Netiquette: Internet Etiquette in the Age of the Blog

by Matthew Strawbridge (Software Reference, 2006): 160pp, out of print, ISBN 0 95 546140 5.

Reviewed by Wendy Toole, former SfEPLine moderator

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What a joy to find succinctly formulated within one book all those things that a moderator struggles to say without sounding anal or aggressive or just plain silly. If for no other reason, I am grateful to SfEP associate Matthew Strawbridge for writing this book because I can now crib bits of his text whenever I feel moved to wag an e-finger or call for online order.

But in addition to its usefulness to those of us who have to try to enforce the niceties of netiquette because of our roles in forums or other online communities, this book will make informative reading for anyone taking part in such a group.

'Lurk before you leap'

Matthew's suggestions for comfortable and courteous list life include:

  • 'If you need to discuss two or more separate topics, post a separate message for each.'
  • 'When replying to a digest, change the subject line to match the specific message you are responding to.'
  • 'Read the whole thread (so far) before posting a reply.' (We know, we know, but how often do we forget?)

He also recommends new subscribers to 'lurk before you leap' (when you join a new group, spend a little time gaining an appreciation of the tone and content of the messages that are posted), but after that, 'don't be afraid to join in.' (You will find groups like SfEPLine friendly and supportive, so do think of signing up if you are not already a subscriber!)

Electronic intercourse

As well as the section on forums that immediately caught my attention, this book contains much useful information and advice for anyone engaging in electronic intercourse of any kind.

Topics covered range from email signatures (keep yours to fewer than 70 characters, preferably in four lines and certainly no more than six, and think very carefully before including a short witty quotation or joke) and real-time messaging (if you have to leave the keyboard unexpectedly and you are in conversation, do let the other person know) to blogs (only create a blog if you really need one) and wikis (do not participate in an edit war).

'Flamebait' and 'trolls'

Even if you don't want to partake in any computer-based interaction beyond sending and receiving emails, you will benefit from reading the final section, which discusses advertising, sp*m and security. The chapter headed 'Miscellany' gives advice on, among other things, protecting your children online and - for those who belong to forums and discussion groups - avoiding 'flamebait' (messages posted with the sole intention of causing trouble) and 'trolls' (individuals who deliberately post flamebait).

Finally, the book contains three extremely useful appendices, covering text-message abbreviations, netiquette for ISPs and a summary of netiquette rules, and a glossary. No one in possession of this book need ever again mistake a Trojan horse for a virus or wonder whether to be gratified or offended when someone signs off to them 'GMTA'.

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