Your Internet Consultant - The FAQs of Life Online

5.15. What should I know about Usenet "netiquette" before posting?

Each message posted to the Usenet can reach millions of people scattered around the globe, so your words and actions (however insignificant they may seem) can affect lots of real people. All of the etiquette guidelines for sending electronic mail count doubly for Usenet postings. Use the following guidelines coupled with your own common sense (now there's an oxymoron) when you post to the Usenet.

Think about where your article is going. If you are posting to one of the top-level hierarchies, your message will find its way to an audience of more than three million potential readers.

Keep the your message at or under 72 characters per line. Not everyone uses the 80-column by 25-row text that you may be accustomed to, so shorter lines mean your message will look cleaner to more people. Also, remember that if anyone follows up to your message and "quotes" it, your lines will become longer. Further follow-ups mean longer lines. Here's some visual aid:

I like Oreos!

>I like Oreos!
Me too!

>>I like Oreos!
>Me too!
I like Tim Tams better.
Speaking of quoting previous articles--make careful use of quoted material. If you reply to a posting without including some of the text you're referring to, it's very likely many of your readers won't know what you're talking about. But too many quoted lines preceding your own message will annoy people. So use quoting when you have to, but don't quote the entire text of a novel-length article. Especially if your only addition is Me too!

While we're on the subject, don't post messages of which the entire content is Me too! You probably have seen some of these: someone posts a message asking for a recipe for malted milk balls, then four or five people post Me too! Imagine what would happen if 1,000 or 10,000 people did the same thing. The Usenet would be both overloaded and a bore to read. If you really must have the information also, send an e-mail message to the original posters and ask them to pass along the information when they find it.

Refer to articles by their Message-ID and never by the article number. The article's number varies from computer to computer: #1502 on news.answers on your computer is almost certainly not the same message as #1502 on mine.

Use a good subject line, just as with e-mail. Often, your subject line is the only thing that potential readers have as a gauge to decide whether they'll read your message. Postings with no subject or uninformative subject lines--such as READ THIS NOW!, Question, and Help needed--are likely to be ignored.

The Internet is laden with a variety of FAQs and other documents to help you avoid being a social misfit on the Usenet. Start with Rules for posting to Usenet, which is posted to news.announce.newusers and news.answers. This message describes some of the basic rules of conduct on the Usenet.

Note: If you're still thirsty for information, read Hints on writing style for Usenet and A Primer on How to Work With the Usenet Community, which are posted regularly to news.newusers.questions.

Table of Contents | Previous Section | Next Section