Internet discussion Group / List etiquette

N-etiquette rose NETWORKING is the art of building mutually beneficial long term business relationships.  These relationships thrive on professional courtesy and mutual respect.  Note: this is not the same as friendship.   Many of  those in your network will never be seen outside of the office but may be suppliers or freelance consultants or members of discussion groups or lists that your know through correspondence only.  Occasionally, a member of your network will become a friend, as a general rule, however, a network is more stable when each member is respected for the quality, amount and professionalism of their work as well as their knowledge of the field in general.  Simply:  Good Manners Are Good Business.


Internet Lists, Classes and Discussion Groups 

Keep in mind the six rules of business etiquette as you go through this lesson and you will see that participation in forums, lists, classes, and discussion groups  is an excellent way to fulfill your primary networking goals:

1)Always acknowledge others
2)Time is money.
3)Practice making it look easy.
4)Lend a helping hand.
5)Develop a "business" sense of humor.
6)Maintain your skill levels 

Read the rules of the List* that you have joined - and abide by them.  For each list or group that you join, know the rules and follow them.  If you wish to subscribe, unsubscribe, etc. look up the correct address to do so.  Sending an e-mail to the entire list is spamming.  

Groups and Lists have a purpose which involves shared knowledge.  For that reason, it is counterproductive and therefore rude to reply privately.  It can also be rude to link to other lists or groups in your answer or in your signature as it  tends to confuse people as to where they have posted their questions. The information is easily added to the same thread, instead of directing others to a completely different website to read one post.

Many lists do not use an HTML option for their e-mail.  Without this, it is difficult to show stress points in a sentence (using different colors, bold font, underline, etc.).  Be extremely careful with the use of capitalization to make a point.  A message that is delivered in capitals is considered "shouting" or "flaming" on the internet.  This is considered extremely rude.

While your e-mail or chat comments go out to the group as a whole, you should always use the name of the person to whose comment you are responding for two reasons.  

1) It makes a better impression.  You are trying to expand your network as well as perfect your skills.

2) It focuses you on the fact that there is a real person on the other end of your message.  Too often, we feel an anonymity on the internet and respond in ways that we would not respond person to person.  If anything, we need to be kinder on the internet.  It is fast paced.  We tend to forget that once it is written - it is always there.   This is not real conversation.  Somewhere, someone may be printing out your little missive to be framed on their wall.  Will that thought make you proud? (Or - are they doing it for revenge<g>?)

Many who belong to lists and discussion groups, save emails as little tutorials.  Many belong to more than one group.  Be careful not to clog their inbox with repetition, subjects that are not pertinent, long personal anecdotes, inappropriate language.  

Subject lines must reflect the current contents of an e-mail.  At times, the subject may change during the thread of a discussion.  At this point, change the subject line information.

A reply to an e-mail - and replies to that reply are called a "string" or a "thread". 

This is one reason that most lists have a rule that one must "snip" on reply.  This is simply deleting the original e-mail below your reply.  There are generally one or two basic lines in the original email that you may have to repeat in order to make your response coherent.  These trimmed quotes are generally more acceptably placed above your response. 

Lend that helping hand.

Many lists call for critiques from members on a particular project.  This is a wonderful learning tool if handled properly.  Remember, this is a learning process and criticism must walk a fine, polite line.  If criticism is too harsh, someone may be dissuaded from presenting their project for criticism.  If criticism is not honest, no one will learn.  Both extremes defeat the purpose of the list.

If you are being critiqued: Do not take criticism personally.  Evaluate it and decide if you can use it.  If you can't, then put it totally out of your mind.  

If you are critiquing: Unless you can offer an improvement or substitution that you feel would benefit the project, do not comment.  (Others will.)  Never comment on a subject outside of the list purpose. (example: if the group deals with website coding, do not comment on the content of a website.)

If, at any time, you feel you must say something to an individual that would be embarrassing or personal in nature, you have two options.  You could, of course, put the individual's email in the To: box rather than the list email  address, but it is usually better to place your own e-mail address there and mail it to yourself only.  :)

Practice making it look easy.    

Groups and Lists generally have a constant influx of "newbie" participants.  If you have done well in responding to a particular problem - explained the answer clearly and simply - keep the answer.  It will be needed again, and with organization (macros and drafts) you will be in a position to help quickly and smoothly.

As it is difficult to know your internet audience in a group or in a list - and in the interest of appearing professional, this is one place where humor is best avoided. 

Emoticons suitable for internet groups and e-lists:

 :] or :-] = Friendly

) or :-) = Smiling

 :O or :-O = Surprised

List Rules and Guidelines ~ actual Rules from the FP List

--Edit Replies! (snipping) Quoting too much of the email to which you are replying quite often hinders communication. Try and keep quoting to a minimum, but not so little that list members don't know what you are replying to -- try and quote only the portion of the email that shows the topic and the point the other person was trying to make. If you include too much of the originator's email, then some people may not have the time to read your post. When replying to a Digest, please be sure not to include the entire Digest. This will get folks riled
up pretty quickly, and often causes members to unsubscribe from the list.  If you have a question about snipping or what that means, please email the moderators at:

--Stay on-topic as much as possible (this does not mean NO off-topic emails, but try and keep those to a minimum). We realize that every now and then we will get in an off-topic mode, but do your best to keep these to a minimum. Realize that some people are very limited in their online time.

