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All are welcome but please endeavour to observe the following good manners:

Rule 1: Remember the Human
The golden rule your parents and your playschool teacher taught you was pretty simple: Do unto others as you'd have others do unto you. Imagine how you'd feel if you were in the other person's shoes. Stand up for yourself, but try not to hurt people's feelings.

Rule 2: Adhere to the same standards of behaviour online that you follow in real life
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. And, perhaps because people sometimes forget that there's a human being on the other side of the computer, some people think that a lower standard of ethics or personal behaviour is acceptable in cyberspace.

Rule 3: Know where you are in cyberspace
Netiquette varies from domain to domain. What's perfectly acceptable in one area may be dreadfully rude in another. For example, in most TV discussion groups, passing on idle gossip is perfectly permissible. But throwing around unsubstantiated rumours in a journalists' mailing list will make you very unpopular there.

Rule 4: Respect other people's time and bandwidth
The word "bandwidth" is sometimes used synonymously with time, but it's really a different thing. Bandwidth is the information-carrying capacity of the wires and channels that connect everyone in cyberspace. There's a limit to the amount of data that any piece of wiring can carry at any given moment -- even a state-of-the-art fiber-optic cable. The word "bandwidth" is also sometimes used to refer to the storage capacity of a host system. When you accidentally post the same note to the same newsgroup five times, you are wasting both time (of the people who check all five copies of the posting) and bandwidth (by sending repetitive information over the wires and requiring it to be stored somewhere)

Rule 5: Make yourself look good online
I don't want to give the impression that the net is a cold, cruel place full of people who just can't wait to insult each other. As in the world at large, most people who communicate online just want to be liked. Networks -- particularly discussion groups -- let you reach out to people you'd otherwise never meet. And none of them can see you. You won't be judged by the colour of your skin, eyes, or hair, your weight, your age, or your clothing.

You will, however, be judged by the quality of your writing. For most people who choose to communicate online, this is an advantage; if they didn't enjoy using the written word, they wouldn't be there. So, spelling and grammar do count.

Rule 6: Share expert knowledge
Finally, after all that negativity, some positive advice.

The strength of cyberspace is in its numbers. The reason asking questions online works is that a lot of knowledgeable people are reading the questions. And if even a few of them offer intelligent answers, the sum total of world knowledge increases. The Internet itself was founded and grew because scientists wanted to share information. Gradually, the rest of us got in on the act.

So do your part. Despite the long lists of no-no's in this book, you do have something to offer. Don't be afraid to share what you know.

Rule 7: Help keep flame wars under control
Flame wars are the cyberspace equivalent of a playground "put down" or bullying session. On the playground, they may lead to a physical fight. Because this can't happen in cyberspace, some people are more prone to be rude than when they are face to face.

"Flaming" is what people do when they express a strongly held opinion without holding back any emotion. It's the kind of message that makes people respond, "Oh come on, tell us how you really feel." Tact is not its objective.

Does Netiquette forbid flaming? Not at all. Flaming is a long-standing network tradition (and Netiquette never messes with tradition). Flames can be lots of fun, both to write and to read. And the recipients of flames sometimes deserve the heat.

But Netiquette does forbid the perpetuation of flame wars -- series of angry letters, most of them from two or three people directed toward each other, that can dominate the tone and destroy the camaraderie of a discussion group. It's unfair to the other members of the group. And while flame wars can initially be amusing, they get boring very quickly to people who aren't involved in them. They're an unfair monopolisation of bandwidth.

Rule 8: Respect other people's privacy
Of course, you'd never dream of going through your colleagues' desk drawers. So naturally you wouldn't read their email either.

Unfortunately, a lot of people would. This topic actually rates a separate section.

In 1993, a highly regarded foreign correspondent in the Moscow bureau of the Los Angeles Times was caught reading his co-workers' email. His colleagues became suspicious when system records showed that someone had logged in to check their email at times when they knew they hadn't been near the computer. So they set up a sting operation. They planted false information in messages from another one of the paper's foreign bureau's. The reporter read the notes and later asked colleagues about the false information. Bingo! As a disciplinary measure, he was immediately reassigned to another position at the paper's Los Angeles bureau.

The moral: Failing to respect other people's privacy is not just bad Netiquette. It could also cost you your job.

Rule 9: Be forgiving of other people's mistakes
Everyone was a network newbie once. So when someone makes a mistake -- whether it's a spelling error or a spelling flame, a stupid question or an unnecessarily long answer -- be kind about it. If it's a minor error, you may not need to say anything. Even if you feel strongly about it, think twice before reacting. Having good manners yourself doesn't give you license to correct everyone else.

If you do decide to inform someone of a mistake, point it out politely, and preferably by private email rather than in public. Give people the benefit of the doubt; assume they just don't know any better. And never be arrogant or self-righteous about it. Just as it's a law of nature that spelling flames always contain spelling errors, notes pointing out Netiquette violations are often examples of poor Netiquette.
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Clarification request....

Does Rule 1 permit (or even encourage) me to launch a violent attack on Blackbeard's wallet region?

Thanks for your help.

Tollsnatched of the Lower Reaches.
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