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Netiquette (neologism, a contraction of "network etiquette") is a catch all term for the conventions of politeness recognised on Usenet, in mailing lists, and other electronic forums such as internet web boards. These conventions address group phenomena (such as flaming) with changes in personal behaviour, such as not posting in all uppercase, not (cross-)posting to inappropriate groups, refraining from commercial advertising outside the biz groups and not top-posting. RFC 1855 is a fairly lengthy and comprehensive set of such conventions.

The rules of netiquette are slightly different for newsgroups, web forums and IRC (Internet Relay Chat). For example, on Usenet it is conventional to write in standard English and not use abbreviations such as "u" for "you" or "ne1" for "anyone". These abbreviations are more likely to be tolerated on web forums, and are universal on IRC (where since discussion is real-time, they serve the practical purpose of speeding up the flow of conversation). Such things as the level of tolerance for off-topic discussion or spoilers may also vary from one newsgroup, forum or channel to another. The best thing to do is to "lurk before you leap"—get a feel for the local conventions before diving in. Also read the FAQ if there is one.

The following is a list of some of the more common rules associated with netiquette on Usenet:

  • The most important rule of netiquette is "Think before you post". If what you intend to post will not make a positive contribution to the newsgroup and be of interest to several readers, don't post it! Personal messages to one or two individuals should not be posted to newsgroups, use private e-mail instead.
  • When following up an article, quote the minimum necessary to give some context to your reply and be careful to attribute the quote to the right person. If the article you are responding to was posted to several groups, edit the distribution ("Newsgroups:") header to contain only those groups which are appropriate to your reply, especially if the original message was posted to one or more inappropriate groups in the first place.
  • Re-read and edit your posting carefully before you post. Check the spelling and grammar. Keep your lines to fewer than 70 characters. Don't post test messages (except to test groups)—wait until you have something to say. When posting humorous or sarcastic comments, it is conventional to append an emoticon, but don't overuse them.
  • Before asking a question, read the messages already in the group and read the group's FAQ if it has one. When you do post a question, follow it with "please reply by mail and I will post a summary if requested" and make sure you DO post a summary if requested, or if only a few people were interested, send them a summary by mail. This avoids umpteen people posting the same answer to the group and umpteen others posting "me too"s.
  • Be proud of your postings but don't post just to see your name in pixels. Remember: your future employer may be reading.

There is also a netiquette rule for how to deal with someone who has violated one of the rules of netiquette:

  • If you believe someone has violated netiquette, send them a message by private e-mail; do not post a follow-up to the news. And be polite; they may not realise their mistake, they might be a beginner or may not even have been responsible for the "crime"—their account may have been used by someone else or their address forged.


External links

  • RFC 1855 - Netiquette Guidelines

Last updated: 10-25-2005 17:16:46
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