Guidelines for the Use of the Web

The following guidelines for using the Web are not formal policies but a description of the informal practices that are considered good “netiquette,” standards of behavior that will help make your participation in the digital environment a rewarding and productive experience. The guide is divided into two sections.
 
Section 1, “A Beginners Guide for Use of the Web” focuses on good practices in using e-mail and effective participation in online discussion forums. Even if you are an advanced user, you may want to review this section.
 
Section 2, “A Guide to Using Advanced Technologies on the Web” covers the use of emerging technologies such as blogs, wikis, and social networking sites. These applications can be powerful tools in the teaching-learning environment, but they also raise important issues on the appropriate use of technology and your personal privacy. Students should take special note of the guidelines for social networking sites, such as Facebook and MySpace.
 

A Beginner’s Guide for Use of the Web
    Overview
    Using E-mail
    A Note on Student Personal E-mail Addresses
    "Spam" and other junk mail from outside sources
    Online Discussion Forums and Listservs


 
A Guide to Using Advanced Technologies on the Web
    Blogs and Online Journal
    Wikis
    Social Networking Sites
    Conclusion



A Beginner’s Guide for Use of the Web
Overview

Connecting to The College of New Rochelle network provides you with new opportunities to communicate and collaborate with members of the CNR Community and people around the world. However, accessing these resources does not come free from responsibility.

Network access is governed by CNR Network policies, and you should always make sure you have reviewed the most recent version. It is essential that you use CNR Network resources responsibly and in accordance with institutional policies and practices.  

In addition to formal policies, regulations, and/or laws which may govern use of computers and networks, the Internet user community observes informal standards of conduct, often called "netiquette" (NETwork etiquette). You are expected to comply with these informal standards and be a "good citizen" of the Internet.

These standards have evolved from users' experiences since the introduction of the Web, and they help foster an environment that makes using the Internet a positive and productive experience. Many of the guidelines are just common sense, but even if you are a regular user of the Internet, you should review them.

Actions that are contrary to basic Netiquette standards include (but are not limited) to the following:

  • Flaming (sending highly insulting or provoking e-mail)
  • Asking questions before reading posted FAQ's (Frequently Asked Question lists) for online discussion forums and listservs
  • Responding to entire mailing lists when you only need to respond to one person
  • Sending e-mail with rampant spelling or grammar errors
  • Forwarding hoaxes or chain mail

 

In using the Internet, you are entering a different environment, one with its own culture and practices that you need to be aware of. The oft-cited advice to “lurk before you leap” will serve you well here. What is acceptable in one discussion forum may be inappropriate in another.

E-mails should be professional in nature unless you are close friends with the recipient. Whenever you communicate through the Web, remember that you do not have the additional clues of voice and gesture that are critical elements of face-to-face communication.

Thus, write well, and make sure that the meaning of your message is clear before you click on the “Send” button, for once you click “Send” you can not take it back.
 
Using E-mail
It is important to think of e-mail as a form of business communication, much like using the phone or walking into someone’s office. One of the advantages of e-mail is that there is always a written record of the exchange between sender and receiver. But that is also its downside, for there will be a written record of every mistake you or the recipient makes in an exchange of messages.

In addition, e-mail is a very public form of communication, and your options for controlling access to a message you send depends entirely on the understanding and intentions of your recipient(s). Like any correspondence, e-mail messages should be composed carefully to convey the intended meaning.

The following guidelines will help you utilize e-mail effectively:

  • Consider who you are writing to: The style and tone of your e-mail will vary depending on who the recipient is. If you are a student writing to your professor about an assignment, you should exercise the same formality that you would in face-to-face conversation.

    The same applies to e-mailing someone you are contacting for the first time. You may find that the tone of e-mail correspondence with another individual may change over time as you get to know them better, just as the tone of face-to-face conversations can evolve based on the frequency of the encounters.
  • Never use all CAPS: Using all capital letters is the electronic equivalent of SHOUTING and is seen as rude. If you need to emphasize a word or phrase, put asterisks around it or format the word in italics. Your reader will get the point.
  • Grammar: The accepted rules relating to grammar and spelling still prevail in e-mail correspondence. Almost all e-mail programs come with a spell checker. You can also first compose your e-mail in Word and use the grammar checker there (this is a good technique with extremely important or sensitive e-mails). Then cut and paste the text into your e-mail message.

