Netiquette Notes

To make your Internet email experience more enjoyable, here are some tips and tricks, and some of the unwritten rules and guidelines often called "netiquette."  People enjoy “forwarding” email they’ve received to others who may find it of interest.  This is a great way to share useful information.  However please take note of the comments below when doing this.  You'll find here advice on:

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Jon Patch

 
  • how to determine a hoax, and not pass it on

  • unsolicited email netiquette: dealing with "spam"

  • respecting people's privacy when emailing to several people at once

  • attachments, and why to delete most of them

  • making your messages more clear
  • The wonderful world of Internet legends and hoaxes

    I estimate that 98-99% of the warnings and legends that I receive from well-meaning friends are hoaxes. Whether it be e-mail viruses that damage your monitor, needles in pay phones, pennies for a girl dying of cancer, or a 5 cent tax on e-mail messages, fantasy abounds in the Internet.  Spurious warnings about mythical threats are often passed on by well-meaning people.

    I suggest a rule of thumb for Internet usage: do not pass on any warnings about anything until you have verified the source.  That doesn't mean your friend Bill, it means validating virus threats with on-line lists, or warnings about other problems with someone who actually experienced it, not the friend of a friend.

    Fortunately, there are resources available.  For the plethora of urban legends the web propagates, check out these sites to validate any threats:
     
  • Urban Legends at About.com
  • Hoaxbusters
  • Urban Legends Reference Pages
  • Urban Legends Combat Kit (includes suggested responses)
  • There are many fun and fascinating, and false, stories to be read. 

    For computer virus threats, to ensure you're not passing along a hoax, please check the following resources:
     
  • McAfee Antivirus ALERT page
  • Virus Hoaxes from Symantec
  • Computer Virus Myths Home Page
  • Hoax News from Stiller Research
  • If you’re unsure about a warning and don’t want to spend the time to research it, a simple guideline is:  don’t pass it on. 

    Sending unsolicited promotional email

    Sending email intended to encourage people to purchase an item or service, donate to a cause, persuade people to follow a particular way of thinking or belief set, or anything that could be a considered a form of advertisement is considered a serious breach of netiquette.  For almost all Internet service providers it is cause for immediate removal of the sender's email account and service without warning or recourse. 

    This unsolicited email, called “spam,” can be a major problem.  Some of the tips here will help you to minimize the amount of spam you receive.  Note that many spam messages have a "remove" option, stating that you can remove yourself from the mailing list by following specific instructions.  It is usually recommended not to do this, it simply validates your address as live and may increase spam.  Exceptions are messages with a "remove" option from larger credible companies, or lists you have subscribed to.

    What is spam and what happens if I spam?

    Each Internet Service Provider (ISP) has a definition of spam.  You can find Yahoo's, as an example, at http://docs.yahoo.com/info/guidelines/spam.html. I'll quote their third bullet of prohibited activity: 

    • Using or causing to be used Yahoo! computer systems to facilitate the transmission of unsolicited or unauthorized material. This includes any promotional materials, URLs, "junk mail," "chain letters," "pyramid schemes," or any other form of unauthorized solicitation that you may upload, post, email, transmit, or otherwise make available.
    So spam, according to Yahoo, is any unsolicited promotional material, even if sent to only one individual.  Any credible ISP, such as Yahoo, or Islandnet or Shaw will act quickly to curb spam.  Here again is how Yahoo would respond to an occurrence of the above:  "Violations of our Terms of Service or this Universal Spam Policy may result in legal action against you and the termination, without notice, of your Yahoo! ID and/or anything associated with it, including, but not limited to, email accounts, clubs, posts, home pages, and profiles."

    In general, most ISPs warn their client once, then terminate their account on a second occurrence without notice.

    Why is spam such a problem?

    Personally, I've had to drop using a previous email address as the spam volume reached 100 emails a day.  Imagine what it was like to come back after two weeks vacation.  I have several hundred people in my address book, and it was quite a chore to notify everybody, and of course I lost contact with some folks who knew my address, but were not in my book.

