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Netiquette

Last modified: 8th November 2011

This is an outline of some points of common courtesy and unwritten rules of how one should behave online and in chat rooms.

The Ten Commandments of Netiquette

  1. Remember they are human just like you: don’t think you are talking to a machine, an inanimate screen or just text. At the other end of those messages and the recipient of your messages is a person with feelings and emotions just like you. Be nice. :-)
  2. Behave the same online as you would offline:  you can often feel anonymous in cyberspace, as if your identity is hidden by a mask. This can be a false sense of security. Your behaviour online is probably easier to trace than in real life as you leave behind an electronic trail. I mean, how do you think Google can target ads so well to you? If G can do it, imagine what the "powers that be" are capable of doing? Be good. :-)
  3. When in Rome do as the Romans do: this applies equally in cyberspace. Every website, chat room and online community will have its own mode of what it considers acceptable codes of behaviour, these rules are often unwritten. When you first come across an online community watch first for a bit to get an idea of what is acceptable in that environment and then start to participate keeping to how other people are behaving. Be conventional. :-)
  4. Respect other peoples’ time: sometimes you can think the World Wide Web revolves around you. You send someone a message and you might expect a response back straight away. Relax they might be busy talking to someone else or doing something else. Be considerate. :-)
  5. Try to look good online: quite often people online can’t judge you by your looks, your height, your clothes, and the sound of your voice or accent, your gender, race or sexuality. People’s first impressions of you will come from how you write. Try to use correct spelling and grammar even if that includes using Chat Language, be coherent and creative. Express yourself and unleash the writer within! Poorly written messages can be a put off. Be articulate. :-)
  6. Share your expert knowledge or perspective: the Web is a wonderful place once we start sharing what we have to offer. If you know something that someone else you’re talking to could do with knowing, offer it. Be generous. :-)
  7. Don’t fan the flames of war: sometimes exchanges between two people online can heat up into what is known as “flaming”. This is what people do when they express what they strongly believe in without holding back on their emotion. Tempers can flare. As a third person do not encourage either party to continue flaming. Instead try to calm things down. Bring a bucket of water with you. Be a peacemaker. :-)
  8. Respect other people’s privacy: it’s not cool logging into someone else’s account (say they forgot to log out before handing you the laptop) and going through their messages, let alone posting a public message like a Facebook status which says something on the lines of “Taking a big dump...” Be trustworthy. :-)
  9. Don’t let power corrupt you: you might be entrusted with some form of super powers while online. You might be made a moderator, editor, administrator, filterer of images etc. Whatever you do don’t abuse the power that you have. Don’t read someone’s private messages just because you can. Be gracious. :-)
  10. Be forgiving of people’s mistakes: everyone was a newbie once. Someone might not realise that a certain mode of behaviour is expected. Someone might make a minor spelling mistake. There is no need to jump at every chance to pick at someone’s faults. Trying to correct everyone else’s netiquette is itself bad netiquette. Be humble. :-)

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