Message boards are like any other organised gathering of people: There are rules of etiquette that everyone is expected to follow. AOL aims to foster the widest possible range of different, vibrant communities with diverse viewpoints, supported by a vast array of content and services. In light of this goal, your AOL experience is bound only by a set of common sense rules that require you to be civil and show respect for others when you are online.
These rules are part of the Conditions of Service agreement every member has with AOL. To view your complete COS agreement, sign on to AOL and go to AOL Keyword: COS.
Here are two key points:
Be kind and honest
Don't issue personal attacks, use profanity, or post threatening, abusive, harassing, or otherwise offensive language or images. You also may not impersonate another individual or communicate under a name that you are not entitled to use.
Do not post chain letters or advertisements
Chain letters are never appreciated in the online community and they are a violation of your AOL membership agreement. Advertisements are just about as unwelcome. You may place advertisements only in areas designated for that purpose. Unsolicited advertising is not allowed.
In addition to your COS commitments, there are some suggested guidelines for polite and responsible interaction on message boards:
Read the message board for a while before participating
It's best to read a board for a while before you post your first message. Read a couple of week's worth of messages the first time you visit a board, then read new messages for another couple of days. You'll see what topics are hot and which are cold, you'll get to know some of the key participants, and you'll become familiar with the demeanor of the board. Each one is different.
Write clearly when you compose a message. Review your message carefully before clicking the Send button. Remember, if your message can be misunderstood, it will be.
Refrain from using ALL CAPS
Typing in all capital letters is frowned upon; it is the equivalent of screaming at everyone. It also makes your message more difficult to read.
Don't post meaningless messages
Posting messages that say nothing more than "Me too" is a quick way to irritate other members. If you agree with a posting, either enjoy your consent by yourself or reply with an informative comment about why you agree. Imagine how dull a board would get if it contained nothing but hundreds of "me toos."
Consider sending a reply by e-mail
Some replies are better sent as e-mail, rather than posted to a board. Personal messages and especially critical comments are more appropriate when sent directly and privately. There's a Send Mail link on every message board post.
Refrain from cross-posting
Cross-posting means posting a single message to several different message boards. It is almost never appropriate. Such posts tend to reduce the quality of the discussion and needlessly increase the traffic on the board. Find the best place for your post and confine your message to that board.
Quote from the post you're replying to
Include a small section of text from the post you're replying to so others will have a quick reminder of the topic.
Be careful when posting personal information
Be careful about including private information about yourself, such as phone numbers and street addresses. Private information of that nature is better sent by e-mail.
Follow the community standards
Check the message board area for specific Community Standards, such as rules concerning which topics should be posted in which folders and answers to Frequently Asked Questions. Click the Community Standards link from any message board window to read the guidelines for that area.