Netiquette: Everyone wants to tell you how to do it (but some are worth listening to)…

There are only so many “Five ways to use Twitter to blah blah” that you can read before your sub-conscious kindly steps in and starts filtering them out when they pop up in your Twitter feed/Google Reader/frequently read blog.

Everyone is certain that the most useful thing they can do is tell you how to behave online.

Myself included: I’ve written a whole book of advice in fact (and yes, my catchphrase is now “have I mentioned my book yet?”) and am now promoting it by writing lots articles commissioned as “five bits of advice on…” and “the top ten tips for…”.

We like that format, don’t we. It works as a way getting a concise set of thoughts of ideas over. Unfortunately it also works as a format for lazy link-bait and for windbags to sound like they have totally cracked the formula for online media alchemy.

However I was cautious in writing Me and My Web Shadow (and still am) to stress the need for a healthy scepticism about any rules. Two reaons:

  1. These tools are too new for there to be a definitive set of rules about anything.
  2. Things like Twitter and blogs aren’t social spaces where norms, rules appear. Your networks (using those tools) are where the rules begin to take shape (and you get to shape and negotiate what they are with the people you are connected to).

Rules are useful for trying out and then breaking and then deciding what works for you.

That said, sometimes a set of recommendations and rules come along which are different and elegantly put together enough to catch my attention. This article about “netiquette” on the Guardian’s Comment is Free website by arch-commenter Winthorpe site is a prime example.

It’s interesting first as I don’t participate in that community, and norms have definitely emerged for the regular commenters there by the look of things. If I did have a go, after taking a look at Winthorpe’s article I would probably be instantly expelled for being too enthusiastic (a fault of mine), a lack of brevity (yep) and using childish emoticons ;-)

Look at it also as someone’s personal code for using the web. There are some very cool rules Winthorpe has for himself and that are necessary for others hoping to get some respect.

For instance, he’s right about brevity – it is “the mistress of style”. I also find his fondness for trolling interesting… My favourite section is this though:

In contrast to this serious fare, when tomfoolery is necessary, aim to keep it as daft as possible. Any sort of?idiot-jazz will do. In the event of conversation getting heated, Winthorpe likes to finish his posts with a passionate appeal to a virtual cricket umpire ? How’s that! Plum LBW! Stumped! If the victim of your online flipper refuses to walk, you may be facing the terrifying prospect of dealing with an Australian. Should this be your fate, you’re on your own. God’s speed.

That’s one thing I didn’t say in the book – find your voice, and make it as stylish as you can…

: : Bonus link: the Toby Young / Jay Rayner mini-spat / flame-fest in the comments section of the former’s article about Jamie Oliver allegedly having a hard time in America is well worth a look.

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