The power of negative thinking:
The seven don'ts of Usenet,
or how to excel without doing anything

Just avoid the seven most common and most harmful mistakes when posting to Usenet. This concise netiquette tells what they are. Note that many experienced users skip messages if it contains these mistakes; so avoid them, if you wish to have chances of getting advice from just those people who could help you.

  1. Don't post a question before checking the FAQs first. FAQs (lists of answers to Frequently Asked Questions) very probably answer your question too. See Internet FAQ archives. If there is no FAQ or the FAQ does not answer your question, read the description of the group (e.g. via TILE.NET/NEWS) and take some time to read what's actually posted to the group; at least check (e.g. using Google Groups) whether your question was asked and answered recently. Probably it was.
  2. Don't post anything but plain text to Usenet, except to groups where other formats are explicitly allowed. No HTML, no vCards, no GIFs or other binaries. (You can put your material onto the Web and include the URL into your posting.) Don't use any program for posting to Usenet before checking the settings so that your message won't be sent in a non-text format by it. Plain text means it's text only, with line length under 80 (preferably under 72) characters; it doesn't mean boring or careless text. Use good writing style.
  3. Don't quote more than a few lines. If your newsreader includes a copy of the original article when you start to write a followup, delete everything except a few key lines which are relevant to your comments. And put your text after the quoted text. You should include some indication of what you are responding to; either quote a key sentence, or explain with your own words what you are commenting on. (E.g. "I understood NN's question so that he asked how to construct a perpetuum mobile.") For more info, see How do I quote correctly in Usenet?
  4. Don't post just to say hello or to tell that someone is stupid or to say "me too". If you violate this and the previous rule in the same posting, you will be regarded as a real nuisance. Don't post test messages ("will this come thru?") to any group which is not specifically designated as a test group (such as news.test). Generally, don't post articles you'll be ashamed of when you have grown up. Did you know that there are archiving systems like Google Groups which store your postings for years to come? Even "thank you" messages (where the only content is to thank for advice you've got) are to be avoided, especially in high-traffic groups.
  5. Don't ask for answers by E-mail. If you ask on Usenet, read the answers and comments to them on Usenet. But be prepared to getting E-mail answers. People may have their reason to respond that way. For this and other reasons, don't munge your E-mail address with NOSPAM mess, or at least append the pseudo-domain .invalid to the munged address.
  6. Select an appropriate group, and don't post your question to more than one group (at least if you don't know how to crosspost). And don't reply to an article without looking at the list of groups to which your article would be sent.
  7. Don't try to catch attention by typing something foolish like "PLEASE HELP ME!!!! URGENT!!! I NEED YOUR HELP!!!" into the Subject line. Instead, type something informative (using normal mixed case!) that describes the subject matter. But don't squeeze everything into the Subject line, and never leave the message body empty. The Usenet rules say:
    The "Subject" line - - tells what the message is about. It should be suggestive enough of the contents of the message to enable a reader to make a decision whether to read the message based on the subject alone.
    Source: RFC 1036, clause 2.1.4

By not doing these things when you post to Usenet, you will look very bright. Most beginning posters make at least one of those mistakes. So when you start your Usenet posting career, by avoiding all those mistakes you will have the appearance of a highly intelligent and attentive person even if you actually were a meathead. Since you aren't a meathead, and since the content of your posting is fine too, the effect is even more impressive.

The guidelines above are based on a very wide agreement among educated Usenet users. This is why they do not contain the principle of using your real name and using your real E-mail address despite very good reasons to do so.

This document is part of my material about Usenet, which contains a list of recommended further reading about Usenet.

There is a Finnish version of this document - tästä dokumentista on myös suomenkielinen versio: Seitsemän kieltoa nyyseihin kirjoittajalle.

Credits: Several people sent most valuable comments to the first version of this document in a thread titled Nyyseihinkirjoittajan seitsemän kuolemansyntiä in sfnet.viestinta.nyyssit (in Finnish).