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Netiquette (a portmanteau formed from "network etiquette") is a set of social conventions that facilitate interaction over networks, ranging from Usenet and mailing lists to blogs and forums. These rules were described in IETF RFC 1855.[1] However, like many Internet phenomena, the concept and its application remain in a state of flux, and vary from community to community. The points most strongly emphasized about USENET netiquette often include using simple electronic signatures, and avoiding multiposting, cross-posting, off-topic posting, hijacking a discussion thread, and other techniques used to minimize the effort required to read a post or a thread. Netiquette guidelines posted by IBM for employees utilizing Second Life in an official capacity, however, focus on basic professionalism, maintaining a tenable work environment, and protecting IBM's intellectual property.[2] Similarly, some Usenet guidelines call for use of unabbreviated English[3][4] while users of online chat protocols like IRC and instant messaging protocols like SMS often encourage just the opposite, bolstering use of SMS language.



Netiquette began before the 1991 start of the World Wide Web. Text-based email, Telnet, Usenet, Gopher, Wais, and FTP from educational and research bodies dominated Internet traffic. At that time, it was considered somewhat indecent to make commercial public postings, and the limitations of insecure, text-only communications demanded that the community have a common set of rules. The term "netiquette" has been in use since at least 1983[5], as evidenced by posts of the satirical "Dear Emily" Postnews column.[6]

Common characteristics

Common rules for e-mail[7] and USENET such as avoiding flamewars and spam are constant across most mediums and communities. Another rule is to avoid typing in all caps or grossly enlarging script for emphasis, which is considered to be the equivalent of shouting or yelling. Other commonly shared points, such as remembering that one's posts are (or can easily be made) public, are generally intuitively understood by publishers of Web pages and posters to USENET, although this rule is somewhat flexible depending on the environment. On more private protocols, however, such as e-mail and SMS, some users take the privacy of their posts for granted. One-on-one communications, such as private messages on chat forums and direct SMSs, may be considered more private than other such protocols, but infamous breaches surround even these relatively private media. For example, Paris Hilton's Sidekick PDA was cracked in 2005, resulting in the publication of her private photos, SMS history, address book, etc.[8]

More substantially, a group email sent by Cerner CEO Neal Patterson to managers of a facility in Kansas City concerning "Cerner's declining work ethic" read, in part, "The parking lot is sparsely used at 8 A.M.; likewise at 5 P.M. As managers - you either do not know what your EMPLOYEES are doing; or YOU do not CARE ... In either case, you have a problem and you will fix it or I will replace you."[9] After the email was forwarded to hundreds of other employees, it quickly leaked to the public. On the day that the email was posted to Yahoo!, Cerner's stock price fell by over 22%[10] from a high of $1.5 billion USD.[11]

Beyond matters of basic courtesy and privacy, e-mail syntax (defined by RFC 2822) allows for different types of recipients. The primary recipient, defined by the To: line, can reasonably be expected to respond, but recipients of carbon copies cannot be, although they still might.[12] Likewise, misuse of the CC: functions in lieu of traditional mailing lists can result in serious technical issues. In late 2007, employees of the United States Department of Homeland Security used large CC: lists in place of a mailing list to broadcast messages to several hundred users. Misuse of the "reply to all" caused the number of responses to that message to quickly expand to some two million messages, bringing down their mail server.[13] In cases like this, rules of netiquette have to do with efficient sharing of resources and ensuring that the associated technology continues to function rather than more basic etiquette.

Variations in etiquette between communities using similar technologies can be seen when comparing standards governing wiki editors: IBM's Redwiki guidelines threaten the loss of editing privileges over factual mistakes,[14] while Memory Alpha[15] and other public wikis take the open-source-inspired line that "false or misleading information" should simply be corrected, barring apparent malice. However, both projects urge editors not to permit themselves a sense of ownership over a given article, as does Wikipedia.[16] Due to the large variation between acceptable behavior in various professional environments and between professional and social networks, codified internal manuals of style are key to enforcing acceptable limits to user behavior. For instance, failure to publish such a guide was cited among the reasons for a $17,000 NZD wrongful dismissal finding against a firm that fired a woman for misuse of all caps in company-wide email traffic.[17][18]

See also


  1. ^ "RFC 1855: Netiquette Guidelines". Retrieved 2009-10-18. 
  2. ^ IBM Issues Employee Conduct Rules For Second Life - IBM - InformationWeek
  3. ^ "Zen and the Art of the Internet - Usenet News". Retrieved 2007-08-18. 
  4. ^ "Links to Prof. Timo Salmi's FAQ material". Retrieved 2007-08-18. 
  5. ^ bpobpobbo\bgb post regarding revision of the "Netiquette" document Jerry Schwarz. net.general. Oct 15, 1983.
  6. ^ Dear Emily Postnews (An alternate USENET netiquette guide)Evidence of use of "netiquette" from 1988
  7. ^ The Complete Idiot's Guide to... Writing Well By Laurie Rozakis,,M1
  8. ^ Paris Hilton's hacked Sidekick releases unedited tell-all - Engadget
  9. ^ Zero to $1 Billion - Apr. 27, 2006
  10. ^ - Unix security: Proprietary email
  11. ^ E-Mail Rules: A Business Guide to Managing Policies, Security, and Legal Issues for E-Mail and Digital Communications By Randolph Kahn & Nancy Flynn,M1
  12. ^ Electronic office etiquette
  13. ^ DHS flunks e-mail administration 101, causes mini-DDoS
  14. ^ IBM Wikis - RedWIKI - Writing guidelines and etiquette
  15. ^ Memory Alpha:Introduction - Memory Alpha, the Star Trek Wiki
  16. ^ Wikipedia:Ownership of articles
  17. ^
  18. ^

External links

This article was originally based on material from the Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, which is licensed under the GFDL.

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