The Subject Box: Many users are overwhelmed by the amount of e-mail they receive every day, and they tend to quickly skim through their inbox first reading the subject lines. If you want your e-mail to be read, highlight its importance with a subject line that conveys the point of the message.

If you are student writing to your professor, make your e-mail clear by doing something like the following (remember, your professor will have many students and often a number of different courses):
   Re: SOC 224 – A question about our research project

This is much better than a subject line like the following, “Re: my paper” which tells the recipient nothing about the nature of the e-mail.

Likewise, faculty and staff at the College should use clear subject lines as in the following example:
    Re: Agenda for upcoming meeting of the Technology Roundtable

  • Message length: Three or four short paragraphs is usually the maximum most people will want to read in an e-mail. Short sentences and bulleted points are effective ways of getting your meaning across to your audience.

    If you are writing an e-mail that is the equivalent of a multi-page document, then you should do it as a Word document and attach it to a shorter, more explanatory e-mail. Keep in mind that recipients may tend to print out lengthy messages (especially if they contain information they need to refer to later on). A Word document as an attachment will print as a more formal presentation that a printed e-mail message.
  • Message format: Microsoft Outlook provides a wide range of “stationary” that you can use as backgrounds for your e-mail messages. However, remember that e-mail is the equivalent of business correspondence so you may want to save your creative impulses for e-mails that only go to your close friends. Ask yourself: would you really submit a formal business memo on paper with a paisley background or cute little bears in the margins?
  • Be selective with your information: Whatever you write in an e-mail or in a threaded discussion is very public.  E-mails can be forwarded without your knowledge to others who you may not want to read the message.

    Likewise, if you forward an e-mail you have received to someone else, keep in mind that you may be forwarding an entire chain of responses that others may not want you to share with your intended recipient. You can always edit a forwarded e-mail before you send it to remove inappropriate or sensitive information.
  • Attachments: Always provide a brief description of what the attachment is that you are sending. An example for a student submitting a paper for a course would be to say: “The attached file is the final version of my research paper for Soc 288.”

    In sending attachments to colleagues and friends, try to keep attachments small (particularly if they are images) as you are using network resources. In addition, not everyone has a high-speed broadband connection, so a large attachment can take time to download.
  • E-mail Signatures: Always include information on how the recipient can reach you. Many users have a signature that automatically appears at the bottom of every e-mail. Contact the Help Desk or Academic Computing for assistance in configuring your e-mail signature.

 

Allow time for a response: Some people check their e-mail every hour and prefer e-mail as a form of communication. Others may only check their Inbox once a day. Keep in mind that the person you are writing to may not be sitting at their computer waiting for your message to arrive. For students, your professors may inform you in class of their e-mail policies and expected response time.

A Note on Student Personal E-mail Addresses
Many students have more than one e-mail account and “personalize” their e-mail addresses through creative names. This form of self-expression is fine for purposes of corresponding with friends. However, in an academic setting, you will do yourself a disservice if your e-mail address does not relate to your actual name.

Even worse, using an e-mail name that reveals personal habits or weekend party preferences will not leave a favorable impression on prospective employers or faculty that you are asking to write a letter of recommendation. Faculty and staff are not interested in your social activities or your personal preferences.

You can request a CNR e-mail address through the Help Desk. But if you want to use an outside address, set up a new e-mail account on one of the free e-mail services (such as Google Mail) using your name for your academic and job-related correspondence.

"Spam" and Other Junk Mail from Outside Sources

If you have spent any amount of time online, you know that spam is a fact of life on the Internet. While the College endeavors to control unwanted e-mail, no program can be 100% successful in stopping junk mail and other kinds of unsolicited e-mail. These e-mails originate from sources outside the College and the institution has little control. You, however, as the recipient have a great deal of control.

  1. Be careful who you give your e-mail address to. Reputable online firms and organizations such as Amazon.com or the Library of Congress will not share your e-mail address with other companies. But many others will.

    Always read the privacy policies of the firms or organizations you are giving your e-mail address to. Some organizations will give you the option to “opt-out” of sharing of your e-mail address.

    If you have a web page or a blog and list your e-mail address, keep in mind that disreputable advertisers have programs that scan the Web randomly for e-mail addresses.
  2. Microsoft Outlook offers a number of ways to reduce spam and unwanted mail. You can set up “rules” for your incoming mail that automatically filters and deletes mail from senders you want to block. Contact the Help Desk or Academic Computing for assistance in setting up rules to organize your e-mail.
  3. You can write the administrator of the Internet Service Provider from which the e-mail was sent. Responsibly administered mailing lists will remove your name from their subscriber list if you ask them to do so.

