The Internet, like any society, has its own rules on how to behave in company. If you are new to the net, then it can seem like a social minefield, but knowing the local 'netiquette' can make things easier. This guide is not compulsory1 but it will help you to create a positive impression of yourself on h2g22.
Always remember that there is a human being behind the text, so don't forget they have feelings too. They could be a child - try not to assume everyone is of your age and experience. They might be from another culture, with different values and traditions; English might not be their first language.
Follow the same rules of society as you would in real life, in effect, do as you would be done by.
Pass on your knowledge, if someone needs help, or asks a question, share and enjoy. Equally, don't be afraid to ask for help from others.
Be forgiving of others' mistakes, be patient and tolerant. They could be a child, a newbie, having a really bad day in real life, or simply not as bright or experienced as you are.
Try not to bring real-life problems online in an inappropriate manner. Posting a journal entry or talking to your friends about your bad day is fine. Flying off the handle at someone because their opinion differs from yours is not.
Feel free to disagree, but never make personal attacks on the person that you are disagreeing with. It just makes a bad situation worse and can even undermine any point you're trying to make.
Stay calm - try not to let others deliberately wind you up. It's easy to walk away from a cranky or offensive message. Have a cup of tea, then return and post calmly. If that person persists, then ignore them. Leave the thread if you can, or simply maintain a dignified silence; if things get too uncomfortable for you, that's what the 'Unsubscribe' button is for. If you can't say anything nice, it's often best not to say anything at all.
If someone apologises for upsetting you, then accept gracefully, and take the gesture as it is meant. If you still feel aggrieved, try to stay away from that person.
If someone misunderstands you, try to assume it's your fault, not theirs. Try to be clear and patient.
Respect those who respect you. Ignore those who don't.
Using the Site
Knowledge is often said to be power - don't abuse that power.
Read the FAQs. Take the time to get to know the site and how it works.
Pay attention to the way experienced users post to conversations or write entries.
Imagine the Researcher you are talking to is in front of you. If you wouldn't do or say it in real life, then don't post it on h2g2.
One of the most rewarding aspects of h2g2 is making friends - just like real life, Researchers tend to respond more to those they 'know'. Get to know other people by reading their Personal Space, posting to journals, and joining in conversations. Tell them what you like about their Personal Space, or discuss common interests.
Be yourself. h2g2 is a very tolerant, accepting, supportive community.
Help newbies, or anyone else that needs assistance or guidance.
Remember that you are not speaking, you are typing. An emoticon can help to clarify the meaning, but more than one or two per paragraph can be annoying. Try not to post only smileys, even one word makes it worthwhile loading the page. Smileys don't.
If it's illegal in real life, it's illegal on h2g2. Additionally, it's worth remembering that we have to conform to broadcasting standards just like any other part of the BBC.
If you find a topic that you're not keen on, don't read it.
If you want to pass on your email address, then we suggest that you write it in full. ie john dot doe at anywhere dot com. This should stop you receiving spam or unwarranted mails from automated mailing services, and stop spiders3 from crawling all over h2g2, slowing things down for everyone.
Remember not to believe everything you read. Like TV, some things are play-acting. People have many reasons for hiding their identity or adopting an alternative persona, so take everything with a pinch of salt until you know it to be true.
Double-check that links work when posting - warn if you are directing someone to a large or slow-loading file.
Don't use all upper- or lower-case. 'Tone' of voice is lost, emphasis is lost, and it shows that the writer hasn't enough time or respect for the reader. Additionally, upper-case texts are often interpreted as shouting.
Don't spread internet or email hoaxes. Check them out on a reputable site before you repeat them. Most virus warnings, for example, tend to be hoaxes.
Don't expect to have the last word. h2g2 would die if anyone ever did; it's for discussion and debate.
Assume publicity - anything you write can and will be read by other Researchers, if not copied and passed on. Don't post anything you don't want the world to know about.
Don't give out more personal information than you have to, and never share your log-in details.
Avoid long sentences with no spaces. It stops the screen wrapping in certain h2g2 skins, and can make the page difficult to read. Remember, not everyone has a large screen area.
Try to take care with spelling and grammar. Preview before you post. Don't use obscure acronyms (including the kind of acronyms that only hardcore 'Usenet' geeks will know), or 'text message' short cuts. Read your posting aloud before you post to see if it makes sense. On the other hand, don't be rude if someone else's grasp of the language isn't as good as yours. Tolerate mistakes in others posts, but not in your own.
Post a spoiler warning if you are talking about a recent film or TV programme - including guest stars, cast arriving or leaving, or how it ends. Some countries have to wait longer than others to see such material. Bear in mind other DNA sites might have different rules on spoilers.
Allow time for messages to be read. Researchers in other time zones can and will take longer to reply.
Be careful with phrases and slang that won't be understood in other countries.
Try to keep threads on topic. If it evolves naturally then try to keep the subject line current. This can be helpful to someone attracted to the thread's original title. It can be seen at a glance that the conversation has moved on. Try not to drift off topic on threads about entries in PR, Feedback threads until the problem has been solved, or where the instigator of the thread is trying to bring it back on topic.
Don't post a message with 'please help!' as the subject. A short description of the problem will help others decide if they are able to help or not before they load the page.
Don't ask people to send answers by email. If you can't be bothered to come back to the Conversation, why should others bother to answer you?
It's harder to read text on a screen than in a book. Break text up into short paragraphs with a line between each, rather than posting one huge block of text. Some Researchers choose to do this with a smiley, for example .
Don't set out to become known for your verbosity. Long postings have their place, but they are not popular with most readers. Try to be brief, to the point, and friendly. Constructive writing on your chosen subject is always welcome, but remember to let others have their say.
Be careful with alter egos (alternative personas), friends might be offended if they find out that you come online and 'hide' who you are.
Know where you are - try not to post in the wrong thread.
Lurk before you leap. Read the entry before posting an opinion or question. Read the forum before posting - your point may already have been covered, especially if it's an especially long forum. At least read the last couple of 'pages' in the forum to get a feel for what's happening. Then think. Unless it breaks the House Rules, it will be there forever.
Try to avoid clicking buttons twice! If the page takes a long time to load, your pc crashes or the page times out, then assume the post has been posted. Refresh the thread to check before trying again.
Conversations with a lot of backlog need careful handling. If they are very long, it's better to read the latest posts, rather than the first ones. If you want to comment on an old post, it's polite and useful for others, to refer to the post number.
If you are replying to anything other than the most recent post, try to make it clear which one you are referring to.
Check for previous conversations on your topic before you start a new one. Unless it's stated otherwise, it's usually better to join in the current one.
In a busy thread, it's possible to post at the same time as another Researcher. Check when you have posted in case this has happened. This is called a simulpost.