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ON NETIQUETTE

by Julie Waters,
website:
http://songweaver.com/

"Netiquette" is a contemporary term for proper etiquette on the Internet.

Binary Attachments

One of the really nice features about current e-mail providers is that many of them allow us to send files as attachments to other users. This, in many ways, is a very good thing. If I'm working with a client and want to send them an image file or a word file, I can do so very quickly and easily, without having to fax it to them. This saves on long distance bills and printing costs. It also, however, presents a problem, because attachments can take a long time to download. For those of us who pay by the hour for internet service, unwanted attachments can be quite costly and cumbersome. It's also just plain time-consuming. I once had someone send me fifteen -large- photoshop files without checking first, and it tied up my computer for 20 minutes just to download a set of files. So, in short, if you're going to send an attachment, get permission first.

Bitmap Format

I'm not going to pretend to know why things work this way, or what sort of situation brought them about. However, for whatever reason, images formatted as bitmaps tend to take up a great deal more memory than most other types of image. Unfortunately, they also seem to be the default mode of screen capture for a great many Windows programs, so some individuals often end up creating them unwittingly. A friend of mine once sent me a bitmap as an attachment which took me thirty minutes to download. It turned out the image was over 3.5 meg. When I finally did manage to download it, and opened it photoshop, I was able to convert it to a 170k jpeg in a matter of seconds. Before you send somebody something in bitmap format, try learning how to convert files into other, more user-friendly, formats first.

Chain Letters

Chain letters are basically a way to get someone else to spam for you. They involve sending people messages which instruct them to redistribute the messages to some number of other people. They are annoying. They are rude. They are pure evil. But aside from that, in many places they are also illegal and have in the past led to individuals losing their net access. So, please, if you see a chain letter, just say no. Related to chain letters are various net hoaxes.

FAQs

"FAQ" is short for "Frequently Asked Questions." Many lists and/or newsgroups come with their own FAQ sheet. Before asking questions, it's advisable to read this FAQ. It's not just that people mind answering the same question over and over again. It's that people tend to have more respect for someone who's willing to put a little bit of work into something on their own rather than just sit back and expect everyone else to answer all their questions for them. Also, be sure to save your FAQs. One very frequently asked question is "can anyone send me a copy of the FAQ? I lost mine" (or its variant: "where do I find a FAQ for this group?"). You will probably receive a copy of it when you request it. However, you may receive twenty and if you're like most users, your mailer just can't handle it.

Flaming

Flaming is the practice of attacking people on a personal level. While flaming is relatively common on the internet, almost everybody will claim they're opposed to it. They may even flame you for having flamed someone. It's all really confusing, actually.
However, there are some fairly obvious things. Responding to someone's analysis of the deficit crisis by telling them that they probably walk funny or weren't breast fed could easily classify as flaming. Making rude comments about an individual's sexual organs or religion would also probably classify.

Personally, I stick to a simple rule: I say nothing about anybody that I can not back up with facts. I do not comment about people's religions, their eating habits, whether or not they smoke, etc. If I decide to comment about someone's level of intelligence, I make sure I have good examples to support my comment. But even then, I do this very rarely.

HTML Tags in E-Mail

HTML is not a bad thing. It can do a lot of great stuff. However, a lot of people who use web browsers to read their e-mail don't understand that those of us who don't use such browsers for our e-mail will receive HTML codes as a sort of gibberish. When I get something like this, I usually just delete on sight.

Irrelevant Material

Yes, lots of things are really interesting to all sorts of people. Yes, it's easy to look at something and think "Cool! They'll all like this!" My advice: If you see something that's really interesting and it's also very long, don't post it to a group without asking if people are interested in it first.

Line Spacing

Generally speaking, it's much easier to read e-mail when there are line breaks between paragraphs. Look at the following paragraphs:

Flaming is the practice of attacking people on a personal level. While flaming is relatively common on the internet, almost everybody will claim they're opposed to it. They may even flame you for having flamed someone. It's all really confusing, actually.
However, there are some fairly obvious things. Responding to someone's analysis of the deficit crisis by telling them that they probably walk funny or weren't breast fed could easily classify as flaming. Making rude comments about an individual's sexual organs or religion would also probably classify.
Personally, I stick to a simple rule: I say nothing about anybody that I can not back up with facts. I do not comment about people's religions, their eating habits, whether or not they smoke, etc. If I decide to comment about someone's level of intelligence, I make sure I have good examples to support my comment. But even then, I do this very rarely.

Now look at these:

Flaming is the practice of attacking people on a personal level. While flaming is relatively common on the internet, almost everybody will claim they're opposed to it. They may even flame you for having flamed someone. It's all really confusing, actually.

However, there are some fairly obvious things. Responding to someone's analysis of the deficit crisis by telling them that they probably walk funny or weren't breast fed could easily classify as flaming. Making rude comments about an individual's sexual organs or religion would also probably classify.

Personally, I stick to a simple rule: I say nothing about anybody that I can not back up with facts. I do not comment about people's religions, their eating habits, whether or not they smoke, etc. If I decide to comment about someone's level of intelligence, I make sure I have good examples to support my comment. But even then, I do this very rarely.

You'll notice that the second set is much easier to read than the first. When you e-mail people you should try to maintain these sorts of breaks between lines.

