Proper communication etiquette when on lists, communicating in online groups and forums comes up on a regular basis. Here are some tips to make sure you have a more enjoyable and constructive experience:
- Don’t be spammy. This means you don’t arbitrarily or gratuitously post your business links. The only time you would post your business link in the body of the message is if it applies directly and specifically to the post you are responding to. And, you need to note it is your site — not one you are simply referring to. Honesty in disclosure is crucial to the credibility of your post. You can soft sell your business by incorporating one, but no more than two, links in your forum signature file.
- What about my right to “free speech” to say whatever I want where ever I want? Use of any site or forum is not a right! To participate, you will be asked to follow a few simple rules. The “freedom of speech” guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution that folks so willingly throw around many times to justify their poor behavior, only protects you from governmental intervention in your right to express yourself — it does not give you free reign to use computer resources, paid for by others, against the wishes of their owner. Again, if you don’t like the rules, search out another forum that is more in line with what you feel is tolerable.
- Stay on topic and discuss issues only relative to the thread in question. A thread is the term used for a ongoing conversation based on a particular subject. Feel free to change the subject to something more apropos if the thread goes off in another direction or start an entirely new thread. When you do so be sure to change the SUBJECT: field to clearly reflect the revised topic so the other members are aware of the change in direction from the original thread.
- If new to the group or forum, “lurk” for awhile to get a feel for the community and personalities of the regulars before you post. You will be participating in an established community and don’t want to just bust in and blurt out your opinions, demands or questions before getting a good idea for the feel of the group. Then, in your first post, a short intro about you before you comment is recommended and helps you start to become part of that community.
- Never give out personal information or specifics to your location on forums or message boards. This information can then be farmed by troublemakers.
- Keep in mind there will always be differences of opinion. Try to remain objective and not personalize issues if at all possible. You can disagree with others by being firm and expressing your opinion with clarity without resorting to name calling, slurs or innuendos just to make your point. Posters that behave in that manner are generally those whose opinions are weak or not based in any truth or facts and are viewed as such by the community.
- Don’t fall for trolls. Trolls are folks who will post rude comments just to get a rise out of everyone involved. Ignoring folks who do this simply halts their efforts to disrupt the forum and get them the attention they seek. Move on to more constructive conversations.
- Be sure to down edit, or remove any part of the post you are replying to that is no longer necessary to the ongoing conversation. This includes anything that no longer applies to your response. By down editing, you will show your command of the technology in which you are participating, while doing your part to keep the conversation focused and easy to read by the other members. These efforts will be greatly appreciated by your fellow members.
- Always review your post(s) before you click send/post. Make sure they express the appropriate tone you want to relay. If you are joking, add a ;-). Use emoticons to reflect the seriousness or lack thereof of your comments. Most forums provide you with standard emoticons so you can do just that. “I didn’t mean it that way…” doesn’t apply online – people will take your words at their face value! If you type it, you’d better mean it and be willing to accept the repercussions that can possibly ensue. Also be sure to check your spelling and grammar to do your best to make sure you are viewed as someone who made it out of the 6th grade.
- If conversations get out of hand and others resort to personal insults or innuendo because of your comments, try not to take it too personally – they don’t know you. When you feel you need to defend yourself, do so politely based on your opinion — not personal digs. Always take the high road and you will be respected by the other members of the forum.
By keeping the above in mind you’ll have a more informed and enjoyable time!