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Netiquette: Guidelines
for Posting in Public

© 2002 Walt Howe
(last updated 19 January 2007)
These guidelines may be freely extracted, copied, adapted, or cited.

Guidelines for Posting to Message Boards, Newsgroups, Forums, Bulletin Boards and E-Mail Discussion Lists
Before posting to any newsgroup, forum, or mailing list or any other public place, you should understand that there are some well established rules of netiquette Netiquette that must be followed. If you break them, either unintentionally or on purpose, you will give yourself and your provider a bad reputation, and you are likely to find a lot of angry flaming mail filling up your mailbox. Many people who read mailing lists, message bases, and newsgroups have limited disk space and time, and they do not want to find inappropriate messages or articles wasting their space, time, and money. Following these rules reduces the noise level in mailing lists, forums, and newsgroups, and makes them more valuable for everyone.

  1. DON'T ask questions that have already been asked 100 times. Many newsgroups, forums, and mailing lists have FAQ (Frequently Asked Question) files that are regularly posted, Before asking your question, read available FAQs to see if the answer already exists. Scan subject headings in the messages, whenever possible, too, to see if the answer is already there.

  2. DON'T post a message or article that is off topic. No matter how important something seems to you, and how sure you are everyone wants to know it, stick to the topic! Above all, don't post chain letters anywhere (they are illegal), how to Make Money Fast!, warnings about the non-existent viruses (or even real ones), pleas to send get well cards or business cards to little Craig Shergold (that was years ago and he's healthy and not so little now) or Jessica Mydeck, or even your conviction that the end of the world is coming!

  3. DON'T post a given message or article more than once. Find the most appropriate place and post it there. While there will be exceptions to this occasionally, remember that if you separately post the same message in related places, for example, all the comp.sys.ibm.pc newsgroups, a lot of people are going to see your message over and over again and get very annoyed. There are right ways to cross-post that will handle this problem, but that is a more advanced topic. When in doubt, just post it once.

  4. DON'T post any messages to a newsgroup, message board, or mailing list without reading about 2 weeks of postings first. Each group has its own style and unwritten rules about what is acceptable. Learn these before posting! And read the FAQ!

  5. If you have a product or service that you are sure people want to know about, it may be all right to post a discreet announcement, IF you follow the rules above. Post it once and find the right place where people will want to know about it. DON'T post long, detailed information or use a hard sell, however. Make it short and tell people how to contact you for more information. Anything but the most non-intrusive means of posting will create ill will towards your product or service. There are newsgroups whose purpose is to announce new products and services. Use them, and don't clutter up inappropriate newsgroups. If you want to sell your wares over the Internet, put up your own web site, and register it. That is an acceptable way to do it.

  6. DO Keep your messages short. When replying, don't quote any more lines from the previous article than is necessary to convey the essential meaning. But be careful your quote doesn't change the meaning by too selective choice of words. In a public message board, avoid quoting altogether, if the message can be easily retrieved for review.

  7. DON'T send "me, too" or "I agree" messages! Send private mail to the author, if you want to, but don't clutter up the group or forum or list with these. There is nothing more annoying than to quote 100 lines and at the end, say, "I agree."

  8. DON'T jump in and answer questions posed by others until you have checked to see if they are already answered. Consider sending your answer privately by mail to the asker, unless you are sure your answer is unique and of general interest to the readers as a whole.

  9. DON'T type in all capitals. It is considered shouting, and it is harder to read for most people. Use some capitals for emphasis, if that is your style.

  10. DON'T use large signatures that fill half a screen! In particular, don't use large signatures over and over again. The same people, for the most part, are going to see your signature each time, and the more they see of a large signature, the more you are going to annoy people. Four lines is the suggested maximum for a regular signature. If graphics and HTML are used, try to keep your complete signature under 10K in size. Be considerate of those with slow dial-up connections. If you post more than once in a threaded discussion, omit your signature after your first post, replacing it with your name or nickname only.

  11. DON'T be guilty of bandwidth theft. When you display graphics, they should be linked from your own filespace on the web, not someone else's, unless you have permission. Whenver you call a graphic from a remote site, you are using resources from that site. If it isn't your site or one you are paying for, it is considered bandwidth theft. Many sites are blocking remote calls now for just this reason.
  12. Don't include music or sound files that play automatically in messages. They are usually quite large and slow loading, and if more than one message in a thread does it, they may all play at once. Just include a link to the music file and let people choose whether to play it or not.

  13. DON'T publicly respond to others who break the rules. Some people do it just to get the reactions (it's called trolling). The best thing you can do is ignore them.

And above all, treat people with respect. Without cues from your face and body language and tone of voice, it is very easy to be misunderstood. A little joke or bit of irony can come across as something completely different. That is why people put cues like smiley faces in their messages. And if you feel like really flaming someone, it is a good idea to sleep on it overnight and see if you still feel like it the next day.