Netiquette: Mind Your Cyber Manners

by Bonnie Burton, Digit Staff Writer

"Don't stare. Chew with your mouth closed. Quit snapping your gum." Since childhood, many of us heard these exact demands. Manner minding is expected everywhere, at school, work, home, and even the Internet. Watching our cyber p's and q's can allow new users to merge onto the Information Super Highway without being scorched by any potiential flamers.

Most netiquette asks a user to practice common sense. Learn about a newsgroup before posting. Read their Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) files. Avoid asking questions you can easily find somewhere else by doing a little research. Browse through newsgroups such as alt.internet.access.wanted and news.newusers.questions. Do not reply to posted questions with a mere "me too" or "I disagree." Messages take up both valuable time and space, so try to post comments worth reading. Otherwise, by posting questions or comments considered obvious or stupid, you run the risk of being flamed.

A flame is a hostile, denigrating or even obscene response, and a major netiquette no-no. If a user is flamed, the best tactic to exercise is ignoring the message. By responding with another flame, the user could instigate a "flame war," which diminishes the space, time, and patience of other users on the newsgroup. If the flaming escalates to harassment, the user should e-mail his or her system administrator with a complaint. Remember to save messages received in case your are called upon to display evidence of the net harassment.

More netiquette pointers revolve around how a user choses to communicate his sentences and directs his tone of voice. Creating faces with colons and dashes like :> and :( can often set a tone. WRITING IN ALL CAPS IS CONSIDERED SHOUTING, so if a user choses to shout, as in real life, it should be for a good reason. Also, the more a user misspells, the more she gains the chance of being flamed.

Remember, this form of communication is primarily based on the way a user writes down her thoughts. Netiquette is all about using common sense, respecting other users and watching where we step every once in awhile. Watch your cyber manners and have some fun.

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