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Ten .COMmandments of Net Etiquette

Many of my clients inquired about the proper way to conduct yourself on the internet when sending e-mail or participating in online forums anddiscussion lists. I have compiled this list. If there is anything you feel I have left out please let me know as I am always looking to improve it.

A few humble "Netiquette" suggestions:

1. INCLUDE ORIGINAL MESSAGE when replying, so there is no question as to what you are replying to (Most e-mail programs preferences can be set to automatically include the previous note in your reply, or simply (and preferably) select the relevant part of the note with your mouse before clicking "Reply"). i.e.:

Sample note:

From: <abc123@somedomain.com>
To: <def456@someotherdomain.net, and 4 others>
Subject: Re: Meeting Options

I agree, we need to implement this

<---(implement what?) By not including the previous note, only abc123@somedomain.com knows whom or what he is agreeing with; a real annoyance when there are multiple replies, or more than one person replying to a note with the same subject title. Would you mail a paper letter with just: "I agree, we need to implement this", without elaborating further? That is only acceptable in a live chat room as an immediate response.

2. YOUR REPLY ON TOP. The reason for positioning your response to someone's e-mail above theirs, then including their note or relevant portions of their note is no one likes to scroll through stuff already read to get to the new part , but it is there if they need to glance at the previous note to remind themselves of the subject matter (Most e-mail software preferences can be set to automatically post your new note above the previous note).

3. INCLUDE THE INTERNET ADDRESS (URL) i.e.: http://somenewssource.net/story.html as well as the copied text when quoting/sending a news story or a web page. You can do so by selecting the whole URL (address) with your mouse cursor in the "location/address" field of your browser and doing a copy and paste of the URL into your e-mail note. While its convenient to just cut and paste the entire story, there are some points to consider:
a) It is arguably a violation of copyright laws, and could create problems for anyone that would like to post the item on their list or web site without having a reference URL to obtain permission.
b) References to original sources can only serve to make your note more credible.
c) Those with non HTML (text only) e-mail will not see the accompanying photos, links, bold or color text, or any other formatting. What they will see is allot of extra illegible text mixed in (HTML tags), making the note hard to read (Also a common problem with inferior and isolationist e-mail software like AOL that do not work well with others).

4. SEND PLAIN TEXT e-mail unless it is necessary to use HTML, or you know your recipient has and prefers HTML e-mail, for the reasons stated above (ref. 3c). Also DO NOT send text as attachments or attachments unless absolutely necessary to do so. It is usually advisable to send text only emails for 3 reasons:
1. Most people will not open attachments due to virus concerns.
2. Your recipients may not have the necessary software to see your attachments.
3. Most recipients will find it annoying to have to launch a separate program just to open a file and read text that you could have sent in your email. Most programs will allow you to simply copy and paste the text content into an email. It should be up to you, not your readers to take the extra step. If you must open someone's attachment - always check it with anti virus software prior to opening. (Sending JPEG or GIF images is usually OK, as most email software will display the image in the note without having to open the attached file)
Golden rule of email - Never open an attachment unless you know the sender, and they verify that they actually sent it.

5. TYPE IN UPPER AND LOWER CASE as if you were writing a proper letter on paper. Typing your note in all capital letters on the net is considered SCREAMING. It is OK to do individual words or even a sentence you wish to draw attention to, or if you really are screaming (expect an equally rude reply), but not the whole note.

6. SIGN YOUR E-MAIL Most e-mail programs allow you to have from one to unlimited signatures, with usually one chosen as the default signature that automatically appears in your every note (easily switched in every note). This is also proper etiquette just as if you were writing a letter on paper, as abc123@somedomain.com means nothing to others not familiar with your e-mail account. Your signature can vary from a simple: Sincerely, Your Name - to a formal: Sincerely, Your Name, Title, Business and/or Organization info. Most online eGroups allow you to create a profile where you should at least put your name (some people prefer anonymity, but the golden rule here is: make no statements that you would not claim as your own).

7. TRIM YOUR E-MAIL by removing unnecessary text, headers, footers, and especially long strings of e-mail addresses from previous postings, so only pertinent information remains without having to scroll through many lines of distracting text.
TIP: Save others from having to look at, or delete your long email address lists when they forward your notes, and at the same time keep the addresses secret, as many people on your list may wish to remain private, and not have you spread their email address all over the Internet -
open your email address book; open the group and select: Don't show addresses when sending.

8. TITLE (Subject) should always reflect the message content. If the text of your message does not match the title because you are changing the topic or just using an older message to reply to rather then create a new note and have to look up e-mail addresses, it confuses your reader/s, especially if the message is forwarded to others or used in a discussion group. It is even more confusing if the previous topic is still being discussed under the same title as your new topic. So please CHANGE the TITLE to fit the content.

9. Please do not forward Email Petitions, they are USELESS and considered SPAM.
FACT 1: No one accepts or takes email petitions seriously, certainly not the government.
FACT 2: Real petitions that you sign by hand are by law considered null and void if someone signs more then once. Now, consider how may repetitious signatures email petitions have as well meaning, gullible people pass them on to their lists?
FACT 3: A few email petitions are actually started by well meaning people ignorant to petition rules, but many are from idiots that out of some stupid curiosity want to see how many people they can sucker to sign and pass on as eventually they might see their petition again after it has been around a while.
This of course does not apply to polls and petitions hosted on legitimate sites (key word: legitimate), where multiple entries are controlled.
Sample of a legitimate Petition Site.

Also, DO NOT FORWARD VIRUS ALERTS, stories of missing children, etc., (most are hoaxes anyway), unless you personally verify them on one of the many available sites to make sure they are legitimate, or still active (or you know the missing child). If you are not willing to invest time to verify, then you should not invest time to address and forward it as it really annoys your recipients (in specific topic lists and eGroups only send if you personally are infected and are trying to warn others who receive your email, as there are thousands of real viruses out there and reporting them could easily overtake the topic).

Some of the many Virus/Hoax and Urban Legends reference sites:

10. THOU SHALL NOT SPAM! For some reason paper junk mail is more tolerable than junk e-mail, so unless you know the recipients, or were referred to them (include reference: Mr. Smith of Jones Enterprises recommended...), please do not send mass quantities of e-mail, or anything blindly to e-mail addresses you collected from who knows what SPAM list that annoyed you when you received it. Sure, many unscrupulous businesses have made money using SPAM mailings. They do not care if they are rude and annoy the masses, as long as they get a small percentage to respond, but do you want to be known for being rude? What ever product, service or cause you are offering will be done more harm then good with SPAM, and your reputation will suffer for it (also, do not open or click links and attachments in spam mail you receive, besides encouraging spam, many are identity theft scams or viruses, trojan horses, etc.). It is debatable as to who is the 2nd lowest form of life on the net (virus creators and senders being the lowest); SPAMMERS or CYBER SQUATTERS (those leeches who horde domain names they have no use for, with the sole purpose of reselling them to those that really need them, at of course a much higher price). Nothing wrong with making a profit on a domain you own and have no further use for, but please do not acquire domains simply to prevent someone else from having them so you can extort a much higher price.

CONCLUSION: The best strategy to use for properly configured e-mail is simply: Treat your e-mail, as if it was snail mail (paper letter sent via Post Office) with similar format and courtesies. I hope you find these suggestions helpful...

Regards,

Peter M. Jeremich
Illustrator / Webmaster        http://Serb-Art.com
SERB-ART Graphic Arts, Web Design & Hosting Studio


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