In many ways, the Internet is like a Hollywood portrayal of the Wild West: Occasionally, groups of outlaws ride through town, their six-shooters blazing, and no one wears the sheriff's badge. Most of us "townspeople" want to stay on the right side of the law, but it's not easy--especially if the rules and regulations are not clearly spelled out. And until we get our facts straight, the best way to conduct business online is to obey the Golden Rule: to treat others in the same way that we would want to be treated.
This column is the first of two devoted to Internet etiquette, ethics and law. This month's column discusses how small businesses can communicate effectively online using "Netiquette" (short for Internet etiquette), the set of informal rules that governs online communications. Next month's column will cover the laws of the Internet, including privacy and intellectual property.