All right, so the Internet is organised anarchy, but the rest of society isn't quite there yet. Because it's... well... society. That means we've got to make nice to each other and follow a certain code of behaviour. Use good manners, in other words. If you're rude enough, your server will dump you. If you're rude but not quite that rude you still won't be all that popular. Pretend you're in the real world and act accordingly.
(The Machines! The Machines!)
It looks like a computer screen, it acts like a computer screen, it must be a real living, breathing person somewhere in there pulling all the knobs and switches. And people go all funny when you poke at them.
(How Many 'B's is in 'Bubba'?)
All right, so not all emailers have a spell checker. If you're a lousy speller and don't have spell-check, don't sweat it. But if you do have spell-check, use it. And intentionally incorrect spellings ('K3WL D00DZ', for example) is never as clever as you think it is at the time. Make the stretch of assuming that your reader made it through grammar school with some sort of useful education.
(I Don't Keep Grudges: I Share 'em with My Friends)
People often do or say silly or inappropriate things on the Usenet or in chat or in response to different mailing lists. Sometimes they're new and don't quite know the rules. Don't shoot them down in front of the entire group. If you really think you need to comment, send them a private email and be as polite as they may not have been. Be a grown-up. Think Karma.
Writing in CAPS
(My, What Big Teeth You Have, Grandmama!)
AS YOU CAN SEE, THIS IS WRITTEN IN CAPITAL LETTERS. WHILE IT IS ALL VERY CLEAN, CLEAR AND LEGIBLE, IT ALSO GIVES THE LETTERS A CERTAIN ADDITIONAL IMPORTANCE. YOU COULD SAY 'MY BOYFRIEND IS BOZO THE CLOWN AND WE'RE VERY HAPPY TOGETHER' AND YOU MIGHT PERHAPS BE TAKEN MORE SERIOUSLY THAN YOU WOULD OTHERWISE. HOWEVER, AS OBNOXIOUS AS IT WOULD BE TO DATE (OR BE) BOZO THE CLOWN, IT IS EVEN MORE OBNOXIOUS TO WRITE IN CAPITAL LETTERS. IN TYPING TERMS, IT'S SHOUTING.
And no one likes to be yelled at.
(You Talkin' to Me?)
It is so terribly easy to misinterpret something somone writes - every bit as easy, if not more so, as misunderstanding what someone says. You can't read the body language or the facial expressions online. You can't hear the tone. As fine a writer as you may be, you're liable to slip every now and then. Before you send anything (email, news thread, chat) edit what you've said. You never know the tender heart your computer's tapped into.
(Do You See Anyone Else Here?)
So you've sent something ill-advised, and someone writes back and is very rude, cruel, malicious and nasty. Don't yell. Don't curl your toes up. Don't spit, don't cry and don't send back something equally nasty (unless you can take as good as you give). This is called flaming. Instead, write something really rotten. And then delete it. Flaming can be fun, but if you flame, you're undermining the community bit of Online Community.
Almost everyone makes these mistakes at some time. The biggest rule of all is to remember that everyone has their first time at some point, so even when you've learned all of this, try to be patient with those who haven't yet.
- The Internet
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