Line Width

You will find that many mailers will allow you to type in more than eighty characters per line. However, this can create a real mess, because on the internet, everything is automatically wrapped to 80 lines or fewer. Thus, you get broken lines which are really hard to follow. For example, look at the following:

It's often occurred to me that many people don't seem
to under-
stand the clear distinction between correlational
variance and
causal relationships.

Now try imagining reading whole pages like that. If you don't set your mailers to under 80 charaters per line, this is how people will read your outgoing mail, and most of them will just delete it rather than bother. The internet is a great forum for communication, but we have to do what we can to communicate well on it otherwise things get ugly quite fast.

Mass Mailing

Almost every e-mailer allows you the opportunity to distribute e-mail via blind carbon copy. This is a very good tool if you are going to send e-mail to multiple individuals. The problem comes when you e-mail something to a whole bunch of people and their addresses appear in the headers of the e-mail. Sometimes I get fifty lines of e-mail addresses before I get to the content of the post (usually, I delete before ever getting to the content when this happens, and I suspect I'm not alone). Furthermore, the blind carbon copy protects people's privacy. You may not realize how some friends of yours enjoy the -privacy- of their e-mail addresses, and it's good to respect this. Finally, it's important to remember that some (not always knowlingly) people set their e-mailers to automatically respond to all the e-mail addresses in the headers. That can create a large mess when mass-mailing, because it just snowballs, with others doing the same, whether they realize it or not.

Quoting

When responding to other users, it's very useful to quote some of what they've said in order to provide context for your response. However, it is not at all useful to quote their entire message unless you are responding to the whole thing. Furthermore, it's completely unnecessary to quote someone's signature unless you're responding directly to it. It's also really not at all fun to see an entire 100-line message quoted only to see "I agree" at the end of the message. If you don't know how to edit out irrelevant material, call your help desk or whoever deals with user questions at your local site. It's not that difficult-- a lot of people just don't bother.

Signature Files

Signature files can be cute and contain a lot of information. However, long signatures can also be frustrating, especially after a one-line message. My rule is that I try to never include a signature unless the length of my message is going to be at least twice as long as the signature file in question. I also try to only include it in one out of every two or three posts I send to a group. There is no reason to be redundant.

Sliced Spam

Sliced spam is identical to spamming except that it is all sent individually. This makes it harder to trace the posts and cancel them from newsgroups. It also takes a lot more work than basic spamming.

Spamming

Spamming is the practice of sending repeated identical pieces of mail to a wide variety of newsgroups and/or e-mail adresses. It tends to be extremely annoying and generates a lot of response mail which fills newsgroups and mailing lists with irrelevant material. Spamming is generally frowned upon and unappreciated. See also sliced spam.

Spoiler Alerts

It's very common on the internet to talk about movies and/or tv shows that interest you. However, another common practice is the spoiler alert. This is just a warning in BIG LETTERS SO PEOPLE ARE SURE TO SEE IT that tells people they're about to read something that could ruin their enjoyment of the experience in question if they continue. Traditionally this is followed by 20-30 blank lines, or lines filled with meaningless garbage to bide the time.

There are questions as to how long something has to have been available for viewing before removing the spoiler alerts. Some people put spoiler alerts for episodes of The Prisoner, which hasn't been on the air since the late 1960's. Other people omit them a week after the first airing. Since people have VCR's and some shows are syndicated, I prefer to wait two or three weeks before removing spoilers from current shows and I generally disregard them when shows are in syndication (though sometimes I'll just put them in the subject header without the blank lines). With movies, I wait until they've come out on video, because there's always some backwater place that doesn't have some film or another yet, even though they have internet access.

Subject Headers

Often, it's easy to get distracted while sending e-mail and not pay attention to the subject headers. However, this can cause trouble. Eventually people reply to side threads and secondary issues and the header ends up being "People who tick me off" while the topic of the message is something about the national debt. Or possibly, the subject could be "abortion in the 90s" but instead the topic of the message is your favorite musicians. This is just plain confusing. So, try your best to make your headers conform to the message you're posting. It will make people less likely to mass-delete your mail and everyone will be happier in the long run.

Virus Alerts, Craig Shergold, Neiman-Marcus and Good Samaritanism

There are lots of hoaxes floating around the internet, such as warnings about the nonexistant Good Times virus (which was never true), pleas to send cards to Craig Shergold (which was true many years ago but is no longer relevant) and a cookie recipie from Neiman-Marcus (which was never true).

Please do not perpetuate these hoaxes. Not only are they often irrelevant, but they are almost as bad as chain letters. If you receive e-mail that's supposed to be redistributed to other people, please send a few copies to people you know asking if it's true before redistributing it to lists of thousands of people.

Some people may get a little hostile about seeing such posts. There is a reason for this. We see them a lot. Furthermore, one of these good samaritan posts has caused a great deal of harm. The hospital at which Craig Shergold stayed was unable to function for some time because they received so many get well cards for Shergold that it was impossible to perform normal operations. Latest word is that Shergold is in remission and living somewhere far away from that hospital, and he no longer wants get well cards.

 

Netiquette (2), further discussion from OUI help pages

This article Copyright 1999, by Julie Waters, http://songweaver.com/netiquette/
used with author's permission.