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General Tips

Internet Etiquette
by Amy Maruso
Reprinted by Permission from the
February, 2004 issue of Western & Eastern Treasures magazine

Fire. Weapons. The wheel. Electricity. The Internet. All monumental changes intended to advance mankind and improve the human condition. And that they have, but at times have exposed a dark side of human nature, reminding us we live in a society where freedom of choice and moral conduct doesn't always follow the path of righteousness.

Back in 1997, I took the plunge and invested in my first PC. Luckily, I didn't have to endure the process of setting it up as my son, Jason, came along in the early 80's, and was born with a motherboard in his head like the rest of his "computer generation." He plugged in a few plugs, instructed me to push a few buttons, and I was cruising on the cyber super-highway and loving it! A year or two after that, I wrote an article for this magazine titled, "Detecting the Net," extolling the virtues of using the Internet as a research tool as well as a way to communicate with other th'ers. Life on the Internet was good! Insidiously, and over time, that "dark side" thing began to rear its ugly head, and I began to notice that cyber land was not the Utopia I previously perceived it to be. Fights were breaking out in chatrooms, forums were rife with traded insults and erroneous information, and flaming emails were exchanged behind the scenes. Individuals, manufacturers, dealers, websites and industry reps fell victim to malicious attacks by those hiding behind the anonymity of a computer screen. Reputations were indelibly scarred and many businesses went under as a result of venomous keystrokes made by faceless monikers using bogus email addresses. Up popped a crop of self-proclaimed metal detecting "gurus," whose words were taken as gospel by followers and newcomers, even if it wasn't always correct - or the truth. Like childhood innocence lost, the Internet evolved into a sordid venue for slander, libel, hit-and-run pot stirrers, misinformation, anger, frustration, and downright evil.

Gosh! That sounds like a recipe for a modern day Sodom and Gomorrah! It isn't. It's only my frustration over coming to terms with the way it used to be compared to how it is now. I still need the Internet, but keep the blinders and grains of salt nearby when entering with the understanding that it's at my own risk. No longer am I drawn like a moth to a flame to forums that feed off of bickering and name-calling. Like many sensationalistic media venues, the novelty wears off quickly, and for most people, the craving for seeking out friendly, intelligent sites returns. Even on the more civil forums, points of view can differ, but that's healthy as long as it's constructive and doesn't stray from the subject, which brings me to the first point of this article.
Metal detecting is a hobby of opinions - especially on the Internet. From recommending a certain detector to recovery tools and techniques to how to clean and preserve coins and relics, there are as many opinions as there are opinion-givers. Think about it; someone new to the hobby posts the question, "Which detector should I buy?" Certainly, no one is going to recommend a brand other than the one they are currently using. Belief in your own detector is important to be successful in this hobby, so chances are the answers will read like a Who's Who of metal detecting brands, makes and models. The best educated purchase will be based on gathering the advice given by the posters, reading each manufacturer's website, and visiting your local dealer for a personal demonstration.

When posting on the Internet, remember that what you put out there stays out there and cannot be taken back. Before making a post in the heat of anger, sleep on it a night and see if you don't have a different outlook in the morning. The light of day has a way of changing perspective and eliminating regret. Remember also that there are many reading the forums who would like to see this hobby obliterated. It's probably not a good idea to mention certain finds or sites that could fall into the wrong hands and be used against us. Also, there are a lot of newcomers and curiosity-seekers whose first impression of the hobby will be what they read on the forums.

About etiquette… There's something about sitting in front of a computer screen in the privacy of one's own home that brings out the worst in some people. Like being behind the wheel of a car, being at the helm of a keyboard can trigger all kinds of anti-social behavior. A good rule of thumb is to imagine yourself standing face to face with the person to whom you are responding. If you wouldn't say it to them in person, you shouldn't say it on a forum or in a chat room. In relation to the Internet, we're a relatively small group, and if you're a "regular" on the forums, you'll establish a certain reputation through the words you choose. Forum frequenters are familiar with the bullies, the know-it-alls, the nice people, and so on.

When someone puts up a post, it's always nice to make some response so they don't feel they are being ignored or that the forum regulars are a clique. Typing a few words of welcome, congratulations or helpful tips takes little effort, and will encourage the person to post more often. Remember the courage it took to make your first post? Likewise, when visiting someone's website, be sure to sign their guest book and leave a few complimentary words. Websites take a lot of time and work, and the owners enjoy hearing from those who have taken the time to visit it. Also, typing in all capital letters signifies shouting, so try and become as proficient as possible with your keyboard skills.

Perhaps the most appalling display of poor Internet etiquette is detector bashing! The "mine is better than yours" mentality crops up so often, you'd think the median age of those doing the bashing is about 8 years old! If one is secure with their brand of detector, then why the need to denigrate others? Fortunately, those types of posts are easy to see through by forum veterans, and most can be attributed to immaturity, jealousy and politics. Unfortunately, the effects of some of those posts are far-reaching and damaging. Insulting someone by insulting their detector ultimately hurts the dealers and manufacturers if someone decides not to purchase that detector based on the negative post. The manufacturers aren't faceless conglomerate "fat cats" sitting on a pile of money. The fact is that there is very little fat in this industry, and every lost sale hurts. The world is changing. With respect to the Internet, class, tact and good manners may well be the first casualties.

Despite some of the negatives, the Internet is still a great place to spend quality time, and to meet other th'ers from around the world. Good manners aren't something to be left behind when entering cyberspace. If anything, we need to present a positive image, and use our intellects to promote good will on behalf of the hobby. If Emily Post were alive today and surfing the Net, she'd have a lot more to write about than proper table etiquette!
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