Newsgroup Etiquette

Netiquette and Newsgroup Etiquette

Newsgroups are self-governing "communities" that are totally self regulating. There are no "Newsgroup Cops" but on most newsgroups there is a group moderator who will step in if posts start to get out of hand. They have the power to remove posts and entire threads if they start to become offensive.  This is rarely exercised BUT if a thread takes on a personally insulting or nasty nature do not be surprised to find the posts gone and the individuals involved warned.  For the most part you are on your own so be on your best behavior.

Below are some simple rules and newsgroup etiquette along with a few terms that you will see in the groups.  Think of newsgroup etiquette as a set of guidelines.  If you follow these guidelines it will keep you from making common mistakes and you will look and sound like a veteran newsgroup poster in no time at all. Remember, every expert was a newbie once, just like you.  Always follow the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would like them to do unto you.

Lurk (or Lurker): Someone who reads the newsgroup without posting is known as a lurker. There are 5-10 times the number of individuals that read a group than post in one. This type of activity is known as "lurking," Before you post in a newsgroup you may want to lurk for a while to give you the feel of the newsgroup before you start to join in. You will soon recognize the group "regulars" this way.

Read the FAQ: Find and read the newsgroup FAQ.  This is a list of the most Frequently Asked Questions as well as important resources and other very useful information. The FAQ can answer many questions you didn't even know that you had. It is the fastest way to get answers without asking a question in the newsgroup. If you can't find the FAQ ask someone on the group where it is before you post your question.  There is nothing as disheartening as asking a question and receiving "Read the FAQ" as the only answer.  Well maybe "RTFM" is worse...

Stay on-topic: Every newsgroup is a little different in the way it handles OT posts (off topic).  Some are very flexible regarding what is discussed in the groups. Some are very business like and do not encourage or tolerate off topic posts.  If you have something that is not related to the subject of the group but you have found it interesting (and you know that the group accepts OT posts) and would like to share, start the subject line with OT: so that everyone will know that the subject is off topic and they can choose whether to open the message body or not. If you have something of importance to the group start the subject ANN: for announcement (though announcements are usually left to the group moderator.. Unless you are throwing a party and inviting everyone over).

Don't over quote: Copying back a long post (more than 20 lines) just to add "I agree" or "me too" is considered bad form and wastes download time. Look at the size of the post you are answering and if it is over 3k trim out the portions that are not relevant to your answer. If you are only answering a portion of a question trim out the bits that are not pertinent to your answer.  NEVER QUOTE BACK GRAPHICS.

Don't include large files: NEVER attach large graphic files or other attachments (over 30k). Most users don't want to download a file when reading a post for time and security reasons. For people who pay for their internet connection based on the time that they are online or the amount of bandwidth used your post can be very expensive.  If you have a large graphic that is necessary to explain your problem, upload it to your web server and include the URL of the file in your post so others can view it only if they need to.  If you do not have a server or host there is a binary group on the ToolFox news server (toolfox.public.binaries). Post your graphics to the binary group and note this in your question (i.e. "check the toolfox.public.binaries group for an example").

Do not post in HTML: Many people use dedicated news readers such as X-News or MicroPlanet Gravity that do not display HTML so post in plain text unless there is a compelling reason to use HTML. Set your News Reader to post in plain text for all newsgroups you subscribe to.

Don't post serial numbers: If you do this, you enable software pirates to use the companies' products for free.  Messages containing serial numbers will be deleted.

Don't ask for or post warez:  Do not ask for hacks or cracks to commercial software and NEVER post them to these newsgroups. Hacking commercial software is illegal and any and all reference to this topic will be deleted. This is a public newsgroup and you run the risk of investigation by the software manufacture if you engage in or solicit others to engage in piracy of software.

Do not post Copyrighted Material: Never post MP3s, cartoon strips, copied articles or reviews. Post a link to where they are stored on the server where permission to display has been granted.  Do not link to copyrighted files on your remote host unless you have express written permission of the artist or copyright owner to distribute their property.

DON'T SHOUT: TYPING IN ALL CAPS IS CONSIDERED SHOUTING. It is much easier to read a mix of upper and lower case letters.  Newsgroups can sometimes be considered impersonal, you cannot see the other person's expression, whether they are smiling or joking, so a little extra effort is needed to communicate without seeming overly stuffy or curt.

Be Friendly: Do not talk down to someone, sound annoyed, or take offense at their questions. Make all of your posts friendly and informative. These newsgroups are here for users to ask questions and receive help not to show how much you know.

Don't get too personal: Remember, all messages to these newsgroups are public information so they can be viewed by others long after they are posted so NEVER post personal information such as your address or phone number or even your e-mail address without an appropriate spam trap.  To create an effective spam trap insert some obvious words within the e-mail address you use to post with, such as NO-SPAM (, or if you want to get creative add something cute like YOUR-PANTS ( and in your signature say "remove YOUR-PANTS to respond"

DO NOT Advertise:   It doesn't work, it gets people really really mad, it gets me really really mad, and no matter what you say it will not be taken well. Everyone HATES SPAM.  This is one of the things that will guarantee that your thread will be removed. Do not answer posts of this nature as it just adds to the number of posts that have to be removed. If you continue to advertise after being warned you may find yourself blacklisted from posting anything on these newsgroups

Ignore trolls: Some people get a thrill from posting "flames" (really obnoxious messages) just to get a rise out of people.  This type of person is know as a troll. Occasionally some come in just to see if they can stir up dissent by posting "This program is the worst" or "Everyone here does not know didly".  Do not respond to posts of this nature as this only fans the flames and is what the individual wants.  This is another type of post that is likely to be removed from the groups, so do NOT join in.  Be nice and refrain from inappropriate language and personal attacks. If a news server has a group detected to "non conventional interaction" (i.e. "the cage")

Do not Flame: Flaming is the art of being obnoxious by writing personal insults or making comments calculated to stir up the emotions of individuals. If you MUST say something that is remotely close to flaming, take it to the cage (toolfox.relax.the-cage). Topics dealing with politics, religion, or personal hygiene should not be posted in any group other than the one created for no holds barred debate. If a topic starts to get "hot" take the initiative and continue the conversation in the cage.

Use your Plonk file:  On very rare occasions you will find someone on a newsgroup that is just so obnoxious that you would rather not read ANYTHING they have to say. When you plonk someone you are adding them to your blocked user list so that their posts do not show up in your reader.  The term Plonk is derived from the sound trash makes when it hits the circular file.  Another term used for blocking a particularly obnoxious individual is to put them in the "Bozo Bin". View an AVI file on how to block someone using Outlook Express so you do not have to see any posts made by them.

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