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Monday, June 18, 2007

Silly things to email

This page is intended to become a growing list of silly and/or stupid things to email, or rather NOT to email. It was born mostly from being on the receiving end of "stupid emailed things", although I must confess to having sent a few silly things by email too. By silly things I do not mean those viral emails your friends insist on sending on a frequent basis, by silly or stupid I mean just plain irresponsible!

  1. Files with double-digit-megabyte-sized attachments:
    Now that IS a silly thing to email. It may surprise some to learn that back when email was invented, it was intended to carry basic text messages totalling a kilobyte or two in size. Not to send that 3072 x 2096 resolution, uncompressed bmp file of your Aunt Maureen to all 64o members of your extended family. Especially as at least 30% of them, if you have third-world or eastern European relatives, will still be using dial-up Internet and will need 17 hours to download the message at the cost of a week's wages.
    ANY picture can be compressed down to a JPEG of less than 100KB. Look up on the net somewhere how to do it, and help free up valuable Internet bandwidth for more spam and porn.
  2. Emails addressed simultaneously to 1600 recipients using the TO: field:
    Anyone who simply MUST send the latest viral funny to the entire contents of their address book REALLY ought to consider NOT listing them all in the TO: field of the email, where each recipient's email address will be visible to the other 1599 recipients. There is a field called BCC: just for that purpose and it will do wonders for delaying the (admittedly inevitable) moment when your friends' email addresses fall into the hands of the spammers. It will probably stop me from wishing injury to your person too, so think of it as a philanthropic exercise - you will be saving me from myself.
  3. ANY email WHATSOEVER that ends with the words "send this to as many of your friends as possible":
    There is no exception to this rule. None. ANY email that pleads with you to send it to as many friends as possible, usually accompanied by threats/bribes/emotional appeals (misfortune will strike you down/you will win some fantastic prize or experience statistically improbable good fortune/some kid will die if you don't) is automatically disqualified from being sent to ANYONE! Got it? (Sigh... I know I am preaching to the converted, but it makes me feel better to get it off my chest). Please see also: Virus hoax will one day be true!
  4. Anything you don't want anyone else reading/seeing:
    Stating the obvious? Well, some Robert Mapplethorpe wannabe obviously hadn't considered this when he sent my wife some frankly pathetic birthday-suit pictures of himself, evidently having accidentally transposed some of the letters in the email address to which he had intended to send them. Don't do it, emails wander and you might come across a husband who is less tolerant than myself (he only lost good standing with his ISP together with all self-respect - a lucky escape as he probably had little of the latter anyway).
  5. All the previous correspondence you have ever sent on the same subject:
    This happens when your mail program is set up to include the entire text of the previous mail when replying to an email. It of course ends up including ALL of the previous emails on this subject. It is fortunate that the message size merely increases incrementally and not exponentially, otherwise a typical exchange of messages would be hitting the gigabyte range after 20 messages. As it is, it would be an interesting exercise to calculate the approximate quantity of space wasted on hard disks the world over by this duplication, and the consequent environmental impact. Think of our children, and our children's children, won't you?
Well, these are five of my top silly things to email. Perhaps you can add to this list and hopefully make email more sensible?

(P.S. Just come across a post by Jeff Gross, who covers this whole issue far more cool-headedly than me)