Netiquette Banner Netiquette, by Virginia Shea, page 22

This book is concerned largely with the etiquette of communicating with others. Believe it or not, there is also etiquette for information retrieval, and we'll go into that as well.

Most people, once they're networked, spend most of their online time communicating with others. This came as a shock to the founders of Prodigy, who thought their subscribers would want to use the service as a computerized Home Shopping Network. Prodigy's founders -- folks at IBM and Sears -- based their estimate of how many email messages people would send on the number of paper letters they sent from their home mailboxes. That turned out to be a serious underestimate. A significant number of users started sending far more letters electronically than they ever would have using paper. No one knows exactly why -- maybe because it was so much easier than standing in line to buy stamps. Perhaps the Post Office should look into it.

As for why you'd want to communicate via a computer rather than live -- there are lots of reasons. Cyberspace communities can put you in touch with experts you'd otherwise never have met. They're also a great place to discuss shared interests. If you're the only twelve-year-old in town who likes opera, you can probably find some compatriots online. You can join a discussion group on almost any topic. And if you can't find a group devoted to a favorite topic, you can start one. Finally, electronic communication is a great way to deal with individuals you can't stand in person. More on this later.

Q. How does one communicate with others via a network?

Several ways. Most cybernauts start with electronic mail (email), which is simply a note typed on a computer and sent over a network to a specific individual or group. The next step for most people is joining discussion groups, in which notes or articles are sent to a central computer for anyone to read. Mailing lists work the same way, except that copies of every note are sent to your electronic mailbox. There are also online "chat" groups, real-time role-playing worlds (often called multi-user dungeons, or MUDs), videoconferencing, virtual reality experiments, and more. New uses are being developed all the time.


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