In the early to mid 1990s, when the Internet grew rapidly out of the confines of academic and governmental organizations, the success of America Online’s dial-up Internet service spawned a neologism: AOLer. This pejorative word was used to describe the large number of uninformed and misinformed (novice) users that AOL was then unleashing on the Internet. Though, to be fair, AOL probably did not deserve all the scorn that frustrated Internet users bestowed, the AOLers were notorious for their lack of understanding of online society and its “netiquette.” Though the Internet is now commonplace in most of the world, netiquette, alas, is no more so now than it was then.
This book is aimed at addressing this need, and consists of a collection of tidbits of advice on how to comport oneself in various online settings (sort of what Emily Post or Miss Manners would convey were they to suggest rules for online behavior). The first section has a brief introductory chapter, followed by chapters on email, online forums, text messaging, the Web, blogs, and wikis. The brief second section consists of three chapters, which cover transferring files, online auctions, and other online services (such as voice over Internet protocol). The final section concerns ads and spam, security from viruses, trojans, phishing, and miscellaneous matters.
Much of the information is already known to discerning users of the Internet. It would seem that a book giving such trivial advice would hardly be worthwhile, except for
the fact that the advice is frequently not followed in online exchanges. The author tries to follow standard academic practice by citing previous writings , but much of the information is available online in various frequently asked questions (FAQs) and other sources. Some other advice, such as,
“Dispose of old computer equipment in an environmentally responsible way,” and, “Never give out your personal details in online chatrooms,” probably do not count as netiquette issues primarily, but convey important advice nonetheless.
Though the book is well written, it would have been nice to include some dos along with all the don’ts. This would enable newbies to make use of the Internet in a positive way--though it could be argued that this is never the subject of etiquette, online or off. A more serious objection is that the advice in the book is somewhat superficial. For example, spam is mentioned, but not much is said about how to stop it; phishing is mentioned, but not identity theft. The book also presumes that the entire Internet is English speaking, and does not address some of the netiquette issues that arise in dealing with foreign-language resources and users.