In the Blog


August 27th, 2008     by Catherine Hayday     Comments

(Someday soon, Apple will teach us how to construct whole books out of one long amalgamated word.)

Sure, the word “etiquette” does bring to mind a world of doilies and curtsies. But that frilly frouffy word and what it represents can be the soft oreo centre between us crusty cookies.

We’re all squished up against each other on this tiny little interweb. And everybody’s got peeves (maybe the word “interweb” is one of them). What follows are some of mine. Or rather, not just a list of my peeves, but my peeves metamorphosed into a few of my personal rules for navigating this big bad abstracted world. 1. Remember the human This phrasing is taken from elsewhere (though I forget where). And if I were going to rely on only one rule, this would be it.

The internet gives people anonymity, and people behave differently when they’re anonymous. You can’t even get anyone to come out to this lecture anymore, because we all think we know it off by heart.

And yet.

How many people seem to put their self-righteous pants on before they go online? Would you say what you wrote out loud to the author’s face?

There are those of us (raises hand) who are pretty lippy in real life, and if we think there’s something misleading or inaccurate going on, we say something. But how we say it still counts. When we disagree it counts more than ever.

2. Only you can stop flame wars Sure, you weren’t the guy to throw the Molotov-cocktail of rebuttal, but you don’t have to be the person who shows up with the kerosene.

3. !CAPS Sweet Jebus. I hate caps with the burning intensity of a thousand white hot suns. To use caps is to shout at your audience’s eyeballs. We can all hear you, we’re right here. Unless you’re being ironic, or it’s for something graphical, like a heading, leave the poor Shift key alone.

4. Ain’t nobody’s perfect Mistakes. Everybody makes them. Odds are high that they didn’t mean it that way, they weren’t thinking of what you were thinking of, or you don’t know the full story.

The theme of this week’s This American Life is “Got You Pegged” (referring to the cliche, not the sex act. That just wouldn’t be like NPR.) It features a few good stories on the assumptions we make about other people, and how they get in the way of understanding each other. The benefit of the doubt can save a lot of unnecessary angry time.

In spite of my dark and cynical personality, I’m becoming more and more settled into the idea that we’re much more alike than unalike. Everybody’s trying. Everybody’s doing what they think is the right thing (even if it’s not my/your version of ‘the right thing’).

Which is a lot more arms-around-the-internet than I usually feel. But I’m giving it a go.

So that’s my wee short flashback-to-kindergarten list. What online behaviour drives you mad? What small considerations do you appreciate?


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