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Old 09.09.2006, 09:04
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Policy: Copying content, copy/paste, quoting, linking, etc.

Sometimes it may be necessary or useful to include information from other sources, or links to that information, in your post. There are some aspects of etiquiette which should be considered - both for the comfort of your fellow forum members and the legal protection of this forum.

Copying and Pasting Text

This is often a temptation, as it may underscore a point that you may be trying to make. Aspects to consider if you are about to copy and paste something into your post:
  • Do you own the rights to that text - in other words, have you written it yourself or are you effectively stealing it from another site?
  • Is it really relevant to your post?
  • Does it complement your own words or are you simply using someone else's words to make your point, while adding very little value of you own?
  • Does it contain any complex formatting which might end up making a mess when you try to put it in your post (tables, etc.)?
  • Is the text excessively long, or have you taken only the relevant sections?
  • Have you, or do you intend to acknowledge the source of the information?
  • If quoting an email, have you ensured that you have protected the privacy of the sender? If you have reason to believe that they might not approve of you posting their private email, have you asked their permission?
Why is copying and pasting entire blocks of text from other sites wrong?

In addition to the points above many people are not aware of the following issues when copying and pasting text:
  • Copying without permission often equates to copyright theft. Someone else has developed that content. In the past successful prosecutions have been brought against the operators of forums for the behaviour of their members.
  • Search engines such as Google discover duplicate content and effectively devalue that information in their rankings. This potentially hurts both this forum and the original author. The extent of this is the subject of debate, but an article can be found here. [searchenginejournal.com]
  • Large blocks of text waste screen real-estate, causing the user to become frustrated at having to scroll through something they may not find interesting. In a large thread with many replies this can become tiresome.
Wholesale, excessive copying and pasting of large blocks of text, especially containing corrupted formatting, will be frowned apon by the moderators.

What is the correct way to copy content from other places?

There are many situations where a reference to somewhere else is very legitimate and relevant. It is considered "acceptable use" from a copyright perspective to quote limited parts of the content and then invite someone to visit the original version of the content themselves (using a link).

For example, if I wanted to encourage someone to check out an article on the wikipedia about netiquette (internet etiquette) I would link the article like this [wikipedia] and then give them a little taster to encourage them to read the full article:
Netiquette (neologism, a portmanteau formed from "Internet etiquette") is a catch-all term for the conventions of politeness recognized on Usenet, in mailing lists, and on other electronic forums such as Internet message boards. These conventions address group phenomena (such as flaming) with changes in personal behaviour, such as not posting in all uppercase, not (cross-)posting to inappropriate groups, refraining from commercial advertising outside the biz groups and not top-posting. RFC 1855 is a fairly lengthy and comprehensive set of such conventions.
Correct conventions for linking and quoting will be covered shortly.

Why should I quote things and how does it work?

The main purpose of quoting is to make your post easier to understand for readers, particularly when your post may contain the words of others. If you don't do something to show that these are the words of others, how will the reader know the difference?

When you reply to a message you have the choice to press either the "Reply" or "Quote" button. The quote button simply takes the text from the previous post and wraps it in quote tags. You can write the quote tags yourself, or you can simply highlight the text in your message that you'd like to quote and hit the quote button in the editor that looks like this:

You'll notice that you now see the quote tags surrounding the text like this:

[quote]This is some quoted text[/quote]

This is some quoted text
You can add a name to the quote like this:

[quote=somewebsite.com]This is some quoted text[/quote]

This is some quoted text
Now that we have the technical aspects of quoting out the way, let's examine some of the other aspects of when to quote and when not to quote.

You should quote when:
  • You are bringing in information from an external source.
  • You are replying to another post and there might be other posts between the person you are responding to and your reply. Without quoting the original message, readers may become confused about what you may be referring to.
You should not quote when:
  • Your reply follows immediately after the previous message and it will be very obvious to everyone that your reply is in response to the immediately preceeding post.
  • You are making a new point, with all of your own words.
You should remember some points when quoting other people's words:
  • Do not alter someone else's words to make it look like they said something they didn't. This will get you banned.
  • If you've copied and pasted something from a web page there may be strange formatting characters or images in use. Check the results with the preview function and clean it up before submitting your post.
  • Don't "over quote", in other words quote only the parts of their message which are relevant. If they are telling a long story you may want to "snip" part of their message.
Snipping a message might look like this:
Gen 1:1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
Gen 1:2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness [was] upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

[snip... glad we didn't have to go through all that]

Rev 22:19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and [from] the things which are written in this book.
How do I link to another page and is there any etiquette involved?

Linking is easy. Use the link button in the editor which looks like this: . First highlight the word that you want to link and click the button. Then enter the address of the link.

It is polite to give the reader a clue about where you would like to take them - after all, how do they know you aren't leading them somewhere where they don't want to go? For this reason it's a good idea to quote a paragraph or so from the site (see note about this in the section above), and also tell them where the link is by listing the name of the site in brackets after the link. For example:
You might want to read a great article about netiquette [wikipedia.org] to improve your manners on the internet.
Now the user feels more comfortable that you are taking them to a site that they may already be familiar with. Also consider whether your link is "safe" for people at work. If it could get them into trouble at work, or it has sound , it's also polite to warn them. If you saw something like this:
Hey guys I just found this - it's really awesome.
Would you click it? Wouldn't it better if it said:
Hey guys I just found this - it's really awesome. [hamsterdance.org, sound, possible adult content]

How do I insert images into my post and is there any etiquette involved?

Linking images directly to your post can be done using the image button - . Just enter the address of the location of the image you want to link. Consider if there are any copyright issues connected with the image. Generally it's ok to link a couple of images unless you suspect that doing so may harm the owner of the image. Use common sense. If you wish to attach a picture or file use the attach file option at the bottom section of the page when editing a message, or upload the image into the photo gallery and put a link in your post to it.


Thank you for taking the time to help make this forum a better place.
Old 12.12.2007, 16:50
mark's Avatar
The Architect
Join Date: May 2005
Location: Zollikon, Switzerland
Posts: 2,995
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Re: Policy: Copying content, copy/paste, quoting, linking, etc.

We've just had a senior member with some 300+ posts post a very misleading thread with the title "Just when you thought it was safe". And a link with no clue as to the content. The link lead to a potentially harmful website, which plays a video of Rick Ashley and hijacks the browser totally - making it dance around the screen.

This is a classic example of the etiquette described above being totally ignored.

This action could have harmed others computers and damages people's trust in the forum and its users. Additionally, it could flag up English Forum for attention in various corporate firewalls, since it was the referral page to potentially harmful content. I don't think anyone here wants their office to see EF in this way.

So please - be honest when linking and tell people what you expect them to click on, and warn them if there's anything (like not safe for work, etc)

Linking or trying to trick other members to visit sites with harmful and or dangerous content will incur the full wrath of the staff...
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