Question Netiquette (was Re: Pneumonia Bacteria)

Keith Robison robison1 at
Tue Jan 18 13:35:38 EST 1994

	I don't really wish to play Miss Manners, but this
post brings up a pair of important questions, as well as some
side issues:

1) What constitutes an appropriate question on these newsgroups?
2) What constitutes an appropriate reply to an inappropriate question?

I'll actually answer only the 2nd one -- there are 2 appropriate responses.
One is to keep your mouth shut.  The other is to not answer the question,
but to meta-answer it -- point the questioner to the resources which
might answer their question (or at least help them refine it).  Flames
should NEVER be used!!  Why trample on someone's curiosity?  

The poster noted a problem that many people have -- only E-mail access
to the Internet.  This makes difficult (but NOT impossible) access to
all the other goodies (FTP, gopher, Web, etc).  First off, posters with
such restrictions should state them up front -- it helps answerers shape
their replies.  But more importantly, there are E-mail servers which can
come to the rescue.  Perhaps the most versatile is

	webmail at

which is a World Wide Web E-mail server.  That is, you send it an
E-mail message and it returns a document off the Web.  Since the
Web includes all gopher servers, this is a crude way for E-mail-bound
netters to get gopher stuff.  Ideal? No.  Workable. Yes.  (and I hear
rumors of E-mail based Web clients, so before long you'll be able to
do all this about as easily as if you had a direct link to the Web).

Oh, one last comment.  Try not to have a thin skin or raw nerves on
the Internet.  The mores and manners are still evolving, and it's not
always easy for a newcomer to figure them out right off (or even an
old-comer).  If questioners would ignore bad answers, and answerers would
relax a little, we can all enjoy the Web a little more.

Just my $.02

Keith Robison
Harvard University
Department of Cellular and Developmental Biology
Department of Genetics / HHMI

krobison at 

More information about the Bioforum mailing list