Newsgroup rules by Richard Pence as posted on "The Master
PREFACE: Over the past couple of years it has become increasingly apparent that many participants in the genealogy newsgroups are failing to fully utilize the potential of these media. Therefore, the following guidelines are presented for the benefit of both veterans
and newcomers in the hope they will result in more effective participation by all.
Effective Use of Genealogy Newsgroups
1. USE "HOT WORDS": Be sure to include one or more of the following words or phrases in either the subject or body of your messages: geneology, cemetary, calender, sirname, illigitimate, ancester, Morman, land warrent, proginy or desendant. Similar displays of
originality are encouraged, as these help attract attention to your posts and demonstrate you are eager to learn. Note also that it isn't necessary to use normal punctuation or grammar in newsgroups because everyone knows what you intended.
2. POST EARLY AND OFTEN: No matter what you are writing about, you should post your messages in as many different newsgroups as possible. After all, the people who originally defined the content of each newsgroup couldn't possibly have anticipated that your messages would all transcend normal categorization. Bonus tip: Always vote "yes" when a new genealogy newsgroup is proposed, as this will give you another place to repeat your posts. It can always be assumed that if the newsgroup title includes the word genealogy, it's OK for you to post there.
3. QUOTE THE QUOTE: When replying to another article, by all means quote it in its entirety, including previously quoted material, the mail routing information and, especially, the total signature of the original poster. Otherwise, someone might not know what message you
are replying to and where it came from. Alternatively: Don't quote any of the previous message; readers will enjoy the challenge of guessing what you might be referring to. One-line responses like: "I don't believe this is always true" are real attention-getters.
4. SIGN OFF WITH STYLE: Be sure to make the signature at the end of your messages as long as possible and include it with every one of your posts. The signature should always include your full name, address, phone numbers (including fax and modem), website address or addresses, and so on, for both your residence and office. Don't forget to include any titles, degrees or offices held (now or in the past), or the names of genealogical or other organizations to which you belong or belonged. Signatures should always have a large design made up of ASCII characters (simple + and - signs aligned across the page
are hardly adequate because they don't lengthen your signature enough. If your imagination is faltering, a design showing a little man with a long nose, bulging eyes and his hair on end clutching at and peering over a fence is always a good choice. Your signature should _never_ be without one or more quotations, slogans (political slogans or those disparaging "the government" are always hits!) or "wise sayings," correctly or incorrectly attributed to famous people. If you don't have any good quotes from famous people, it is OK to swipe a cutesy
one from someone else. Or you can use your state motto. Do NOT forget the disclaimer telling readers that what you write is your own opinion and does not represent the views of your company, your spouse, your children or neighbors. Your signature reflects YOU and YOUR
personality, so you shouldn't spare the horses! [NOTE: The "non-signature signature" is an appropriate alternative. Under this method, you should never disclose your identity or where you are. Initials, "handles" or other esoteric identifiers are all acceptable. After all, it is never wise to tell people who you are in a public forum, especially one devoted to genealogy.]
5. CHOICE SUBJECTS: The best subject lines are quite general. If you include such phrases as "Help Needed," "Tracing My Geneology" (note the example of "hot word" usage), "What Do I Do Now?" or "Software Problem," readers must actually look at your article to find out what you are writing about. This gambit will solidify your reputation as a marketing whiz!
6. SURNAME QUERIES: When posting a surname query, it is not necessary to include such trivia as where the family lived or when. After all, anyone searching that name will know whether his or her line is related to yours. A query with the subject of "SMITH, JONES and
JOHNSON" with the message asking "Anyone searching these families?"will garner many responses from others searching these lines.
7. BOOK-SHY: Questions that can be answered by looking in a dictionary or other common home reference, such as a roadmap or atlas, or by checking any one of a half-dozen websites are excellent choices for your postings. These always garner many responses and, at the same time, assure that no dust collects on the books owned by others. If you handle this with finesse, you can even get others to look up local phone numbers for you! Remember: The purpose of newsgroups and, indeed, the Internet itself, is to enable you to avoid visits to
libraries, court houses or archives or having to look at musty old books.
8. BE AMONG THE FAITHFUL: True and faithful newsgroup participants respond to as many messages as possible, even if they are unfamiliar with the topic. Readers are always interested in the opinions of others, especially yours. Messages that begin with "I have heard
that...," "Someone told me...," or "I always thought..." are among those which get high readership and help demonstrate the knowledge of and experience in genealogy of the posters. It is never necessary to cite an authority when making such responses; including such
extraneous information draws attention from the answer.
9. KEEPING THE CROWD INFORMED: Always post your responses within the group itself rather than replying via private e-mail. Not only will this allow everyone to benefit from what you say, it gives them a sense of security to know they haven't missed anything. Requests that responses be made via e-mail are obviously not intended for you. And, if you get a message from someone warning about a virus that has invaded newsgroup messages or one warning about another dumb thing "the government" is doing, by all means post it in as many groups as possible.
10. MAKING SURE: If you do not see your article in the group within the hour, be sure to re- post it as soon as possible. Duplicate postings help assure that others will not miss your important messages. If, after several tries, no one responds, you should post several test messages asking everyone who sees the message to respond in the group so you can be sure your connection is working correctly. If is never sufficient to test your local connections. The only tests that get results are those which cover the entire Net.
11. CRAFTING CRAFTY REPLIES: Here are some tips that can help you with your newsgroup responses:
(a) When someone asks for recommendations on "the best genealogy software," it is not necessary to know what equipment the person has or what his or her experience is in genealogy and computers or his or her genealogical goals. Simply respond saying, "I use ---- and LOVE it!" program YOU use. The same response is appropriate is some else says they like a different program.
(c) The proper format for replies to surname queries is: "Were any of your SMITHs ever in [insert state here]?" Disregard any references to specific places.
(d) The answer to the "cousin question is _always_ "second cousin, once removed." There are no exceptions.
(e) If someone asks a question you may not know anything about, the proper response is a message giving the details of a family story your Great Aunt Betsey once told you. Special hint: When someone asks about an unusual given name or surname, be sure to respond with a message saying you are not familiar with that name, "but here are some of the unusual names I have encountered in my research...."
(f) Even if a question has already been answered, you should also respond. Quote the entire question and the response and add: "I agree."
(g) Above all, do not refer someone to a FAQ, website or other authority on the topic. This prevents thousands of others from benefiting from your knowledge and experience. Besides, most FAQs were written specifically for the purpose of heading off certain on-line
discussions and, consequently, are obviously an effort to stifle free speech, and every knows you have the right to say whatever you please on the Internet.
(h) If your response is especially important, WRITE IT IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS. That way it will be sure to be read by everyone.
12. I KNOW IT'S TRUE: Finally, it is always safe to rely on the responses you see in the various newsgroups because no genealogist would post unless he or she was quite sure of the accuracy of what is being written. This is especially true if the question is: "What given
name does the abbreviation 'Jno.' stand for?" (No fair looking in your dictionary!)