I found this useful list of what is *generally* acceptable on most forums. Might be handy to sticky it, as we were all newbies once
Online forums are very similar to Newsgroups except you don't need any specialised software to join in. You just use your web browser.
Forums are full of discussions that may last for days or weeks split over a number of different 'boards'. Each board is an electronic version of a notice board where you pin up (post) your questions, opinions or views for everyone to read and, possibly, respond to. The topics of discussion very much depend on what the board has been created for. Some boards are strictly for technical questions. Other are more like social areas where people can just chat socially. In each case, the board's purpose is usually outlined in a short description that you can read before entering. Whenever possible, try to make sure that you're in the right place before joining in or posting a query.
Like newsgroups, there can be a number of discussions underway on any one board at any one time. In order to make it easier to follow conversations, messages that all belong to the one topic are 'threaded' - that is all posts on the one topic will lie under a single heading and can be read like a short book - one post, or page, after another. If someone wants to start a completely new conversation on a different topic, they will 'start a new thread'.
Joining a Forum
Some forums require that you 'register' with them before you can post, or even read, any boards. Under normal circumstances, this is completely free and is simply a way of allowing other members of the forum to know who you are and how to contact you, if needed. Think of it as similar to a social, or special interest club. However, many forums give you the option of hiding your email address from other members if you would prefer not to be contacted by email. Also, you are not normally obliged to provide any personal information but don't think that this anonymity will give you free rein to cause any trouble. The forum administrators will have enough information to ban you from their boards and/or provide details of your Internet connection to any legitimate authorities if you have committed any potentially criminal acts. You may be even asked to agree to an Acceptable Usage Policy as part of the registration process.
Joining A Discussion
If you want to join in an existing conversation, make sure that you post your comment(s) to the correct thread. This is normally pretty easy. It's probably the conversation you're reading at the time. Somewhere on this page, you should see an option allowing you to 'Follow-Up' an existing post. This is normally the easiest way of joining in a discussion and may even allow you to choose which individual post you wish to comment on. Some forums even offer you the option of 'Quoting' the previous poster. This facility allows you to include part of the previous poster's message in your post so that you can clearly show which bits you are commenting on.
In almost every case, you will have the opportunity to compose your message whilst online, preview how it will look when you finally submit it and re-edit it as much as you like. When you are finally satisfied with your message, you can 'Submit' or 'Post' it. It will immediately appear at the appropriate point in the discussion thread for everyone to read and respond to.
Starting A New Discussion
If you want to ask a specific question, or talk about a particular subject, that doesn't appear amongst the current topics, you may want to consider 'Starting A New Thread'.
First of all, check that you're on the right board!
A question about your favourite soap opera is unlikely to be very well received on a board for technical discussions.
If you want to ask a question, see if the forum has a 'Search' option and use this to see if your question has already been asked, and answered, before. You could save yourself, and others, some time.
Check for any threads entitled 'Read First', 'Posting Rules' or 'Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)'. These will probably be right at the top of the very first page so that new users see them immediately - an facility known as making a topic 'Sticky'. Read all of the posts in these threads. They could contain very important information about posting guidelines or could even answer the question you wanted to ask. Again, these threads are there to save everyone time and effort - so make good use of them.
If, after all that, you still want to start a new discussion, or ask a new question, look for an option to 'Start A New Thread'. Compose your message, preview it and, then, when you're happy, submit it to the board.
Formatting Your Posts
Many forums offer you the option to add some formatting to your posts such as using italic text or adding colour. The number, and range of, options available varies from forum to forum but try not to go too mad. People join forums to read one another's posts - not view a range of fancy text that makes reading difficult.
Forums also offer you the option to post links to other web pages or images quickly and easily within your posts. Whilst some boards may allow you to upload graphics and photographs within your posts, please don't overuse these facilities, Threads that are cluttered with large images are very slow to download and may cause problems for some people on slow Net connections. If possible, upload your photos to your web space and then post a link to them within the appropriate thread.
One common theme amongst forum posts is the inclusion of Smileys in posts. These are used to convey the emotions feelings that are difficult to convey in text. For example, if you were posting a jokey comment, you might include a winking smiley. Unlike the smileys used in email, forums often have a range of graphical smiley faces for you to choose from. To add one to your post, you simply select the most appropriate smiley graphic and either double-click on it or select it using your keyboard.
Try to use these smileys sparingly though. One or two in a post is fine. Five or six is very irritating.
Most online forums are open to the general public which means that anyone can read your messages - your partner, your boss, your mother-in-law. Forum messages are like open postcards so, in general, don't post anything to a forum that you wouldn't be happy with any of the above people reading. Also, be very wary of posting any personal information that you wouldn't be comfortable seeing on a 10ft high billboard in a busy shopping area. Be liberal in what you read but conservative in what you post.
Although what is considered 'acceptable behaviour' will differ from forum to forum, the tips in the Newsgroup section should also cover most web forums.