VIEWS: 4 PAGES: 5 POSTED ON: 2/9/2011
25 Rules of Tech Etiquette http://www.switched.com/2009/01/06/25-rules-of-tech-etiquette/ A solid 10-plus years into the mainstream use of cellphones, e-mail, texting and IM, and a half- decade into the phenomena of social-networking sites, we're still astounded on a daily basis at the unbelievably clumsy way some people communicate. While most of us have a pretty good idea how to behave in a civilized way in public, when it comes to electronic means of communication, an astounding number of us continue to act like the digital equivalent of cavemen (with no offense intended to the Geico fellas, naturally). Certainly every new technology brings about uncertainty and a rough period, but honestly, folks, enough's enough. To help us all get along a little better, and prevent future heartache, we ask you to take a look at these 25 rules for electronic life, and then take a look in the mirror and tell that person to change his ways. And help us all out and pass these on to those who offend. By all means hit up the comments with any additions we missed. 1. Does my friend have a right to get upset if I answer my phone in front of him? Unless it's an important call you've been expecting, then yeah, big time. Think of it this way: You're at a party, talking with your friend, when someone else appears and you instantly ditch your friend to talk with the other person. It's a social snub that says your buddy rates second best. And when your phone rings and you do choose to ignore it, by golly, that means clicking the side button on your phone as quickly as humanly possible so the rest of us don't have to hear your dumb-ass clucking chicken ringer, please. 2. I'm perfectly capable of talking on the phone while paying for fast food -- what's the big deal? First off, no matter how interesting you may think you are, no one wants to hear your conversation in the first place, so forcing everyone near the counter to listen in on your bons mots is jerky. Take it outside, or take the call later. Secondly, it's annoying to the already stressed counter person who has to figure out your order and whether you're talking to him or your caller, thus holding up the line for everyone else. Despite common practice, it's big-time rude to speak on the phone in any public place where others have to be distracted by your loud conversation. 3. Everyone has a cell phone now, so why do some restaurants, bars and stores care if I check my voicemail or make a quick call? Throughout our day, we're forced to listen to others' conversations, which isn't in of itself a bad thing. It's just a normal part of life. But if you've ever been seated beside a loud-talker, you know that suddenly a simple conversation can become a really bad one-man Broadway show, and one you didn't buy tickets for but are forced to endure, at that. The thing with cell phone conversations that makes them uniquely grating is that instead of the talker being focused on his current surroundings -- and monitoring his voice level -- he or she is instead in some mental cyber world with his or her caller. As such, people tend to talk a lot louder on the phone than they normally would with someone in front of them, which is grating to anyone in earshot. Take it outside, or turn it off. 4. Why do I get nasty looks when I send a simple, quiet text while at the movies? The primary goal of every movie is to transport viewers to a place where they suspend their disbelief; they forget where they are and instead are completely engrossed in the story they're watching. That's what makes movies great. The moment a viewer is disturbed, however, they fall out of that reverie and the experience is ruined. Each of them just dumped $12 to sit in a room with a hundred strangers. Unfortunately for movie viewers, today's phones, especially large- screened smart phones, have incredibly bright screens (many of which have ambient light sensors, which boost brightness in the dark), just popping your phone on for an instant is like shining a flashlight in the eyes of everyone beside and behind you. So cut it out. 5. Do I have to reply to every text I get? If you did, we'd all be stuck in an endless feedback loop, replying to one text after the other until we all died. Unlike voicemail or most e-mails, texts are either statements or questions, not conversations. If you get a question, answer it; if you get a statement, it's your call to reply or not. 6. Why should I bother using CC for group e-mails when I can just put everyone in the To: ? E-mail was partly devised to mimic the old paper trails of office protocols of yesteryear. So, if you want to communicate directly with just one person, send that person an e-mail and CC (carbon copy) anyone else that you think should be notified, but that you don't necessarily expect to reply. If you're starting a conversation among all those people, then you'd put them all in the address bar. If you're sending a party invite to a small group of people, then you might CC your list. But heaven help you if it's more than a half-dozen e-mails. The height of e-mail stupidity is to CC a string of 50 e-mail addresses. That's what BCC (blind carbon copy) is for. 7. Is using BCC in e-mails considered sneaky? It depends on how it's used. If you're sending out party invites (or anything where it doesn't really matter that recipients see who else is invited), then by all means BCC everyone. Or better yet, use an e-vite. If you're ratting on someone and BCC someone else for kicks, then yeah, it's sneaky. But we do it all the time. 8. How do I deal with someone who always forwards stupid chain e-mails to me? In our fantasy world, harshly, and with a hammer, if available. In reality, it's a dicier proposition. E- mail has been around long enough now that serial forwarders are either Internet noobs who don't know any better, or sanctimonious cranks who think they're shining their light on the world. So you can take the sneaky road, and just tell your e-mail app to junk anything that comes from that person (or use filters that junks anything from them with a "Fw:" in the subject line) and let it go, or you can risk a confrontation. Tell them in person, if possible, that you appreciate their thoughts, but get a tremendous amount of e-mail everyday. As a result, you rarely get to read their undoubtedly hilarious/informative/hellfire-filled missives, and so should be removed from their mailing list. Or you can just fight fire with fire and e-mail them everything you can think of for a couple of weeks. They'll get the picture soon enough. 