How to thrive in cyberspace - all you need to know

Networking online is fast and fantastic, and can bring you global contacts, immediate information, and even new friends. But make sure you get the basics right, says DeskDemon's Creative Director Andrea McKinney. There are codes of conduct in cyberspace, too

By Andrea McKinney

Whether you want to exchange your favourite recipe or create new professional contacts the Internet is fast becoming the easiest and fastest place to expand your circle of acquaintances.

Virtual networking, like any networking, has some rules. How does one access the power of the internet to expand professional and personal horizons and what are the things you should know for a safe and productive experience?

Choosing your community

There are many virtual communities online for everything from relationship discussions to selective groups which deal with job hunting, HR, and countless other topics. Think of a virtual community the way you would when you are selecting a new neighbourhood to live in and ask yourself some questions:

Are my new “neighbours” interesting?
Skimming though a few posts will tell you very quickly what’s being discussed and by whom.

Is this community relevant to my goals at this time?
Would you move into a community of accountants if your life’s ambition was to be an artist and you had a choice of a neighbourhood up the street which was full of artists? Probably not. After you’ve identified a community as interesting to you, it’s important to decide what you will use the community for. It’s not going to be a good virtual community experience for you if you want to talk about your career and everyone else is talking about parenting issues. Define your community goals. You’ll find plenty of specialist communities out there from career to personal issues and some such as DeskDemon’s popular forums which have specific sections designated to multiple areas.

Is the community active and thriving?
Check to see how often posts are entered into the community you’re thinking of joining. There is nothing more frustrating than to be awaiting an answer to a mission critical question from a stagnant community. Successful communities have frequent postings and you should be able to tell just how frequent by the dates on the postings which are already present. Think about our concept of a neighbourhood again. Would you move into the place with the boarded up windows and graffiti or the road with the well tended lawns and cheerful neighbours?

style="color:#036;"Security, first posting and other things you should know

Personal Security
Remember that unlike real life networking, you’re not handing a single individual your business card. On the Internet it’s possible for information you post into a community to be seen by lots of people. Never post your personal or company details into a public forum board even one where you feel completely at ease. If you want to contact someone privately exchange e-mail addresses. And it’s probably best to maintain a non company e-mail address for those initial contacts. (You can get a free e-mail account at

First posting rules
The easiest way to enter into a busy community is by responding to a post to which you can add to the discussion. It’s easy to say, “Hi there, first time poster here, I’m Sally from the North. I think you’re ideas on office best practice are terrific and here’s what I do when….” Get the idea? Because you’ve got something to add, it will be like merging into traffic from a slip road you’ll gain speed and become part of the mainstream traffic quickly.

Respect the community rules
Just like that mythical neighbourhood, each community will have its own set of rules. In good communities these rules are enforced by "moderators". It’s the job of a moderator to keep the discussions going and to ensure that the community goals are achieved.

Tone doesn’t pass through a computer screen
It’s very important to remember that if you’re the queen of sarcasm, that won’t play well in places where people can’t hear your tone of voice. Think twice before hitting the send button for any posting. How will your words be perceived by someone who doesn’t know you and can’t see that you’re laughing or being satirical? presents the largest community in the world for office professionals. And we’re happy to have you join in not only for office issues but for humour, personal and educational issues, keeping up with global professional associations and to experience virtual networking in a well moderated global community of your peers.

Virtual networking is an easy way to meet new people, exchange ideas and best practices and get input on anything and everything. You can see the full scope of our networking community by visiting The Hub and reading the forum synopsis. You can be a lurker, or a poster on the world’s largest community for office professionals with the click of a button. Isn’t technology great?

Learn the lingo!
A person who is adding information to the virtual community
A person who reads but doesn’t add information
A series of entries about one topic
A single segment of a thread
A person who monitors the virtual community for the community providers
Flame War:
A thread which is out of control and often, where posters are rude to each other
Flame Retardant suit: Sometimes posters with unpopular opinions will refer to their “flame retardant suit”, a tongue in cheek way of saying they expect some negative feedback.
PM: Private Message. Many virtual communities have a private message environment where you can communicate with the poster of an item without taking it to the main board. It’s common to see, “PM me your details” in postings. This means that the poster is asking you to send her/him a private message using that board’s facility
Troll: A person who is habitually rude to others
Spammer: A person who posts advertising without relevance to the community
Vent: The process of grousing about something also called “ranting”
Emoticon: A little picture that is placed in your posting using special formatting and are used to add special emphasis to your ideas, as below:
blush = cool = crazy = laugh = wink =
mad = shocked = evil = frown = blackeye =
approve = sleepy = smile = tongue =  
clown = question = sad = kisses =  

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