    The costs of spam, which we eventually pay for, are enormous.  It is now estimated (http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,1759,1608661,00.asp), that it costs companies an average of almost US$2,000/year per employee in wasted productivity.  Individually, it's estimated that 38 percent of the 31 billion e-mails sent in North America are spam.  (http://news.com.com/Spam+volume+keeps+rising/2100-1032_3-5339257.html?tag=nefd.top).  That means a huge percentage of the Internet infrastructure is being used to support spam, and you are paying for that in your monthly Internet bill.  That is money out of your pocket to pay for other people to spam you.

    And much of the spam is not from offshore faked-header Viagra peddlers, it's regular folks who perceive an email as free, when in reality they are simply imposing their costs on you and me and everyone else.  In my opinion, unsolicited promotional emails are not an ethical way to promote a business or a product.

    What can you do about spam?

    Most spam has faked headers (that jumble at the beginning of the email) and a faked return address.  However if you recognize the ISP it comes from (eg Shaw, AOL, Islandnet, Yahoo etc.) as a real ISP, you can forward the spam to abuse@<name of ISP>, so for example abuse@shaw.ca.  They will deal with it immediately.  When I forward the email, I comment that I don't know the individual and have never asked to receive this information. 

    If the spam is from someone I know, or easily identified as someone local, I respond to them immediately stating that their email is spam, violates their ISPs policies and their account is subject to termination.  I believe that helps folks that don't understand the implications of their actions.  If I receive a second spam from such a source, I forward to the appropriate abuse address.
     
    For the more technically minded, and aggressive anti-spam folks, check out www.spamcop.net.

    How can I reduce spam?

    Spammers get the email addresses in a variety of ways:
    • copying from broadcast emails they receive (if other recipients are listed)
    • harvesting addresses from websites, online forums, etc.
    • spyware and viruses that harvest addresses from your hard drive
    • on-line transactions and accounts where you provide your email address
    • any other method or way (like product registration) that you provide your email address
    So do whatever you can do to ensure your private email address is not visible online and is distributed to as few people as possible.  The websites listed below can help you with this.  Some key actions:
    • have two email addresses (each called an alias); your email program can easily check both.  Use one for on-line transactions, forums, email lists (like GHC, for example); anywhere where someone you don't know might see your email address.  You may have to change this from time to time.  Another keep just for friends.  Hopefully this will not be distributed too far.
    • do not send emails with many names in the "To:" or "Cc:" fields.  If you send to more than one person ALWAYS use the blind copy option.  Respect the privacy of your friends and associates.
    • ensure that you have up to date spyware and anti-virus protection.  If not your hard drive is susceptible to harvesting by spammers.  I recommend Spy Sweeper (for spyware protection) and NOD32 anti-virus (far more effective than Norton and less likely to muck up your system).

    More info

    Other sites where there is much more info on fighting spam:

    http://www.microsoft.com/athome/security/spam/default.mspx
    ...see in particular http://www.microsoft.com/athome/security/spam/fightspam.mspx
    http://spam.abuse.net/
    http://www.spamcop.net/
    http://www.spamfaq.net/

    Emailing to several people at once

    One great capability of email is the ability to send the same message to several people at once: original thoughts, baby pictures or forwarded messages of interest.  However keep in mind that when you send a message to multiple people with their email addresses in the “To:” field of your message, everyone receiving the message will see all the email addresses.  They may forward your interesting message on to their friends, and very quickly your private email address has been received by thousands of people.  In time people who send spam pick up those addresses, add them to their list, and send many ads for sex services, loans, swarms of scams and legitimate advertisements to your email address. Further, certain viruses scan computers for any email addresses on the hard drive, the more people that have your address, the more likely such a virus can pick it up and attempt to infect your computer.

    To avoid this, use a “blind copy” option or “suppressed recipient” list, unless the list of people you are sending to all know each other.  Your email "help" function can tell you how to do this for your particular email program.  To use a “blind copy” option simply put the list of email address into the “bc:” or “bcc:” field, and in the “To:” field put your own email address.  To anyone receiving the message it will look like you sent a message to yourself, and they will not see anyone else’s email address.

