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Email tips: Junk email


Url demonstrates his method of reading junk email.

Url's take on (well-intentioned) junk email.

A lot of people are buying computers for the first time. They're using email for the first time. And they're sending junk mail for the first time. This is actually an interesting phenomenon, because these people aren't sleaze-bags. . . they're our friends and relatives.

We didn't hear from some of these people for twenty years and now they're sending us eMail chain letters, political propaganda, x-rated photos, and various scam mail that has been circulating around the Internet for 10 years.

Even a rat hates to be rude, but I'm tempted to write back and say, "Hey, why don't you just put all your U.S. Post Office junk mail in a big box along with all the Sunday newspaper supplements from Target, Wal-Mart, and Office Depot, then FedEx it to me so I can start going through it as soon as possible."

No, that's harsh. Instead, send them to this page. Tell them to skip these first four paragraphs. Even if you don't forward this to a friend, take pity on whatever friends you may still have and follow the basic email etiquette concepts list below. Consider everthing here a version of email Tough-Love.

Don't forward junk eMail!
If you've got a family list of email addresses, make sure everyone on the list has expressed a desire to have mail forwarded to them. Blindly forwarding email to everyone on your list guarantees that eventually Aunt Rodentia in Boxtop, Mississippi is going to grow tired of receiving garbage that you're passing along. But she's not going to say anything because she doesn't want to hurt your feelings.

Use a little discretion, pleeeeeze!
When you get email that starts off with "This is not a joke!". . . it's always a joke. Or a hoax. These emails usually go on to warn about a virus that's going to destroy the world unless you forward this message to everyone you know. If such a virus did exist, I'd hear about it on CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC and a dozen web sites I check everyday. It's OK to send chain letter emails to friends who are independently wealthy and have nothing else to do all day besides sit around and try to think of 15 other people who they would like to irritate. Sending chain letter emails to relatives that you really, really dislike is OK too.

Clean up your headers. Sheeesh!
Some people do want you to forward email to them. Forwarded email can be a good thing. But even if someone is begging you to forward email to them, you should at least check to make sure there's not five pages of header information at the top of the message left over from the last dozen or so people that forwarded the email. It's like attaching a couple of pages of junk mail to a letter. I may enjoy getting a forwarded message if I don't have to scroll through a hundred lines of Date: Sender: Subject: Mime-Version: in order to get to the main text.
If there's a lot of header junk at the top of the email you received, don't just forward it. Copy the relevant text and paste it into a new eMail and send the new email to your list.

I'm really sorry you had to hear this from me.
Don't hold it against your loved ones for not telling you this already. Sometimes these delicate situations are best handled by an Internet Cafe Professional. Now go do the Rat thing.