There are some unspoken rules of the Internet which ought to be spoken about more often. Our episodes about netiquette and chain mail try to explain why certain behaviors online which may seem harmless actually make using the Internet a lot more unpleasant for others.
You may think chain letters are harmless fun — who could they possibly hurt? You may think they’re irritating, and try to convince people you know not to send them. But did you know some of them are illegal? The US Postal service’s statement on chain letters notes that chain letters which ask participants to send money, promising to return that many times, are a form of gambling, and as such are illegal.
More information on chain letters, the different forms they appear in, why they don’t work, and how they can clog up email systems can be found on this exhaustive page run by a systems administrator at Rutgers University.
Sending email forwards, meanwhile, can have its own disastrous effects. PCWorld has collected some stories about CCing and forwarding gone wrong.
Ever wonder why people “flame” each other online, or why it mostly only happens online? Academic researchers have wondered that too, and they came up with some interesting insights.
For your own edification, or your students’ if you wish, here is The Jargon File’s entry on “Hacker Writing Style.” The Jargon File is a record of the culture of programmers and other early adopters of computers, written by those who have lived it. Eric Raymond maintains this version of the file. This style document introduces ideas like “flaming,” specific netiquette (such all caps writing being equivalent to screaming), and hackerish humor.