Basic advice for internet newcomers

You've been sent here because, for one reason or another, you've stepped on one of my nerves.  There are a lot of things that can do that, but here are the biggies:

bulletAdding me to an e-mail list
bulletSending me a 400k file containing baby pictures
bulletChain mail
bulletActually believing that we can all get free tickets to Disneyland, or that Bill Gates will send us money

Welcome to the internet.  It's clear that you're excited to be here, and it's really, well, neat being able to reach all of your friends at any hour of day or night.  And don't think for one minute that I'm not glad to hear from you.  But there are things you're doing that are P%ss%ng me off.  No doubt other friends are equally ticked.  They're just nicer than me.

It's hard to get this message across politely, and I'm basically a nice guy.  But this is serious.  When you start to get three hundred e-mails from people in Nigeria who just want your savings account number, or folks with CDs full of internet secrets, you'll understand.

I know it's hard to figure out all this stuff at once, so here are a few hints.

Rule #1 - No big file attachments
Rule #2 - No chain mail
Rule #3 - Check out virus hoaxes and urban legends
Rule #4 - If you're that interesting, make a web site!
Rule #5 - If you must, send it blind

Rule #1 - No big file attachments

Never send, or open, executable files (anything ending in .exe) - sure, there may be legitimate ones out there, but don't send them, don't forward them.  Not cute video games, not handy utilities, nothing.  Trust me - if you love your PC, and you like your friends, don't.  Nothing chills a friendship like passing on a virus.

Boy, I wrote that a long time ago.  400k files?  Got two 10-meg files today.

Anyhow, if you're sending pictures in particular, there are much better ways to get them out there for the whole family.  Try or - they'll store them for you, let you create cool photo albums, and let other people (and you) order prints.

Rule #2 - No chain mail

I don't care how important it seems.  Most of it is irrelevant, outdated, whatever.  Most of it says "when you get to 100, forward it to the president" or whatever.  I mean, think about it - if you're number 100, so is everyone else who got it from your well-meaning friend.  That means 100 identical lists will go to the President.  I don't think she'll be impressed, do you?

Rule #3 - Check out virus hoaxes and urban legends

I've gotten hundreds of e-mails warning me of the "good times" virus, telling me about the Mrs. Fields cookie recipe, drug warnings, and worse.  One well-meaning attorney sent his entire client list a request to send business cards to a sick little girl

bulletHere's a great virus hoax site.  Bookmark it NOW -  trust me, you need it.
bulletAnd another for urban legends

Rule #4 - If you're that interesting, make a web site!

OK, so you've got pictures, and jokes.  Why not put them on a website?  Then you won't be shipping virus-laden garbage all over the e-mail.  You'll have a polished, erudite online identity.  They don't have to be brilliant tours de force like - there are a zillion ways to get a free site, especially if you don't care about the domain. 

bulletAOL users - try this
bulletATT&T High Speed Users -  try this
bulletWant a free site from somewhere else?  Join Geocities

Rule #5 - If you must, send it blind

If you must send something to everyone on your list, use a blind carbon copy - that way the whole world won't learn my e-mail address. 

Andy Rathbone's site covers it this way

It's considered bad e-mail "etiquette" to send or forward mail to your friendsDon't use the To: or Cc: box when sending mail to lots of people. by adding their addresses to the To: or Cc: areas. The recipients probably don't know each other, and they may wish to protect their privacy by not revealing their e-mail addresses to strangers. (Forwarded messages usually make the rounds of the Internet as they travel from friend to friend to friend, so everybody's e-mail address may wind up in the hands of somebody you don't even know.)

The solution? It's much better etiquette to place the recipients' addresses in your Use the Bcc field to enter names of many recipients.e-mail program's Bcc: field, not the To: field. "Bcc" stands for "Blind Carbon Copy". Everybody listed in the Bcc: box still receives the message, just as if they had been listed in the To: box. However, the message's recipients won't see the e-mail addresses of the other recipients.

Unfortunately, Outlook Express doesn't usually show the Bcc: box as an option when sending mail. To turn on the Bcc line in Outlook Express, try this:

  1. Open any message stored in your Inbox.
  2. Choose All Headers from the View menu.
  3. Close the message.

That's it. You probably won't see anything exciting happen.

But the next time you try to send or forward a message, you should be able to see the Bcc spot, ready for use. The Bcc area should then be available for use on all your future messages.

If, by some twist of Computer Fate, the Bcc: area suddenly disappears, repeat those steps to put it back in place.

There's another perk to using the Bcc feature when sending messages: Should the recipients decide to forward that message to their own friends, the previous recipients' addresses won't be listed along with the message, preserving their privacy and giving the forwarded message a cleaner look.

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Thanks for bearing with me.  Now go forth and sin no more.