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The Net: User Guidelines and Netiquette - Index
By Arlene H. Rinaldi

(Click on the links below to jump to that section of the document.)


The formulation of this guide was motivated by a need to develop guidelines for all Internet protocols to ensure that users at Florida Atlantic University realize the Internet capabilities as a resource available, with the provision that they are responsible in how they access or transmit information through the Internet (The Net).

It is assumed that the reader has some familiarization with the terms and protocols that are referenced in this document.


Much of this guide was developed from comments and suggestions from NETTRAIN@UBVM.CC.BUFFALO. EDU (formally NET-TRAIN) LISTSERV subscribers and from several sources available on The Net:

A special acknowledgment to Wes Morgan, University of Kentucky Engineering Computing Center, for his advice and recommendations.
Robert Slade, Vancouver Institute for Research into User Security; Pete Hoyle,William & Mary; Timothy A. Torres, San Jose State University; Paul Brians, Washington State University ; Paul F. Lambert, Bentley College; Philip M. Howard, Saint Mary's University; Gordon Swan, Florida Atlantic University; Pauline Kartrude, Florida Atlantic University; Beth Taney, Penn State; Debbie Shaffer, Penn State and USDA-CIT; Henry DeVries, Cornell; Jim Milles, SLU Law Library; Martin Raish, State University of New York at Binghamton; Steve Cisler, Apple Corporation; Tom Zillner, Wisconsin Interlibrary Services; Tom Goodrich, Stanford University; Jim Gerland, State University of NY at Buffalo; Ros Leibensperger, Cornell; Paul White, Northern Michigan University; Marilyn S. Webb, Penn State; Judith Hopkins, State University of NY at Buffalo, Ros McCarthy; Karl Hanzel, UCAR/COMET.


It is essential for each user on the network to recognize his/her responsibility in having access to vast services, sites, systems and people. The user is ultimately responsible for his/her actions in accessing network services.

The "Internet" or "The Net", is not a single network; rather, it is a group of thousands of individual networks which have chosen to allow traffic to pass among them. The traffic sent out to the Internet may actually traverse several different networks before it reaches its destination. Therefore, users involved in this internetworking must be aware of the load placed on other participating networks.

As a user of the network, you may be allowed to access other networks (and/or the computer systems attached to those networks). Each network or system has its own set of policies and procedures. Actions which are routinely allowed on one network/system may be controlled, or even forbidden, on other networks. It is the users responsibility to abide by the policies and procedures of these other networks/systems. Remember, the fact that a user can perform a particular action does not imply that they should take that action.

The use of the network is a privilege, not a right, which may temporarily be revoked at any time for abusive conduct. Such conduct would include, the placing of unlawful information on a system, the use of abusive or otherwise objectionable language in either public or private messages, the sending of messages that are likely to result in the loss of recipients' work or systems, the sending of "Chain letters," or "broadcast" messages to lists or individuals, and any other types of use which would cause congestion of the networks or otherwise interfere with the work of others..

Permanent revocations can result from disciplinary actions taken by a panel judiciary board called upon to investigate network abuses.


The content and maintenance of a user's electronic mailbox is the user's responsibility:

Check E-mail daily and remain within your limited disk quota.

Delete unwanted messages immediately since they take up disk storage.

Keep messages remaining in your electronic mailbox to a minimum.

Mail messages can be downloaded or extracted to files then to disks for future reference.

Never assume that your E-mail can be read by no one except yourself; others may be able to read or access your mail. Never send or keep anything that you would mind seeing on the evening news.

The content and maintenance of a user's disk storage area is the users responsibility:

Keep files to a minimum. Files should be downloaded to your personal computer's hard drive or to diskettes.
Routinely and frequently virus-scan your system, especially when receiving or downloading files from other systems to prevent the spread of a virus.
Your files may be accessible by persons with system privileges, so do not maintain anything private in your disk storage area.


Many telnetable services have documentation files available online (or via ftp). Download and review instructions locally as opposed to tying up ports trying to figure out the system.
Be courteous to other users wishing to seek information or the institution might revoke Telnet access; remain only on the system long enough to get your information, then exit off of the system.

Screen captured data or information should be downloaded to your personal computer's hard disk or to disks.


Users should respond to the PASSWORD prompt with their Email address, so if that site chooses, it can track the level of FTP usage. If your Email address causes an error, enter GUEST for the next PASSWORD prompt.

When possible limit downloads, especially large downloads (1 Meg+), for after normal business hours locally and for the remote ftp host; preferably late in the evening.

Adhere to time restrictions as requested by archive sites. Think in terms of the current time at the site that's being visited, not of local time.

Copy downloaded files to your personal computer hard drive or disks to remain within disk quota.

When possible, inquiries to Archie should be in mail form.

