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THE SOAP BOX OF E-SAM
Better Online Communication - For Amtgard and Beyond!
[02/19/2009] [Okami Cio Cio]

There are so many useful web-based contacts for Amtgard. We have a variety of tools at our disposal, mailing groups, web pages, forums and, of course, good old e-mail. The Internet is a great way to reach a lot of people with a modicum of effort.

However, many people aren't confident when starting into the waters of many online communities. It's tough to be sure about what to say or where to say it. Add to that the pressure of making sure you're getting your information out there, and it can be daunting. There are a number of simple tricks that can make Internet communication easier and more effective, for officers or even the average joe.

Announcements: Who, What, Where, When, Why

When making an event announcement, it's easy to forget details - I know I have certainly done so! The old rule of the 5 Ws helps immensely. There's nothing wrong with spicing event announcements up with cute, in-character talk, just make sure you've got your date, location, time and a general "what" of the event involved. When making other announcements, awards given, voter lists, financial statements, whatever business you need to relate, the Ws help as well.

Always proofread the message before you send it, giving yourself another chance to think, "Have I missed anything." If you have a friend available to read the message to, or send it to for proofreading, utilize that resource.

Try to communicate to the groups or lists that the information is pertinent to. For example, a voter eligible list for your park needs to go to that park's list. However, it's a good idea to copy in any higher level Prime Minister, Principality or Kingdom.

If a message is personal, about one individual or small group of people, keep it that way. Don't spam lists with "I need to talk to Bob," unless you've already attempted to contact Bob directly. Most mailing lists and forums have a listing of all the members subscribed. Use common sense, and look for that contact before using the list as a paging system.

When in office, it's good to keep an eye on lists and answer emails in a very timely fashion. The same goes for personal emails. Even if you've talked to someone in person, there's nothing wrong with sending him or her an email that says, "we talked and this was what we discussed." It can come in handy when you're keeping track of what responsibilities are in front of you.

Any reports or updates that you are responsible for should be done on time. Set yourself a calendar or other reminder tool. Making a template for your reports can be very handy. Remember the Ws and you might be able to just type in the details for each new update.

Discussion

It's fun to engage in debate and discussion on the Internet. When that discussion moves into the realm of arguing, I like to think of the old axiom about "if you can't say something nice…" It doesn't benefit you or the others involved to start hurling insults, even when you've been insulted. Some basic tips I've seen in the last 20 years of Internet communication include:

1. Imagine you were saying this to someone's face. If you wouldn't, don't send it.

2. Re-read that message before you hit send. Read it out loud if possible, it will help you "hear" how it's going to "sound" to others.

3. Check your grammar. Use a spell check. Chunk longer paragraphs into smaller ones.

4. IAWTC (I agree with that comment) or other such messages really only serve to stroke your or the other person's ego. If you don't really have something to add to the conversation, think about why you're typing.

5. Re-read messages that have got you upset or angry with a kinder tone in mind. Maybe it's not about you, it's not insulting and it's not what you're reading into the message.

6. If you're going to state facts, be ready to back them up with citation. If you're going to state opinions, remember that everyone's opinions are different and personal and once again don't have to hurt you.

Some folks may never have any further interaction with you outside of what you've said on the Internet. There's little reason to be proud of being the guy who is rude on a list or forum. Not only will in hamper your ability to make new friends, it might come back to hurt you when you're trying to learn something new.

Reference

In writing articles or submitting useful information to a list, board or forum, once again, proofreading is your friend. When adding links, make sure they are good, with a quick click. Subject lines should be clear and relate to the items you're referencing. If you are ever linking or referencing images or videos that could be considered "offensive", make sure you advise the potential viewers that it is not safe for work (NSFW).

These are some basics that can improve the quality of your online communication. My best advice - don't take it too seriously!

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