The Sixteen Commandments of Netiquette

By Richard Travers


And the Great God Internet looked upon Cyberspace and saw that it was incomplete, for while one could speak unto one, none could speak unto the multitude. So the Great God Internet said "Let there be News".

And lo, Cyberspace was filled with News, and the Great God Usenet was born. And with the News came chaos, for some of the multitude were ignorant of the ways of the News and ignited anger in the many, and with the chaos came the flames of wrath and damnation.

And the Argonaut came new to the News. And he saw the chaos and the flames and he cried out saying "What hell is this? How is one such as me to understand and survive in this inferno?"

And the Great God Usenet called him unto the mountain of Learning and said unto him "Take unto you my commandments, and take them to your heart. Obey them and you will be accepted onto the ocean that is the news and will travel safely. You will be honoured on that sea and will have access to all that is known and will become a saint amongst the ordinary people".

And the Argonaut took the commandments, which were engraved in silicon, and took them to his heart and saw that they were sensible and good. And he girded himself and entered upon his perilous voyage into the turbulent seas of the newsgroups. And many that saw him marvelled that he survived unscathed and cried unto him "Tell us your secret, that you remain unburned by the flames of wrath and damnation". And he answered them quietly, saying "These are the commandments of the Great God Usenet. Abide by them and you, too, will voyage safely".

And did quote the commandments thus:

1. Thou shalt first subscribe to news.announce.newusers, argonet.announce and argonet.acorn.voyager, and thou shalt download the Netguide from Argo ftp. Thou shalt read and learn.

2. Thou shalt travel quietly amongst the newsgroups at first, reading the wisdom of others, but not uttering thine own thoughts until thou understandeth the ways of the news.

3. Thou shalt seek information in the newsgroups only after searching for such information in sources available to thee such as the manual already in thy possession, or in the lists of FAQs (frequently asked questions) that are available to all.

4. If thou hast a question to ask, thou shalt ask it only in a newsgroup that discusseth such questions. Thou shalt first consult the list of newsgroups available from Argo ftp. Thou shalt not ask for replies by e-mail because thou dost not read that newsgroup as this is the height of discourtesy.

5. Thou shalt not cross-post to a multitude of groups. Thou shalt confine thy posting to one group unless there is a very good reason to do otherwise. Thou shall not commit the heinous sin of Spamming (posting to a very large number of groups - usually with an advertisement or get-rich-quick scheme).

6. Thou shalt read the whole of a thread before responding to a posting to ensure that what thou wisheth to say has not already been said. Thou shalt avoid "me too" postings - postings which merely agree with a previous posting without adding anything useful.

7. Thou shalt make thy postings clear and concise, not long and rambling. Thou shalt avoid insulting, abusive or offensive language.

8. When responding to a posting, thou shalt avoid quoting long chunks of previous material. Thou shalt cut the quotes to be just long enough to indicate what thou wanteth to comment upon, and no longer than that. Thou shalt be careful, however, not to alter the meaning of that which thou quoteth, and to give correct attribution of the quote to the person who wrote it. Thou shalt never quote signatures (unless thy comment relateth to the signature).

9. Thou shalt give thy postings a title which indicates its content, and thou shalt be diligent in changing the title when you change the subject of a posting.

10. Thou shalt make your postings clear and easy to read. Thou shalt limit the length of thy lines to around 74 characters (in order that they may be quoted without wrapping) by using the <Return> key at the end of each line. Thou shalt use short paragraphs (which are easier to read), and shalt place a blank line between a quote and your response. Thou shalt not SHOUT (use capitals), for this offendeth the eye, but shall instead use *gentler* (_gentler_)(\gentler/) means to emphasise thy words. Thou shalt not use top-bit-set characters (those with codes above 127) or control codes (except <Returns>) in your postings, for many newsreaders cannot read them. Thou mayst use smilies within thy postings to convey the tone of your words.

11. Thou shalt restrict the length of your signature to four (or possibly five) lines, for it is transmitted many times and takes up much bandwidth. Thou shalt not alter the standard signature separator (-- ), for to do so will confuse most newsreaders.

12. Thou shalt not post binary files (files other than ordinary text files), except to groups which specifically cater for them.

13. Thou shalt not post "Test" messages to the ordinary newsgroups. Thou shalt instead use misc.test or alt.test for such messages (include the word "Ignore" in the message Subject). Thou mayst use to test e-mail.

14. Thou shalt not quote an e-mail in a newsgroup message without the permission of the writer of the e-mail.

15. When posting to a moderated group thou shalt first read the instructions given at the end of messages in that group.

16. Thou shalt obey the laws of copyright, libel and those relating to pornography when posting to the net.

And many that received these commandments saw that they were good, and abided by them, voyaging safely amongst the chaotic seas. But there were others who saw not the good in the commandments and chose to ignore them, and for them there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth as they were consumed by the fires of wrath and damnation that were heaped upon them.