communication. The Internet is no different –in fact, there’s even a special word for it: “Netiquette!”

The following tips for posting messages and responses to Newsgroups are adapted from guidelines originally compiled by ‘Net citizens Chuq Von Rospach and Gene Spafford. They are good rules of thumb for any online communication, but are particularly appropriate on the Internet (so many people, and so much volume).

1. Never forget that the person on the other side is a human being. Even though you are using a computer to communicate don’t forget that other people are on the receiving end. Millions of people all over the world are reading your words. Avoid personal attacks. Don’t speak (type) hastily — try not to say anything to others that you would not say to them in a room full of people. Remember that you are playing an important role in building an online community — and we all want this community to be a good, friendly place.

2. Be brief. With millions of people participating, you’ll find that Newsgroups generate LOTS and LOTS of words. Other participants will appreciate your ability to stay on topic. If you say what you want to say succinctly, it will have greater impact. Likewise, don’t post the same message on more than one Newsgroup unless you are sure it is appropriate.

3. Your messages reflect on YOU — be proud of them. Although you will meet thousands of people through the Internet, chances are you won’t meet many of them in person. Most people will only know you by what you say, and how well you say it. Take time to make sure that you are proud of the messages you send. Take time to make sure your messages are easy to read and understand.

4. Use descriptive Subject headings in your messages. The subject line of your message is there to help people decide whether or not they want to read it. Use the subject line to tell people what your message is about. For example, if you are sending a message to an Automobiles Newsgroup, a subject like “66 MG Midget for Sale: Oregon”is much more informative than “Car for Sale.”

5. Think about your audience. Stay on topic. Post your messages in the appropriate Newsgroup. By reading a number of the messages before sending one yourself, you will be able to get a sense of the ongoing conventions and themes of the Newsgroup.

6. Be careful with humor and sarcasm. Without the voice inflections and body language of personal communications,it is easy for a remark meant to be funny to be misinterpreted. You can convey the emotions that words alone cannot express by using such online conventions as “smileys.” 🙂

7. Summarize what you are following up. When you are making a follow-up comment to someone else’s message, be sure to summarize the parts of the message to which you are responding. Summarization is best done by including appropriate quotes from the original message. Don’t include the entire message, since this could be irritating to people who have already read it.

8. Give back to the Community If you send a message to a Newsgroup requesting information, and you get lots of responses via electronic mail, it’s a nice courtesy to prepare an edited message compiling your responses to the Newsgroup where you originally posted your question. Take the time to strip headers, combine duplicate information, and write a short summary. Credit the information to the people who sent it to you. Likewise, be a “giver” as well as a “taker” in this online community. If you have good and valuable information to share, please do so in the appropriate Newsgroups.

9. Try not to repeat what has already been said. Read responses to messages before you chime in, so that you are not needlessly repetitive. And make sure your responses have substance –answers like “Yup” and “I agree” probably won’t be widely appreciated.

10. Cite appropriate references. If you are using facts to support a cause, state where they came from.

(Again, thanks to Chuq Von Rospach and Gene Spafford for originally outlining these useful points.)