It's the user's responsibility when downloading programs, to check for copyright or licensing agreements. If the program is beneficial to your use, pay any authors registration fee. If there is any doubt, don't copy it; there have been many occasions on which copyrighted software has found its way into ftp archives. Support for any downloaded programs should be requested from the originator of the application. Remove unwanted programs from your systems.


(Email, LISTSERV groups, Mailing lists, and Usenet)

Under United States law, it is unlawful "to use any telephone facsimile machine, computer, or other device to send an unsolicited advertisment" to any "equipment which has the capacity (A) to transcibe text or images (or both) from an electronic signal received over a regular telephone line onto paper." The law allows individuals to sue the sender of such illegal "junk mail" for $500 per copy. Most states will permit such actions to be filed in Small Claims Court. This activity is termed "spamming" on the Internet

Never give your userID or password to another person. System administrators that need to access your account for maintenance or to correct problems will have full priviledges to your account.

Never assume your email messages are private nor that they can be read by only yourself or the recipient. Never send something that you would mind seeing on the evening news.
Keep paragraphs and messages short and to the point.

When quoting another person, edit out whatever isn't directly applicable to your reply. Don't let your mailing or Usenet software automatically quote the entire body of messages you are replying to when it's not necessary. Take the time to edit any quotations down to the minimum necessary to provide context for your reply. Nobody likes reading a long message in quotes for the third or fourth time, only to be followed by a one line response: "Yeah, me too."

Focus on one subject per message and always include a pertinent subject title for the message, that way the user can locate the message quickly.

Don't use the academic networks for commercial or proprietary work.

Include your signature at the bottom of Email messages when communicating with people who may not know you personally or broadcasting to a dynamic group of subscribers.

Your signature footer should include your name, position, affiliation and Internet and/or BITNET addresses and should not exceed more than 4 lines. Optional information could include your address and phone number.

Capitalize words only to highlight an important point or to distinguish a title or heading. Capitalizing whole words that are not titles is generally termed as SHOUTING!

*Asterisks* surrounding a word can be used to make a stronger point.

Use the underscore symbol before and after the title of a book, i.e. _The Wizard of Oz_

Limit line length to aproximately 65-70 characters and avoid control characters.

Never send chain letters through the Internet. Sending them can cause the loss of your Internet Access.

Because of the International nature of the Internet and the fact that most of the world uses the following format for listing dates, i.e. MM DD YY, please be considerate and avoid misinterpretation of dates by listing dates including the spelled out month: Example: 24 JUN 96 or JUN 24 96

Follow chain of command procedures for corresponding with superiors. For example, don't send a complaint via Email directly to the "top" just because you can.

Be professional and careful what you say about others. Email is easily forwarded.

Cite all quotes, references and sources and respect copyright and license agreements.

It is considered extremely rude to forward personal email to mailing lists or Usenet without the original author's permission.

Attaching return receipts to a message may be considered an invasion of privacy.

Be careful when using sarcasm and humor. Without face to face communications your joke may be viewed as criticism. When being humorous, use emoticons to express humor. (tilt your head to the left to see the emoticon smile)


Some mailing lists have low rates of traffic, others can flood your mailbox with several hundred mail messages per day. Numerous incoming messages from various listservers or mailing lists by multiple users, requires extensive system processing which can tie up valuable resources. Subscription to Interest Groups or Discussion Lists should be kept to a minimum and should not exceed what your disk quota can handle, or you for that matter.

When you join a list, monitor the messages for a few days to get a feel for what common questions are asked, and what topics are deemed off-limits. This is commonly referred to as lurking. When you feel comfortable with the group, then start posting.

See if there is a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) for a group that you are interested in joining. Veteran members get annoyed when they see the same questions every few weeks, or at the start of each semester.

Follow any and all guidelines that the listowner has posted; the listowner establishes the local "netiquette" standards for her/his list.

Keep in mind that some discussion lists or Usenet groups have members from many countries.

Don't assume that they will understand a reference to TV, movies, pop culture, or current events in your country. If you must use the reference, please explain it.

Don't assume that they understand geographical references that are local or national.

Don't join a list just to post inflammatory messages - this upsets most system administrators and you could lose access to the net ("mail bombing").

Keep your questions and comments relevant to the focus of the discussion group.

If another person posts a comment or question that is off the subject, do NOT reply to the list and keep the off- subject conversation going publicly.

When someone posts an off-subject note, and someone else criticizes that posting, you should NOT submit a gratuitous note saying "well, I liked it and lots of people probably did as well and you guys ought to lighten up and not tell us to stick to the subject".

When going away for more than a week, unsubscribe or suspend mail from any mailing lists or LISTSERV services.

