It's inevitable that how to behave in a civilized manner on the Internet should be dubbed "netiquette." And no doubt all of us good citizens want very much to know exactly which fork to use with the salad and whether we should extend our pinkie finger when drinking tea--or perhaps be told that such an extension is a vulgar genteelism. Furthermore is it okay to now drop the hyphen in "e-mail" and close it up, thereby saving a keystroke from the top row of the keyboard? All up-standing burghers want to know.
Matthew Strawbridge, who has the kind of proper English name from feudal times that inspires confidence and is obviously a right proper English gentleman, is here to tell us what Emily Post is no longer around to tell us.
First, yes it is okay to write "email." Although Strawbridge doesn't say so in so many words, "email" is the form he uses throughout and that's good enough for me.
Second, no forks and no pinkies are mentioned. (I was just J/K--See "Appendix A - Instant-messaging abbreviations.") Wait a minute! "J/K" is almost as hard to write as "just kidding" and I don't like it nearly as much as what I sometimes use, "JJ" for "just joking." Perhaps we have a Brit-Yankee usage problem here.
And if I see one more smiley face I am going to scream. (But nobody can hear you when you scream on the Net.) ;-)
Strawbridge divides the book into three parts, "Forms of Online Communication"--email, forums, real-time messaging, browsing, blogs and wikis; Online Services--file transferring, auctions, domain names and such; and Other Issues--advertising and spam, security, spelling and grammar, emoticons, and when and if it's okay to write all caps or all down style. (All caps is still SHOUTING and uncultured while all down style is okay in instant messaging, but otherwise lazy. Well, he doesn't say "lazy" exactly. He merely points out that all lower case writing is not easy to read.)
In a sense Strawbridge's book is an introduction to the Internet as much as it is a primer on Internet etiquette. It's crisp, concrete and easy-to-read. He packs a lot of information into 160 pages. For example, do you know what a CAPTCHA is? It's "a picture of a word or number that has been stretched and skewed in such a way that it is still readable by people but difficult for software to extract." CAPTCHA stands for "Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart"!
You know about Wikipedia of course, but did you know that a "wiki" in general is a website with pages that anyone can edit online. The term comes from Ward Cunningham who named his software after the very quick Wiki Wiki bus service at the Honolulu Airport.
Strawbridge is a reasonable man whose advice, if followed by all, would make the World Wide Web a better place. Of course it would be nice if we could get the spammers to disappear. Not so curiously, Strawbridge is mum on what we can do about those rascals except to note that if people stopped patronizing the spammers they would go out of business. If. Only.
However despite Strawbridge's eminent good sense I do have a quibble or two. In the section on "flame wars" Strawbridge notes that a "disproportionate number of arguments take place online" and blames the lack of visual and tonal expression in text messages and the fact that there are so many different opinions expressed online for the arguments. But he doesn't mention the fact that people are emboldened because they can hide behind relatively anonymous screen names to say things they would never say in person. Also he recommends not directly challenging self-styled "experts" as a way to avoid arguments. That will work but I think it's better to brave the flame than to let an erroneous or cockeyed opinion go unchallenged.
One final thing. In the abbreviations appendix Strawbridge writes that he prefers "LOL" to "HAHA" which he finds "deeply annoying." Isn't it interesting that HAHAHA is annoying but ROTFLMAO is not. I wonder why. Maybe because it seems that the HAHAHA is aimed at the reader.