I was fortunate while working at The Washington Post to meet Judith Martin, aka "Miss Manners," whose witty and bone-dry column on etiquette was nationally syndicated and recognized by President Bush, no less, when he gave her the National Humanities Award in 2005.
Now, more than ever, we need her to help us navigate the new territory of online community. When we created social software, we broke prior rules of etiquette by encouraging a Babel tower of personal expression, which Miss Manners was lukewarm about, and we need a new - and global - set of rules of what constitutes good behavior.
So here's a first pass at Miss Manners 2.0:
1. Tell the truth with the realization that whatever you write will be permanently recorded.
2. Tell the truth with the realization that it will be ubiquitously distributed at the click of a "send" button.
3. Do engage. Online community is not a place that reflects the old-money adage that the "only times your name should appear in the newspaper is when you marry and when you die."
4. Be generous. Commend other members for good points and comment on their posts. Perhaps more measurably and more swiftly than in other forms of generosity, you will be rewarded for giving to others.
5. Don't shy away from criticism. Bloggers would rather have negative comments than none at all.
6. But be careful how you criticize. Profanity, my lawyer friends tell me, is the first sign of weakness, and showing weakness is not only stupid, it's also bad manners.
7. Embed links wherever possible. It's a pain in the butt, I know, but it's another form of generosity and supports your case.
8. For all that we hear that many CEO's are blogging and no doubt, are not doing it on their own, authenticity still trumps good grammar and bland corporate speak. Your post should be (mostly) you, even if, enviably, you have someone to review what you write.
9. Sometimes accurate spelling is important, like that other blogger's name. In this day and LinkedIn age, it's not hard to check.
10. Finally, pick up the phone. When you feel strongly about something and things start to get out of hand, forget Web 2.0.