Archive for April, 2009
According to Merriam-Webster, etiquette is “the conduct or procedure required by good breeding or prescribed by authority to be observed in social or official life.” Netiquette, the online extension of that philosophy, is “etiquette governing communication on the Internet.”
To sum it up even more simply – Politeness.
It seems lately that a lot of times we forget the simple courtesies. Of course there are reasons for that. We are in a hurry so we sometimes say things off the cuff, without thinking. Online, things become a little more complicated, since we are denied the benefit of tone of voice and body language. People try to offset this deficiency by using emoticons to suggest in which tone the message should be taken, whether it’s an email, webpage, or posting on a forum. There are also ways to type out your message (without the emoticon) to suggest emotion, such as typing in all capital letters. Typing an All Caps message is the Net-speak equivalent of shouting at the top of your lungs.
Certainly newbies to the information superhighway are going to make mistakes. It’s expected that people joining a membership Internet community (such as certain membership websites with forums) read the rules and the FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions). It’s common courtesy to become acquainted with the “rules of the house” in order to avoid common mistakes. However, even long standing members might accidentally step on someone’s toes, in which case a warning will be issued. Sometimes its just pointing something out, sometimes it’s more “official” such as a moderator banning someone from a particular thread for being troublesome.
This is all pretty obvious to most people who have spent any amount of time on the web, so I won’t waste any more of your time discussing it.
There is one breach of Netiquette in particular that really bothers me. It’s becoming more than a simple pet peeve of mine, because it points to a particularly annoying attitude. It’s assumptions.
Let me explain. Everyone makes assumptions. I know that. The fact that you don’t realize you are making an assumption isn’t the point. We make assumptions in our everyday lives. However, imo, when it comes to courtesy, you should always assume that the person who posted “X” remark did so because they made a mistake or were unaware of a certain policy. Ignorance of the rules is no excuse, but, as Hamlet so eloquently says, “Use every man after his desert, and who shall scape whipping? Use them after your own honor and dignity.” In other words, give them the benefit of the doubt. If someone makes a mistake, point it out and give them the chance to make it right or apologize.
I’ll give a couple examples illustrating this. Since I’m by no means perfect, they are personal examples – both as a newbie to one forum and a long standing member of another (I’ll exclude names because that would be rude).
I joined a free membership forum and posted frequently as a new member. Generally, this isn’t a good idea, because you usually want to get a feel for the way people treat each other and phrase things before you do this, but I did. I made a mistake. I felt very comfortable because it reminded me a great deal of another forum I knew very well. If I have some experience that someone is asking for help with, I try to answer their question. So, when someone posted a question on the forum asking for help weaning themselves from a certain addiction, I answered the question. I told them to think of product X a certain way so that they would be so disgusted by it they wouldn’t want to consume it (this method has worked well for me). I was afraid that my post would sound obnoxious, so I suggested some alternate websites that might help and prefaced the rest of my post with “Not trying to sound obnoxious, but…” Not the best choice of words, but I couldn’t think how to phrase my post properly.
Nineteen posts later, after we’ve discussed several other things, someone posts a very harsh critique of my response. The original poster (whose question I was addressing) took no offense. Neither did anyone else on the thread. One person did. Fine. They could have emailed me a response saying they thought my answer was inappropriate. I could have apologized or rephrased my response on the relevant thread, but they chose to verbally attack me in the thread itself. It’s not really polite to derail a thread from its topic that way, so I answered the post with an apology to the original poster (who was not offended) and any further exchange with the other person was through private messages.
I made several mistakes there. One, I felt too comfortable there because the forum was so similar to another one I had frequented. I obviously should have phrased my post differently. The other posters did not take offense, but I should have taken more time to word the post. I hesitate to say that I should not have posted my response at all, since the person did find it helpful. An emoticon might have helped, and while I normally go smiley-crazy, a smiley didn’t seem appropriate to the subject matter so I left it out. That was probably a mistake too.
However, the majority of the problem could have been avoided by simply sending me a private message (pm through the forums or email) calling my attention to any possible misunderstanding. Instead of ASSUMING that I was simply being a jerk, they could have reread my post and ASSUMED I made a mistake. By privately messaging me, I could have rephrased my response without derailing the topic of the thread. There would have been no (or little) unpleasantness.
This hearkens back to the whole issue of tone. Emoticons help. Carefully phrasing your words helps. But sometimes people will just misunderstand you. If someone calls you on something you’ve done, you can also make the ASSUMPTION that they are genuinely trying to help. If they are addressing your actions and refrain from personal attacks, most differences can be resolved.
As I remember back to past emails, posts, and chats, I would say 99.9% of misunderstandings are about tone. Do yourself and the other person a favor. Assume that people mean well, and be polite when pointing out errors of judgment. Please, do it privately.
