Nettiquette helps users connect

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    By JENNI JONES

    The Internet is so new, rules and expectations regarding appropriate conduct while using the Internet are just starting to form. Newcomers to the Internet may not know what is expected of them.

    As with all forms of etiquette, though, the rules surrounding appropriate conduct on the Internet require common sense and courtesy.

    The No. 1 rule for Internet etiquette, or Netiquette, is “remember the human,” according to the Web site devoted to Virginia Shea’s book “Netiquette.”

    The impersonal nature of the Internet creates an atmosphere where users feel comfortable writing offensive and rude material they otherwise would never write or say.

    When using the Internet, it’s important to remember there is another person at the other end who wouldn’t appreciate receiving offensive material, the Web site says. Internet users should never send anything over the Internet they wouldn’t mind getting themselves.

    If common decency doesn’t do the trick, remember, people well-versed in Internet technology can wreak havoc on the virtual world. It is very possible for an infuriated computer guru to sever someone’s link to the Internet if that person sends an offensive message.

    Also, Net users should never engage in the annoying practice of spamming — sending out junk e-mail — according to the Claris Guide to E-Mail Etiquette at http://www.claris.com/products/claris/emailer/eguide/index.html.

    Rule No. 2 in Netiquette, according to Shea, is to “adhere to the same standards of behavior online that you follow in real life.”

    It is important for an Internet user to be just as ethical and law-abiding in the cyber world as that user would be, or should be, in the real world, Shea said.

    “In real life, most people are fairly law-abiding, either by disposition or because we’re afraid of getting caught. In cyberspace, the chances of getting caught sometimes seem slim,” Shea said.

    She says laws and ethics are important in cyberspace for the same reasons they are in real life: to prevent the infringement on others rights and maintain order.

    The third rule in Shea’s Netiquette is “know where you are in cyberspace.”

    Internet users need to know what is considered acceptable language and behavior in the area of cyberspace they are exploring, because it varies just as different sections of society vary, the book says.

    A chat group discussing the latest movie would have a much more relaxed tone than an academic discussion group, for example.

    Rule No. 4, according to Shea, is “respect other people’s time and bandwidth.”

    If possible, Internet users should log in to popular sites during off-peak times to even out the system’s load and allow more people to use the site, according to the Netiquette guidelines at http://www.dtcc.edu/cs/rfc1855.html.

    Also, be concise when writing e-mail, says the Claris Guide to E-mail Etiquette. Time is precious. The less time someone has to spend reading e-mail the better.

    The fifth rule of Netiquette is “make yourself look good online,” according to Shea.

    Anyone in the world can look at almost everything online. This means anyone, from future employers to a friend, could see a Net user’s online material, according to the Netiquette primer at http://jade.wabash.edu/wabnet/info/netiquet.htm.

    Good impressions on the Internet aren’t made by how Net users look or act, but by what they write. Intelligent, professional writing is important no matter where an Internet user is in the cyberworld because anyone, including important people, could access that material, according to the Netiquette primer.

    Because people don’t meet other Internet users in person while they are online, they must judge them by what they put on the Web. Therefore, it’s important to make sure everything someone puts on the Web is representative of that person, according to the Netiquette primer.

    Also, don’t write in all caps because it looks like shouting, according to the Netiquette guidelines.

    Something else to consider is if it’s acceptable to swear on the Net. According to Shea, swearing is tasteless and should be avoided. If a Net user must swear, using the first letter of the word followed by asterisk fillers is far preferable to writing out the whole word.

    Rule No. 6 in Netiquette is “share expert knowledge,” according to Shea. If Internet users know the answer to a question asked online, they should respond to it, she says. If nobody did this, online questioning would be futile.

    Rule No. 7 in Netiquette, according to Shea, is “help keep flame wars under control.”

    To flame someone is to send them an inflammatory message over the Internet. All ideas of tact or politeness are thrown out the window.

    Shea does not rule out flaming completely, due to it being a tradition on the Net, but she does forbid flame wars that get out of hand.

    On the other hand, the Netiquette guidelines strictly forbid flaming.

    “Neither post nor respond to incendiary material,” it says.

    Rule No. 8 in Netiquette, according to Shea, is “respect other people’s privacy.” Net users should never read other people’s e-mail or hack into areas they are not welcome.

    Rule No. 9, according to Shea, is “don’t abuse your power.” Those who know their way around the Internet should never take advantage of those who don’t, she says.

    Rule No. 10 is “be forgiving of other people’s mistakes.”

    Everyone makes mistakes, especially when learning something new. Newcomers to the Internet are likely to commit a few faux pas while learning the nuances of the cyberworld. They deserve some slack, according to the Netiquette primer.

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