If you can respond to someone else's question, do so through email. Twenty people answering the same question on a large list can fill your mailbox (and those of everyone else on the list) quickly.

When quoting another person, edit out whatever isn't directly applicable to your reply. Don't let your mailing or Usenet software automatically quote the entire body of messages you are replying to when it's not necessary. Take the time to edit any quotations down to the minimum necessary to provide context for your reply. Nobody likes reading a long message in quotes for the third or fourth time, only to be followed by a one line response: "Yeah, me too."

Use discretion when forwarding a long mail message to group addresses or distribution lists. It's preferable to reference the source of a document and provide instructions on how to obtain a copy. If you must post a long message, warn the readers with a statement at the top of the mail message. Example: WARNING: LONG MESSAGE

If you crosspost messages to multiple groups, include the name of the groups at the top of the mail message with an apology for any duplication.

Resist the temptation to "flame" others on the list. Remember that these discussions are "public" and meant for constructive exchanges. Treat the others on the list as you would want them to treat you.

When posting a question to the discussion group, request that responses be directed to you personally. Post a summary or answer to your question to the group.

When replying to a message posted to a discussion group, check the address to be certain it's going to the intended location (person or group). It can be very embarrassing if they reply incorrectly and post a personal message to the entire discussion group that was intended for an individual.

When signing up for a group it is important to save your subscription confirmation letter for reference. That way if you go on vacation you will have the subscription address for suspending mail.

Use your own personal Email account, don't subscribe using a shared office account.

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. Mail for these types of requests should be sent to the following respectively: LISTSERV GROUPS- LISTSERV@host

MAILING LISTS - listname-REQUEST@host or listname-OWNER@host

For either Mailing Lists or LISTSERV groups, to subscribe or unsubscribe, in the body of the message include:

SUBSCRIBE listname yourfirstname yourlastname (To be added to the subscription) or UNSUBSCRIBE listname (To be removed from the subscription)


Do not include very large graphic images in your html documents. It is preferable to have postage sized images that the user can click on to "enlarge" a picture. Some users with access to the Web are viewing documents using slow speed modems and downloading these images can take a great deal of time.

It is not a requirement to ask permission to link to another's site, though out of respect for the individual and their efforts, a simple email message stating that you have made a link to their site would be appropriate.

When including video or voice files, include next to the description a file size, i.e (10KB or 2MB), so the user has the option of knowing how long it will take to download the file.
Keep naming standards for URL's simple and not overly excessive with changes in case. Some users do not realize that sites are case sensitive or they receive URL's verbally where case sensitivity is not easily recognizable.

When in doubt about a URL, try accessing the domain address first, then navigate through the site to locate the specific URL. Most URL's begin with the node address of WWW followed by the site address, i.e:


A URL which includes only an image map and no text might not be accessible to those users that do not have access to a graphical Web browser. Always include the option of text links in your URL documents.

W3 connections can be *very* high bandwidth consumers. With graphical web browsers, when graphic images are not necessary to obtain information it is a good idea, both in terms of the speed of the session, and to conserve bandwidth, to set the options to "turn off" or "delay" inline images.

URL authors should always protect their additions to the Web by including trademark (TM) or Copyright (C) symbols in their HTML documents.

URL authors should include an email address at the bottom (or in the address area) of all HTML documents. Because of the nature of html links, a user can automatically link to your html document and have questions about it, but will not know who to contact if the email address is not available.

Including the actual URL in the document source preferably after the <Address> tag, will allow users that print out the information to know where to access the information in the future, i.e. URL://

URL's authors should always include a date of last revision - so users linking to the site can know how up to date the information has been maintained.

Infringement of copyright laws, obscene, harrassing or threatening materials on Web sites can be in violation of local, state, national or international laws and can be subject to litigation by the appropriate law enforcement agency. Authors of HTML documents will ultimately be responsible for what they allow users worldwide to access.


from the Computer Ethics Institute

  1. Thou shalt not use a computer to harm other people.
  2. Thou shalt not interfere with other people's computer work.
  3. Thou shalt not snoop around in other people's files.
  4. Thou shalt not use a computer to steal.
  5. Thou shalt not use a computer to bear false witness.
  6. Thou shalt not use or copy software for which you have not paid.
  7. Thou shalt not use other people's computer resources without authorization.
  8. Thou shalt not appropriate other people's intellectual output.
  9. Thou shalt think about the social consequences of the program you write.
  10. Thou shalt use a computer in ways that show consideration and respect.


(c) Copyright - Arlene H. Rinaldi and Florida Atlantic University
Permission to duplicate or distribute this document is granted for non-profit organizations with the provision that the document remains intact or if used in sections, that the original document source be referenced.

For additions, comments, suggestions and requests for revisions, send email to - RINALDI@ACC.FAU.EDU