9. Why does my dad insist on using ALL-CAPS for e-mail? Because he doesn't get that you are literate and can parse his subtle writings without extra help. It's probably a well-intentioned, if lazy, habit, as for some it's just too much to bother with capitalized sentences and spelling and grammar. To him, putting everything in all-caps seems like a tidy solution. Unfortunately, he doesn't realize that caps are the online equivalent of yelling, and that, to those in the know (most people nowadays), it's the psychological equivalent of being screamed at. Tell him in a nice way that you don't really mind the all-caps, but that other people might interpret those messages as tirades. Also let him know that, incidentally, the tactic masks whatever tone he's trying to impart with his message. 10. How quickly do I have to reply to an e-mail? It depends on who the sender is, and what the situation is. A few years ago, when you couldn't get e-mail on most phones, and people didn't slavishly check e-mail all day and night long, you could get away with sitting on one for a day or two without the sender suspecting anything. Nowadays, the assumption is that for most people, e-mail is received as quickly as an instant message (IM) or text might be, and thus deserves a reasonably quick reply. If you don't have the time to deal with it, quickly reply, "I got your e-mail and am slammed now but will get back to you." That buys you time. If it's time-sensitive material, then, duh, do it instantly. If it's something personal, like an e-mail letter, then you have a little longer but probably should get to it within a couple of days at most. 11. What is my responsibility when it comes to getting work e-mails on the weekend? The jury is still out on this one. With the mainstream adoption of BlackBerrys by the business world in the past few years, a lot of professionals have seen their already long work days creep further into their personal lives, to the point that, for some, there is no divide any longer. Any reasonable person would say it's unfair, but that's where we are today. That said, it kind of depends on the job. For some high-salaried types, who are paid well to be on- call 24/7, it's a little clearer; their's are the jobs they chose, and, in the old days, they would've received phone calls instead. For hourly workers, or those who work in a 9-to-5 industry, it's completely out of line. So while you shouldn't ignore a time-sensitive email from your boss, you should have a formal discussion with your boss and HR about their expectations in regards to availability. Hourly and contract workers should get paid for any work they do, whenever it occurs. 12. How do I get someone to not reply to every little e-mail I send them? By tacking 'NNTR' onto the end of your e-mail. A handy if sadly underused little acronym, it stands for 'No Need To Reply.' If you want to get in the habit of using it, start first with the full phrase in parentheses, so that it doesn't come across as an order, and eventually transition to the acronym once your recipient has seen it. 13. What's with people who use ellipses... throughout... their e-mails? Either they're high and can't complete a thought, or they're under the mistaken impression that it's a legitimate use of punctuation. Ellipses signify a break in a quotation, or perhaps a trailing thought for dramatic or comedic impact. Using them after, or in the middle, of a bunch of sentences is bewildering to read and signifies that the sender is either an ignoramus or is sniffing glue. 14. Is it ever okay to use emoticons in business e-mail? To your company's CEO, probably not, unless you work for Hello Kitty. To a direct associate or business contact, maybe, if you don't overdo it and previous e-mails with that person are of a casual nature. Because e-mail is especially vulnerable to being misinterpreted, the occasional smiley face, or exclamation point, could be used to soften or clarify a statement that may seem overly forceful or direct. Ultimately, it's always best in business to spend the extra minute to make a clear, unambiguous sentence and avoid the need for cutesy emoticons. Under no circumstances should you resort to texting abbreviations like 'LOL' or 'ROFL,' which are baffling for many and childish anyway. And never, ever put more than one exclamation mark in a correspondence, or more than two in a row, unless you're trying to warn your reader of imminent disaster, like a falling meteor or an attack by Godzilla. 15. Why are some people such grammar Nazis when it comes to e-mail? Because, like it or not, you are judged by the way you express yourself. Send an e-mail with typos, misspellings, sloppy grammar and unclear statements and you will be deemed a fool. Granted, some office environments are more forgiving than others, especially since so many of us use smart phones to communicate, necessitating shorter responses and increasing the likelihood of mistakes. But if you're sending any type of formal letter or request via e-mail, especially to another business or outside individual, it had better be proofread and error-free, with correct punctuation and capitalization, or the recipient will rightly deem you an unprofessional hack. 16. I prefer to use IM for everything, but when is the appropriate time to use e-mail instead? For anything that requires more than a few sentences, it's best to pop it in an e-mail rather than drag it out over a back and forth IM. And while IMs are usually saved on your hard drive somewhere, they aren't as easily referenced as e-mails. Therefore, something you'll later want as proof or evidence is best reserved for e-mail communication. 