Discussion Lists are based on a group of people of like interests, using email to “discuss” their interests among one another. They are online communities without boundaries. Unlike the traditional announcement list, the discussion list facilitates two-way communication among its members as members can read all posts to the list and can reply to the topic at hand.

Internet etiquette for email discussion lists covers acceptable online behavior for group communication: from one’s manners to one’s action.  In fact, members or subscribers of most discussion lists expect fellow members to follow some sort of standard set of rules, rules that have been established by the Internet Community and rules that have been established by the list they joined.

Rules are in place to keep things orderly: the greater the number of unrelated subscribers participating in a discussion list, the greater the potential for an online disagreement.  An unmoderated lively discussion group representing different points of view can turn ugly; therefore, rules of acceptable behavior should ask members to:

  • Be Polite to your fellow list members.
  • Read the FAQ and rules of this list: know the procedure to post before you put your two cents in.
  • Review the list archives (if available); so you know what’s been covered as list members typically do not like to rehash old issues.
  • Refrain from being a “me too” poster.
  • Be careful using autoresponders,  a discussion list doesn’t need to be flooded with “I’m on vacation” each time a new message posts to the list.
  • Trim your replies.

Remember

List members do not have to reside in the United States; they could be from any country. Therefore, do not assume everyone will have the same reference point as you do, such as using the name of a popular TV show to make a point, comparison or idea.

Actual List Rules pertaining to a specific list you join are most likely different from List to List. A typical set of list specific rules may read like this:

  • Don’t assume all rules for all lists are the same.
  • Do not post off topic, keep your posts (questions, comments or answers) relevant to the current subject of the discussion group.
  • Do not reply to an off topic post.
  • When you are unavailable for several days, suspend your account or consider unsubscribing temporarily, from the list.
  • Sometimes it really does make more sense to contact someone directly rather than post in public.
  • When you write to the list by selecting reply, wear the list editor hat. A Discussion list response email (reply) will copy everything that was included from the previous person or people.  Before you post to the group, remove all text unrelated to your response.  This includes minimizing quotations to read only the necessary text. Remove the multiple, unrelated footer.  This will avoid posting “long duplicated text” especially if your comment is only one line afterward.
  • Posting a longer than usual message? Warn the readers with a statement at the top of the mail message. Example: WARNING: LONG MESSAGE.
  • If you MUST cross-post messages to multiple groups, include the name of the groups at the top of the mail message with an apology for any duplication.
  • Follow the Golden Rule: post to others as you would have others post to you.  Resist all temptations to provoke an angry response also called “flaming” other list members.
  • Occasionally subscribers to the list who are not familiar with proper netiquette will submit requests to SUBSCRIBE or UNSUBSCRIBE directly to the list itself. Be tolerant of this activity, and possibly provide some useful advice as opposed to being critical.
  • Other people on the list are not interested in your desire to be added or deleted.
  • Any requests regarding administrative tasks such as being added or removed from a list should be made to the appropriate area, not the list itself. Using the unsubscribe link is preferable for example, however, if you must email these types of requests they should be sent to the following address,xxx@lyris.dundee.net, not to the list itself.

Email discussion list services is an effective, timely communication solution, for any group of people, any time, no matter their age, status, title, location, online now or later.  And when you follow the rules the conversations flow smoothly.

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