netiquette guidelines

With most of the communication happening on email lists, it is important to keep them a pleasant place, where people are encouraged to engage with each others and share their opinions. Of course we want things to be informal and nice, and don't want a bureaucratic-polite tone.

These guidelines were proposed to the network, see UK network wiki, but did not find consensus. However, they were adopted by the London Collective


Keeping the tone and atmosphere on email lists pleasant can be difficult, especially in heated discussions. Here are some simple tips that people can follow to try and help with this:

  • Respect and appreciate the opinion and arguments of other people.
  • Say what you like and agree with as well as what you disagree with.
  • Do not use derogatory language, belittle the ideas of others, or paternalise others.
  • Keep it simple: long and complicated arguments can be confusing and are easy to be misunderstood.
  • Keep it short: a lot of people skim long emails rather than reading them with the proper attention. Also they are a hurdle for people who have limited online time, and may in effect exclude them from participating in the discussion.
  • Focus on the main arguments, and try to avoid being pulled into “dissecting” the emails of other people.
  • Always consider whether there might be a misunderstanding. If you are not entirely understand what the other person is trying to say, ask!
  • If you feel very passionate and are angry or upset, sleep over your reply or discuss it with your collective/a friend before sending it.
  • Give others the chance to chip in, by holding off responding for a little while, discussions with only a few people get heated a lot faster.
  • It may help to identify which collective the writer is active in, especially it may be helpful for new people who are not yet familiar with all the nicks.
  • If you refer to outside documents, previous discussion or emails, provide links for reference
  • Try and avoid quoting people out of context (this can be difficult, of course quoting is important, but it is easy to get sidetracked into the wording of a sentence instead of focusing on the issue)
  • Try not to “put people on the spot” or “call people out”. While it is important to raise concerns, people who feel attacked tend to react defensive. Try to raise your concerns without cornering the other people, but rather opening doors.
  • Always keep in mind the the aim is not necessarily to get everyone to agree with you, but to find a solution that everyone is happy with. This may mean others have to compromise, but it also means that you will have to compromise.

I have no problem in adopting these for the london collective. I have also had a look at the version in the uk network wiki, and the comments in there by mara and mike-d. I must admit that I kind of agree with some of the theoretical / abstract points mike-d’s raises, but i find it unhelpful to dissect the guidelines and make an issue of every single word or concept. I think that, in the whole, these guidelines need to be taken in the spirit of encouraging pleasant and effective working environments.

So I propose to adopt them for london as ’Netiquette Guidelines V.1". Leave them open to changes in the wording if necessary, or to add / remove stuff if people feels it necessary after any possible future discussions.

In any case, I generally like the idea of having guidelines as versions 1, 1.2, 1.3 .. etc. The same as for software, this indicates to me that they are not written in stone and that they are always in construction … as any process should be imho.


Yes, and I think Maqui you suggested at the last IMC London meeting (3 June) that instead of suggesting short(er) emails or putting a moratorium on long emails, that people writing anything over x amount… put a summary of their email at the top, sort of like an abstract, so that people who are uber busy and/or not connected to the internet intravenously can still get the jist of arguments and discussions (as well as figuring out whether it is worth one’s time to read the whole email). This has the added bonus of being a form of ‘self moderation’.

(I’d suggest abstracts for any email over 250 words – but this might be a bit drastic)


Maqui’s comments referred to the process proposal we are preparing for the next network meeting, not to the netiquette guidelines. But good call, we need to remember to change that.

Again, this page is public and linked from the info section of the wiki.


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