Online Forums are initially one-to-many communications. Any time you post or reply, DAPA members including the Board of Directors will see your message in the Forum. This is a powerful tool that sometimes is subjected to unintended but significant abuses if you fail to be guided by the rules of Netiquette. Further, certain behaviors are unacceptable by policy and may result in revocation of your access to the Forums.
Netiquette | Social
Forums allow a free range of topics but all must be reasonably germane to the paralegal profession. Politics, religion, and chain letters are just a few examples of off-topic subjects.
Offensive, abusive, exploitative, and sexually explicit postings are prohibited and in some cases are illegal.
Remember that the recipient is a human being whose culture, language, and humor have different points of reference from your own. Remember that date formats, measurements, and idioms may not travel well. Be especially careful with sarcasm.
A good rule of thumb: Be conservative in what you send and liberal in what you receive. You should not send heated messages (we call these "flames") even if you are provoked. On the other hand, you shouldn't be surprised if you get flamed and it's prudent not to respond to flames.
Use mixed case and proper punctuation. UPPER CASE LOOKS AS IF YOU'RE SHOUTING, whereas using all lower case makes you appear lazy or too self important to take the time to type a proper response.
Don't get involved in "flame" wars. Neither post nor respond to incendiary material. If you are caught in an argument, keep the discussion focused on issues rather than the personalities involved. Wait overnight to send emotional responses to messages. If you have really strong feelings about a subject and can't resist the urge to flame, indicate it via FLAME ON/OFF enclosures. For example:
FLAME ON: This type of argument is not productive. It's illogical and poorly reasoned. The rest of the world agrees with me. FLAME OFF
Not everything you see or hear is true. Mail and news are subject to hoax, forgery, and spoofing. Apply common sense "reality checks", fact checking, and critical thinking before assuming a message is valid.
Consider that a large audience will see your posts. That may include your present or next boss. Take care in what you write. Remember too, that online Forums are frequently archived, and that your words may be stored for a very long time in a place to which many people have access.
Assume that individuals speak for themselves, and what they say does not represent their organization (unless stated explicitly).
Messages and articles should be brief and to the point. Don't wander off-topic, don't ramble and don't send mail or post messages solely to point out other people's errors in typing or spelling. These, more than any other behavior, mark you as an immature beginner.
Be brief without being overly terse. When replying to a message, include enough original material to be understood but no more. It is extremely bad form to simply reply to a message by including all the previous message: edit out all the irrelevant material.
Forum post should have a short but meaningful subject heading which reflects the topic. For example, "Volunteers needed for this month's luncheon" versus "I need help".
Don't abuse your fellow members by asking them to provide solutions that are readily available by using one of the search engines, such as Google.
Do not blame the system administrator for the behavior of the system users.
Netiquette | Technical
The Forum cannot and does not scan for or prevent viruses or other types of unauthorized code from being embedded in file attachments that may be included with a post. It is each Forum user's responsibility to ensure his/her anti-virus protections are in place before opening any file attached to any post from the Forum. Although there are naming conventions for file types used, don't depend on these file naming conventions to be enforced. For example, a ".doc" file is not always a Word file.
Respect the copyright on material that you reproduce. Almost every country has copyright laws.
If you are forwarding or re-posting a message, do not change the wording. If the message was a personal message to you and you are re-posting to a group, you should ask permission first. You may shorten the message and quote only relevant parts, but be sure you give proper attribution.
In general, it's a good idea to read all new posts and replies before responding to a message. Sometimes a person who asks for help (or clarification) will send another message which effectively says "never mind".
Use smileys to indicate tone of voice, but use them sparingly. :-) is an example of a smiley (Look sideways). Don't assume that the inclusion of a smiley will make the recipient happy with what you say or wipe out an otherwise insulting comment.
In general, it's not possible to retrieve posts or replies once you have sent them. This means you must make sure you really want the post or reply to go out as you have written them.