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(FAQ)  

Why it is sensible to observe the Netiquette


Better communication is in everyone's interest, including yours.

Netiquette [net etiquette] is a set of established conventions that have evolved over time on the Internet and on the Usenet news. Netiquette is most of all based on what has been found useful and proper in the electronic form of communication made possible by the Internet, what is appropriate in any form of communication between civilized human beings, and what is dictated by the common sense. Netiquette is not a law or (with some exceptions such as spam reporting  and binary postings  cancelbots) rules that will be forcibly imposed on the net community. Maybe the best way of thinking about the netiquette is to see it as a useful set of wise recommendations.
 
There are many collections on the various aspects of the netiquette on the Internet in the electronic format, including mine .
 
The netiquette has not been written to be a nuisance or to curb your freedom. Don't look upon the netiquette that way. It is to your own advantage to pay attention to the netiquette recommendations. It is sensible to be familiar with the netiquette also for quite selfish reasons:
My and the other collections of the netiquette are meant to help you better to find your way on the net, and to get more benefit and enjoyment out of the net in general, and the Usenet news in particular. But be forewarned that especially the Usenet news can occasionally be an intolerant and sometimes an outright hostile environment even when you duly observe the netiquette yourself. You'll often be needing a lot of tolerance and a tough skin.
> There are no rules on the Internet - except that there are no rules!
 
If you say that you have missed the essence of what was said in the above. The relatively easy access and world-wide propagation of messages on the net does not mean that there would be no conventions. Most of them are voluntary and, no doubt, often broken. But the essential point is that it is in your own self-interest to be aware of the netiquette conventions which have evolved over a long period all the way back from the mid-1980's.
 
Furthermore, some of the rules are enforced. Misplaced commercial announcements on Usenet newsgroup (spam) will often be canceled and/or reported to the sender's ISP (Internet Service Provider). Binary postings in discussion newsgroups will be refused by many ISPs. They will not carry them and binary cancelbots might be removing such postings. Thus they might reach only a small part of the readers. More seriously, if you outright break the law on the Internet by distributing highly dubious material, the police officials might intervene as has happened internationally on a few occasions.
 
Many even commercial IPSs can have terms of service (TOS) which you have agree to and sign before you get the account. If you are an employee, your employer can have explicit rules of usage, as do most of the schools and universities for their students and personnel. If you constantly break the rules you stand a chance of eventually losing your account and/or other disciplinary action. So there definitely are more rules than the "no rules" on the Internet.
From ts(ät)uwasa.fi Mon Feb 4 20:13:54 EET 2002
From: ts(ät)uwasa.fi (Timo Salmi)
Newsgroups: alt.msdos.batch
Subject: Re: The "Rules" of alt.msdos.batch
Date: 4 Feb 2002 20:12:25 +0200
Organization: University of Vaasa, Finland
 
> There are no rules [to what one can post in an unmoderated newsgroup].
 
[The following (slightly edited) posting discusses that sentiment in general terms of the Usenet news. Not in relation to any specific newsgroup.]
 
The Usenet news no-rules fallacy: Despite the fact that some users would like to think otherwise, there are many codes of conduct, both voluntary and some even forced on the Usenet news.
 
The rules which are actually forced most often concern things such as spam, binary postings in discussion newsgroups (if not explicitly allowed by the charter), pyramid scams and other outright illegal material. Such posting can invoke counter-measures, including automatic cancels (cancelbots), complaints to the sender's ISP (and the potential consequent action), and even police action as has happened internationally in the case of distributing offensive, illegal material. Also keep in mind that not all the ISPs pass on all the material. Thus e.g. the binary postings do not necessarily propagate as widely in discussion newsgroups as the poster of a binary might think.
 
The very purpose of having distinct newsgroups with the topic areas specified is to have some kind of an order in the system. Else the system would neither be manageable for the carriers of the news nor useful for the readership. Hence there are tens of thousands of different newsgroups each with some sense of their topics. Why else would one need more than one newsgroup on the Usenet new in the first place! In the case of comp-hierarchy newsgroups the topics are to a considerable degree governed by the charter of the newsgroup, explicitly or implicitly drawn up for the voting process to create the newsgroup. In the more easily created alt-newsgroup hierarchy the critical phase is also at the creation time and furthermore to get the ISPs to carry the newsgroups. In order for a newsgroup to survive in the long-run, it needs to stay reasonably on-topic even when there is no mechanism to actually force the issue.
 
Finally, there is the netiquette. Netiquette is a set of established conventions that have evolved over time on the Internet and on the Usenet news. Netiquette is neither a law nor a rule. Netiquette is most of all based on what has been found useful and proper in the electronic form of communication made possible by the Internet, what is appropriate in any form of communication between civilized human beings, and what is dictated by the common sense.
 
One of the obvious recommendations of the netiquette with regard to the Usenet news is to keep one's material within the confines of the topic area of the newsgroups where one decides to post. Newsgroup takeovers, by tenaciously forcing off-topic material, are both bad netiquette and a breach of the spirit of having the at least a semi-organized system of newsgroups. All told, thinking that one should feel totally free to post whatever and wherever one happens like is neither very well founded nor constructive.
All the best, Timo

> Now look here. I am far too busy to play by your little rules (like not including into my comments entire postings from others). An intelligent reader will know what to read.
 
You are right in the sense that the choice, of course, is yours. But flaunting a deliberate disregard of the common format is bound to affect the image that you give of yourself on the net. There are better ways to stress your individuality than a belligerent breach of the netiquette. Besides, the haughtiness of your reaction can't help but reflect an inflated belief in the value of your own time.
 
You are also right that many readers will know what to choose. Be aware, however, that some readers who otherwise would pay attention to what you have to say might even start ignoring you because of such an attitude. Is that what you want?
 
You are quite wrong, however, in the sense that these are somehow my own little rules. Yes, I agree with the netiquette recommendations, but they most certainly are not my own invention. I act here rather just as the bookkeeper. The netiquette is a common, long-established code of conduct on the net. You can easily verify that fact from the huge number of link references included throughout this netiquette  collection.
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