Philosophies of Netiquette

By Xah Lee. Date:

There are many philosophies toward netiquette. The most common treat newsgroups as a conversation medium. Thus you see “me too”s and “thank you”s and a plethora of one-sentence trivia and Question and Answer slipslops that are valueless and meaningless to practically all except a few people for a brief duration. As examples, comp.lang.lisp dwellers [censored] and [censored]'s posts are typical of this style. Then at the other extreme is the relatively rare Victorian propensity where each post is a gem of literature carefully crafted and researched for a entire century of readers to appreciate and archive. Xah, Erik Naggum, and [censored]'s posts are exemplary of this style, to name a few acquaintances like myself.

The conversationalists emphasize the notions of utility and community. Utilities can include the exchanging of opinions, getting questions answered, chatting, bounding a community, and advancing the group's interests. (and trampling conflicting interests from other communities. (For example, “it's categorically unacceptable to bash lisp in lisp group”.)) A good post in the conversationalist's eyes is basically a post that makes everyone in the group happy. The Rococo style posters are in general more scholarly and emphasize on quality and value. The intrinsic quality of a post of the Rococo stylists can be judged on content and presentation aspects. The presentation part essentially means the poster's writing skill and effort she puts into posts. This fact is not highbrowism because communication using newsgroups are done in written form: wrote and read; not spoke and heard. The criterions for judging a post's content are essentially the same as that of a scholar's work in science or humanitarian diciplines, roughly that of correctness, originality, or artistry. In this school of thought, it is ok for example to bash lisp in comp.lang.lisp if the post has sound arguments, original ideas, thought provoking, or otherwise has value (¡very funny!). Whether a post is on-topic is less important here because the focus is on truth and enduring quality, not sheerly bending over for the group agenda.

The two contrasting models of posting can be realized sharply by reading a newsgroup archive of a particular poster. Go to a newsgroup archive such as and search for your favorite poster. If you find a huge quantity of terse posts that is tiring, boring, have little content, and in general require you to carefully follow the entire thread to understand it, then you know you've bumped into a conversationalist. On the other hand, if you find posts being usually lengthy and thoughtful and fairly complete by itself, then you've met a scholarly mannered poster that is probably skilled at writing as well. Please note that the conversational mannered posters are not necessarily lousy writers, uncultured, or unappreciated, but usually are.

If there must a purpose to this post, then it is that i urge those conversationalists who insist on their brand of morality of netiquette to at least double the time they spend on composing messages so that their posts might have more value in scholar's eyes, if they are incapable or otherwise unwilling to broaden their minds into the philosophies of netiquette. I'm here expanding their brain from the mundane notion of signal/noise to revolutionary value/signal idea. You faaking buckets of morons.

See also: The Demise of