    Not all lists, however, will honor your request and some disreputable firms will actually use your request for removal as verification that it is indeed a valid e-mail address.

If you are encountering a specific problem with repeated unwanted e-mails, contact the Help Desk for assistance.

 
Online Discussion Forums and Listservs
The Internet provides thousands of discussion groups that are often valuable resources for communication and collaboration within the various academic disciplines and topics of personal interest. Many of these online forums operate as listservs which are like electronic mailing lists. These mailing lists are maintained by software that automatically distributes an e-mail message from one member of a list to all other members on that list.

When you subscribe to a list, your name and e-mail address is automatically added. From that time on, you will receive all mail (or “postings”) sent to the list by its members.  You may follow the discussions or join in and contribute to them. If you respond, you can send your response to the list (in which case, all members of the list will receive it), or to an individual on the list. You can signoff (unsubscribe) from a list at any time. 
 
While these online discussions can be valuable resources, they can also clutter your Inbox with so many messages that you will be overwhelmed with e-mail. Take a close look at a listserv you want to subscribe to; some will have only minimal amounts of traffic and you may want to be on the list even though they are only partially relevant to your work. Other listservs may be very relevant to your work but not be worth the amount of traffic they generate. You can always subscribe and then unsubscribe if the list does not suit your needs, so save the initial welcome message as it will have the information you need to get yourself off the list. 
 
All online discussion groups and listservs have their own cultures and the best way to get to know them is to simply “lurk” for a while -– that is, to read the messages but not post a message of your own. Some also provide a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) which you should read as it will answer the most commonly asked questions.

But in time, you will want to participate and there are basic rules of netiquette for online discussion groups just as there is for e-mail.

By practicing the following, you will have a more productive experience:

  • Treat all participants professionally and with respect.
  • Find out what is appropriate for each group before you post messages. If someone else posts an off-topic message and you decide to write them about it, be polite.
  • Limit communications to the current discussion thread topic. If you want to begin a new topic or have a question to ask the group, make that clear in your message.

    In addition, begin a new topic by using a new message, not through a response to another topic. This way, any subsequent discussion of your topic / question will be easily identifiable as a new discussion thread.
  • As with your e-mail, use the subject box to highlight the nature of your message. That way, other participants will be able to identify the new forum topic and respond to it if they want to.
  • Never post unsolicited or inappropriate material to an online discussion forum.
  • By their very nature, online discussion forums are public venues. In composing your messages, you need to keep in mind that another participant may forward your message (or the thread that your message is part of) to some one who is “off-list.” What you say will be part of a written record that may far outlast the lifespan of the particular discussion that generated the message thread in the first place.

    Furthermore, many discussion groups are searchable through Google and other search engines. In other words, your response to a debate on the prospect of democracy in the Middle East may eventually appear in a Web search. This interconnection of activities, discussion postings, blog comments, etc. is a critical part of the underlying vitality of the Web. But it also means that you need to think carefully about what you say and how you say it, for your comments may appear elsewhere if someone searches for your name or the topic on Google.

Remember that online discussions are like e-mail; they must convey their information without the nonverbal clues available in face-to-face conversations. It is easy to be misunderstood or to offend others in this environment.
 
If you have further questions about the appropriate use of e-mail or how to participate in online discussion groups and listservs, please contact Academic Computing. These tools can help you become an effective member of the CNR Community as it increasingly relies on digital resources to carry out the mission of the institution.

For further information on more advanced tools and emerging technologies, please read the document, “A Guide to Using Advanced Technologies on the Web.” 


A Guide to Using Advanced Technologies on the Web
While e-mail and traditional discussion boards remain widely used, new developments in emerging technologies are transforming the ways we communicate and collaborate with each other on the Web. These tools, which include blogs, wikis, and social networking sites, are more powerful applications that expand your ability to interact with other users and access resources.

However, these tools also raise new challenges that can have potential consequences on your future educational and career opportunities. In particular, your personal privacy may be put at risk by the way you utilize social networking sites.

 
Blogs and Online Journals
While traditional online discussion sites and listservs are still widely used on the Web, many users are now participating in blogs (which comes from the term “Web log”).  A blog is a simple Web page that allows the author (or blogger) to write what is essentially an online journal that readers can then post their own comments to.

