Saturday, December 10, 2011

Is there still a netiquette?

From: Free Digital Photos
Remember all that chatter about netiquette?  It is the short form for Internet etiquette. You know, rules for digital communication.   In most Internet communities you usually find out what the netiquette, is about the time you break it! For those of you who always read instructions, terms and conditions and 'how to use this site' pages, you might be a bit better prepared. But for most of us it is a 'try out a community and see' kind of approach. There is usually someone in line who will YELL out and tell you what you are doing is annoying - either that or you won't make any new virtual connections or friends.

Most netiquette stems from the Netiquette Guidelines put out by Intel Corp in 1995.  From the Introduction:
"In the past, the population of people using the Internet had "grown
up" with the Internet, were technically minded, and understood the
nature of the transport and the protocols. Today, the community of

Internet users includes people who are new to the environment. These "Newbies" are unfamiliar with the culture and don’t need to know about transport and protocols. In order to bring these new users into the Internet culture quickly, this Guide offers a minimum set of behaviors which organizations and individuals may take and adapt for their own use."

The document is worth a read just for their fun 'newbie' explanations - remember when reading that use of the Internet for the general public was still new and growing and not quite as ubiquitous as today - and then fell free to LOL. My favourite is: "Don’t assume that people who you don’t know will want to talk to you. If you feel compelled to send private messages to people you don’t know, then be willing to accept gracefully the fact that they might be busy or simply not want to chat with you."  I reckon it is just as relevant when communicating with people you DO know!

Workplaces often have their netiquette hidden in Policies and Procedures. Items will include anything from how your email signature should look to how to represent the company on line, using social networking sites, to some even some stricter policies which ask employees to refrain from mentioning their organisation under 'employment' on non work related social networking sites like Facebook.

Virtual social netiquette is a little harder to work out. Alongside learning the interface, working out the netiquette is often the real challenge. A days worth of eavesdropping on the train or in a coffee shop will usually elicit at least one comment like these:
  • "I mean she tagged me looking rank. What does she think?" 
  • "Why would you befriend someone you only just met. It's weird isn't it?"
  • "I wish they would just assume I got their email - I just don't care enough to reply right now"
  • "He keeps writing comments that make ME look stupid".
And like any community membership, it's not until you do something 'weird' and someone bothers to tell you, that you  have stepped over the (often) unwritten line. And those lines are different in each setting - just like any face-to-face group you are part of.  I have to ask. Is there any easy way to learn a local netiquette?

It's a minefield out there ... take care!
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