Using Electronic Communication for Political Discussions – By Steven Clift – 1996

Using Electronic Communication for Political Discussions

Draft 1.0 – June 15, 1996

By Steven L. Clift,
Copyright 1996, Steven Clift – See disclaimer about DRAFT below.

1.  Take what you write seriously.
2.  Don't take yourself too seriously.
3.  Never post when you are upset.
4.  Avoid one-on-one battles on public forums.  Take disputes
    "off-line" whenever possible.
5.  Expect what you write to be around for you great 
    great grandchildren to read.
6.  Think of your major postings as letters to the editor.  
7.  Use your real identity and sign your posts.
8.  Use correct spelling, punctuation, and capitalization.
9.  Use humor and sarcasm cues - ;-) - Be careful.  Be clear.
10.  Don't overuse acronyms.
11.  Use private e-mail accounts for personal opinions to
     avoid problems at work.  
12.  It is appropriate and encouraged that people in their official
     capacity use work e-mail to participate in public forms.
13.  Don't expect to quickly change any minds in this medium.
14.  Build your own personal "civic network."  Send public responses
     other's message and send short thank yous to individuals.
15.  Avoid acidic, mean-spirited tones.  Don't expect that people
     who are jerks in person will be any better online.
16.  Be careful when you post or respond - double check to make sure
     you are sending it where you want to. (public lists, individuals,
     CC: area)  
17.  Write clear and concise subject lines.  
18.  Maintain subject line integrity with responses.  Change the
     subject line if the topic shifts significantly.
19.  Write in short paragraphs.  Use white space to improve effectiveness
     of communication.
20.  Avoid lengthy signature sections on messages.
21.  Make sure you correctly attribute quoted text.
22.  Only include attributed quotes that are needed.  Do not include
     the entire message if you are posting a brief reaction of a
     general nature.
23.  While you won't be judged online by many of the factors involved
     with in person discussion, you will be highly judged on what you
     write and style with which you write it. 
24.  Most complaints about postings to online forums are based on 
     tone and style not the content of the messages.  Good content
     is easily obscured by poor tone and style.  Bad content is
     bad content regardless.
25.  Developing charters, rules and guidelines for online forums that 
     cover political topics are often quite helpful.  
26.  If one forum does not suit your interests move on to another.
27.  "Lurk" on an active forums at least two to four weeks before
     posting your first message (or seek out the archives for a forum
     if one exists).
28.  Carefully read all the information you receive when subscribing
     to a new forum.
29.  Expect differences in how electronic communication manifests itself
     with different applications (e-lists, newsgroups, WWW-conferencing).
30.  Never post unsubscribe requests to the entire list.  
31.  Always save subscribe confirmation information. Consider creating
     a folder called "lists."  This will be very useful when your 
     you decide to leave the forum.
32.  Be a good net citizen - unsubscribe from all e-lists before an 
     e-mail account closed.  Bounced message are the biggest time 
     waster for list managers.
33.  If a discussion is not going the way you like, try to shift its
     direction.
34.  More to come...

Idea - these need to be placed into some sort of a 
topical/functional order:

General:

To:

Subject:

Text:

Signature:

Responses and Interaction:

Other:

Please send in your suggestions! Special thanks to Mick Souder, list manager of MN-POLITICS and the rest of the Minnesota E-Democracy crew, from whom I have learned much about the nature of online political discussions.

Copyright 1996, Steven Clift. This posting may be freely redistributed to individuals in its entirety. Redistribution of this document to public e-mail lists or publication requires the permission of the author.
Version 1.0 – October 12, 1996