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The Magic Bus: 21st Century Netiquette

As noted earlier, Michael Stephens recently posted some guidelines for bloggers. I’ve been turning the issue of 21st-century netiquette around and around in my head, particularly after a recent incident where a librarian in need of attention flamed me repeatedly on a professional list. I signed back on that list, but it concerns me that a dues-paying organization would allow this behavior on its lists (and this kind of sustained personal attack would never happen at a meeting of this organization).

Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters had a motto: “You’re either on the bus, or you’re off the bus.” To be “on the bus,” on the Internet, is to appreciate it as as a new, different, but ultimately also a legitimate communication medium, to understand that communications on the Internet are not less important or less real because they take place online, and to appreciate that every form of communication, including the Internet, brings its own limitations and strengths to the human discussion.

This is a beta version of my thoughts on 21st-century netiquette. What would you add?

On the Bus:

Making it clear whether your blog is primarily personal, organizational, news-based, or opinion.

Verifying facts before you post.

Using facts in the first place.

Getting two sources before you post a “word of mouth.”

Looking at where a fact sits in the forest of information. Here I’m thinking of the time some well-meaning librarian decided to Google-whack My Place of Work in the middle of the night, and by the time I read it another librarian had already posted disapproving comments. Librarian #A erred, but Librarian #B was off the bus just as much if not more, by failing to first determine if I knew about and approved this action.

Anticipating the reactions to your actions. No harm done in the Googlewhacking incident, in the end, but if you’re on the bus, you’re going to think about what happens next before you hit the “Publish” button or send that e-mail to 6,000 people. Take advantage of the features that allow you to let drafts sit, run drafts past colleagues, queue e-mail and go for a walk… but don’t be in a hurry to over-share.

Off the Bus:

Trolls. Get a life. If you’re really lonely, adopt a kitten or puppy (and don’t kick it). You’re only getting away with your online misbehavior because you poked around until you found venues ruled by the equally clueless.

Using the word “news” too loosely. I love LISNews, and rely on it, but I wish it would decide whether it’s a real news site. If it’s a news site, then it needs to adopt reporting standards and guidelines. If it’s not a news site, then it should make that clear.

Invoking the sanctity of “free speech” for the kind of language you would never accept in your own venues. Most of us reading this believe in free speech. But if you think it’s o.k. for someone to belittle or insult others simply because it’s a discussion list or a blog, please let me come to your next staff meeting or family wedding and talk that way.

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