    Attachments

    Most email viruses are spread through attachments.  These are files that are sent along with an email message.  Often they contain an entertaining or apparently useful program.  An example is the "Happy99" virus of new year 1999, that featured a pretty fireworks display while it messed with the victim's hard drive.

    So the simple rule is: delete most attachments without opening them, unless you are 100% confident the sender created the file and you trust them, or you have good reason to believe the file is clean.  Inform the sender that you'd prefer not receive any suspect attachments.

    There are exceptions, particularly image files, with file names that end on PC systems with .jpg, .jpeg, .tif, .bmp, .gif and other less common ones.  These can usually be downloaded and viewed without harm.  However beware of files that contain these letters, but don't end in them, like "badfile.jpg.exe".

    Making your messages more clear

    For every email message you can type the topic of your email into your subject field.  Putting something relevant and meaningful here can make it much easier to find emails later.  Some people choose not to read the subject field, and so many people also summarize the topic in an introductory sentence.

    When replying to an email message, use your email program's "reply" function.  With most email programs your reply will then include the sender's original message.  It is considered polite to then delete much of the senders message, leaving enough of it to remind the sender of what they had written.  A “thread” or series of email message replies then does not get inordinately long.

    You can also intersperse your answers to questions in your email reply, again deleting unnecessary original material.  An example:
     

    Original message
    Your reply 
    (note parts of original message that are kept are preceded with ">")
    Hi Martha,

    Well, you know Maggie the cat has fleas now, but with the cold weather they'll be gone soon.  How's your cat? Meanwhile Fred's got a new job selling used motor oil. blah, blah, blah etc.  I've decided to change my hair color too, a Christmas present to Fred.  Well, that's all for now.  I hope you found your wallet.

    Love,

    Henrietta

    Hi Henrietta,

    Nice to hear from you. 

    >How's your cat?

    Marty's fine, no fleas, just attitude.

    >I hope you found your wallet.

    Yup, it was under the bed.  More later.

    Love,

    Martha

    Helping your email contacts to help you

    Many people are unaware of how using the simple advice here can greatly reduce spam and respect privacy.  Don’t hesitate to send the advice on this page on to someone you feel could benefit from it.  Give them this address:  www.jonpatch.ca/internet.html

    3 Tips to Deploying an Effective SEO Campaign

    Business and individuals alike are interested in how to utilize search engine optimization strategies today, especially so that they can get to the top of the major search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing, and others that people use on a regular basis. The strategies and techniques used can make a major difference in how successful an online company will be or how soon it may be forced to quit business. Therefore, before online companies publish their new website, it is important for them to do their research well in advance to their online operations. With this being said, here are some basic tips that business owners can follow to reach the top of major search engines and remain there for extended periods of time.

    # 1 - Learn How to Use Keywords and Keyword Phrases

    Keywords and keyword phrases can be described as a significant part of a search engine optimization campaign. So, the website owner should know how keyword and keyword phrases should be used to get the attention of the search engine when they are used. For instance, keywords may be placed in the first paragraph and last paragraph of an article so that the search engine will pick up the information that has been posted on the site and rank it in the position of number one. However, it is important to note that keywords cannot be used too much throughout the article or the search engine may classify the search engine optimization strategy as a form of keyword stuffing.

    #2 - Post Reputable Links on the Site

    Many times the owner of the site may post materials from other blogs, forums, youtube and the like, specifically if the content is interesting and related to the site's overall theme. In order to be effective when considering the major search engine, the links to other sites must be linked to reputable sources that can assist with raising that sites visibility in the search engines.

    #3 - Make Sure to Use Engaging Content in your Vancouver SEO Campaign

    In addition to using keywords to increase a site's ranking, the site owners must also know how to produce and post engaging content. For instance, engaging content can be in the form of a diversity of things including teaching someone a do it yourself technique, providing content for a project that a person is working on for their job or school or to instruct them how to make money online.

    Not so fine print: no representation is made that following this advice will protect  you absolutely against viruses, spam and other Internet funnies.  JPPS and Jon Patch assume no liability for any direct, indirect or consequential damages from following any of these suggestions. 



    Do you have comments on this guide?  Email me at info@synergywise.com .  Thanks!