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5.0 Netiquette For alt.infertility and misc.health.infertility


This article is from the Infertility FAQ, by Rebecca Smith Waddell bec@fertilityplus.org with numerous contributions by others.

5.0 Netiquette For alt.infertility and misc.health.infertility

Electronic communication is a relatively new phenomena when compared
to the age-old standards of proper behavior (e.g., what Mom told us to
do, and what Miss Manners continues to tell us to do). Fortunately,
the standards of polite society work just fine within electronic
communities and USENET communication. Occasionally, due to the
impersonal nature of USENET communication, conflicts and arguments can
arise. The purpose of this netiquette section is to assist new USENET
users in general, and users of the infertility-related USENET
newsgroups in particular, in avoiding improper behavior on the

Persons who are new to USENET newsgroup participation may benefit from
reviewing general netiquette standards. World Wide Web copies of these
standards is available here:


and here:


A more global overview of Internet communications can be found here:


Additional insights into the Internet culture can be found here:


In general, the rules of USENET netiquette can be summarized briefly:

1. Do not type messages in all uppercase letters; this is considered as shouting
and is most appropriate only in USENET headers that are of interest to a wide
audience, and as emphasis within a message.

2. Avoid unnecessary and prolonged debates on controversial issues. These
debates can deteriorate into flaming which is not needed in the a.i./m.h.i.

3. When involved in a debate, consider moving the discussion from the USENET
newsgroup to private e-mail.

4. Do not post back to the newsgroup any information that was received through
private e-mail. This is considered very bad netiquette.

5. Do not cross-post messages to inappropriate newsgroups.

This last general rule has specific importance for the specialized infertility
newsgroups such as alt.infertility.primary, alt.infertility.secondary. In
general, pregnancy announcements that are posted to a.i/m.h.i should not be
cross-posted to a.i.p and a.i.s. because a.i./m.h.i. are open forums for all
infertility-related issues whereas a.i.p., for example, focuses on issues that
are specific to those dealing with primary infertility. Discussions of how to
deal with a child who wants a sibling should be kept to a.i and a.i.s. Posts
about how it feels to not have children should be kept to a.i and a.i.p. Please
note that subgroups are primarily for discussion of emotional aspects of
infertility and medical/treatment questions should be posted to a.i/m.h.i.

6. Do not post graphics (photos, drawings, etc.) as attachments or
part of your signature file. It is considered rude as it takes longer to
download and costs some people more money. If you want to share a
picture, post a link.

In addition to these general USENET netiquette rules, there are some specific
a.i./m.h.i. netiquette procedures. For example, it has become common practice to
add a "sensitivity tag" and give people a little warning in the subject header
for certain kinds of posts:

(pg) in pregnancy posts
(child) for child mentioned
(vent) for emotional vent

The pregnancy and child tags should be used whenever either topic is
mentioned, even if only in one's signature.

These "sensitivity tags" or "warning tags" can be modified and used
whenever a USENET participant is posting information that may not \be of
interest to all newsgroup participants, such as:

(abortion mentioned)
(religion mentioned)
(miscarriage mentioned) or (mc)
(newborn mentioned)

Because the a.i./m.h.i. newsgroups have specific protocols for
announcing pregnancies, births, etc., there is always the opportunity
for a well-meaning new participant to violate netiquette standards of
the group. In those situations, it is best to unobtrusively message
the new participant through e-mail, encourage them to read the FAQ
section on netiquette, and assure the new participant that violations
of netiquette standards by "newbies" are quickly forgotten. Also, the
fact that a warning tag did not appear does not mean that netiquette
was violated. Each participant in the a.i./m.h.i. newsgroups has the
ability to stop reading a post or a thread of posts whenever he/she
becomes uncomfortable with or offended by the material. In other
words, the conclusion that "netiquette was violated" cannot be
logically drawn from the premise of "your post made me feel

Finally, all a.i./m.h.i. participants should realize that not everyone
views infertility in the same way that we, the conceptionally
challenged, do. Infertility is one of many interrelated issues
(including abortion, adoption and related moral and religious beliefs)
that are seen as controversial by many people. Because infertility and
infertility treatments are sometimes seen by others as a controversial
issue, there is an increased likelihood that flame-trollers with
less-than-helpful motives may lurk the groups, looking for
opportunities to stir dissension.

For clarification, a flame-troller is an individual who participates
in a newsgroup for the primary reason of stirring up controversy. This
can be distinguished from a well-meaning participant who creates or
contributes to a controversial discussion. Flame-trollers can be
particularly disruptive for newsgroup participants because of the
ability of a flame-troller to post information anonymously and forge
e-mail addresses to essentially create conflicts among newsgroup
participants. Flame-trollers can often be recognized by the
inflammatory statements within their posts, the level of controversy
associated with their posts, and, most importantly, a reader's strong
negative reaction to these posts.

It is best to avoid labeling anyone a flame-troller and try to ignore
posts by not responding either through the newsgroup or privately
through e-mail. Flame-trollers quickly disappear when they are
ignored, but they will remain so long as attention is paid to them. If
a controversial post originated from a well-meaning participant, this
will usually become apparent through the way that the person responds
within the current discussion thread or in subsequent threads.

In general, it is better to ignore those things that offend you than
to draw more attention to those things through follow-up posts.

Commercial posts, for the most part, are not welcome on
a.i/m.h.i. Anything that does not have to do with infertility is
inappropriate, as is anything that provides no real information and
just tries to sell a product.


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