Ann Arbor Area Business Monthly
Small Business and the Internet
By Mike Gould
Ah, the new year. A time for resolutions and here's a modest suggestion: LEARN HOW TO DO YER @#$% EMAIL PROPERLY!!!
Snort. This has become a pet peeve of mine recently, and since I haven't covered it since 1998, it's time to remind everyone that (insert heavy Germanic accent here) "Zer are certain prozedures zat must be followed, Achtung!"
For those of you just tuning in, I recommend reading the original articles herre, I mean, here:
http://mondodyne.com/b2b/smbiznet.4.shtml (and the next two, accessible from the link at the bottom), and the summing up, here: http://mondodyne.com/b2b/10commemail.shtml (The Ten Commandments and [Four Amendments] of Email).
A Straw, A Camel, And an Aching Back What set me off this time was an email from a friend and business associate who sent me and everyone else in his address book a message with a 2Meg picture. This means that 20 people had to sit through the 2Meg download time to see something that could have been an 80K image. And because he listed everyone in the "to" box, everybody saw everybody else's email addresses.
This last is a clear violation of Commandment IV, "Thou shalt send unto the multitudes via bcc, for they who are blessed to be on lists enjoy not the extended mailto." Let's review: in every email message you can send a message to someone listed in the "to:" box. You have the opportunity to cc the message to several other people, all of whom will see the addresses of others who have been sent the message, and you have the all-important opportunity to bcc additional people, who will not see the others in the list. This is the crux of the biscuit: if everybody can see the long list of other recipients, their email addresses are at risk of being sucked up by a spammer. And it is a pain in the bandwidth to see a long useless list of addresses when all you want is a good laugh.
Here's how it works: you send a joke or cartoon to everyone on your list via cc. Several of them send it on to everyone on their lists, without bothering to remove the addresses at the top of the original email. Several of them do the same, and eventually the email (and all the accreted multiple email addresses) lands in the inbox of some !Q#$%@#^ dip-@#$% (a technical term) who says, "Whoa dude, 200 valid email addresses! I can get $1.00 a pop selling these to my buddy who runs WeRspammers.com."
If you bcc everyone, nobody sees all those email addresses, nobody has to scroll down past the interminable list, and nobody's privacy is at risk. Best practice: send the message to yourself and past everybody else into the bcc box. If your email software doesn't have a bcc box, start using something else IMMEDIATELY.
Aghast From the Past
Techno-trivia time: cc and bcc stand for carbon copy and blind carbon copy. For the benefit of those below age group Gen X, (or is it Y? I can't keep track), I should explain that once upon a time there was a technological marvel called a typewriter. This device was the noisy mechanical forerunner of the word processors we use today. Being an analog device (although you banged away on it with your digits, ho ho), it used a substance called carbon paper to make copies of things. Carbon paper was paper with one side coated with a carbon compound, sorta like ground-up pencil lead spread thin. This was a greasy, messy, and difficult-to-work-with method (sort of like Windows) that would impart a copy of what you typed onto another piece of paper placed behind it. The copy was called a carbon copy, and if you could type it without looking at your fingers, it was a blind carbon copy (kidding). If you made a typing error, you would have to go to great conniptions to correct both copies. This is why computers are better. I have to remind myself of this, from time to time...
But I digress. Where was I? Oh yes, bad email habits.
A Picture is Worth a Thousand Bytes Then there is the matter of the 2Meg picture. People, people, people, have I not covered this at excruciatingly great length in a variety of articles? I mean, am I talking to the hand here? OK, one more time. Please try to keep up and do take notes. There will be a quiz.
You go out and buy a fancy-schmancy digital camera, take some pix of the kids, and send them off to Gramma, who then has to sit there for hours downloading them because you didn't compress them properly before you shoved them down the wire, thence to clog the Internet.
That camera can take a 5Meg (for instance) picture - it's a jpeg; can't I just attach it to an email? No. This is an enormous waste of bandwidth and a burden on your recipient. Here's what you do: use the software that came with the camera to reduce the resolution and size of the photo to something reasonable (less than 100K, these days) Most cameras now come with software that does this as a matter of course. Some of the software, like Photoshop Elements, has a button just for that function. If yours doesn't, do yourself and everyone down range a favor and buy it; it's less than $100 and should be on the computer of everyone who owns a digital camera.
Remember that most ISPs have limits on the size and number of attachments, so you might not even be able to send that batch of 20 pix to everyone. By reducing the resolution (down-rezzing) you make a picture that will look fine embedded in email. But it won't look so hot if printed out, so what if you want to send a big honking picture that prints properly?
Use something other than email. Other alternatives are: ftp (file transfer protocol) to your personal website, upload the picture to an online service, snail mail the photos burned onto a CD, and the latest I've encountered, use AIM. AIM is that AOL Instant Chat stuff that all the kids use. It turns out that you can drag files to the input field of a chat session, and they will transfer to your recipient.
But that's for another column. In the meantime, Happy New Year!
Mike Gould, is a part-time mouse wrangler for the U of M, runs the MondoDyne Web Works/Macintosh Consulting/Digital Photography mega-mall, is a member of Factotem.com, and welcomes comments addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org.