Bulletin Board Netiquette and Information
P.V. Viswanath

Table of Contents


When posting, keep in mind several aspects of bulletin board etiquette:

Content of Bulletin Board postings

Students frequently choose to express opinions in their postings. Now, opinions are useful and sometimes interesting. However, they are most useful when one is already convinced regarding the competence of the opinion-giver and one wants his/her advice. Our setup is slightly different. Here, what is important is analysis and analytical thinking. That's the reason why I have taken the trouble of putting up media articles and questions on them. I wanted to make it easier for you to post something with analytical content, and also something that's relevant to what we're doing in class. So, in short here are two things you might want to keep in mind:

  1. As far as possible, let your posting be relevant to what we're doing in class.
  2. Rather than express opinions, present something analytical. I.e. present arguments on a topic where the arguments are based on theories that are relevant to what we're learning, even if they might not be directly from the book.

This way, anybody who responds will have a basis for reacting to the post. Else, we'll have an exchange of opinions, but not really a dialogue. And, if you are in doubt regarding something that you want to post, ask yourself this: if I said this in class, would it be appropriate/relevant? If the answer is yes, it's appropriate for the Bulletin Board as well.

Quality of Postings

How you write and present yourself in your articles is important. If you have terrible spelling, keep a dictionary near by. If you have trouble with grammar and punctuation, try to get a book on English grammar and composition (found in many bookstores and at garage sales). By all means pay attention to what you say---it makes you who you are on The Net.

Likewise, try to be clear in what you ask. Ambiguous or vague questions often lead to no response at all, leaving the poster discouraged. Give as much essential information as you feel is necessary for the purpose of your posting, but keep it within limits.

The Subject Line

The Subject: line of an article is what will first attract people to read it---if it's vague or doesn't describe what's contained within, no one will read the article. At the same time, Subject: lines that're too wordy tend to be irritating. For example:

Good Subject: Building Emacs on a Sun Sparc under 4.1

Good Subject: Tryin' to find Waldo in NJ.

Bad Subject: I can't get emacs to work !!!

Bad Subject: I'm desperately in search of the honorable Mr. Waldo in the state of NJ

Simply put, try to think of what will best help the reader when he or she encounters your article on the WebBoard.

Also, concentrate on a single subject in each article. That way, it will be easier for other readers to locate your article.

Tone of Voice

Since common computers can't portray the inflection or tone in a person's voice, how articles are worded can directly affect the response to them. If you say

Anybody using a Vic-20 should go buy themselves a life.

you'll definitely get some responses---telling you to take a leap. Rather than be inflammatory, phrase your articles in a way that rationally expresses your opinion, like

What're the practical uses of a Vic-20 these days?

which presents yourself as a much more level-headed individual.

Also, what case (upper or lower) you use can indicate how you're trying to speak---netiquette dictates that if you USE ALL CAPITAL LETTERS, people will think you're ``shouting.'' Write as you would in a normal letter to a friend, following traditional rules of English (or whatever language you happen to speak).

Signature files

At the end of most articles is a small blurb called a person's signature. It exists to provide information about how to get in touch with the person posting the article, including their email address, phone number, address, or where they're located. Even so, signatures have become the graffiti of computers. People put song lyrics, pictures, philosophical quotes, even advertisements in their ``.sigs''. Four lines will suffice---more is just extra garbage to carry along with your article, which is supposed to be the intended focus of the reader. Netiquette dictates limiting oneself to this ``quota'' of four---some people make signatures that are ten lines or even more, including elaborate ASCII drawings of their hand-written signature or faces or even the space shuttle. This is not cute, and will bother people to no end.

On WebBoard, You can create your own "signature" as well by going in and editing your profiles. Click on "More" in the top menu and the "edit profile."


Capitalize words only to highlight an important point or to distinguish a title or heading. Capitalizing whole words that are not titles is generally termed as SHOUTING!

Postings on Media articles

Try not to simply answer the questions at the end of the media articles. It is much better to use the questions as the basis for analysis and expression of carefully reasoned opinions. If you do this, you are more likely to obtain responses and reactions.


WebBoard is a very useful bulletin board, which I often use for out-of-class discussion. In order to access and use Web Board, you must log in at the Web Board website. Initially, you will be asked to login as a New User and to create a personalized profile.  Logging in and creating your User Profile will automatically make you a registered user of the Web Board.  

You can also participate on WebBoard through email.  To do this, go to WebBoard, click on More... from the menu on top, and select Mailing Lists. Check the appropriate mailing list, and then Save.   This will allow you to get Web Board postings by e-mail, as well as to post by e-mail.  You can find more information on participating through e-mail from the WebBoard help facility.

Marking Messages as Read on WebBoard

When you log in onto WebBoard, and there are new messages, you get a notification to that effect. Also, unread messages show up in italics.

Once you have read your messages in a particular newsgroup, you can have them marked read, so that they don't show up in italics any more. This is done by clicking on the "Mark All Read" choice in the top menu. This allows you to spot new and unread messages when you log in.

Also, each posting is like a link. Once you click on it, your browser recognizes it as a link that has been recently pursued. So, if you're using the same machine all the time, you can Edit Preferences and choose the color that you want recently clicked links to show up in.

Quoting on WebBoard

When following up to an posting, you can ask WebBoard to quote the original posting with each line prefixed by >. This can be done by clicking on the Reply/Quote button at the top of every message. For example, Ratesh Chopra posted the following message:

Topic: Bonds (1 of 6), Read 60 times
Conf: FIN 320 Fall 1998
From: Ratesh Chopra (rchopra@pace.edu)
Date: Sunday, October 11, 1998 09:24 PM

I needed some clarification on the following issues:

1. "On the run" and "off the run" Bonds

From what I know "off the run bonds" are old Bond issues whereas "on the run" are new.

Does that mean that "on the run" issues have a higher liquidity.?

I used the Reply/Quote button to reply to him, and generated the following message:

Topic: Bonds (2 of 6), Read 56 times
Conf: FIN 320 Fall 1998
From: P.V. Viswanath (pviswanath@pace.edu)
Date: Tuesday, October 13, 1998 07:57 PM

On 10/11/98 9:24:57 PM, Ratesh Chopra wrote:

>I needed some clarification on
>the following issues:
>1. "On the run" and "off the
>run" Bonds
>From what I know "off the run
>bonds" are old Bond issues
>whereas "on the run" are new.
>Does that mean that "on the
>run" issues have a higher

You're right. On the run bonds are bonds that dealers maintain an active inventory in. They tend to be recently issued.

However, you must be careful not to quote extensively to no purpose at all. Here’s a severe example of such unnecessary quoting of a long list of names:

On 12/30/94, sharon@foo.bar.com wrote:
> I agree, I think that basketweaving's really catching on,
> particularly in Pennsylvania. Here's a list of every person
> in PA that currently engages in it publicly:

When you quote another person, edit out of the article material that's not relevant to your posting. Include only those parts that give the reader a better idea of what points you are addressing. By including the entire article, you'll only annoy those reading it. Also, signatures in the original aren't necessary; the readers already know who wrote it (by the attribution).

Avoid being tedious with responses---rather than pick apart an article, address it in parts or as a whole. Addressing practically each and every word in an article only proves that the person responding has absolutely nothing better to do with his time.


Zen and the Art of the Internet: A Beginner's Guide to the Internet, First Edition, January 1992 by Brendan P. Kehoe

The Net: User Guidelines and Netiquette - by Arlene Rinaldi


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