I - Netiquette concepts introduction. Netiquette
Without a doubt there is a need to have a list of rules that will govern behavior in the use of the Internet. In society people use etiquette as a guide but in cyberspace an individual has to contend with a lot of different factors not present in a face-to-face interaction. For instance communication is achieved very quickly, over long distances, and in many occasions between total strangers. One has to make adjustments and this reorientation begins with properly giving it a name, the new set of guidelines for acceptable behavior is popularly known as netiquette (Shea, 2005).
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There are at least three issues that needs to be raised against this concept and these are listed as follows:
· Netiquette is a set of “agreed rules”;
· Net users are globally interconnected but diversified; and
· There is no feedback, reinforcement, punishment if people use, misuse and abuse the Internet.
It is understandable why “netiquette” needs to be a set of guidelines that users of the Internet should agree on. If there is no agreement then no one will comply but on the other hand how can there be agreement if there is nothing in common between users except that they are in cyberspace? Not all the people that meet in cyberspace know each other. Of course there are times when friends, family, co-workers, and acquaintances that meet, greet, and chat through the world-wide-web know each other. But in the same way there are many strangers who interact through the Internet, thus how can there be agreement between strangers especially if the interaction is probably there first and last communiqué. There is no incentive that will encourage good behavior between the two parties.
In social etiquette the context of pre-agreed set of rules is based on the fact that people living in a community had already pre-existing rules in the first place. This means that children growing up are being taught these rules and if no formal schooling is available then they observe these rules being followed, challenged, and broken. Yet at the same time those who break the rules are punished by the community, therefore instilling in the young ones the necessity of following social tenets. But in the Internet there is no similar structure that exists.
This brings the discussion to the third issue which concerns reinforcement of rules and the presence of social pressures that will force people to conform. In the Internet since there is no fixed physical community, anonymous strangers with bad intentions can easily come in and out without fear of being caught. This means that there is hardly any way to enforce rules. At this point the best one can do is to create a filter that will block the person on the other end or in the case of a forum, ask the moderators to prevent a particular user to gain access to the site due to his or her unacceptable behavior.
On the other hand netiquette is possible in certain conditions. In a corporate setting where computers are interconnected by a network and governed by IT personnel it is much easier to create a community where each person is accountable for his or her own actions. In a memo given to the employees of Intel Corp., their IT manager informed everyone that there are guidelines that every employee must observe while working in Intel (Hambridge, 2005). For instance, employees are strongly advised to seek permission before forwarding a personal message sent by another employee. This is an example of how Netiquette can be faithfully observed in cyberspace but if one will go outside the bounds of this tightly knit community then that person is at the mercy of strangers. There is no assurance that everyone will comply because they are either a) ignorant of such rules; b) they have a different interpretation of Netiquette in that corner of the planet; and c) they can get away with it.
Hambridge, S. “Netiquette Guidelines.” Retrieved 13 October 2008 from
This is a copy of a memo distributed to the employees of the Intel Corp. This is an interesting piece of information because Intel is a big corporation that uses state-of-the-art technology. This means that it is fair to assume that their employees are all computer literate and therefore knows how to use the Internet. A quick reading of the memo will reveal that this is the case. Moreover, after reading the memo one can get a clear understanding of what “netiquette” is all about. Furthermore, while reading the memo the proponent of this paper realized that it is only through a tight-knit community of users where Internet etiquette can be properly observed because there is someone monitoring the activity in the network and also there is an incentive to do the right thing.
Shea, V. “The Core Rules of Netiquette.” Retrieved 13 October 2008 from
Virginia She wrote a book about Netiquette. This site provides excerpts from her work. One of the most important assertions found in Shea’s book is the need to realize that in Internet communication there is a human being on the other end. Aside from laying the groundwork as to why people should respect each other in cyberspace, She also provided a simple guideline that will cut through language and cultural barriers. She pointed out that Netiquette is based on the golden rule. This is very helpful especially for total strangers with different backgrounds. The quick way to determine if one particular action is acceptable or not is to use the standard of the golden rule – will I be willing to let the other person do this unto me. If the answer is no, then refrain from doing that action.
II. Effective Internet communication combines technical and communicative competence
For centuries, people living in the civilized world had expended significant amounts of time, effort, and money just so they can learn to read and write. There are those who even went beyond the rudimentary level of learning and went on to train themselves so they can become experts in face-to-face interaction as well as in written communication. But when Information Technology began to dominate the 20th century and has now become the major tool of communication for majority of human beings in the planet (Toldt, 2007), those who are experts in public speaking and written communication can sometimes find themselves in a bind when dealing with email and instant messaging.
This concept simply underlines the obvious when it comes to technology. There is a learning curve. And this learning curve does not respect previous achievements. It does not matter if the person in front of the computer monitor has a PhD in English there is no way that the person can communicate and effectively communicate without having a basic understanding the technology behind email. But aside from that one should be mindful that electronic communication is fundamentally different from paper-based communication (Sherwood, 1994). Technology is one aspect that requires familiarization if not mastery.
