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  Netiquette
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Social Conventions for the
Web, E-Mail Lists & Web Forums

MGH Neurosurgical Service


E-mail ListServer Support Groups | Web Forum Support Groups
Netiquette for Support Groups | Support Groups

Netiquette ~ Social Conventions

    Like so many other things, network users tend to expend a great deal of virtual gunpowder about the subject of etiquette on the Internet (otherwise known as netiquette). Part of the culture of the network is built on the fact that an individual user can put forward any face he or she cares to present. Thus over time, the network has evolved various sets of rules that attempt to govern conduct. To avoid taking up a great deal of space arguing the merits of differing systems of netiquette, the following general pointers that should be accepted by most users are offered for the convenience of the list owner.

Recognize and Accept Cultural and Linguistic Differences

    The Internet is international, and while English is generally accepted as the common language of the network, list owners and list subscribers cannot afford to take the position that everyone on the Internet understands English well. In a medium that is invariably connected to language, special understanding is required to deal with questions or statements from people for whom English is not the primary tongue. Often today (at least in the US) a person's first sustained interaction with others on an international basis is via the Internet. It is imperative that this interaction be on the highest level of cordiality and respect from the outset in order for all concerned to benefit.

    Additionally, care should be taken when using local idiom and slang. A common word or phrase used by Americans in everyday speech, for instance, might be taken as profanity or insult by those in other English-speaking countries, and may not be understood at all by non-native speakers of English. When a list has a high international readership, it is probably best to avoid non-standard English so as to provide the clearest and least-objectionable exchange of ideas.

Private Mail Should Dictate Private Responses

    If someone on a mailing list has sent a private message to you (i.e., not to the list at large) and you have lost that person's address but want to respond, do not post private mail to the list. The REVIEW command will give you a copy of the list membership that you can search for the person's address. If this approach does not work, contact the local postmaster or the list owner for help. It is not appropriate to copy, forward or otherwise send mail addressed to the list to other parties not on the list, since that was not the intention of the original writer.

Flaming is Inappropriate

    Flames (insults) belong in private mail, if they belong in mail at all. Discussions will often result in disagreements. Rebuttals to another person's opinions or beliefs should always be made in a rational, logical and mature manner, whether they are made publicly or privately. What is a flame can range from the obvious (ranting and raving, abusive comments, etc.) to the not-so-obvious (comments about how many "newbies" seem to be on the list these days, "RTFM!" exhortations, etc.).

Foul Language

    Subscribers should refrain from abusive or derogatory language that might be considered questionable by even the most liberal and open-minded of networkers. If you wouldn't say it in front of your mother, don't say it in electronic mail.

Unsolicited Advertising and Chain Letters

    Most of these are contrary to appropriate use policies governing the use of the poster's Internet access provider. Not only that, they are annoying and (in the case of chain letters) often illegal.

Other Disruptive or Abusive Behavior

    Self-explanatory. It is rarely possible to catalog all forms of anti-social network behavior. Be sure that you as a list participator set a good example of positive interaction and good netiquette practice.

 
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