by the Rev. "Bob" Crispen

One of these days you're going to get tired of Web surfing or listening in on LISTSERVs, IRCs, Usenet newsgroups or whatever, and you're going to want to say something yourself. At that moment your life will change. Let's see if we can't make that a change for the better.


Everyone is tempted from time to time to evangelize, to stride boldly into the enemy's camp and throw down the gauntlet. We will never see the end of people who pop up on "" praising Macs and Amigas; who send mail to the SKEPTIC list that flying saucers really, truly do exist; who enlighten the Buddhist newsgroups that they're all bound for hell, and on and on.

In the entire history of the Net, no one has managed to do this without looking like a complete idiot. If you believe you are the one person who will succeed where millions have failed, then you're ready to learn about...


There is nothing you can say that won't offend somebody:

>It's a bright, sunny day today.

You filthy *@!?$, what have you got against Seattle?

Flames (violent verbal expressions of disapproval), misunderstandings, overreactions, and hurt feelings are par for the course. Four lessons from experience:

(1) HEDGE YOUR BETS. Rather than saying, "Metal rules! Death to all that appose [sic]!!" try saying "In my humble opinion (often abbreviated IMHO) metal bands perfectly express my feelings, choices, and lifestyle. Your mileage may vary" (another net cliche', less frequently abbreviated YMMV). By the way, BTW is another frequent net abbreviation, for what it's worth (FWIW).

Watch the abbreviations until you're sure of them, or you may have your readers ROTFL (rolling on the floor, laughing).

(2) APOLOGIZE. When misunderstanding is the culprit, and especially if you respect the person who misunderstood, take the blame on yourself for being unclear, apologize, say what you meant more clearly (if appropriate) and put it behind you. As in real life (remember that?) people who are quick to anger are often equally quick to forgive.

(3) AVOID FLAME BAIT (conduct which gravely offends the norms, mores and folkways of a particular group). "Now wait a minute!" you say. "Do you mean that something that's accepted behavior on one list or newsgroup will draw dozens of stinging, ridiculing comments in another?" I sure do. Think about it. Do you expect the people who post on "comp.lang.ada" (about the Ada programming language) to be anything like the people who post to "rec.pets.cats?"

What can you do? Lurk a while before you post. Read what's said like an anthropologist, trying to discover what the big "don't"s are. The beginning of a school term is a wonderful time to do this, as you will observe the clueless newbies, who weren't smart enough to read this paragraph, being torn to shreds. There are some things you should NEVER do, and we'll list them in a minute, but let's get to the last bit of advice.

(4) Bow down to the group's gods. In every Usenet newsgroup and LISTSERV mailing list there are old, gray heads who have earned the respect of everyone in the group. For example, amongst the subscribers to the list discussing the late American bandleader Stan Kenton are the producer of a Kenton box set and the authors of definitive Kenton biographies and discographies. You are entirely ignorant compared to those people. Never pretend you're anything else. They would dearly love to help you -- to answer a question, help you find a rare record -- but you'll always come out second best in a head-butting contest with them. Still other group members have earned their status through long service. Friendships have developed over many years, and marriage is not unknown. By commenting abusively to or about one of these gods, you'll earn not only her enmity, but the enmity of all of her friends -- which may be everyone in the group but you!

DO'S AND DON'TS (or how to avoid most flames):



A word to people living in the United States: the net is international. Iyou tell a Belgian she's being un-American, SHE ISN'T OFFENDED. OF COURSE she's un-American; you're un-Belgian. She doesn't care about being lectured on the First Amendment and American values. She doesn't HAVE a First Amendment, and she thinks Belgian values are BETTER. We Americans have made fools of ourselves by forgetting this everywhere else. Let's try to behave a little better on the net.

Finally, many groups have had the sense to write down some of their norms and folkways in a frequently asked questions (FAQ) list along with (what else?) the answers to frequently asked questions. Many Usenet FAQs are posted monthly or so on the news.answers (alt.answers, comp.answers) newsgroups. Listowners of LISTSERVs are often quite willing to mail you the FAQ for the list. In fact, they may have already told you where it is in the letter you get welcoming you to the list. With all we've said above, and with all the help newsgroup moderators and listowners are providing to newcomers, it almost seems like you'd have to work at it to go charging in with your mouth open and your eyes and ears shut, thereby aggravating and alienating some otherwise perfectly nice people.

The good Lord gave us two eyes and two ears and one mouth to remind us of that very thing.

But then he went and gave us ten fingers to type with, and here we are.


NETIQUETTE came from Patrick Douglas Crispen's Roadmap96


Roadmap96 is a 27-lesson, Internet training workshop designed to teach new "Net travelers" how to travel around the rapidly expanding (and often-times confusing) "Information Superhighway" without getting lost. The original Roadmap workshop, which debuted in the Fall of 1994, rapidly became the most popular on-line Internet training workshop in history. Roadmap96 is a completely revised and updated version of the original Roadmap workshop. Roadmap96's lessons are primarily written for people with accounts on command-line systems (like UNIX, VAX, and VM), but EVERYONE is welcome to participate in the workshop!

Roadmap96 is absolutely FREE!!!!!

The old subscribe info:

To subscribe to ROADMAP96, send a new e-mail letter to LISTSERV@LISTS.INTERNIC.NET with the command SUBSCRIBE ROADMAP96 YOURFIRSTNAME YOURLASTNAME in the body of your e-mail letter, replacing YOURFIRSTNAME and YOURLASTNAME with your first and last names.


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