FEBRUARY 2002

On Netiquette, e-mails, etc. (Part 1 of 2)

Today the Internet has become an integral part of our lives and online communications are commonplace... But in order to be successful in your online exchanges you should be aware of Netiquette. What does this mean? Netiquette is a set of rules for behaving properly online, the dos and donÕts of online communication, and the informal "rules of the road" of cyberspace.

When you communicate through cyberspace - via e-mail or on discussion/chat groups - your words are written. And chances are they're stored somewhere where you have no control over them. In other words, they could come back to haunt you. And even if you diligently delete any messages you send or receive, elsewhere, computer staff can equally diligently back up the mainframe where your messages are stored! It is wise to assume that everyone in the world will read your words. Though your e-mail may initially be sent to only one person, it is very easy to forward a message to hundreds or thousands of people. It is therefore wise to be cautious!

Do not forward any dumb chain letters to your friends. Understand that most people have seen those a million times and find them very annoying.

Never give out phone numbers or personal information without confirming you are communicating with a reputable party. Never give out personal contact information of others without their specific permission to do so.

Always minimise, compress, or "zip" large files before sending. Many of you do not realise how large graphics or photo files are. They are large enough to fill someone's e-mail box and cause their other mail to bounce. Get in the habit of compressing anything over 100,000 bytes. Do not send large attachments to others because you think that a photo or file is cute, cool, or awesome. Ask permission first.

Don't forward virus warnings! These are nearly always hoaxes, especially if they tell you to forward to everyone you know. Rely only on your virus software provider's website for the real scoop. If you get one of these wacky e-mails from a friend, go to your virus software site and read what they have to say before you unnecessarily alarm people. Unfortunately, with the advancement of technology, it is now possible to get a virus without even opening an e-mail. A recent virus merely required you to click on the e-mail's subject or (for those who use Outlook) have your program set to "preview". HINT: turn previewing off! The need for a 24/7 virus protection software is a must. You will also need to update your virus files regularly so that your computer is protected from the latest releases. Get an active program that is always "ON". This will catch any viruses as they are being downloaded so they can be quarantined and not infect your system. Update your virus patterns daily. New viruses are identified daily! Never click on any attachment or an .exe (example: Happy99.exe or ILOVEYOU) file attached within an e-mail without checking for viruses. Even if the mail appears to come from someone you know very well! They may unknowingly be infected and not aware of the virus on their system that has just been passed on to you.

Greet your correspondent. Always start your e-mail with Hello, Hi, Dear, or whatever works for you. A little chit-chat asking how the other person is, etc. could follow. You may think this to be trivial or a waste of time, but this is how a civilised society communicates. Just blurting out your demands or questions without a greeting is just plain rude!

Always end your e-mails with Thank you, Sincerely, Take it easy, Kind regards - something! When you ask something of someone, have the common courtesy to thank them in advance (TIA) and sign off your e-mail appropriately. If you don't want to type your name every time, then incorporate it into your signature file that is automatically appended to the end of every e-mail.

Never just forward e-mail without a comment as to why you are forwarding it to the recipient. That is rude. If you are e-mailing for support or asking a question, or requesting assistance from someone, it would behove you to say "Thank You". Closing with "appreciate your help" or "thanks in advance" will make the person on the other side respond more quickly. Then, when they do respond and take the time to help you, take a moment and send a reply e-mail thanking them for their assistance. This only takes a minute and will be greatly appreciated! As a general rule of thumb, if someone takes the time to e-mail you, give them the courtesy of a return response. By not doing so you appear to ignore them. How would you feel if e-mail you sent were simply ignored? A short acknowledgement of their e-mail commenting on the issues in it only takes a moment.

To be continued next month

Jackie Walters