Netiquette: The Traffic Laws for the Information Highway

Guidelines: Responsible use is navigation based on courtesy and good manners.

Addison Ching, Newport-Mesa Unified School District

Network Etiquette--Netiquette--is necessary for survival on any public computer network. It applies to callers of bulletin board systems. It is important for users of public access networks such as CompuServe, Prodigy and America Online to know and observe. More recently, Netiquette has become important information for users of the Information Highway--the Internet.

Netiquette is not new. It has probably been around since the creation of the first computer networks. It is enhanced with each additional application. Many books and articles have been written about it. Yet it contains only suggested guidelines, and "Netiquette Police" are virtually non-existent. Netiquette is, thankfully, voluntarily observed by most responsible users of information networks. It is the underpinning that allows the many users of an information network to successfully interface and communicate with other network users worldwide.

Netiquette is courtesy, manners and common sense combined with some simple network use standards that have evolved over the years. Some Netiquette guidelines apply to E-mail communication, while others apply to file transferring and other uses of computer networks. Additional, specialized guidelines may be added by your network administrator for use on your own local network.

Here are some general Netiquette E-mail guidelines:

  1. Don't shout! Turn your CAPS LOCK off and use upper case letters like you would in any other writing. Capitalized words are used for EMPHASIS. If you write your message using all upper case letters, you are SHOUTING your communication!
  2. Don't flame! Flaming is sarcastically criticizing, berating or otherwise communicating something inflammatory to someone else. This is not only not nice, it is also unnecessary for effective communication. On certain systems, especially forums that are moderated or otherwise conducted by a person-in-charge, flaming will get you banned from further discussion or participation.
  3. Don't overquote! Quoting is the process of including the original message to you in your reply. Your message processor will usually have the capability of deleting portions of the original message that are not pertinent to your reply. Only include that which is vital to the reply--to remind the recipient about the context of your reply.
  4. In a public forum such as a newsgroup, don't try to enforce your opinion over those of others. Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion; respect those of others. If you post a controversial opinion, don't be surprised if you get a bunch of responses! Don't get into arguments over opinion differences.
  5. Don't use abusive or vulgar language. Have consideration for the audience of your post.
  6. If using a "signature" on your messages, keep it brief and provide only that information that is vital for others to communicate with you. Signatures should not be used as "brag" sheets with fancy character drawings.

Here are some general Netiquette file transfer guidelines:

  1. Download only that which you can use. Excessive downloading ties up network bandwidth and access ports. Make sure you virus-check everything you download.
  2. If uploading, make sure the file you're transferring is virus-free and has not been hacked.
  3. Don't upload or download copyrighted programs. If you download a program and later find out it is copyrighted, you should remove it from your computer.

Netiquette is common-sense computing while interacting with others on a computer network. A basic tenet is to not do anything that you wouldn't have done to you. By observing Netiquette guidelines, you will end up with endless hours of enjoyable traveling on the information highway.