Another instance was as a long standing member on another forum. I’d read the rules, felt comfortable, and knew many on line friends there. I phrased most of my responses pretty carefully and went out of my way to be polite. I tried to stay away from explosive threads that dealt in politics or religion, but I would occasionally pop in if I felt I could learn or contribute something.
This particular breach on my part, I’m still unsure of. As a member of this community for a long time, I knew that some threads could get pretty heated, but also lots of times people would joke around. I’d witnessed people attacking others (myself included) on some occasions, but then the mods would step in. Overall, it was a nice community, and I felt confident I wouldn’t step on anyone’s toes. I had even been offended by the person in charge of the community, and as a result I went somewhere else for a bit til I thought about it some more. I decided that maybe I was overreacting, so I went back. No harsh words on my part.
After a few more months, I was on a particular thread and it was getting pretty heated. It really didn’t seem like there was any reason for it, so to lighten the tension I posted a joke (*gany whistles nonchalantly*). A couple people thanked me for the post (they had a “thank you” button), and the thread continued. I posted a second joke, and immediately found an official warning in my Control Panel informing me that I was banned from the thread for “Peanut gallery idiocy.” Was that REALLY necessary? Couldn’t they, after my first joke, have simply emailed me without the ban and said, “Please don’t do that?” Of course, it’s their forum, so it’s their rules. That’s totally within their rights. What was particularly upsetting was that I didn’t see it coming. It felt like a slap in the face.
What happened, when I look back, was that I stepped on the moderator’s toes. They were warning the poster, and my joke they took as an attempt to do their job for them. Fine. I can understand them taking it that way, though it’s not what I intended at all. It was obviously a misunderstanding. But given the fact that I’d been a long standing member for years and all my other posts had been polite (I had NEVER been warned for any breach of behavior), it seems like they could have used a bit more tact. They could have given me the benefit of the doubt. Given the fact that I had been offended (by the founder) before on this forum, I felt foolish and wrote a polite letter back. I said that I thanked them for all their past support but for that and other reasons I would like to unsubscribe from their forums. That’s it. No harsh words (I can’t remember if I told them I was bothered by the ban). I expected them to simply unsubscribe me. When I checked back, I found a message saying that I was “banned- no reason specified” and it would be lifted NEVER.
I’m not going to lie about it. That bothered me. What bothered me mostly was the implied rudeness. And I’m fully ready to admit that perhaps I got it wrong. Maybe when you unsubscribe from the forums, they don’t have an unsubscribe feature so it automatically becomes a ban. I don’t know. I have no intention of going back, so it really doesn’t matter. But given the pattern of behavior prior to the Forum Ban, I can’t help feeling slighted.
So, while I realize that my post here regarding my own experiences is going to come across a bit harsh, there is one overwhelming point to this entire post. Give people the benefit of the doubt and use a little politeness when dealing with others. It should be common courtesy.
For anyone who isn’t familiar with the term, a vegan avoids the use of animal products (or items tested on animals) to the best of their ability. That includes meat, fish, eggs, dairy, silk, fur, and leather.
In the time of chocolate eggs, colored eggs, chicks and bunnies… what is a beleagered vegan to do?
Don’t worry. It’s not as big a deal as it seems. While it’s disturbing to see eggs and slave chocolate in virtually every store – never fear. There are vegan alternatives to the animal product deluge of the holiday. Your Easter basket and Easter egg hunt can still go on – but cruelty free!
What I do for my little guy is buy hollow plastic eggs and fill them with small toys (like Hotwheels) or candies like (vegan) jellybeans. For his Easter basket, I usually load it up with a book (or two) and toys. Stuffed animals and games work nicely. Themes are a good idea too if your child loves cars, Tech decks, or Shrek. This year, my son’s basket will be filled with puzzles and projects. I’m making his candy eggs myself.
For the holidays, I’ve recently discovered that you can get a mold for pretty much anything. For Easter, the stores carry molds for eggs and Easter bunnies! Just check your local kitchenwares store or craft store.
As stated earlier, you can still have your Easter egg hunt, but use the plastic eggs that you fill yourself! A scavenger hunt for the Easter basket is another fun idea. Just write clues and hide them around the house. Your child has to follow the clues from point A, B, and C to figure out where the basket is hidden. It makes everything much more exciting!
And, a gentle reminder, animals do not make good gifts for the holidays. That cute bunny or chick is a long term commitment that a child (and many adults) may not be ready for. Also, buying animals (instead of adopting) is not vegan because it supports the industry that exploits them. If you are planning to adopt an animal from a shelter, please consider the responsibility carefully. It is a lifetime commitement.
So go have an Easter EGG-stravaganza… but use vegan “eggs”! You’ll have a blast!