How I missed this post the first time around beats me - very many apologies Seekerof
I think all the ideas expressed here as regards Netiquette are worthy of "bumping" again, especially as we have been priviledged to have so many new
people join ATS.
I'd like to recommend another website, that covers work that I am fortunate enough to be a part of. It covers the work of
of the Open University here in the UK, from which the following is
"Extract from a Communications Guide, prepared by Gary Alexander for use on various Open University courses. (Revised September 2000)
Note that although the FirstClass conference system is mentioned, the principles apply equally to any on-line discussion group. Comments about
conferences apply equally to discussions on mailing lists.
Netiquette, or the social conventions of computer conferencing
You may have experienced face-to-face meetings where people talk across each other, battle over positions, and leave without a clear idea of what has
been decided. Similar problems occur on-line, if people are unaware of how to avoid them.
The principles of effective on-line discussions are basically a translation of those developed for face-to-face discussions. To a certain extent they
are just common sense. But, because you cannot see body language and hear emotion, more care and attention is needed on-line than in face-to-face
The Open University's FirstClass computer conference service has been designed to be a support system for students and staff. It is a place where you
can deepen your understanding of your courses through discussion, through learning of others' experiences and points of view, and through
participation in various special events. It is a place where you can get and give help to other students, and also socialise and enjoy yourself. This
is a new communication medium which will function most effectively as people learn how best to use it.
In some courses you will be expected to participate in collaborative groupwork on-line. To do this effectively is a skill which needs to be learned
and practiced. (And effective on-line groupwork is becoming an important skill well beyond education.)
Going for consensus
The main principle is the intention to come to a shared understanding or consensus. This means trying to understand other peoples' views, see things
from their point of view, and then find some conclusion which satisfies everyone, rather than simply expressing yourself, or worse, trying to impose
your views on others.
Genuine consensus is also different from suppressing your own views in favour of a majority view. That way you lose one of the main benefits of a
group, which is having multiple perspectives on the same issue. If a group seems near to agreement, those who disagree weakly might give way, but
those who disagree strongly should stick to their guns and wait for some result which takes their views into account as well. The end result should
not leave some people resentful and dissatisfied.
Practical Communication Principles (PCPs)
I have based the following suggestions on my own experiences, and on a set of documents on the Internet found by searching on the word netiquette.
From some research experiences (see Zimmer and Alexander) at the Open University I have extracted some of the key principles into what we may call
Practical Communication Principles (PCPs).
These are not meant to encourage groups to be overly polite and agree with everything each other says. Rather, they are meant to allow groups to
really engage with issues, to disagree and learn by resolving their disagreements without upsets and hurt feelings.
PCP 1: Thank, acknowledge and support people freely
"I liked your comment in... " "I agree with so and sos idea that... " "Thanks Sarah for that contribution. I got a lot out of it." "Welcome to
the conference, Bill."
In a computer conference you cannot see the other people nod their heads, smile, or otherwise indicate that they have heard what you said. If you
don't receive an acknowledgement of a message, you may feel ignored, even when others have appreciated your contribution. This principle is
particularly important when a group is set up as a support group, as it maintains the relationship necessary for people to feel supported. People know
that they have been appreciated and are encouraged to contribute further.
But... before acknowledging, check that there aren't already several similar messages! You don't want your conference clogged with messages saying
PCP 2: Acknowledge before differing
"What I think you mean in essence is... Have I got that right? My own view differs as follows..."
If you disagree with someone, start by briefly re-stating what the other person has said in your own words. The person then knows that you are trying
to understand them, and is thus in a better position to take your view seriously. Otherwise, you risk a sequence of statements flying across each
other with little mutual understanding or possibility of coming to agreement (even if it is agreement to differ).
PCP 3: Speak from your own perspective (or at least some specified perspective)
"Here's how I see it/how I feel about it/what I want to do....."
Bob Zimmer and Gary Alexander,
"The Rogerian Interface: For open, warm empathy in computer mediated collaborative learning", Innovations in Education and Training International ,
33, 1 (1996), pp. 13-21, Kogan Page."
Thank you Seekerof for raising this very important subject, that strives to enhance amicable on-line relationships!!