If you participate in USENET Newsgroups, Web-based Discussion Groups or Message Boards, there are a few important things to know.

Lurk before you leap

Lurking is the practice of reading the postings in a group for a week or so before posting a message yourself. No one will know you are lurking, and you can get a feel for the types of personalities in the group, what types of things are discussed, and what topics or behaviors are frowned upon. You may even find after lurking for a week that you do not want to participate in the discussion.

Know the FAQs

Most groups have a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) that will tell you about any rules that govern the group, and the expectations the group has for those who will participate.

Do not post “off topic”

If the discussion group is about quantum physics, do not post something about the latest episode of “Friends”.

Avoid Flame Wars

A Flame is a posting in which one participant attacks another participant in an overly harsh and personal manner. The person who is flamed will usually respond in kind, which invites another flame, and so on. If you are not involved, it is best to stay out of it; and, if you are, end it as soon as reasonably possible.

Ignore Flame Bait

Flame bait is when someone posts a comment that is specifically designed to provoke a reaction and start a flame war. This is also called trolling, and it is often aimed at newbies. Some people do this just for kicks and then sit back and watch the flames fly. An example of trolling would be someone in a Mustang car owners discussion group making overtly negative comments about Mustangs. Don’t take the bait. If everyone ignores the comment, the troller will go somewhere else.

Do not advertise

Like unsolicited email advertising, posting an advertisement in a discussion group that does not specifically allow this practice is spamming. This is against our Acceptable Use Policy, as it is with all reputable ISPs. However, if you are a regular participant of a discussion group, and the opportunity presents itself, you may be able to get in a plug. For example, if you are an active member of a photography discussion group and you also happen to sell antique cameras, it usually would be appropriate to respond to someone in the group who asks where they can find antique cameras. If you are a regular member of the group, you will learn what you can and cannot do. When in doubt, read the FAQ for that group.