JafSoft's Introduction to the Internet

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3 Net Culture

As the Internet has grown it has developed its own jargon, slang and rules of accepted behaviour. If you don't know who your ISP is, have never read any FAQS and have no idea if you're being Trolled, then chances are you're a newbie and it shows.

There's nothing wrong with this, but whilst you're soaking up the culture you'll be stepping on people's toes, and you're going to get flamed

3.1 Jargon

3.1.1 Computer Jargon

Being based on computers, the Internet is full of Jargon. What is worse is that the pace of change means that newer, fresher Jargon is always being added meaning that there's always new scope for impressing/confusing people.

As the Internet has become more popular, the language has become more flowery so that where once terse acronyms such as Internet Protocol, FTP and IRC were common, these days semi-meaningless phrases are place names such as Cool Talk, Live Topics, Marimba and Java are all the rage.

It's all still jargon unfortunately.

We've supplied a Glossary which you should browse, but it will soon become out of date.

3.1.2 Internet slang

As the Internet has offered people a new medium by which to communicate, so too it has developed its own slang and terminology. This is particularly true in email and newsgroups which are conversational by nature, and is less true on Web pages which are of comparatively fixed content.

Most of the slang has evolved to describe activities that just don't happen outside the Internet such as Trolling, flaming, Spam and of course the ever-present smileys that have actually crossed over into non-Internet culture.

Again, we've tried to give you a flavour in the Glossary.

3.2 Netiquette

Netiquette is, unsurprisingly, short for Net-etiquette. As with etiquette there are no hard and fast rules, but there is a broad consensus of what the dos and donts should be.

3.2.1 What to do

Here are some guidelines :-

You can read a set of guidelines on how to use News at http://sasun4.epfl.ch/News/Document

3.2.2 What not to do

Some don'ts :-

3.2.3 What to beware of

There are a number of well-known scams on the Net. Because of the high newbie quotient of the Net, there are always people ready to try them out or fall for them. You'll soon see a series of sheepish "I'm sorry, I didn't realise" posts.

The ones to avoid are

If you're not convinced, visit http://ga.to/mmf/ and see people who've tried it ridiculed and their "success" examined in detail.

People react angrily to these irritating posts, complaining to the postmaster involved, and frequently succeeding in getting the offending poster dropped form their Internet account.

In many parts of the world such posts are illegal.

Knowing all this, some people use bulk email software and a fake email address to send these messages out. Needless to say such people are best avoided.

Unless you know the correct complaints procedure, just ignore these mails and posts.

Needless to say this was impossible, and also needless to say some jokers sent out mails with the subject line "Good times".

It's impossible to say that any such warnings in the future may not be true. Whilst it's unlikely that an email message would contain a virus itself because emails are intrinsically passive, email are increasingly used to send files around, and it is possible to embed a macro virus in a Word documents.

The moral is take everything you hear with a pinch of salt, but don't dismiss it out of hand. If in doubt, seek a more authoritative opinion for confirmation, for example http://www.av.ibm.com/.

A site discussing "hoax" viruses can be found at http://kumite.com/myths/

3.3 Expressing yourself in text

Although the Internet is increasingly lending itself to multimedia communication such as graphics, audio and video, the written word is still far and away the dominant form of communication used.

Furthermore, a number of factors combine to make the written word on the Internet different from their paper-based equivalent. These include

These factors combine to make the Internet far more conversational and less formal than traditional forms of written communication.

3.3.1 Emphasis Adding emphasis to words

Emphasis can be added to words or phrases by adding an asterisk (*) either side. Sometimes other characters are used such as "/". In addition to this you occasionally see an underscore either side when quoting the title of something. This is because not all computers handle inverted commas the same way.

Examples :

This **used** to work okay.

I'm /really/ happy about that.

I enjoyed reading Alice in Wonderland

Writing words in capitals is taken as shouting (see below) and shouldn't be used unless that's the effect you wish to convey. Smiling, grinning, frowning

You can add "mood" to your words by via smileys or emoticons. These can be used to defuse apparently critical sentences, or to re-inforce the mood of the written word.


You shouldn't have done that :-) SHOUTING

Writing in CAPITALS is read as SHOUTING on the Net. If you post an entire article with your caps lock on don't be surprised if people complain about being deafened by you.

3.3.2 Quoting

The conversational nature of email is highlighted by the practice of Quoting from the item to which you are replying.

3.4 Demographics and language

Be aware that the Internet community does not share the same demographics as the "real world". This is inevitable because of its history and makeup.

As an illustration, look at the number of sites in each country listed in http://www.nw.com/zone/WWW/dist-byname.html. Those countries without Internet access reads like a who's who of the third world and repressive regimes around the world.

Currently the Internet Community is

It's worth stating that all of these characteristics are being normalised as the Net gains in popularity. That is the Internet community is getting older, less American, less computer literate (as computers get easier to use), and more and more "traditional" content is finding its way onto the web.

A useful site that produces surveys of these trends can be found at http://www.gvu.gatech.edu/user_surveys/

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© 1997-1999 John A Fotheringham and JafSoft Limited
Last Minor Update : 4 December '99