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Unspoken Rules

If you're new to using the internet, you may not be aware that there is a special etiquette involved in being online. Some of the rules may be unspoken, though there has been an effort to write them up so the unwitting might have a chance to learn the rules before making a faux pas. There are at least two reasons to learn about what has been termed "netiquette." For one thing, the golden rule is no less applicable in cyberspace, and also, using the proper netiquette makes you look like a player, inspiring trust from those with whom you have dealings online.

Here is a brief outline of some of the more important aspects of online netiquette:

Remember that when you type something up and send it into cyberspace, there is a great possibility your words will be stored in perpetuity, so think before you type: if you wouldn't say it to their face, don't send it by e-mail. If you are involved in anything that could be construed as illegal, don't even think about putting details out there online!

Pay for shareware. A type of downloadable software known as shareware works according to the honor system. If you keep it beyond a certain date, the makers hope you will pay for your copy. So, if you use shareware, help keep the honor of the internet intact, and pay for it, for heaven's sake!

A Good Impression

Notice your surroundings and if you're new to an online news group, discussion group, or chat list watch for a while before you participate. Every group has its own personality and you need to study the lay of the land so that you can follow the maxim: When in Rome, do as the Romans do. This is the best way to avoid being offensive and is the best and brightest way known to make a good impression in your new environment.

Preserve bandwidth and don't send the same copy of your message to a list over and over again just because you didn't see it arrive the first time around.  Somewhere, somehow, all the copies become information that is stored forever, placing strain on the system. While bandwidth's technical meaning relates to the capacity of the channels and wires that connect us to the internet, it has taken on a popular second meaning to those in the know, and has come to be equated with time. Using up bandwidth is about wasting people's time.

Being considerate means scaling back your response to a discussion group to make it readable so you don't waste other people's time by forcing them to weed through a thread. Learn how to select copy so that only the pertinent part of the original message remains and keep your answer succinct.

Copying your messages to others is a bit of an art. First of all, don't send copies of private correspondence to every Tom, Dick, and Harry. It's show-offy, and it's an attempt to place yourself at the center; a kind of vulgarity. Also, if you copy a long list of people, place their addresses in the bcc line so the addresses remain invisible to others. This shows you value other people's privacy.


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