Guidelines for Indymedia Email Lists

The guidelines for the running of email lists managed by the Indymedia Ireland Internet Collective


  1. Introduction
  2. List Guidelines
  3. Netiquette guide
  4. Moderation & Dispute Resolution
  5. Sanctions

1. Introduction

1.1 The Indymedia Ireland Internet Collective is almost entirely organised through email lists. These email lists are our workplace. It is up to all of our members to make sure that we all have a safe and pleasant working environment. That means that it is the responsibility of each member to ensure that their contributions are made in a constructive manner.

We have an old metaphor for Indymedia Ireland - the website is the town tavern. People wander in to the tavern, some of them deliver declamations, crowds of drinkers and curious onlookers gather around to join in and sometimes to heckle, or just to look and listen. The job of the Internet collective is to stop fights breaking out and to stop people shouting down others. In short, we try to keep the tavern an open and free place where everybody has a chance to partake in the cacophony. We use our evolving set of editorial guidelines to judge what behaviours are considered to be either likely to start a fight or likely to drown out other voices. We adopted our editorial guidelines in 2003 and they have been very useful in helping to keep Indymedia as a useful and ethical space.

However, we have never before adopted any such guidelines for our working lists - the staff room of the tavern where the volunteers organise their work. This meant that, gradually, over time, some of the disgruntled customers started wandering into the staff room and starting fights there, greatly disrupting our work. This document attempts to re-create order in our working areas so that we can get on with our job of making and distributing alternative media.

2. List Guidelines

2.1 All emails to all of our mailing lists should follow these guidelines, whether the contributor is a member or not. It is the responsibility of the list subscribers to familiarise themselves with these guidelines and procedures. If you are not capable of understanding them, can't follow them, or don't have the time to read them, you are very unlikely to be able to play a constructive part in the work of the collective. Running a popular and busy media distribution service on the Internet, involving the work of thousands of volunteers, which is strongly opposed to the state and to corporate power is pretty complex and an ability to follow collective guidelines is one of the most important skills you need.

2.2 All emails should be on-topic for the list.

2.3 Personal abuse is not tolerated.

2.4 Contributions are expected to be constructive in tone and shy away from inflammatory language. We don't want flame-wars and participating in them on our working lists is considered to be a serious abuse, NO MATTER WHO STARTED IT.

2.5 Ad-hominems or evidence free accusations of malicious intent on the part of those who disagree with you are considered abuses.

2.6 All subscribers must be respectful of the privacy of other subscribers. People have a right to have their choice of anonymity protected, except where threats to the security of the collective or collective members are encountered. (Principle of Unity 3 & 4)

2.7 All emails to the lists should follow our Netiquette guide.

2.8 All subscribers must abide by these rules and the decisions of the list moderators.

2.9 These rules cover all of our mailing lists. Other rules may also be applied to individual lists, as listed in our working groups guide.

3. Netiquette guide

3.1. Netiquette is an Internet neologism. It means "Internet etiquette". Because there is such a volume of information on the Internet, many people have little time to read through emails. It helps tremendously if you format your emails according to a certain style, so that people can quickly and easily get to the point of it. If you don't take the time to format your emails properly, everybody else will have to take the extra time to read them - that's considered selfish and rude on the Internet, so proper formatting is just good manners. Also, if you don't follow the standard format, others are less likely to read your mails. There are several comprehensive guides to Netiquette available on the Internet (1, 2), this document merely outlines some of the most important points for using the Indymedia Ireland mailing lists.

3.2. Remember there are a lot of subscribers on many of our lists. Many of them get a lot of mail and are unhappy when they get a lot of email that doesn't have any relevance to their work on the list. Consider whether you really need to share your email with every one of them before you post.

3.3. When you reply to emails try to keep to the original topic of the thread, and don't add in different unrelated topics - this helps subscribers who use threaded email clients to organise their email. If you want to bring up an unrelated topic, start a new thread.

3.4. Do not include the entire text of the original email in your reply. If you want to quote a previous email, just quote relevant extracts, in small chunks, and position your replys AFTER the quoted text. A good rule of thumb is that quoted material should never be more than half of the text in any email - remember the quoted stuff has already been seen by list subscribers. Top-posting is wholly inappropriate for mailing lists and is not good Netiquette.

3.5. Although list subscribers will be eager to help with any problems that you are having related to the topic of the group, questions about general issues which could be answered by Google or Wikipedia are bad manners. Also, it is considered to be very bad manners to ask questions that are answered in the documentation on the mailing list. That's like saying your time (to read the documentation) is more valuable than the time of hundreds and hundreds of others (to answer your question). Tres uncool. Read the documentation first!

3.6. Mails should be clear and comprehensible and as grammatically correct as possible.

3.7. All users are encouraged to send private reminders to contributors who contravene Netiquette rules. It is only if the breaches are persistent that a moderator should be called on to intervene.

3.8. Everybody has the right to choose which mails to respond to. It is extremely rude to demand that others respond to your mail - they are perfectly capable of choosing what to respond to themselves.

3.9. In order to avoid flame wars users should not post more than three mails per day per subject. This guideline will be particularly enforced for off-topic, inflammatory, or repetitive mails.

4. Moderation & Dispute Resolution

4.1. If you feel that a contributor is breaking these guidelines, this should be brought up with the list moderators and NOT on the list itself. Even if you feel that another contributor is abusing the rules, that is not an excuse for you to respond in kind. If you can't convince the moderators to agree with you, you're just going to have to bite your lip and endure it.

4.2. If you disagree with a decision of a list moderator, you can appeal it to the list moderator working group. If you disagree with the decision of this working group, you just have to put up with it (or else propose that they be instructed, rebuked or recalled for abusing their power).

4.3. Ignoring a moderator's decision or the dispute resolution process is a serious abuse and likely to get you banned very quickly.

5. Sanctions

5.1. If a moderator feels that a contributor has broken the list guidelines, they can carry out any of the following actions:

  1. Send a private email to the person who has broken the guidelines, informing them of the guideline that they have broken and asking them to follow the guidelines in future. In the vast majority of cases, this should be the only action that moderators have to take as most subscribers will be happy to follow the guidelines and most breaches will be due to mistakes rather than malicious intent.
  2. Send a public email to the email list indicating that a subscriber has broken the guidelines and publicly rebuking the subscriber for doing so. This sanction will generally be used in situations where the moderators deem a particular person to have acted recklessly in relation to the guidelines. For example, launching a series of personal attacks or continually ignoring list guidelines could earn public rebukes.
  3. Placing the offending individual on moderation for a period - this means that all of their subsequent posts will have to be approved by a moderator before they are passed to the list. This sanction should be used when contributors have persistently transgressed the rules and have not heeded previous advice by moderators.
  4. Banning the offending individual from posting for a period - this should only be done to people who have a clear track record of recklessly abusing the list guidelines.
  5. Banning the offending individual permanently. This should only be used when individuals either consciously endanger the security of others or have a track record which shows clearly that they have no constructive interest in the project i.e. - proven trolls.

5.2. In order to protect the list from spammers and hostile right wing trolls, the moderators can decide to apply a trial period for new subscribers to the list during which they can be put on moderation or banned quickly.

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