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Internet Mailing List Netiquette

As summarized from the
Official Internet RFC 1855 Netiquette Guidelines 
The Requests for Comments (RFCs) form a series of notes, started in 1969, about the Internet (originally the ARPANET). The notes discuss many aspects of computer communication, focusing on networking protocols, procedures, programs, and concepts but also including meeting notes, opinion, and sometimes humorous anecdotes. 

General Guidelines for mailing lists

  • Read mailing lists for one to two months before you post anything. This helps you to get an understanding of the culture of the group.
  • Do not blame the list owner for the behavior of the system users.
  • Consider that a large audience will see your posts. That may include your present or your next boss or a coworker. Take care in what you write. Remember too, that mailing lists are frequently archived, and that your words may be stored for a very long time in a place to which many people have access.
  • Assume that individuals speak for themselves, and what they say does not represent their organization (unless stated explicitly).
  • Messages and articles should be brief and to the point. Don't wander off-topic, don't ramble and don't send mail or post messages solely to point out other people's errors in typing or spelling. These, more than any other behavior, mark you as an immature beginner.
  • Subject lines should follow the conventions of the group.
  • Advertising is welcomed on some lists and abhorred on others! This is another example of knowing your audience before you post. Unsolicited advertising, which is completely off-topic, will most certainly guarantee that you get a lot of hate mail. The BeautyTech lists are all paid sponsor lists. Please check with the list owner before promoting your product.
  • If you are sending a reply to a message or a posting be sure you summarize the original at the top of the message (quoting), or include just enough text of the original to give a context. This will make sure readers understand when they start to read your response. But do not include the entire original!
  • Again, be sure to have a signature which you attach to your message. This will guarantee that any peculiarities of mailers which strip header information will not delete the only reference in the message of how people may reach you.
  • Be careful when you reply to messages or postings. Frequently replies are sent back to the address which originated the post - which in many cases is the address of a list or group! You may accidentally send a personal response to a great many people, embarrassing all involved. It's best to type in the address instead of relying on "reply."
  • Don't get involved in flame wars. Neither post nor respond to incendiary material.
  • Avoid sending messages or posting articles which are no more than unessential replies to replies.
  • Be careful with monospacing fonts and diagrams. These will display differently on different systems, and with different mailers on the same system. Post in PLAIN TEXT whenever possible.
  • Send subscribe and unsubscribe messages to the appropriate address. Although some mailing list software is smart enough to catch these, not all can ferret these out. It is your responsibility to learn how the lists work, and to send the correct mail to the correct place. Although many mailing lists adhere to the convention of having a "-request" alias for sending subscribe and unsubscribe messages, not all do. Be sure you know the conventions used by the lists to which you subscribe.
  • Save the subscription messages for any lists you join. These usually tell you how to unsubscribe as well.
  • In general, it's not possible to retrieve messages once you have sent them. This means you must make sure you really want the message to go as you have written it.
  • Don't send attachments of any kind to mailing lists when Uniform Resource Locators (URLs). If you don't know what that is, ask.
  • Consider unsubscribing or setting a "nomail" option (when it's available) when you cannot check your mail for an extended period.
  • When sending a message to more than one mailing list, especially if the lists are closely related, apologize for cross-posting.

Author's Address

   Sally Hambridge
   Intel Corporation
   2880 Northwestern Parkway
   Santa Clara, CA   95052

   Phone: 408-765-2931
   Fax:   408-765-3679
   EMail: [email protected]
Last page update: 24 October 1995
Source Document: RFC 1855


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