Alerting in Internet is a quite different matter than alerting at real table: in Internet you’re alerting your hand, and the alert is secret to your partner. Furthermore, by private messages, you can explain very clearly your system, whereas at real table you have to be wary to not convey messages to your partner by explanations asked to opponents. Main rules, therefore, can be as follows:
First and foremost, when your partnership is fixed or almost so, fill the BBO’s Convention Card and update it for the changes – to be hoped rare – which could occur.
Write the conventional meaning of the call in the box before to make it. If you didn’t do it, left hand opponent could guess that it’s natural and makes his call while you’re still writing.
In no case you’re allowed to ask openly at table during the bid, not even when the alert is clearly missing or wrong. Always use private messages.
Don’t be slow in bidding. If something in the room had disturbed you during a call, apologize with opponents in a private message and make it not to happen again. Being slow in bidding stirs up the suspicion that you’re looking up written notes. Even if it were not, and you are simply seeking to remember the meaning of a call, if this happens too often you have to change system; you can’t play a system that you yourself aren’t able to cope with. Opponents haven’t to spend their time for your apprenticeship.
Paolo Enrico Garrisi