CS312 Net and Email Guidelines

We use the web, email, and newsgroups quite extensively in this course.  As a new student, you may be unaware of some of the informal rules for electronic interaction that have evolved in recent years.  Please take a moment to read about these rules below.  Most are just a matter of common sense.  Experienced users follow them, and we expect you to as well. There are no official penalties for breaking them, except possibly incurring the wrath of the course staff, which you probably want to avoid.  The most important rule is to behave at all times with courtesy and consideration for others.

What to do with a question

If you need an answer to a question, you have several options:

  1. posting to one of the newsgroups cornell.class.cs312 or cornell.class.cs312.talk
  2. email to a particular staff member
  3. coming to consulting hours
  4. coming to office hours

In general, questions relevant to cs312 with answers that would benefit others in the class should go to the newsgroup cornell.class.cs312.  This should normally be your first choice.

Do not simply email us your code with a statement like, "I can't figure out why this doesn't work".  We will just tell you to come to consulting hours.

If you do email us code for purposes of illustration, it should be properly indented and commented, and the difficulty you are having should be explained carefully.

Do not post code relevant to assignment solutions to the newsgroups.

Please do not email code as an attachment.  Just put it in the body of the message as text.  Use a fixed-width font such as Courier.

Do not bother with trivial courtesies such as an email with the single word "Thanks".

Course Newsgroups

Newsgroups are public forums in which people post messages that anyone who subscribes to the newsgroup can see. It is an efficient way to disseminate information to a large number of people quickly.  We have two newsgroups, cornell.class.cs312 and cornell.class.cs312.talk.  Anyone can subscribe and post to them, and we encourage you to do so.

The newsgroup cornell.class.cs312 is for discussion, questions, and comments related directly to class material. For example, clarification of an assignment, questions about lecture or section, etc. should be posted to this group. If a conversation thread drifts away from these topics, please move it to a more appropriate group.

This brings us to the second group, cornell.class.cs312.talk. Pretty much anything goes here. The group was created because 312 students, staff, and alumni tend to be a friendly bunch, and discussions ranging from t-shirts to the computer industry were cluttering the main group. So questions about computer science in general, chatting, holy wars, and the like should be confined to cornell.class.cs312.talk.


Posting code

The most important and least bendable rule is that code relating to problem sets is not to be posted. Infractions may be considered violations of the Policy on Academic Integrity. If you are unsure if a posting is ok, don't risk it. However, this does not preclude asking questions about why a bit of code acts in a certain way, as long as the code in question comes from lecture or section, not a problem set.


Do not post the same article to both cornell.class.cs312 and cornell.class.cs312.talk.  Do not post a public reply and send a copy via email.

Do not post in a public forum something you have received in private email without the author's permission.

Abbreviations and Case

Please avoid chatroom-style abbreviations such as "ur" and "lol".

Never use ALL CAPITALS in email.  It is considered equivalent to shouting.

Line lengths

Like your code, posts and email should not have excessively long lines. This generally means 80 characters per line maximum. It is annoying for the reader to have to scroll to read long lines.

Plaintext, MIME, and HTML

Some email and news programs, particularly those by Microsoft and Netscape, default to sending MIME-encoded, HTML-based styled text. Experienced users find this distracting.  Please set the options of your mail software to send messages in plain text.


Short is best.  And please, no ASCII artwork.  Also, please try to include the correct signature delimiter, which is two hyphens followed by a space on a line by itself. Some programs do this automatically, while in others you have to include it in the signature itself. The reason for this is that some software recognizes anything following "-- " as a signature and automatically deletes it from replies.


Set your email and newsgroup software to include the quoted text of the original message when replying.  By default, it usually includes the entire message, but you should delete all but the most essential parts.  This includes signatures, salutations, and anything else that you are not replying to.  Edit long messages, keeping just enough to put your reply in the proper context.

Keep the attribution line at the top, so the reader knows who wrote the original message.  For nested quotations, be sure the attributions are correct.

Don't change the header.  Change the subject line if the topic changes.

We would prefer that you start your new message below the quoted text.  This makes the thread easier to follow.


Unless a newsgroup has "binaries" in its name, such as alt.binaries.signatures or comp.binaries.amiga, never post even a small binary (non-text) file. There are better ways of distributing files that put far less load on the network infrastructure.