internet behavior guidelines
Learn about guidelines for:
- BC's network and the Internet
- Email (includes email writing tips)
- Mass emailings
- Reporting network abuse
Connection to the Boston College network lets you interact with others on-campus and around the world. This connection also provides access to a wealth of ever-expanding information right at your fingertips! Using these "highways" of information does not come free from responsibility, however. Accessing the BC network and the Internet, both on and off-campus, falls under the existing policies for the use of computing resources. Simply put, the BC network is intended for educational and professional use, not personal use.
Venturing outside of BC's network is similar to moving from local street to highway driving. Realize that other networks have "rules of the road," and they may be different from ours. It is important to note that it is a violation of many regulations and laws to send harassing, threatening, or abusive email. It is also illegal to use the network to distribute copyrighted materials without express permission from the author or publisher, including software applications.
Copies of Boston College's policies and procedures for computing resources are available in the University Policies and Procedures Manual, the Employee Handbook, and the Student Guide. Policies and procedures for external networks (NEARnet, NSFnet) are available electronically. For information on how to access these documents, call the Help Center at 617-552-HELP (4357) or email email@example.com.
All Boston College faculty, staff, and students have email accounts. With the BC network, it is possible to send email to individuals on campus and around the world. Although this resource should be used responsibly and professionally, it is possible to make mistakes. For specific email policies, see the Email Usage Guidelines page.
An important note about email attachments: If you ever receive an email with an attachment from someone you do not know very well, do not open the attachment. This is especially true if the attachment has an .exe (executable) extension. These are very often viruses that can seriously damage your computer's operating system and files.
Are you new to the world of electronic communication? A word to the wise: think before you send. Like any correspondence, email messages should be composed carefully to convey the intended message. The reader of the message does not have access to the normal visual or auditory cues of a conversation. A tongue-in-cheek message or a joke may be easily misinterpreted in an electronic format.
Here are some email writing tips:
- Never use ALL CAPS. It is the electronic equivalent of SHOUTING.
- Grammar. The accepted rules relating to grammar and spelling still prevail. Use the spell checker in your email application or maybe compose your email in Word first and use the grammar checker as well.
- Salutations (the dying art in email). You may consider it a memo; others may consider it a personal communication, so try to use Dear Nick or Dear Mr. Fyooreeno unless you are emailing your friends or close family.
- The Subject box (getting your message read). Most people get lots of email every day, and many tend to skim their inboxes quickly. If you want your email to be read, try to highlight its importance with a subject line that will pique curiosity. Try to avoid ALL CAPS as it is seen as SHOUTING and is often interpreted as spam (unwanted solicitations or junk email).
- The message (short but sweet). Two or three short paragraphs is usually the maximum most people can (or want to) digest at one sitting. (Unless this is a personal email, of course.) Mimic the tried-but-true Who What Where When and Why - this makes a message easy to read and digest.
- Attachments (less is more). Try to remember that not everyone has a super fast connection. There are still people putting along the Internet on a 56k modem connection. If you send someone a huge attachment it could take a long time to download - a source of great frustration. So unless it is vital to your communication, try to avoid attachments.
- Little things (that mean a lot). Always include a phone number and web address, if you have one, at the bottom of your email. Many people have a signature that automatically appears at the bottom of every email.
- Other tips. Break up your email into smaller paragraphs and use asterisks for bolding (not every email program accepts traditional bolding, so to be *sure*, you can use asterisks).
Below are some common symbols and terms used in email conversations: (Hint: look sideways at the first two!)
- :-) smile
- ;-) wink
- IMHO: In my humble opinion
- BTW: By the way
Many Boston College offices use mass mailings to inform the community of upcoming events or seminars. In an electronic environment, this "mass communication" can wreak havoc. Electronic mass mailings appear to be easy and free. Easy they are, but "free" they are not. There are hidden costs: networks become clogged, email server space is chewed up, and folks get irritated when their mailboxes are stuffed with junk email, also known as spam.
Everyone's time is valuable. One person's "cause" or "concern" may mean nothing to the next. People who have no interest in your message may become upset and complain vocally. With this in mind, the basic rule is, "Do not send a message to anyone unless you absolutely know that he/she wants to receive it."
Oftentimes, many of the topics and events which one would like to mention in a mass mailing can be publicized using BC Info, the Campus Wide Information System. Some free and easy ways to advertise events electronically are through the electronic events calendars of the BC Chronicle, the Student Affairs Office, the Office of the Dean for Student Development. All of these services can be accessed from the BC Events, Schedules and Calendars Page, which is also accessible through the drop-down list on the BC Info page.
Use of network resources has exploded campus-wide. No one is expected to be an "electronic guru" from Day One, and there will be times when you may "violate" rules unconsciously. While we cannot control junk mail (also known as spam) received from off-campus sources, Information Technology Services will vigorously pursue any on-campus violations. Learn how to report spam (junk email) & other electronic abuse at BC.
If you receive junk email/spam:
- Be self-policing. If it comes from an on-campus (@bc.edu) address, you can send the individual an email explaining that this is an improper use of the BC network, and you would appreciate not receiving messages in the future. Be respectful and know that everyone is not an "expert." Educate, do not berate those who are less knowledgeable. You can also just delete it.
- Do not respond to spam from off campus. Spammers often use a clever tactic of offering a supposed way for you to "unsubscribe" from their lists if you do not want to receive future emails. While unsubscribing is used by legitimate email listservs, this is also a way for a spammer to confirm that you actually exist and that you use your email. So if you did not specifically subscribe to a listserv to receive the email in the first place, do not reply to it - just delete it.
- If it comes from off-campus, forward a copy of the email to the originator's ISP (Internet Service Provider). If the email is offensive to you, you can forward a copy of it to the originator's ISP. Most ISPs have email addresses set up specifically for reporting instances of spam and other offensive email. To figure out where the email originated, look at the From: field of the spam/junk email. Take the information after the @ sign in the email address and add "abuse@" to the beginning. (for example: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com) You will most likely receive an auto-generated response that your complaint has been received and that they will investigate its origin and take whatever action is possible.
- Please be aware that individuals who send junk email/spam are very resourceful, and have many ways of sending email that appears to come from a particular ISP when in actuality it does not.
If you use the BC network improperly:
- You will be contacted by a member of Information Technology Services regarding proper network usage.
- Expect several responses (some harsh) from colleagues. Do not get into a war of words. The responses are well-intended and should be taken seriously, but not personally.