OUCS strongly recommends that all users of email and newsgroups at Oxford University should adopt the following guidelines. They are derived from those in use at many locations on the Internet.
In the established communication media (such as postal mail and telephone) certain widely-observed conventions have emerged which help promote a sound basis for communication between the relevant parties. Email and newsgroups are relatively new forms of communication and consequently many people are unaware of appropriate conventions to use. These are gradually emerging, and the following are based on advice being provided to network users at many sites around the world.
These conventions (often called `network etiquette', or 'netiquette') recognize that it is very easy to despatch email messages or newsgroup postings very quickly, and often little thought is given as to how the message will be received. For instance, if you had intended something in fun, will the humour be evident? If not, it could become quite offensive.
The following code sets out what is considered acceptable behaviour for network users. The guidelines apply equally to the use of email, newsgroups and any other electronic communications medium.
1. Daily routines and housekeeping
Always reply, even if a brief acknowledgments is all you can manage - there is still sufficient unreliability about email transmissions to create doubt in the mind of the sender that you ever received the message.
Consider the security of email messages in a similar way to a message on a postcard; i.e. recognize that anyone along the chain of distribution could get to see what you have said, and it might even end up in someone else's hands.
2. Writing styles
Be very careful how you express yourself, especially if you feel heated about the subject - email lacks the other cues and clues that convey the sense in which what you say is to be taken, and you can easily convey the wrong impression. If you meant something in jest, use a `smiley' :-) to convey that.
Do not reproduce a message in full when responding to it, especially if you are posting to a newsgroup. This is hard on the readers, and wasteful of resources. Instead, be selective in the parts that you include in your response.
3. Message subjects
Make sure that the `subject' field of your message is meaningful. For someone who receives many messages, it can be very confusing and frustrating not to be able to judge the subject matter correctly from its subject field. This is especially important when you are posting messages to newsgroups. When you use the `reply' option, ensure that the subject field (usually filled in for you under those circumstances) still accurately reflects the content of your message.
Do not broadcast email messages unnecessarily. It is very easy to do but can be very annoying to recipients (and wastes resources). In particular, do not send or forward chain email - it offends some people and is wasteful of network resources.
4. Other people's messages
Do not extract and use text from someone else's message without acknowledgment. You would not do this with conventional mail, so do not let the ease of being able to do it with email lead you into bad habits.
5. Be `Legal, Decent, Honest and Truthful'
Remember that the various civil and criminal laws relating to written communication apply equally to email messages, including the laws relating to defamation, copyright, obscenity, fraudulent misrepresentation, and wrongful discrimination.
6. And finally...
Remember that sending email from your University account is similar to sending a letter on an Oxford University letterhead, so do not say anything that might discredit or bring embarrassment to the University.
7. Further Information
For further information about the Rules and Guidelines relating to the use of computing in Oxford, please see http://www.ict.ox.ac.uk/oxford/rules/, the University's Rules for Computer Use.