17. Is it really such a big deal to e-mail a dirty joke or funny picture to a trusted friend in the office? Not if you aren't worried about losing a job, risking a lawsuit or, worse, ending up the butt of jokes the world over once everyone sees your forwarded e-mail. The great strength and Achilles heel of e-mail is that it so easily gets into the wrong hands. And, even assuming that your friend is completely and totally trustworthy and deleted the e-mail after receiving it, most businesses are now required to save e-mails for legal reasons. Therefore, a copy is likely still saved on your office's server and, depending on how strict your office is, your e-mails may be scanned for exactly that type of tomfoolery. In fact, it's best to assume that anything you type on your office PC is being recorded or monitored. So keep it straight. Or use the phone. 18. If someone has gotten creepy on my social network site or IM, how do I get rid of them without feeling like a jerk? In most IM clients and social networking sites, there's an option to "ignore" certain buddies or friends, discretely preventing them from contacting you without sending them an official notice that you've dumped them. 19. Is it ever appropriate to send a personal note via IM or e-mail? If by personal you mean, "I'm divorcing you" or, "Sorry that your mom died," then absolutely never. Certainly, off-the-cuff important personal exchanges happen all the time in IM and e-mail, but save the biggies for face-to-face exchanges, or at least a phone call. 20. Since I can limit who sees my photos and updates on Facebook, and have my MySpace page password-protected, why do I even have to think about censoring myself? In a perfect online world, everyone would respect everyone else's privacy, could be trusted to think twice before copying or forwarding something embarrassing or demeaning, and would never collect anything that went online that shouldn't have. Unfortunately, exactly the opposite is true. The Internet is the world's largest brain, and it never forgets anything. Ever. Once something is made digital and released into the wild, it's potentially there in some form for eternity. As all of your password-protected images, thoughts and musings are only as private as they would be with your least-friendly friend, the moment someone decides to be nasty and forward something, the game's over. It's sort of like driving on the highway. Sure, you may be a great driver and therefore don't worry about getting hurt, but the real trouble is all the other nutcases out on the road. Unless you want to be the next Internet meme, never put anything up online that you wouldn't let your boss, your grandmother and your significant other read or see, period. That seems harsh, but your racy image or off-color remark is always just a button-click away from ending up on digg for the delectation of the masses. 21. Is it okay to make a friend request to a stranger, or a friend of a friend? Sure, although it depends on the context and the way you do it. If you think you'd like to friend a stranger, for whatever reason, send them a message explaining who you are and what your intent is. If you aren't prepared to do that, then you'll only alienate the person you're trying to meet. 22. What is out-of-bounds when it comes to writing my Facebook status updates? Anything that could offend anyone else. Sure some of you will say, "Who cares what others think? It's my Facebook/MySpace/Bebo page." That may be, but unlike nasty postings from anonymous cowards, the comments you post online belong to you. Say what you want, but be prepared to pay the price when someone else takes offense and posts your comments for the rest of the world to see. Just ask this guy. 23. What's the protocol for ignoring or denying a friend request? If it's someone you definitely don't want to be involved with, then simply ignore it and hope the other person forgets. If you want to be a little sneaky, you can accept their request but limit what they're allowed to see on your page (including your friends) and then later quietly "unfriend" them without them being explicitly told. If you're not sure who they are, then ask them to explain themselves politely; you never know if it may end up being a friend of a friend, or someone you've forgotten, or a potentially lucrative connection. In general, Facebook was intended for friends to catch up with other friends, and perhaps make connections with friends of friends. MySpace and Bebo and Friendster are more of a free-for-all, while LinkedIn should be treated with the decorum you would use with any other professional contact; be upfront, and polite. 24. Do I have to tell a friend before putting up photos of him or her on my social networking page? No one is forcing you to, but if the photo is of anything more than an innocuous head shot, it's pretty uncool to do so. And it's downright wrong to put up images of friends (or enemies) boozing, drugging, sexing or anything else illicit or embarrassing for that matter. Once something hits the Net in any way, it's only as secret or protected as the least nice person who sees it, copies it and sends it on. And once an image is in the wild, it's gone forever. If you aren't worried about what people see about your life, that's your bag. But you don't have the right to drag someone else's life into the fray. 25. How concerned should I really be about a boss or co-worker investigating my life on social network sites? That all depends on your lifestyle, but in a nutshell, very concerned. Human Resources people now regularly scan social networking sites to investigate potential new hires, and, chances are, your boss and co-workers are on many of the sites you may use already. Assume they'll be looking for you and can learn things about you from your site as well as postings on other friend's pages. When in doubt, you might use one social networking site for friends and another for professional acquaintances. Still, that's not a fail-safe plan, so a good rule of thumb is to assume your boss will see anything you'll put online and to act accordingly.
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