Using Internet chat rooms should be a fun and interesting experience. Here are some tips on good etiquette to remember while chatting.
- Remember that everyone you meet online is human. They have the same feelings and anxieties that you have. They make mistakes and say things they don't mean just as you might.
- Follow the golden rule. Treat others as you would like to be treated. If you communicate with respect, you will be rewarded with respect.
- Behave the same way you would in real life. Don't let yourself hide behind the anonymity of cyberspace and act impolite in a situation where you normally would not. Never say something to someone that you wouldn't say in a face-to-face situation.
- Be patient. Many users out there are slow typists. Others will settle for nothing less than complete sentences. Be patient with other users and don't get mad if you don't get a reply right away.
- Be aware of your cyber environment. Be aware of where you are and who the other users are. It may be a bad idea to discuss certain topics in various chat rooms. For example, it may be inappropriate to discuss liberal politics in a chat room for conservative thinkers.
- No flaming. "Flaming" is the act of attacking a person rather than the subject matter being discussed. If you don't like what someone says, explain your objections in a way that is non-inflammatory. Or, simply ignore them. You are not obligated to respond.
- Don't be obscene. Profanity and sexually-explicit language is seldom necessary. Using appropriate language will allow you to get your point across without earning the disrespect of others.
- Never type in all uppercase letters. Using all capital letters ("caps") is the chatroom equivalent of SHOUTING, and is considered rude. This can bother other visitors in a chat room and may hurt people's feelings.
- Don't dominate the discussion. Filling up the screen with nonsense or repetition can be irritating for other users who are using the forum to discuss serious issues. Allow other users to voice their opinions.
- No harassment. This rule applies to chat rooms, e-mail, and all other methods of communication.
An emoticon (sometimes referred to by the name of the original emoticon, the "smiley") is a brief sequence of keyboard letters and symbols, such as :) or :( that emulate a facial expression. They are used to express feelings that supplement a message. Computeruser.com offers a complete list of emoticons and their meanings.
Newsgroups are Internet bulletin boards formed by groups of people who wish to share information with one another. They do not broadcast news however, as the name might imply. Users post messages on newsgroups that ask for advice or provide opinions on a particular subject matter. When a posting builds up a continuous series of replies, it is referred to as a thread. Most newsgroups are part of an organization called USENET (User's Network), an international discussion system that sets the standard by which most newsgroups abide. There is a newsgroup for nearly any subject you can think of, from brewing coffees to building sailboats. You can usually decipher the subject of a newsgroup by looking at its title. The newsgroups rec.coffee.reviews and sci.weather.stormwatch are examples.
The basic USENET categories include:
- comp: Computer topics
- rec: Recreational topics
- sci: Scientific topics
- soc: Social issues
- talk: Conversational topics
- news: News and current events
- misc: Groups that don't fit anywhere else
- alt: Alternate
Newsgroup names are hierarchical in nature. For example, rec.coffee.reviews signifies:
- rec: A recreational forum.
- coffee: the subject matter.
- reviews: reviews of different coffees.
The following are simple guidelines for newsgroup etiquette:
- Browse the Newsgroup without posting anything for a while. Lurking will give you an idea of the tone and subject matter of the Newsgroup.
- Read the FAQ
- Reading the FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) will ensure that you don't repeat a question that has already been asked several times over.
- Stick to the topic
- Be aware of what the topic is, and don't go off limits.
- Don't shout
- USING ALL UPPERCASE LETTERS IS CONSIDERED SHOUTING. It is inappropriate.
- Treat others as you would have them treat you
- The Golden Rule. If you treat others with respect, you will be treated with respect in return.
While perusing chat rooms, newsgroups, and message boards, you might come across various abbreviations. Often times, abbreviations are specific to particular groups. For example, on a consumer deals forum, you might see the abbreviation BOGO - buy one, get one free, an abbreviation that wouldn't be found in a political discussion group. It is a good idea to become familiar with the abbreviations a particular group uses before participating.
If you want to know the meaning of an abbreviation or acronym, but are too afraid to ask, try using this acronym search engine.