By Hope Glass, InterNIC Information and Education Services
A stitch in time saves nine
Tuesday morning at 7:55 A.M., Suzy comes through the door fumbling with her badge key. With a "plop" she lands into her desk chair and types her password into the Dilbert screen-saver and locks onto the e-mail icon with a click. Her face turns several shades of color as she digests the flaming message displayed on her e-mail screen: Take your gab to talk.bizarre!
While in a rush the afternoon before, Suzy had inadvertently posted a mail message, intended for her friend, to a technically-oriented newsgroup (Usenet discussion group). She had spent plenty of time filling in the juicy details of her gossip; unfortunately, Suzy spent less than a second checking her e-mail addressing. Now she had several flames, responses from seasoned users showing their distaste for her post, to contend with. Realistically she knew she would have to regain the respect of the newsgroup. For a couple of weeks, she would be limited to lurking-an Internet term for reading the newsgroup's content without adding to the conversation.
Sound familiar? If so, you join the ranks of Internet veterans who occasionally get tripped up "dotting their i's and crossing their t's" in the cornucopia of Internet information. Netiquette 101 is a brief introduction for the newbie (new Internet user) and a short refresher for the experienced Netizen (Net citizen) to enhance daily interaction on the Internet.
Be polite, be courteous
Remember your second grade school teacher, the one that sent you to the corner for pulling your classmates hair? She was easily offended by your childish shenanigans and your response of, "Well, he pulled mine first." Netizens will also be offended by your lack of Internet culture. Know the rules for basic Internet communication.
Don't write in all capital or all lowercase letters. The former makes it seem like you are SHOUTING, the latter as if you are unsure of what you are saying. If you must emphasize, use the *proper* format. Asterisks to emphasize--underscores to highlight the title of a book: _Moby Dick_.
Punctuate appropriately. Writing in a stream-of-consciousness style might be great for you; but hard for your readers. Check before hitting the "send" button that everything is written clearly and concisely. Proper grammar and punctuation influence a person's first impression. Keep this in mind when sending information via the Internet.
Don't copy the entire original message when replying. Copying the first message is a waste of bandwidth - the maximum amount of data that can travel a communication path in a given time, usually measured in seconds. Copy only enough of the original message to allow the person to know which message you are responding to. Don't ever copy and forward someone else's message without asking permission from the original sender.
Mail on the Internet is not secure. People are fond of saying never write in an e-mail message anything you wouldn't put on a postcard. I would take that one step further and advise if you are writing just to say, "Wish you were here," then maybe you should conserve the bandwidth.
Wait for breakfast to settle. Sending a inflamed response to an aggravating message is a bad idea. Above all, avoid responding to a flame--expressing oneself by using insulting or provocative language. How would you like your boss to turn down your request for promotion because he holds in his possession a copy of a flaming conversation you had with a co-worker? When you receive flame bait--take a few deep breaths and calm down. Wait until after you have had your morning "Wheaties" to respond.
Check it twice. Avoid the mistake Suzy made above by checking to make sure your message is addressed correctly. Did you "cc" (carbon copy) someone accidentally? Make sure when sending messages that you include a "signature" file which includes your address in no more than 4 lines.
Fees anyone? The cost of delivering an e-mail message is, on the average, paid about equally by the sender and the recipient. Unsolicited mail, or "spamming" is neither appreciated nor wanted. Notify your local system administrator or ISP (Internet Service Provider) immediately if you receive unsolicited e-mail advertising.
Summarized above are many of the basics for one-to-one e-mail communication minimum standards developed by the Responsible Use of the Network (RUN) Working Group of the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force). For additional Netiquette Guidelines in the areas of One-to-Many Communication, Information Services, and Security Considerations, check Request for Comments (RFC) 1855. (RFC's are the documents that define a broad range of topics related to the Internet.) May you have productive communications :)
This file last modified 11/1/96. Added web link on 4/26/97.