thoughts on Email and Bulletin Board protocol &
Jim W. Tackitt,
There does not seem to
be a defined protocol [procedures, ethics or etiquette] for the
mushrooming growth in the use of electronic mail by the genealogist.
Here are some of my thoughts:
DO give your true name and regular
along with your email address, in all genealogy related PERSONAL
email. It would be helpfulif this data was typed
in a line that can easily be "pasted" into your
source file. [example: John W. Walter, 2375 E. Post St., Pikeville,
KY 41501; <email@example.com>]. Your queries can end
up in a lot of libraries and private collections. With the transitory
nature of email addresses, future researchers probably won't
be able to reach you. And, when you don't include your address,
the receiver has to take the time to look it up, assuming they
already have it on file - and assuming it's a message worth saving.
Get a utility, such as QuickKeys, and you will save yourself
a lot of time: just one keystroke and your full name, address
& email address can be typed for you.
DON'T give just
a first name or "handle." Can
you ever remember getting regular mail from someone who didn't
sign their true name and provide their address? Or, who placed
a query in a genealogical journal without doing the same? I guess
a genealogy query without a name & mailing address is like
a car without tires: "It just ain't going very far."
[I usually discard most "anonymous" email messages
and rarely respond to "feelers" that do not include
the sender's name and regular mailing address.]
DOlimit your email queries
to no more than two questions per message (one is better). A long drawn-out
narrative with a dozen questions hidden in the text probably
won't get answered to your satisfaction - if at all. PLEASE,
never ask for "all you have on the [blank] family."
That just overwhelms the recipient & your query will most
likely be discarded.
DO Send a copy
of the sender's original message when you respond, or at least a part of it so the recipient knows
what you are writing about.The AOL browser, in particular,
does not [or did not in the past] automatically do this, so AOL
subscribers will have to "copy & paste" the original
message. This can be done automatically with Netscape Navigator,
and Microsoft Explorer. Perhaps the newer versions of
AOL will also do this for you.
DOInclude a short message
in your email "subject field" so folks will have an idea what the message
is about. With the large amount of email many of us get [and
AOL, in particular, contains a lot of junk/offensive type mail],
we tend to just "trash" those messages with a "subject
field" word/message that appears to be commercial in nature
- without reading them. At least I do. Don't let your message
be among the "trashed."
DO remember, too, that email & BBS messages can be
alpha sorted by name or subject. If you are looking on a BBS
for Amos Shumate in Monroe Co., VA, then enter your subject
line as either "SHUMATE, Amos.Monroe Co., VA,"
or "Monroe Co., VA.SHUMATE,Amos." [depending
on whether the board is for Surnames or Locations]. Do not enter
"Looking for Monroe Co., VA ancestor." [Still lost?
You can always use your "Find" utility with your browser.]
DO watch your spelling,(or, at least give it a good try), especially
names of counties and such words as "cemetery"
and "genealogy." Having trouble in this area,
as many of us have? Don't forget your spelling checker
and the handy dictionary
found on the
DON'T write a long narrative query without a paragraph break.
It's just too difficult to read and digest.
DON'Twrite messages in ALL CAPS! They are also too difficult to read, except
as brief entries used for emphasis.
the reader with questions that YOU should be able to easily look
up. If you
are "into genealogy" then you should have a library
to help you with common problems. [A good "starter"
that all should have is "The Handy Book for Genealogists,"
by The Everton Publishers, P.O. Box 368, Logan, Utah 84321. They
also have a website.]
DON'T select a "nonsense"
I suggest that you select one that others can easily understand
and identify with. In genealogy, I would think that the common-sense
choice would be your name. Such names as "hotlips,"
"teetotaler," "funnybunny," "148795me,"
"AuntSue" and others in the same genre would seem especially
inappropriate. Would you bother to answer unsolicited USPS mail
signed by "Honey Bunny?" You don't want to be entered
in someone's source file as "Honey Bunny" or "Hot
Lips" do you? I
am personally very prone to discarding all unsolicited email
that does not have an easily identifiable name as part of the
DO send a "Thank
You" to those who send you material! When
folks take the time to send you some information, the return
courtesy of a "Thank you" is in order. This should
be by private mail and not on a List or
Forum. This is especially inappropriate!
If you are not tired
of reading, you might want to glance thru the article below:
Don'ts of email etiquette:
An article by Mike Langberg,
San Jose Mercury News. Mr. Langberg suggests these as being
· DO write a clear, concise
subject line for every message. Email without a subject line is
hard for recipients to categorize and, as a result, may not get
the attention it deserves.
attach files to your messages unless you've confirmed in advance
the recipient will be able to easily download and open the attachments.
Unsolicited attachments can anger recipients because they bog
down the process of collecting new mail and hog harddisk space.
· DO check
your in box regularly if you're giving your email address to friends
or business contacts. It's difficult to carry on an email conversation
with people who only collect their messages twice a month.
write messages entirely in capital letters. IT'S THE EMAIL EQUIVALENT
OF SHOUTING AND IS VERY RUDE. If you want to add emphasis, YOU
MAY capitalize one or two words in a sentence.
· DO use
correct grammar and spelling in all messages, and always sign
your full name at the bottom of the message. Most email programs
now contain a spellchecker, leaving no excuse for sending a poorly
engage in "flame wars," the Internet term for volleys
of nasty or insulting messages. If you receive flames, ignore
them. To protect yourself from accidentally getting flamed, avoid
subtle humor and sarcasm that can be easily misinterpreted given
email's inherent lack of social or emotional context.
· DO pick
up the telephone and make a call if the information you need to
convey is critical. Remember, email doesn't always arrive at its
destination immediately, and there's no guarantee recipients will
check their inbox right away.
send a message to a long list of recipients who don't need to
hear from you, or sign up others for a regular mailing list without
first getting their permission. Also, double check the address
on responses to group mailings to make sure you're replying only
to the author, not the entire group.
· DO learn
about the "blind carbon copy" feature in your email
software, which hides the recipient list, and use this feature
when sending messages to large groups. No one likes to receive
email that begins with several screens full of recipient names.
pass along chain letters, even if you're risking several thousand
years of bad luck. Email chain letters are both illegal and annoying.
· DO show
restraint in quoting from the original message when sending a
Many email programs automatically
copy the original's full text into the reply, but you should either
erase all the text or only retain small portions that are relevant
to your response.
create a big "signature" for the bottom of every outgoing
message, cluttered with the wisdom of your favorite philosopher
or too-cute drawings made from letters of the alphabet. A signature
should be no more than five lines, limited to basics such as your
name, job title, address and phone number.
For additional information
you may also wish to consult the site: http://faq.comcast.net/faq/answer.jsp?name=18014&cat=Newsgroups&subcategory=1
"I think there
is a world market for maybe five computers." --Thomas Watson, Chairman of