This article was written in the 1990s, when there were relatively few people using the Internet. Many of the tips very are relevant today.
I regularly write about appraisal business marketing issues, such as communicating with clients.
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Netiquette and smileys

When we first started appraising, we attended classes and more experienced appraisers trained us. To learn what the rules were, we studied textbooks and USPAP. But what are the rules on the Internet? What is the proper way to interact with others online? I call it “Netiquette.”

Surprisingly, I could find very little written information on netiquette on the Internet itself, and none that was really called “official.” Of course, since no one is in charge of the Internet, that shouldn’t have surprised us!

When your first go online, or enter a chat room, you will see :> (smiley) and LOL (laughing out loud, an acronym).

Important rules of online communication
– DON’T type messages in all caps.
– Never assume your e-mail can’t be read by anyone else, unless encrypted.
– Don’t send a message you don’t want everyone to see.
– Never send chain letters. They are forbidden on the Internet.

Important rules of mailing lists, news groups, forums, message boards, etc.
– Don’t send a personal message to the entire group
– Don’t send a message to the entire list asking to subscribe (or unsubscribe) to the list. Send it to the list administrator.
– Think for awhile before sending a snappy reply. (Not a “rule” but saves a lot of grief later!)
– Be conservative on what you send and liberal on what you receive.

Good rules to follow

Many mailing lists and newsgroups get overloaded with messages. Subscribers have to wade through many messages looking for one good one. Posting only relevant messages is good netiquette (and keeps away the flames!).
– Follow the published rules for the list/group.
– When replying to e-mail don’t quote the entire message you are responding to (Eudora automatically includes it).
– Take disagreements with one person to private e-mail.
– Don’t post “me too” messages (i.e., ” I agree with what you said.)”
– Keep your messages short.
– Don’t post a long message unless you warn the reader in the first line. (i.e. Warning: LONG message).
– Include a signature at the bottom of a message to let people know who you are.
– Send only ASCII text if some on the list can’t receive binary files.
– Don’t use any fancy formatting. You don’t know how the other person’s software will interpret it.
– Don’t post messages just to point out spelling errors or typos. Marks you as a newbie.
– If you ask a question, be sure to post a summary. Many of your responses will be via private e-mail.
– Let people know where you are located. You could be anywhere in the world. For example, saying “Business is good here” without saying where “here” is.
– Anonymous messages are frowned upon. What do you do when you receive anonymous postal mail? Sign your name.
– Use smileys sparingly.
– Use asterisks to emphasize certain *words*

Specific rules/policies

Each mailing list, newsgroup, service provider, etc. has rules and guidelines for their subscribers. What is okay on one may be forbidden on the other.

Be sure you know the rules, especially the written ones.

Just like in any other group, certain unwritten customs and “rules” must be learned by newbies.

Take your time posting messages or jumping into a chat. See how the participants interact. Get a copy of the FAQs (if available) and read them.

Who enforces the rules

Since no one is in charge of the Internet, who enforces the rules?

Every service provider, mailing list, newsgroup, chat group, online discussion group, etc. has rules. Serious violators are kicked out.

Online services cancel subscriptions. For example, America Online kicks subscribers off if they become really obnoxious (typically teen-agers).

Moderators of chat/meeting rooms on online services have the ability to “lock out” pests, jerks, and others.

Internet Service Providers can cancel accounts.

How is netiquette different than etiquette?

Most human interactions are in person or over the phone. Oral or visual communications are much easier to convey as we can see and hear the person, or at least hear the inflections in someone’s voice over the phone.

Many of the netiquette “rules” were developed for newsgroups and mailing lists, where messages are posted for others to look at and to respond. You don’t see or hear the other people on the Net.

Netiquette applies some of the rules of etiquette: proper ways to interact, don’t be rude, etc.

Other “rules,” such as “don’t take up too much computer resources,” are computer related.

A few definitions
Emoticon – techie-speak for a smiley
FAQ – a list of frequently asked questions that are posted or sent via e-mail to newbies (everybody gets tired of answering the same questions over and over)
Flaming – sending an argumentative or belligerent response via e-mail
(i.e., you don’t know anything about that subject)
Mailing list – all e-mails from list participants are sent to everyone on the list (popular software programs are Listserv and Majordomo)
Lurker – someone who reads messages (or attends chats) but never contributes
Netiquette – prescribed social behavior and manners on computer networks via an electronic medium
Newbie – someone new to the Net/newsgroup/chat (clueless newbie – someone who really doesn’t “get it”)
News group – messages are posted and replied to. To see the messages, you log onto the news group. Similar to a forum on CompuServe or a message board on AOL.
Signature – information about yourself, your company, a favorite quote at the end of your e-mail messages (up to 4 lines is a good rule of thumb)
Smiley – a picture conveying emotions, i.e.” :-)” (turn your head sideways)
Snail mail – postal mail
Spam – “Stupid Persons Advertise-Ment” – sending unsolicited ads indiscriminately
Techie – someone who knows about, and is interested in, technical stuff

A few smileys (turn your head to the left)
– basic smiley        ;>
– unhappy smiley   :<
– winking smiley    😉
– crying smiley        :,)
Non-smiley smileys
– Grin            <g>
– Big grin        <G>
– Sigh            <s>

A few acronyms

Use sparingly in e-mail, but handy in chats.
– AFK – away from keyboard
– BFN – bye for now
– BRB – be right back
– BTW – by the way
– CUL – see you later
– GD&R – grinning, ducking, and running (after snide remark)
– IMHO – in my humble opinion
– IMO – in my opinion
– LOL – laughing out loud
– OTOH – on the other hand
– ROTFL – rolling on the floor laughing

Where to get more information

Reprinted from Appraisal Today Newsletter. Written by Ann O’Rourke