Usenet permits a community of people to share information and discuss various topic through threads in newsgroups. Nearly every topic imaginable has a place within this sprawling network. New users will have the best experience if they take the time to understand how Usenet works. One important factor is using the proper “netiquette.” Netiquette, on Usenet, means behaving in a way that is polite and respectful of others. By following a few basic guidelines, users can work together in a way that is productive and positive.
Avoid using all CAPS
Some people prefer to type entirely in capital letters. This is unacceptable on Usenet. Typing in all CAPS indicates that the user is shouting. Just as one wouldn’t walk into a room full of strangers and begin shouting, one shouldn’t do that on message boards either. If a user wishes to emphasize a word or phrase, doing so in all capital letters may be acceptable, but it should be used sparingly.
Limit the length of signatures
Usenet allows users to include a “signature” at the end of their posts. Usually, people will include such information as their name, email address and location. Others may choose to include a quote or statistic that holds significance to them. There is really no limit to how long a signature may be. However, netiquette dictates that users should limit the length of their signature to no more than four lines. Longer signatures merely take up space and serve as a distraction in the thread.
Quote when replying
If a user is answering a question posted by another user or is responding to a particular post, quoting is a good idea. Usenet newsreaders will allow users to highlight the relevant text and quote it within their own post. The reason this is so important is that threads can grow very long. At times, it is difficult for readers to understand the context of a user’s reply and this can lead to misunderstanding. Quoting benefits all users by giving posts and replies clarity.
Use care when posting
Occasional typos and misspellings are expected. However, users that consistently post using poor grammar, spelling and punctuation are not regarded well by their peers. Users should make an attempt to post intelligently. Furthermore, if asking a question, users should be as clear as possible, including all pertinent information. If a question is phrased or presented in such a way that it is vague or unclear, other users may simply ignore it.
Check the Frequently Asked Questions section before asking questions
Users new to a particular newsgroup may enthusiastically begin asking their questions. Often, the answers to these questions are already given in the group’s FAQ section or in other threads that are currently active and open. New users are advised to first read a group’s FAQs and then read through several recent posts and threads before asking their questions.
Users should take care to post their articles in newsgroups that are relevant to the subject of the article. Furthermore, users replying within a thread should ensure that their answers are relevant to the thread’s topic. This makes it easier for other users to follow the information if they turn to that particular thread for specific answers.
Do not start or participate in flame wars.
When users within a thread begin engaging in personal insults against other users, this is referred to as a flame war. When fights such as these go on, they distract from the topic being discussed and serve only to annoy other people. New users should be careful not to be insulting toward other users. If they find themselves or another user being attacked, they should back down and avoid furthering the argument.
By following these guidelines new users will have a more positive experience on Usenet. Best of all, they can engage in better discussions and become a valued member of the Usenet community.