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Netiquette

Being an Internet user since 1994 I've picked up a thing or two. Here's a smattering of Netiquette for you...

Forwarding an email

  • When you forward an email to some one or people, explain why you are sending it to them. If it's out of the blue then put it into context. What do you want the recipient to understand? Why are you passionate about the text or link? If you can't be bothered to take the time to explain then perhaps it's not worth sending in the first place.
  • Only send the actual information that you want the reader to read. Remove all other information that isn't relevant. Tidy it up and make it look nice.
  • Empathise with the reader. Put yourself in their shoes. Make it easy for them. Imagine you are writing a letter to a friend you haven't spoken to for years. Make it a nice experience.

Sending Newsletters

  • If you are sending group emails or newsletters then here's a few things to remember:
  • Don't ask your recipients for their email address because you already have it. Seriously, this came in an email to me from a supplier.
  • Know the desired language of your recipient and only send them text in their own language. And I don't mean even sending two (or more) languages in one email. Just send the correct language to each recipient.
  • Only send questions or info that is relevant to the specific recipient. So, if you have previously sent out a request for something (like a survey for instance) and some people have completed it, don't send everyone an email reminder asking them to complete it again.
  • Think about what it's like to receive your email. And then multiply that by the number of emails you receive each day. Keep your email concise and to the point.
  • To do all this you need to keep a specific data on your recipients about how you have interacted with them.

Email

  • Resending corrected emails: So, you've sent out an email but it has an error in it. This could either be to one person, a small group or a big newsletter. Avoid sending out a following email with a subject like "Oooops! Sorry! Messed that one up!" and just giving corrections or additions. Just resend the complete corrected full email with the complete corrected full content and tell us to delete the previous email and tell us what you updated. Otherwise we have to keep a copy of the old email for the right content and this new message for the additional content and/or corrections to the old content – managing it all becomes messy. Also, keep the subject the same with perhaps "updated" tagged at the end.
  • Relevant subjects: Always use a relevant and useful subject. Put yourself in the place of a reader who gets 100 emails a day (not including junk). Try and jam as much juicy information about what you are saying in the email into the subject. Mixing up the words into priority is OK. For example "Invite: London, Birthday 03/12/2010". So, avoid "hi" or "hello". Usually email discussion lists will have the topic or project in square brackets [like this].
  • Small attachments: Keep the size of emails to a minimum. Only send attachments where copies don't exist on the Web or you want to keep the attachments private. If you get sent an attachment (for example a video) and want to share it with your friends first check to see if it already exists on the Web somewhere with a Google search. If it does send people a URL and a brief description of why they should go download the file and let them decide if they want to. That's very important: give people the choice!
  • Changing email addresses: If you change your email address then send one final email from your old email address informing people of your new email address and asking them to update their address book, white lists and junk filters. That way your email from your new email address will pass through peoples' ever increasingly paranoid junk filters just fine.

How to Deal with Email Scams

If you are originating or passing on a claim of a suspected scam via email then please follow these guidelines and help us all to lead more useful and fulfilling lives:

Confirm the claim:

  • Take the time to confirm the claim is real before you pass it on. Don't just trust everything that people send you - they may not have checked out the claim either. If a source website is given then check it out - does it seem genuine? If there's no source website given then contact the original sender or look up the claim on Google. Many claims that don't quote a website source turn out to be bogus. As well as using Google you can also check out a number of sites including:

Quote the source:

  • Always include a website address of a reputable source confirming your claim. This will assist in recipients confirming that your claim is real. Do not pass on claims unless you have checked that they are real. This is your responsibility.

Respect privacy:

  • If you are sending out emails to your contacts then make sure you use BCC (blind carbon copy). This ensures that you do not show the email addresses of all your contacts in every email being sent. This then protects the privacy of your contacts as all they'll see is "Undisclosed-Recipients". Only put all the email addresses in TO or CC boxes if you have asked permission to share a contact's email address or they already know each other or you are making an introduction between your contacts.

Be clean and clear:

  • Clean up the email before you send, re-send or forward emails. The trouble you take to make an email presentable will make it far more readable and a far more pleasant experience altogether. Better to send no email than to send out untidy and unreadable emails. Untidy emails just cause frustration as people have to wade through the mess to find out the meaning. If people can't be bothered to write tidy emails then why should the recipients be bothered to read them? So, make it simple, clear and to the point. Another tip is to have no more than one layer of quoting - that's the blue bar down the left hand side or the column of ">".

Send plain text:

  • Send plain text emails with no graphics and no attachments. Doing so reduces the size of the email; reduces the load on the Internet; reduces the amount of disk space consumed; and protects us all from viruses that can be hidden in graphics and attachments. Also, this enables the recipient to view incoming emails in the font size and style the way they like it. If you want to refer to graphics or other files then link to them by using a website address.

Introduce and summarise:

  • Always personally introduce the emails you re-send or forward with a brief summary of why you are sending the information. It's a personal touch that does wonders. And again, if there is a nice, clear summary at the top, it can save loads of time trawling through long emails – or a website if you provided a link – trying to figure out why you think I should read it.

Remove previous recipients:

  • Remove email addresses of people that have previously been in the chain. In many cases these chain emails build up vast lists of email addresses. All it takes is for one of the recipients to pass these addresses on to a spammer and all the contacts will have an increase in spam. Also, there is an issue of privacy when you pass on email addresses of people you don't know or haven't asked permission.

Collaborative Documents

When working on wikis or other collaborative documentation systems:

  • Keep document titles, structure and contents live. When a new reader comes to look at your documents they are not primarily interested in the history or evolution of the document or idea - they are interested in the current state of thinking. Let them get at it easily. Keep reworking (refactoring) the contents of your site.
  • If you do this then you'll find it much easier to hand the idea over to a newbie - as you will have written it for them from the first place.
  • All history of a given document will be stored in revisions/history - or should be.