The Internet has become a world-wide community and in the process, innumerable forums on every subject under the sun are available where people can express their opinions. Some forums are closely moderated -- that is, someone checks every post for suitability before it is uploaded to the forum. Some forums have minimal or no moderation, only Terms of Service (TOS) that members are expected to follow. Most forums do have some sort of reporting feature for obscene or harassing posts. Still, even with a minimally-moderated forum, is there a standard of behavior? Is there actually something called forum etiquette? The answer is an unqualified yes.
Forum etiquette means maintaining a standard of posting behavior that is acceptable and appropriate. Forum etiquette can be flexible, according to the subject of the forum, but there are certain standards most people expect others to maintain. Some lines must be drawn for the safety of all posting on the forum.
One of the staunchest rules of forum etiquette is not posting personal information about another poster. Even if that poster has all but drawn a map to his house, posting a real name or address is considered grounds for a permanent ISP ban on most forums. This could compromise someone's safety. This is probably the most serious breach of forum etiquette and most moderators take it very seriously.
You can disagree with someone's opinions, but calling that person an idiot or a profane name is a violation of forum etiquette. Some forums are more liberal about this than others, but keeping it civil is never the wrong thing to do. Posting the same thing over and over again is called scrolling, and is also a banning offense. It is annoying in the extreme and uses up bandwidth, which someone is paying for. It is entirely unnecessary and makes the poster look immature and childish.
Trolls are always in flagrant violation of forum etiquette and enjoy disturbing the peace at any forum where they post. Trolls tend to scroll, call names, gossip about other posters, post things that are deliberately provocative and usually that violate the forum's rules about posting. Most moderators hasten to get them banned as soon as possible, but they can sometimes do a lot of damage before this happens.
Another violation of forum etiquette is posting in ALL CAPS. This is considered shouting and is very rude, in addition to being hard on the eyes. Something may be in caps for emphasis (e.g. I did NOT want to go!), but no post should be entirely in all caps.
Flaming, or deliberate insults or personal rants, is also against forum etiquette. Flaming is often employed by people who are losing arguments on a forum. Their response is to personally insult the poster disagreeing with them, usually in a long, nasty post.
This kind of behavior is why so many forums have a list of posting rules and consequences for breaking them. Some may say this behavior is more prominent among immature teens, but that is in no way the case. Many of the worst offenders are adults who should know better. The veil of anonymity seems to bring out the worst in these people, and any bullying tendencies they have tend to become magnified in the semi-protection of an anonymous forum.
Most of the rest of forum etiquette involves using the Golden Rule: treat others as you would like to be treated. Behaving as a reasonable adult, even in the face of being flamed, is always the best course of action. If a poster becomes harassing, obscene or personal, do not retaliate. Instead, cut and paste the offensive post(s) into an e-mail and quickly report it to the moderator or forum administrator.