Old School Netiquette… still good!

I have used internet since 1990. I’m not the first user, but it was in a time where the community was small enough that the community was able to give recommendations and help on how to use correctly technologies such as email, usenet, etc.

The internet grew tremendously. Email traffic exploded (more than 90% of spam). The Web enabled a lot of interactions by masking different communication modalities. Many have no idea what is the Netiquette. And maybe it’s fine.

Each W3C mailing-list is a small community with most people being engineers. It is often surprising to see top posting (replying on the top of the message and leaving the full thread quoted), or putting one line comment in a long quoted message. There are better ways of using emails.

  • Just quote the appropriate part of the message and reply under this quote
  • Do not top post
  • Be careful to keep author of the quoted message
  • Write short messages in high traffic mailing-lists

I recommend everyone to read the Netiquette. It might be old school, but most of its principles still applies.

10 thoughts on “Old School Netiquette… still good!

  1. Old, and partially obscure, recommended signatures, proportional fonts, other oddities. Better ask Emily, even if that is not more the version of the early ’90s ;-)

  2. I have to say the “Do not top post” guideline does not make sense to me.

    What does make sense to me is to make sure all responses are in chronological order, be that most recent first, or last.
    I don’t mind reading the most recent replies first and scrolling down into history.
    And I find it very convenient to not have to scroll down in order to read a reply.

    Other than that, I absolutely agree with your post, Karl, and follow the other 3 instructions “à la lettre”.

    1. Hi Coralie,

      I have to say the “Do not top post” guideline does not make sense to me.

      I have to explain a bit more this one, I guess. Top posting means replying at the top of the mail and leaving the full quoted message under your answer. Mails are conversations, discussions. When someone top posts, most of the time, it feels as “what I have to say is more important that this thing below”.

      What does make sense to me is to make sure all responses are in chronological order, be that most recent first, or last.

      Mail archives or your mailer are specifically here for this purpose. That you don’t need to copy the full thread in each individual message. I usually select only the part I need to reply to. I cut the rest and reply under each quoted parts, so that my answers are in context.

  3. Karl,

    Your mileage may vary, but according to the tools you’re using to write (Outlook for one) or to read (screen readers) email, sometimes top-posting is less evil than it seems.

    Since I began working with blind people and with non-tech-savvy people, I use top-posting a lot in my professional email communication.

    And yes it’s really awkward when you’re used to quoting in context, as you have to more or less paraphrase the question before ou answer, etc.

    In my personal, Thunderbird-based life, I can more easily reply with the Netiquette in mind.

    So maybe this doesn’t fall in the one-size-fits-all category.

    1. The context of the post was W3C mailing-list and engineers who should know ;)

      In the case you cite and if you paraphrase the question, I would recommend to remove the quoted message then. “Do not clutter mail with long useless messages”. :)

      /me who has on his computer 18 years of mail.

  4. I guess most of us should now know about the netiquette and how to use mail. And using mail means avoiding to top-post (reminded of “top-posting should die”), even if it’s not just novice web users who think that doing that little bit of extra work isn’t important.

  5. I think I’ve been using email, my gosh, for more than a quarter century and must say that I find it easier to deal with top-posting than with the many levels of embedded comments, sometimes lost in formatting by odd mailers. Generally, I’ve noticed an evolving netiquette is for short or general answers to top post (to make it easy for readers to see the most recent comment), with more specific comments in the embedding. I find these days, when a message is long, I tend to put something at top with a fast readable response, and to mention there that my detailed comments can be found embedded within. This is definitely one that is a combination of personal taste and amount of email

    p.s. I must admit that these days I wish I had the mailer that Nick Negroponte used to use – if the email was more than a certain amount of characters, the message would bounce with a note that it was too long for him to read, and to please send a shorter one :-)

  6. Karl,

    Having read Netiquette, I think it’s right on the money! Sure, I can be picky and complain or say how I don’t agree with some of them, but being honest about it, I’ll have to say it all makes good sense. Even if it would interfere with some of my activities.

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