Some blogs are restricted and require that you register if you want to post a response while others allow you to do this anonymously. A number of blogs are now well known sources of news or commentary and a few take on investigative journalism activities that are disrupting the traditional roles of TV news and printed newspapers. Most are simply one person’s opinion and you may find them to be highly opinionated.

While you can “subscribe” to a blog (through what is termed an “RSS feed”), most users will simply access one through its Web address. This way, it does not clutter your e-mail Inbox and you can review the posts at a time convenient for you.

In posting a comment on a blog keep in mind that the same rules apply as for discussion forum postings, though you may find that many blog postings are less restrained than traditional online discussion groups. Users who post comments to a blog usually do not see themselves as members of a community as in a listserv and you may find your own postings sharply criticized by others. This is part of the vitality of the blogging environment, but bear in mind that your comments in a blog can end up in search engine results, giving them a life that extends beyond your immediate intention 

 
Wikis
A widely popular emerging technology is the use of wikis, the most famous of which is Wikipedia, the online international Web-based free-content encyclopedia project. The word Wikipedia is a combination of the words wiki and encyclopedia (the word wiki-wiki means “hurry-quick” in Hawaiian). As of August 2006, Wikipedia has more than 4,800,000 articles in many languages, including more than 1,300,000 in the English-language version.

Wikis are software for collaborative authoring and the sites are most often written by volunteers. Most wikis allow anyone to edit or change the articles on the site. Some wikis are highly restricted (many organizations and corporations use them as internal knowledge databases), while others are open to anyone with Web access.

Even for wikis that require registration, you will find that most postings are anonymous and your name will not be associated with the material you contribute. However, you will find that if you add content to a wiki, it is likely to be revised by another user since wikis are, by definition, collaborative sites. While there is generally little threat of privacy issues in participating in wikis, you need to be careful to speak as an individual user so that your contribution is not misinterpreted as a communication of the College.  

 
Social Networking Sites
Recently, social networking sites, such as Facebook and MySpace, have become popular ways to share information and interact with others users online. These sites are open to everyone but have been highly popular with students and the younger generation.

Joining these sites is a matter of personal choice and they can help you make new friends and expand your social and academic connections. However, you should also be aware that your presence on these sites carries potential risks.

Before you post your personal information online, you need to be aware of how the Internet can treat personal profiles created for your friends as public information. Putting personally revealing information on these sites can have unintended consequences when you need a letter of recommendation or begin searching for employment.

The following are important points to consider when using a social networking site:

Internet Caching: Most of what is on the Internet is subject to caching, which means if the information is picked up by Google or another search engine, it may still remain on their servers even if you take the information down from your Facebook or MySpace site. If requested, Google and most other sites will remove material if you ask them to, but you will have to go through a lengthy formal process to request that the material be taken down.


Posting personal information: Social networking sites may appear to be private spaces, but almost all are accessible to a wide variety of Internet users. Anyone can get a MySpace account and Facebook is open to anyone with a .edu address (including faculty and administrators). That means faculty, staff and alumnae who may be potential sources of recommendations, internships, or other professional assistance may also be in a position to look up your personal profile online.

While the information you post may be understood by your friends as personal, others may have access to this information even though you do not want to present yourself to them in a personal way.


Privacy Policies: You should review the terms and conditions of use of these sites before you post your personal information. Some, such as Facebook, claim ownership of any information on a user’s profile (including pictures) and can use the information any way they want.

These newly emerging technologies can be powerful tools for self-expression, but remember that with this freedom comes the responsibility to think about the implications of your self-image on the Web. Social networking sites can help you convey a sense of who you are and who you want to be. But these are decisions that warrant careful consideration in the very public arena of the Internet.
 

Conclusion
The Web offers a powerful suite of evolving tools to help you communicate and collaborate with members of the College Community and others in the world at large. The wide and ever-expanding array of resources is a boon for the teaching-learning environment and administrative work within the academic community.

Many discussion groups and blogs are the foundation of vital online communities that offer resources that can help you be a more effective member of the College Community in carrying out the mission of the institution.

However, you need to not only follow CNR Network policies, but the informal standards of the Internet and exercise caution, particularly when it comes to sharing personal information. The activities you pursue online can have personal or professional consequences, and as a text-based environment, the written record of a mistake or an inadvertent comment may far outlast your efforts to rectify it.

As long as you exercise common sense and follow the basic rules of netiquette, you will find your time on the Web to be a productive and rewarding experience.