Alex (yakshaver) wrote,

Netiquette 2016?

Short form: I've always taken it as an inviolate rule that you don't forward private email. (And that private email, in another absolute, includes mail to a mailing list, unless that list has a public archive.) I have always taken forwarding here to mean quoting at all. There are some circumstances where it's okay to summarize such email, but not to paraphrase it. All of which boil down to when your purpose is benign and you're confident the sender wouldn't object to your doing so.

But under no circumstances, under the netiquette I was taught, is it alright to quote private email without the sender's explicit permission.

I suspect that the modern take on this is that I need to relax. That holding rigidly to that rule, while not as odd as, say, insisting on calling my co-workers Mr or Ms Lastname rather than by their first names would be, is nevertheless passé, and no-one would take exception to my using my judgment in such a matter. (They might question my judgment, but not assert that there are no circumstances in which it would have been acceptable.)

I was going to follow the above with the "long" form, for anyone interested. I started writing the above when I found myself 150 words into the first draft and still hadn't gotten to the question. It's now taken me 250 words to ask it directly. I'll spare you the prologue.

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So the rule I learned is, "email is easily archived and forwarded, so don't put anything into an email that would be damaging if it was forwarded around" (consequence: "use the phone if you need to give unpleasant feedback").

My "proper comportment with email I have received" lines up reasonably well with what I'd do with a paper letter. Which is that paper letters get handed around and read by other people all the time - think about the employee who gets a thank-you note from their customer and passes it to their boss (or tacks it to the wall of their cube) as proof that their customers appreciate them. Likewise, who doesn't hand a chatty letter from their grandmother to their spouse? Or visit someone and be handed a Christmas card that they received with news of a distant relative in it?

I would consider it perfectly normal for someone to ask me a question that's better handled by the service desk or a colleague on another team, and to respond by forwarding the email or pasting the body into a ticket, and then replying with "so-and-so will get back to you about xyz."

If a professional contact has intentionally gone to personal email (off of a reasonable ticket/list/shared address) for the purpose of being demanding (or circumventing a limit I am trying to set, being harassing, etc.) my first likely response is to add my manager to the cc, and include "I've copied my manager, John Doe, on this for his awareness" while quoting their message in entirety.

It would be in bad taste to circulate something that's personal in nature to a fundamentally public forum, or outside the context it was intended for. But, there's wide swathes of communication where truly personal communication is impossible. If I'm being reached in a professional capacity, my manager, and whoever he might delegate the work to, get to see it, no matter how limited the actual header.
For messages of a personal nature, I would feel like it was rude to forward someone's message to me on to another person. (A message to a listserv might be personal or might be business in this sense, depending on the content and the list). Unless I specifically noted that I was sending them information in confidence, though, I wouldn't expect them not to discuss it with someone else or quote me. "Don't put anything on the Internet you don't want published in tomorrow's newspaper in your Grandma's hometown" also applies---some people are better at "in confidence" than others, and it's just too easy to forward an email or share a FB message (or screenshot. Oh, the drama of screenshots)

For a business email, I would fully expect my message to be forwarded to others in order to get it in front of whomever can best address my issue.

For example, I am the only recipient of info@ my favorite nonprofit. Some queries I can just answer, but some I shouldn't. Generally, I reply to these and cc the person to whom the inquiry should be directed, to facilitate an introduction, but sometimes I forward them onto our BoD or another person or committee for discussion before we reply. This seems like the only reasonable way to get work done---to do otherwise would require the inquirer to restate their query repeatedly as they got bounced around the organization, which seems rude in itself.
I don't have much to add beyond the thoughtful answers already.

Screw netiquette, this is basic _etiquette_. In personal contexts, you shouldn't forward messages from private forums outside of that without asking permission. (In business contexts, you often forward messages to the person who can resolve the issue at hand.) Similar to how you would otherwise treat personal and business correspondence in any medium.

You should do those things. You should not expect other people to act so responsibly.
Another example that others haven't mentioned is hostile email. If someone sends me harassing or threatening email, I reserve the right to forward it to the police or HR or whoever, or to publicize/quote it, as I see fit, whether or not the sender objects to my doing so or considers it private.
If you never forward email do you ever get anything done? I mean, multiple times per hour, people send me an email that was actually relevant to the entire group list, or send me an email that can best be addressed by another person. I assume if the email is business related, the sender would much rather that I just forward it appropriately than that I contact them and ask them for permission to send it to someone. I would spend all my time asking permissions or summarizing other people's emails.

Obviously, if a friend emailed me about something personal/secret, I wouldn't forward it to the other friend that I thought would be better at handling the issue. But for work related stuff, unless someone says "Do not share" or "Don't forward without checking with me" or I have some reason to believe they have told me something for my eyes only, I won't think twice about replying and adding a few more people, or forwarding.