NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, December 2006
Practice Good “Netiquette” – Be a Good “Netizen”
By Ira Wilsker,
APCUG Director; Columnist, The Examiner, Beaumont, TX; Radio & TV Show Host

(click to email author)


There are many unwritten etiquette rules that apply to internet usage. These etiquette rules are commonly referred to as “netiquette”. Likewise, there are rules of being a good online citizen, often given the moniker “netizen”. If more people practiced good netiquette, and were better netizens, we would likely have more online satisfaction, and improve our throughput while on the net.

Emails are a common source of irritation. While there is little that we as individuals can do to stop the torrent of spam emails which typically come from unknown sources, we can ask our known email correspondents to practice good netiquette when sending us emails.

Despite repeated protestations from me, I still receive several hoaxes and urban legends daily, all sent by some well intentioned friends who desire to warn me about some potential pseudo-threat, or to solicit my assistance in forwarding emails for some sham charitable purpose or imaginary sick kid. According to the urban legend busting website, Snopes (http://www.snopes.com), no one is really putting leaflets on rear windows of cars at the mall parking lot, carjacking the car when the driver stops to remove the paper. The Make-A-Wish Foundation is not paying seven cents for each email forwarded about some terminally ill child. For the thousandth time, Marshall Fields is not charging $250 for its chocolate chip cookie recipe. A father did not really foil the attempted abduction of his son at a local movie rental store, despite the allegations in the widely circulated email. Hillary Clinton was not named after famed mountain climber Sir Edmund Hillary. The artificial sweetener aspartame was not originally developed as an ant poison. Entering your PIN number in reverse order at the ATM machine will not really summon the police. These and countless other emails, all typically containing wording that it is imperative to forward to everyone in your address book, are commonly circulated hoaxes and urban legends.

Good netiquette demands that the potential forwarder of these reports should check them out first by doing a search on any of the major urban legend websites, such as Snopes. Avoid the embarrassment of being connected with hoaxes by checking these things out before sending. By not forwarding hoaxes and urban legends you may also be contributing to public safety, as there are a handful of cases where the urban legend actually incited the act to occur. What might not be such good netiquette, is a practice I have been known to participate in, which is clicking the “reply to all” icon, and sending the sender and his victims the truth about the hoaxes, in a hope to put an end to one tentacle of this spreading mass of lies. Someone has to step in to halt this waste of bandwidth; conserving bandwidth by minimizing the hoaxes and urban legends being forwarded en-mass is good netizenship.

Since the topic of the moment includes forwarding emails, whether hoaxes and urban legends, or the often more common jokes or prayer requests, good netiquette demands proper behavior in email forwarding. It is a waste of bandwidth and space to receive an email that contains multiple headers. This occurs when multiple senders forward the same email without editing out the headers. This results in an email that may be a spammer’s delight if received by a miscreant, in that it may contain hundreds of valid email addresses. It is also an irritant to have to scroll down pages of useless headers just to get to the message. If forwarding an email, strip off the useless headers by painting them (hold down left mouse button and drag over the useless headers, then “delete” or “cut”). Now if forwarded, just the body of the message will be sent. This is good netiquette.

Another common faux pas is the fact that many email programs add the “>” (greater-than) symbol to the first character of each line in a forwarded email. If this email is forwarded, and forwarded again several times, each line will begin with something like “>>>>>” which makes reading the now poorly formatted email difficult. Fortunately, there is a free utility available, emailStripper, which can be downloaded from http://www.papercut.biz/emailStripper.htm. This small utility is very easy to use. Simply copy the body of the email by painting it (hold down left mouse button and drag over the text), then “copy” it (right click on the painted area and click “copy”, or press CTRL-C); then open emailStripper, and paste (CTRL-V) the message body in the window. Click on the “Strip it!” button, and all of the “>” symbols will be instantly deleted, and the message may then be restored to its original formatting. Finally, click on the “Copy” button, and paste back into the email program for sending, with the “greater-than” symbols all removed. This is good netiquette.

Now that digital cameras are nearly universal, we are taking billions of digital photos. Just because a digital camera has a maximum resolution of several megapixels does not mean that all photos should be taken in that high resolution, unless they are to be printed in a larger than snapshot format. I sometimes appreciate receiving photos of cute kids, cats, dogs, and family photos, but please do not send me photos taken in multi-megapixel resolution that have not been resized, or otherwise cropped and edited to make them smaller. Consider that a one megapixel digital photo will totally fill the screen on a 1024x768 resolution monitor, and be about a megabyte in file size. A four megapixel image will typically be 2048x1536 pixels in display size, meaning that only a corner of the image, consisting of one-fourth of the image, will appear on my monitor. This means that I have to do a lot of scrolling to view the image, as it is four times the maximum image size that my monitor can display, and be about four megabytes in file size. Please save me and your other correspondents the download time and inconvenience of trying to view an oversized image by either taking the image in a more reasonable resolution (such as one megapixel), or using imaging editing software to reduce the size of the image, and crop if necessary. Almost all image editing software included with most digital cameras can easily perform the task of resizing the image. Alternatively, use the free image utility IrfanView, my personal favorite, available for download from http://www.irfanview.com. If you do not want to alter the original image, simply save the edited or reduced image under a different file name. The smaller image size will relate to a smaller file size, meaning faster uploads and downloads. This is good netiquette.

These are but a few tips that can contribute much to being a good netizen. Practice good netiquette.

There is no restriction against any non-profit group using this article as long as it is kept in context with proper credit given the author. The Editorial Committee of the Association of Personal Computer User Groups (APCUG), an international organization of which this group is a member, brings this article to you.

Click here to return to top