But technology is just one aspect of electronic communication. There is also a need to know the dynamics involved when one writes an email and send it to a targeted recipient. For instance an email is actually a letter but it can be stored. It can also be accidentally sent to an unintended recipient. It can be altered, modified, manipulated and used against the original sender. These are issues that a new user must be aware about. There is a need to modify conventions regarding writing a letter and it is fair to say that letter writing has changed forever. A person can write a letter and send it direct to the recipient at an instant.
The speed of communication as well as the inexpensive method of communication is also another factor that needs to be considered. For first time users there can be many implications of speed and cost-effectiveness of email but there is one thing that needs to be understood by a newbie and it is the fact that there is no need to write long winding letters. This is because one can write a basic communiqué and then wait for clarification. In the old method of writing the author is forced to add a considerable amount of information because the letter takes time and cost money to send back and forth. But with email this is no problem.
Sherwood, K. “A Beginner’s Guide to Effective Email.” Retrieved 13 October 2008 from
Kaitlin Sherwood wrote an article that aims to help those who are new to electronic communication. The article was first made available in 1994 but the ideas are still applicable today. One of the most important lesson here is the realization that electronic communication is fundamentally different from paper-based communication. According to Sherwood this is due to the cost and speed of sending messages as compared to snail mail. This piece of information is very important for adults who were trained to master traditional communication techniques and had to deal with the steep learning curve necessary to understand electronic communication.
Toldt, A. (2007). “Face-to-Face Interactions Surpassed by new Geneation Communication
Tools.” Retrieved 13 October 2008 from http://www.efluxmedia.com
Alexaner Toldt’s article provided the needed support for the claim that electronic communication is the single most dominant communication method in the 21st century. But the article went further by saying that there is a great number of teenagers who prefer technology aided interaction as compared to face-to-face communication.
III. Communication is not complete upon receipt
A basic tenet of communication is feedback. A person can be talking to a group of people but this does not mean that true communication has taken place. For instance a Russian will come to America and proceeded to speak in a public square. The said Russian can be charismatic and have a booming voice. He could talk for hours and yet failed to achieve true communication because there is not a single person among the crowd that can speak the Russian language.
According to Baty (2008) there is a need to complete the communication circuit. In the case of electronic communication there is a need for feedback. When a person sends an email this does not mean that communication has already taken place. Real communication though the use of email is only achieved if the recipient opens the email, read the message and then acts upon the message.
The speed and ease of email is part to blame for the occurrence of this phenomenon. The enormous amount of data that gets transmitted over the Internet is staggering. So when emails pile up and tend to get unwieldy the recipient can easily overlook the fact that there is some urgent messages buried somewhere in the inbox that require his or her attention. There must therefore be a campaign that will make people aware of the fact that communication can only be completed when the recipient carefully crafts a reply that will satisfy the sender.
A good example of this can be found in the article written by Rudick and O’Flahavan who contended that in many businesses email from clients are never given serious thought. In most cases clients are asking questions and asking for after sales services but the recipient will not give the time of day to answer each mail carefully to the satisfaction of the customer. In the context of friendship one can easily forgive a friend for being so busy that he or she forgot to respond to an email but in the business context the failure to respond promptly to email may result in losing the competitive advantage of a particular firm.
Answering email is not the end of the communication loop. There is also a need to examine the email and find out if the sender is expecting something other than a reply. For instance a sender may request that his or her message gets forwarded to others then as long as the recipient does not comply with that particular request then true communication has not been achieved. In a business setting the recipient of an email coming from a customer must scrutinize the contents of the email and try his or her best to satisfactorily answer the queries of the customers. It is not enough to simply acknowledge the receipt of the email.
Baty, S. (2008). “Closing the Communication Loop.” Retrieved 13 October 2008 from
This article was an eye opener when it comes to electronic communication. The author pointed out that even if there is a valiant attempt to communicate there is no assurance that communication is taking place. A person can even create an elaborate scheme of sending messages but unless the intended recipient interacts with it and then proceed to give feedback then there is no communication that took place.
Rudick, M. & L. O’Flahavan. “Elevating Customer Service E-mail From Adequate to
Excellent.” Retrieved 13 October 2008 from http://www.hodu.com/customer-
The article made it very clear that in the business world the failure to close the communication loop can result in a failed business venture. This article elevates the need to respond to email to another level. The authors assert that it is not simply enough to answer an email or to simply give a reply. The replies to email must be created in such a way that will satisfy the needs of the customers. This does not mean that the replies must flatter the customer and tell them promises that cannot be kept. Excellence in customer service through answering emails means being sensitive to the needs of the customers. If the customer wanted to return something and the company specifically adheres to a no return policy for certain types of products then the reply to the email can be an offer of similar types of products at a discounted rate.