BOOT CAMP ARCHIVE 1999

  

 

BOOT CAMP 071

NEWSGROUPS PART 2, NETIQUETTE

Last week we described how to set up your PC to access and subscribe to Newsgroups on the Internet. Having done so most newcomers feel an irresistible urge to join in. Don't, at least, not straight away. You will almost certainly commit some terrible faux pas and irritate or enrage other members of the group who will respond with 'flames' or 'mail bombs', by sending you abusive and offensive E-mails. If you want to get the most out of this amazing resource you must learn a few simple rules, it is called  'Netiquette' and you ignore it at your peril…

It might sound a bit precious but remember there are people on the other side of your computer screen, thousands, possibly millions of them! It is very easy to offend when your only means of communication is a keyboard. Those reading your words may well come from very different cultural and ethnic backgrounds and English might not be their first language. Without voice inflections facial expressions and the body language of face to face conversation a seemingly innocent remark or gentle British irony can turn into a major insult, which in other circumstance might result in a punch on the nose!

Good netiquette isn't meant to be stuffy, your messages should be informal but be polite and above all succinct and to the point; long and wordy postings will simply be ignored. Sarcasm and humour should be used with caution, if you must try to be funny then make sure your wit is well signposted, we'll show you how to do that in a moment.

There are a few other points to bear in mind. DON'T SHOUT unless you really mean it, writing in uppercase is considered bad from. If you want to respond to a specific point or communicate directly with a member of the group on a topic outside the newsgroups subject area, send an E-mail to the member concerned otherwise a newsgroup can quickly become cluttered with irrelevant messages or 'follow-ups'. If you have a point to make it is helpful to others if you summarise what has been said before but avoid needless repetition. If you cite references or quotes make sure you mention the source, do not infringe commercial copyright and be very careful about what you say about others. Don't forget newsgroups are in the public domain and your comments can be easily read or forwarded by E-mail to those you've maligned. Always, always check spelling and grammar but avoid criticising others use of English, for all you know they might suffer from dyslexia or are learning the language. 

It sounds like there's a lot to learn but it is mostly common sense and it is surprising how quickly you can pick it up by sitting on the sidelines for a couple of weeks and just reading the postings. You can get a crash course in netiquette by looking at the guidelines and FAQs in your own newsgroup and there's some useful hints and tips on the web at: http://www.fau.edu/netiquette/net/elec.html or try the newsgroup 'news.announce.newusers', which is aimed at newcomers.

Newsgroup postings are often littered with acronyms, used wisely they are a useful form of shorthand but too many will make your messages unreadable or difficult to follow. It's worth committing half a dozens or so of the most commonly used ones to memory. They include FYI, which means 'for your information', BTW is 'by the way', IMHO stands for 'in my humble/honest opinion', ROTFL, 'rolling on the floor laughing', RTFM means 'read the flipping manual' (or words to that effect…), TIA is 'thanks in advance' and TTFN, 'ta-ta for now'; a more complete list can be found at: http://www.fau.edu/netiquette/net/acroynms.txt

Since you will be using plain text to compose your messages it is useful to know how to emphasise words or phrases. Surrounding words with *asterisks* draws attention to it, rather like an underline or a bold typeface. Names and titles, like _Boot Camp_ can be signified with a single underscore before and after and it is a good idea to limit line length to no more than 60 or 70 characters as this could make your messages difficult to read on some newsreaders. 

A good way of writing between the lines, to let those reading your postings know you are making a joke or what you are thinking, is to use simple graphics made up of text characters. They're called 'Emoticons' and there are dozens of them so for a complete listing look at: http://www.eff.org/papers/eeftti/eeg­_287.html

The most basic emoticon is the 'smiley' made up of a colon, dash and close bracket symbol thus :- ) if you don't get it, turn the page on its side. There are some really ingenious ones, like ; - ) which suggests the user has just made a sarcastic remark and is winking or  }:-(   the user is wearing a toupee on a windy day…

Finally a few more simple and mostly obvious 'don’ts'. Do not use newsgroups to advertise. There's no harm in mentioning useful or apposite products and services in response to a newsgroup posting, even if they are your own, but blatent advertising is frowned upon. It is counter productive you will be flamed, excluded from the group and you could end up with some very harmful things being written about you and your business. From time to time you may see or be sent chain letters promising all kinds of things or making worthy-sounding appeals. Bin them all. They are invariably scams or mathematically impossible moreover they waste valuable (and limited) network resources. If they are traced back to you your Internet account will almost certainly be closed. Once you've served your apprentiship you will want to post your first message, do not send a 'This is a test' message to your group, unless you want your E-mail box filled with flames. There are newsgroups like  alt.just.testing where you can check to make sure everything is working properly.

Next week, using your PC for research

 

JARGON FILTER

FAQ

Frequently asked questions, a simple guide to a particular topic or subject area

FLAME

Offensive or abusive E-mails, usually sent in response to someone infringing basic newsgroup netiquette

FOLLOW-UPS

A response to a newsgroup message or posting which will from part of a 'thread' for others to read and reply to

 

TOP TIP

Web pages can often be difficult to read especially if text colours clash with fancy backgrounds and patterns. On Microsoft Internet Explorer there's a very handy feature that will allow you to make quite significant changes to the way web pages are displayed, and in particular the colours used for web site addresses that you have and haven't visited and the so-called 'hover' colour. The latter is the colour change that occurs when your mouse pointer passes over and highlights a web address. Open Explorer and on the View menu choose Internet Options, select the General tab and click the Colours button at the bottom of the window. To change a default click on the appropriate colour block and choose a new one from the palette which appears, or create your own custom colour. A similar feature is available on Netscape Navigator on the Options menu under General Preferences.

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