Maybe it's the lack of daylight at this time of year, but I feel distinctly grouchy. And I'm feeling especially unbending right now towards other people on some of the professional forums and mailing lists I use. After having a rant about forumites who can't be bothered to search the archives for info on common problems, I thought of all the other things that really get on my proverbials when it comes to posting.
There is a certain etiquette when it comes to posting - this may vary between forums but the essentials remain the same.
1. Trim your posts. It's polite to cut everything bar just the paragraph or two that you are actually responding to, especially if the forum is a listserv rather than a web-based bulletin board. The rest of us do not want to have scroll past 10 paragraphs, your signature, the yahoo groups blah and 3 anti-virus messages, just to read one line.
2. "Me toos" are infuriating. Freelances are busy people and we get a lot of email. Clogging up inboxes with an ill-considered "me too" is the height of bad manners and is only acceptable if you actually can add to the debate by introducing a new point. If the only thing you have to say is "I agree", then say it in your head and only your head. See point 1, as me toos frequently follow an untrimmed post.
3. Use the search engines. I was until recently a member of a yahoo group where one particular poster really got peoples' backs up because they would ask the most basic copy-editing questions instead of using standard reference works or even looking on the net first. And this was someone who supposedly had "advanced" status. I do not miss these now I've quit - previously, I'd be hitting the delete button several times a day after skimming the post in question. To paraphrase that well-known saying, eds help those who help themselves, but pissed-off eds will always ignore someone who cries wolf.
4. Stop moaning. Another listserv I use has several members who never post anything except whinges about how badly they get treated by commissioning editors, how lousy the rates are, how skint they are ad infinitum. As with point 3, these are people I will always ignore and never offer advice or support to, because the constant moaning depresses me and pisses me off simultaneously. If freelancing really is that bad, find an alternative career. Or shut up and do something to improve your situation.
5. Give back. Building on points 3 and 4, if you must constantly request help or advice, it's politic to return the favour to other members. I get really hacked off with people who are on the take but never offer advice themselves or post cheery, pleasant things. I always try to offer useful advice to people who genuinely need help (bar those in 3 &4 above) or post some humorous trivia to make people smile. And I keep my own queries and moans to a minimum.
6. Don't pick fights or snipe. And don't feed the troll. I quit the group mentioned in point 3 because of ongoing low-level sniping and bitching. Not to mention being in receipt of some nasty emails posted offlist to me. Also irritating are those who encourage the resident bitch in subtle ways. All of which serve to make the forum experience unpleasant for almost everyone else.
All this probably makes me sound an uncharitable bitch, so I'd just like to say hurrah for Journobiz, which is possibly the most supportive forum or listserv I've ever used, packed full of wonderfully generous and witty people and thankfully devoid of "professionals" who suck the will to live out of you...