Monday, November 9, 2009

Netiquette for Listservs

I have been working for years to help establish a set of listservs for the volunteers who pay my salary. Eventually we may have 21. Today we launched the first of three scheduled to go up this year.

If you ever need to start a listserv, here's a "Netiquette Guide" I put together by borrowing from other sources. (The sources are acknowledged at the bottom).

After the "Netiquette Guide" is an e-mail I got from a volunteer I'm fond of. It was just the tonic I needed after a day of wrestling with unexpected technical issues.

Netiquette Guide
To ensure that your listserv is a useful, hassle-free service, it’s a good idea for you to familiarize yourself with the Terms and Conditions of use that you agreed to when you signed up to participate in the listserv. It contains the governing rules.

However, many other institutions have developed informal guidance on the etiquette of listserv participation. (The neologism “netiquette” has come to be used to describe this kind of guidance.)

What follows draws from their work. At the end of this document you will find links to that work. They contain additional helpful suggestions.

  1. Please do not forward jokes or any other message that you received from someone else unless you have that person’s explicit permission. Once you send it to the list, you cannot control where else it will wind up. If you would not send it out on your own letterhead, please do not forward it to the list.
  2. Please do not send anything to the list that you do not want seen in public. (See #1).

  3. Do not quote your fees on a listserv. Price-fixing is an anti-competitive practice, an antitrust violation, unethical, and a very bad idea. Don’t go there.
  4. Commercial messages are not permitted, nor are attachments. If you want to send someone an attached file, please do it in a private e-mail message, not by sending it to the list.
  5. Please do not send copyrighted material unless you own the copyright or have explicit permission from the author to do so. Instead, write a short description about the item and post the URL or Web address of where the copyrighted material can be found.
  6. Please do not offer to sell or copy software illegally. Software is covered by strict licensing agreements.
  7. When you participate in a listserv, it is not always necessary to send a reply to the entire list. Please be careful when hitting the reply button, especially if you do NOT want your reply to be read by the entire list. It is often wiser to respond by e-mail, directly to the initial poster.
  8. When you respond to a message, please edit your reply to quote only enough of the initial message to place your comment into context. You can cut out the parts that aren't necessary, put your reply in the message body, and indicate the omissions with ellipses.

    Here’s the model:

    Original posting --- Subject: Judge-shopping
    I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately and wonder if anyone out there has any advice or ideas. The prosecutors seem to get notice of who’s sitting in which courtroom on which days. I can’t seem to get the same information from the Court, and our prosecutor friends seem to guard the information quite zealously, albeit courteously. Does anyone know how they get information about who’s sitting where, or how defense lawyers can get it, too, so we’re all on a “level playing field.”
    Bobby Pinn

    Response --- Subject: Judge-shopping – REPLY
    "…Does anyone know how they get information about who’s sitting where, or how defense lawyers can get it, too…."

    The deputies at the clerk's office have the information. In my experience, they will provide it to anyone who asks.
    Scott Free

  9. Please do not send a reply that just says "Me, too" or some equivalent response. Too many listservs are clogged by hundreds of "Me, too’s.” Listservs die if participants unsubscribe because their in-boxes are getting clogged with too many unnecessary or repetitive responses.

  10. If you are replying to a post, it is very helpful to put the word “Reply” on the subject line.
  11. Please do not send messages without something on the subject line.
  12. Please proofread your messages. Look for spelling and grammar errors. Your posting will be read by many of your peers.

  13. Please do not use all capital letters. On the Internet, this is considered to be SHOUTING!
  14. Please review the tone of your message. Ask yourself what your reaction would be if you received it. Look for any areas that might be misunderstood and rewrite these sentences to remove any ambiguity. If you are asking a question, please be sure to include enough details about the problem to permit useful responses. Try to keep your messages terse and to the point. Remember, your peers are as busy as you are. Large blocks of text can discourage recipients from reading your message, at all.
  15. Please do not “flame” people on the listserv. Flaming means insulting people. Again, if you wouldn’t put it on your letterhead, don’t put it on the list.
  16. Please don't be excessively critical of people's queries posted to the listserv. Many people are new to listservs. If their error is one of etiquette, you could send them a private message and gently make suggestions you think warranted.
  17. If, in your view, a posting is a clear-cut violation of the Terms and Conditions all participants have agreed to, please contact your list’s volunteer listserv coordinator(s). In consultation with the professional staff, the offending participant will be notified formally of his or her breach and of what consequences can follow, including suspension from the list for a period of time or, in the most egregious cases, termination of the participant’s inclusion on the list.
  18. Please watch the subject carefully. If a subject starts to go off the topic, those replying should indicate that on the subject line. This will allow recipients to delete off-topic messages.

    Here’s the model: “Subject: Expert Witness – Off Topic”.

    This indicates that the subject matter is no longer Expert Witnesses.

    A better practice, if your response is off-topic, is to start a brand new discussion thread.

  19. Keep messages short and to the point. If you are going to post a long reply, please indicate that on the subject line.

    Here’s the model: “Subject: Expert Witnesses - Long Reply."
  20. Your signature should be at the bottom of all your e-mails and your signature should be short. It should never be more than six to eight lines long.
This Netiquette Guide draws on the following sources:

Acknowledgment and thanks are owed to:

The International Association of Technological University Libraries,
The Maryland State Bar Association, and
The Tucson Computer Society,

for posting their netiquette documents on the web.
And here's a truly awesome response:

I have this really funny jke that Im going to forward to you. ITS BEEN GOING AROUND THE INTERNET AND ITS HILARIOUS. Its about Judge Smith, on the Superior Court, and this incredibly stupid thing he did with his girlfriend and wht happened after his wife found out. Geez, he's such an idiot! Seriously, I dont' think he's ever done a single smart thing in his life. What the fuck is wrong with him? Anyway, he called me, looking for lrgal advice, but when I told him I bill $375 per hour, he hung up on me. (By the way, if you ever need a good lawyer, call me.) And I'm bummed he didn't hire me, because handling his case would've been so easy. I was just going to use a copy of a settlement agreement that a lawyer used in another case of mine. It is a copyrighted agreement, but that other lawyer won't find out about it anyway. I just think its stupid to pay for things unnecessarily, ya know? (By the way, if you want a copy of the disk that the agreement is on, just let me kniw.)

1 comment:

David in DC said...

Oy, vey, what a fustercluck THIS is turning into.