The Net: User Guidelines and Netiquette
- by Arlene Rinaldi
LISTSERVS/MAILING LISTS/ DISCUSSION GROUPS
Some mailing lists have low rates of traffic, others can flood
your mailbox with several hundred mail messages per day.
Numerous incoming messages from various listservers or mailing
lists by multiple users, requires extensive system processing
which can tie up valuable resources. Subscription to Interest
Groups or Discussion Lists should be kept to a minimum and should
not exceed what your disk quota can handle, or you for that
- When you join a list, monitor the messages for a few days to
get a feel for what common questions are asked, and what
topics are deemed off-limits. This is commonly referred to
as lurking. When you feel comfortable with the group, then
- See if there is a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) for a
group that you are interested in joining. Veteran members
get annoyed when they see the same questions every few
weeks, or at the start of each semester.
- Follow any and all guidelines that the listowner has posted;
the listowner establishes the local "netiquette" standards
for her/his list.
- Keep in mind that some discussion lists or Usenet groups
have members from many countries.
- Don't assume that they
will understand a reference to TV, movies, pop culture, or
current events in your country. If you must use the
reference, please explain it.
- Don't assume that they understand geographical
references that are
local or national.
- Don't join a list just to post inflammatory messages - this
upsets most system administrators and you could lose access
to the net ("mail bombing").
- Keep your questions and comments relevant to the focus of
the discussion group.
- If another person posts a comment or question that is off
the subject, do NOT reply to the list and keep the off-
subject conversation going publicly.
- When someone posts an off-subject note, and someone else
criticizes that posting, you should NOT submit a gratuitous
note saying "well, I liked it and lots of people probably
did as well and you guys ought to lighten up and not tell us
to stick to the subject".
- When going away for more than a week,
unsubscribe or suspend mail from any mailing lists or LISTSERV services.
- If you can respond to someone else's question, do so through
email. Twenty people answering the same question on a large
list can fill your mailbox (and those of everyone else on
the list) quickly.
- When quoting another person, edit out whatever isn't
directly applicable to your reply. Don't let your mailing or
Usenet software automatically quote the entire body of
messages you are replying to when it's not necessary. Take
the time to edit any quotations down to the minimum
necessary to provide context for your reply. Nobody likes
reading a long message in quotes for the third or fourth
time, only to be followed by a one line response: "Yeah, me
- Use discretion when forwarding a long mail message to group
addresses or distribution lists. It's preferable to
reference the source of a document and provide instructions
on how to obtain a copy. If you must post a long message,
warn the readers with a statement at the top of the mail
message. Example: WARNING: LONG MESSAGE
- If you crosspost messages to multiple groups, include the
name of the groups at the top of the mail message with an
apology for any duplication.
- Resist the temptation to "flame" others on the list.
Remember that these discussions are "public" and meant for
constructive exchanges. Treat the others on the list as you
would want them to treat you.
- When posting a question to the discussion group, request
that responses be directed to you personally. Post a
summary or answer to your question to the group.
- When replying to a message posted to a discussion group,
check the address to be certain it's going to the intended
location (person or group). It can be very embarrassing
if they reply incorrectly and post a personal message to the
entire discussion group that was intended for an individual.
- When signing up for a group it is important to save your
subscription confirmation letter for reference. That way if
you go on vacation you will have the subscription address
for suspending mail.
- Use your own personal Email account, don't subscribe using a
shared office account.
- Occasionally subscribers to the list who are not familiar
with proper netiquette will submit requests to SUBSCRIBE or
UNSUBSCRIBE directly to the list itself. Be tolerant of
this activity, and possibly provide some
useful advice as
opposed to being critical.
- Other people on the list are not interested in your desire
to be added or deleted. Any requests regarding
administrative tasks such as being added or removed from a
list should be made to the appropriate area, not the list
itself. Mail for these types of requests should be sent to
the following respectively:
LISTSERV GROUPS- LISTSERV@host
MAILING LISTS - listname-REQUEST@host
For either Mailing Lists or LISTSERV groups, to subscribe or
unsubscribe, in the body of the message include:
SUBSCRIBE listname yourfirstname yourlastname
(To be added to the subscription)
(To be removed from the subscription)
For a complete listing of LISTSERV commands see the LISTSERV Owners Manual.
Permission to duplicate or distribute this document is granted with
the provision that the document remains intact or if used in sections,
that the original document source be referenced.
Last updated: 08 APR 96