Column: Abusing your e-mail is a practice offensive to ‘netiquette’

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 18, 2002

“We’ve all heard that a million monkeys banging on a million typewriters will eventually reproduce the entire works of Shakespeare. Now, thanks to the Internet, we know this is not true.&uot; &045;Robert Wilensky

&uot;Hey! They’ve got the Internet on computers now!&uot; &045;Homer Simpson, &uot;The Simpsons&uot;

Normally I start my column with one quote that illustrates its focus. This time, I chose two because in addition to representing my point, they complement each other.

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A few months ago, I wrote a column describing my opinion of television and its lack of quality programming. Since then, the few times I have watched it &045; mostly in hotel rooms while on trips &045; the novelty has worn off after about an hour and I again find nothing. I find surfing the Internet to be infinitely more interesting that I ever did watching television, and have become a regular &uot;mouse potato.&uot;

Almost everyone knows about the basics of the Internet: e-mail, surfing Web sites, online shopping, chat rooms and instant messaging. But even cooler things await those who venture off the beaten path. One gem I’ve discovered is newsgroups. Newsgroups are similar to the bulletin boards of the pre-Internet days. A better way to describe them, though, might be a &uot;delayed-response chat room.&uot; There are literally thousands of different groups available, sorted by the topic discussed within the group, such as, my favorite newsgroup. The way to access these depends on who provides your Internet service. Contact your provider for more information.

Despite everything I do like about the Internet, it is not without its drawbacks. My biggest complaint (and I write this at the risk of offending people who send me e-mail) is that many of its users completely lack &uot;netiquette&uot; &045; those little courtesies that should be part of the Internet experience. Here are a few things to consider before clicking that &uot;forward&uot; icon.

When you forward e-mail such as a joke, take the time to clean it up before you send it. Nobody likes having to scroll through the names of the 500 people who received it before you. The easiest and correct way to do this is to just copy the text you wish to send into a new e-mail and send that out. Take the time to remove all the indent marks, so the text looks as if you typed it. When I receive e-mail that has more than one &uot;Fw&uot; in the subject line, I am inclined to ignore it.

Sometimes a friend will send us a poem, or an illustration, or an animation sequence decreeing their appreciation of our friendship. These usually include some statement at the end encouraging us to send it within one hour to 10 people whose friendships we value. The more people we send it to, the more friends we allegedly have.

Nonsense. These may have been sent by our friends and relatives, but they are garbage created by computer geeks with too much time on their hands. Their sole purpose is to clog up e-mail servers. They are the e-mail equivalent of junk mail that reads &uot;You may already be a winner.&uot; They tug at the heartstrings, and make people say, &uot;Oh, how nice. Look what Rhonda sent! I better send it back to her and also to all my other friends.&uot; So they do, and perpetuate a bunch of electronic garbage that can never equal the sentimental value of a personal note.

A girl in Vermont is dying of leukemia and wants to break the world record for number of e-mail messages received. Bill Gates will send you $5 for each person to whom you forward this message. There is a new &uot;bin Laden&uot; virus circulating that lies dormant until you type the word &uot;freedom,&uot; then wipes your hard drive and melts its circuitry. All of these are untrue, again meant to clog mail servers. Forwarding these is a waste of time.

That’s about all the pet peeves I have room for this time. By the way, anyone reading this column on the Tribune’s Web site, may by all means send it to 10 &045; or more &045; friends. I would hope, however, that you don’t ask them to send it back within one hour to demonstrate their friendship.

Dustin Petersen is an Albert Lea resident. His column appears Tuesdays. Beginning next week, his column will appear Mondays.