Sometimes, somebody does something courageous. Dave and I could have started a magazine about anything, targeting a much wider audience. Creating a magazine about free software, and calling it Free Software Magazine, had an element of courage in it - and an element of madness as well!
After receiving a few emails with the publisher, I recently received a book from the U.K.: "Netiquette: Internet etiquette in the age of the blog" by Matthew Strawbridge (published by Software References. The book is not specifically about free software so, this is not a "proper" FSM book review. However, after receiving it, and through a series of coincidences (I'm not normally able to get books nor read them since I travel quite a bit), I managed to read it and I couldn't stop thinking: the internet has created a whole subculture.
The book has a very scientific approach to netiquette: it offers a list of "rules". The third one is in the section of the book that covers email and says:
"Avoid non-standard forms of English, such as txt or l33t."
In the privacy section, there is this rule:
"Do not read other people's private emails."
In the forum section:
"Keep your postings on-topic if possible"
"If you post a message that gives away the ending of a film, book, etc. then clearly mark it as a spoiler in the subject line"
The list goes on and on. What amazes me is that these are all things I learned in the last 19 years of my life while using BBSs, Fidonet, and then the internet. (I wonder what percentage of our readers would actually know what BBSs and Fidonet are!)
So, why is this book courageous? Well, because it's not yet another "cool tutorial" about how to tweak your computer. It's more a stern book which tells you how to behave while on the internet, and above all why you should behave. It entertained me because it formalised the loose guidelines I had taken for granted for years - but that many others obviously hadn't taken for granted at all. It's courageous because it's definitely going to be read in the future - let's say 30, 40 years - and will give our future generations a glimpse of what was considered "fine" back then, in 2007. It's courageous because it's a fantastic piece of work, which will definitely have a limited audience.
So, who is this book for? I frankly think that this book should be a must-have for any company or government body who has employees which deal with the general public and the internet audience in their everyday working life. In fact, companies should have 10 copies of this book, and make sure that employees follow the instructions - or at least are aware of what is acceptable and what is not. It should also be a compulsory read for all those people who seem to be keen on breaking every single rule listed in this book, although I realise that's definitely too much to ask for.
Now, that's a pity.
The book is available on Amazon (it has a well-deserved 5-start review from a top reviewer). I can only cross my fingers, and hope that it will sell well!