We also have an Off topic list set up just for members of our list to use when we would like to continue a thread that is very much off topic, or just to have a few laughs with eachother off the main list. This is the place to ask folks how to fix system bugs, to post your jokes, to discuss the "best" peripheral, or anything that doesn't pertain to FP and/or web development in general. Hundreds of list members consider offtopic posts of any kind nothing but "noise".  The offtopic list is strictly for FPlist members only and is not nearly as high volume as the main FPlist.

--TIPS AS "PAYMENT" FOR NOISE - The list moderators recognize our memberships' penchant for "bending" the list rules, and/or for occasionally contributing to "noise" on the list.  However, the moderators have decided that members should pay for such "cluttering" of the list with a tip. <G> Thus, any off-topic posts, irrelevant posts, or posts that may break a list rule in any way MUST contain a tip. In other words, if you think you may be
(or have) committing a "list sin", pay for it with a tip.

This tip should be placed at the BEGINNING of your post, and formatted as follows:
<payment tip> Your tip here </tip>

--Please be aware of what you are posting. Before posting a reply to the list make sure that you are not repeating an answer or suggestion already posted to the list. Please read through the posts before sending your reply, so as to avoid repeating another person's answer verbatim.

--Posts to the list should be concise and to the point. Posts merely expressing thanks to a single individual should be sent to that person's personal e-mail address.   It is better to read through a thread and aggregate your comments into a single post than to send one line additions to each of the 10 messages in the thread.

--Change Subject headings when appropriate. Don't respond with Re: Digest #

--Signature Lines
Signature lines are generally acceptable when used in replies to posts made on the list, however they must conform to the following guidelines:

1. Please keep signature lines to a maximum of five (5) lines.  A sig file of no more than three (3) lines is preferred.

2. Sig files may contain site URLs, but they may NOT include advertising of any kind.

3. Sig files may NOT contain affiliate links of any kind, including links to hosting reseller programs, MLMs, paid browsing or e-mail programs, etc.

4. Sig files should NOT contain meaningless disclaimers as to the content or opinions expressed in the e-mail. If you are posting from a company address that requires such a disclaimer to be appended, we suggest you either use the FPlist page at to post your list messages, or sign-up for an account at one of the many free providers and use this for posting to the list.

5. Vendors may not post advertisements to the list for their products under any circumstances. Signature lines are generally acceptable when used in replies to posts made on the list, however they may not appear in any format similar to that of a list sponsor ad, particularly if the signature is in direct competition with a paying sponsors products.

6. Members should use good judgment in composing their signatures and should contact the list owner if there is any question about the format or content.

7. If your signature line does not conform to these guidelines, one of the list moderators may contact you to suggest how you may change it to be in compliance with guidelines.

If your "default" sig line does not conform to the above guidelines, we suggest you create an alternate signature file to use when posting to this list. We thank all members in advance for your cooperation.

For more info and examples of signature lines please see:

--No Flaming (personal abusive attacks intended to incite, degrade, make fun of  another person or their ideas with no positive outcome.) Additionally, flaming of moderators, either on or off list for their actions on the list, is not permitted.  Use good manners, and differences can easily be avoided without things degrading to a flamewar. We are here to help each other. Attacks include name-calling and do no good except get the list upset. Flaming and other forms of harassment on OR offlist are grounds for removal from the list. Direct your comments to the idea, not the person and always be willing to "agree to disagree".

--No Spam (Sales pitches, requests for Aid to Children, chain letters, Business opportunities, GetRichQuick schemes, MLM opportunities,etc).

--No Advertising of any kind on the list.

--No Attachments. This list has the Attachments option turned off for protection of all list members due to viruses.

--No Virus Warnings onlist. Please send them to the Moderators, who will handle any warnings of ANY kind via an Admin email to the list.

--AUTORESPONDERS/NO MAIL - Autoresponders of any kind are prohibited from this list. If your subscribed address responds to a single FPList post with an autoresponder, the moderators will immediately place that address on "no mail" status. The address will be placed on moderated status as well, to ensure that no autoreplies get through to the list. You will need to turn off your autoresponder in order to be removed from
moderated status.

Likewise, if posts made to the list generate "bounce" messages to other list members, the "bouncing" address will be placed on no-mail status. You will need to manually reset your mail status at yahoogroups.

--If a moderator asks you to drop a thread - please drop it. You may be put on moderated status for continuing threads the moderators have asked you to stop.


See Also:

Baby  or Bridal Shower  Etiquette Internet Forum Etiquette
Birthday Party Etiquette Internet List / Group Etiquette
Business Etiquette Other Opinions
Cemetery Etiquette Personal Etiquette
E-mail Etiquette Website Etiquette


Wedding Etiquette
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