Please Use BCC:

One wise guy on the web says something like

If someone sends you an email and asks you to forward it to 10 of your friends, please forget that I’m your friend.

Email is a great communications tool. IMHO, it’s the most important invention since the printing press, and far more important than the typewriter. You can reach thousands of people just a few seconds of work. Unfortunately, you can also irritate thousands of people with just a few seconds of work.

I love to get email when it’s personal – most of us do. I don’t mind if it’s irrelevant or frivolous, as long as it was sent for personal reasons, or with me in mind. But I hate unsolicited commercial email, and I hate email of any type which has my email address in a long list of recipients, if it’s not a corporate distribution.

I hate getting email addressed to me and a bunch of strangers. Why? Because with any email going to a dozen or so strangers, chances are that somebody in the group, or somebody that may get the email forwarded onto them, will have an infected computer.

When you get an email with you, and a dozen strangers, addressed, those strangers are getting the same email. Some email client programs will automatically, or with a single mouse stroke, add all names and addresses in an email into their address book. Quite likely, folks who use such an email client, and routinely add strangers to their address book, are the same ones who don’t practice layered security, and are most likely to have an infected computer.

Many viruses spread from computer to computer, getting targets from each computer. If your email address ends up on an infected computer, you will be soon start getting email containing the virus. Not just once, but once / day (if you’re lucky).

Please, Please, Please, if you’re going to forward email to me and a dozen other strangers, use a Blind Carbon Copy (BCC:) distribution list. With a BCC: list, none of the recipients see each others address. This means that, upon hitting an infected computer, the email will contain nothing to send the infection to me – or to the other dozen or so recipients of the email – just back to the sender.

When you send an email, the recipient will see your email address as the sender. Depending upon your email program, if you use BCC, you may have to put something in the To: or CC: fields. With Google Mail (GMail), you don’t have to supply a To: address; with others, you may. Put your own address in To:, if you have to. If that’s a problem, because of the viral risk, just be careful who you email frivolously. You should be careful, anyway. Or paranoid, as I am.

And one more thing – if you truly feel the need to forward email to me and 9 other of your friends, besides using BCC, please Clean Up the Content. A clean message travels better, and is easier to read.

  • Clean up the Subject line. Don’t send a message “RE: FWD: RE: My Thoughts Of You”, send it as “My Thoughts Of You”.
  • Clean up the Body. Don’t forward the name of the person who sent it, or any of the other header content (such as the dozen recepients if your friend isn’t using BCC), or any of the trailer that’s always tacked onto email by every email program. Just forward the message.
  • Reparagraph the content even. Have you ever gotten email like:

    “Hello, is this here the sheriff’s office?”
    >
    > “Yes. What can I do for you?”
    >
    > “I’m callin’ to report my neighbor, Virgil Smith. He’s drillin’
    holes in his
    > farwood and hiding marijuana inside!”
    >
    > “Thank you very much for the call, sir.”
    >
    > The next day, the sheriff & his deputies descend on Virgil’s
    house. They
    > search the shed where the firewood is kept. Using axes, they
    split every piece
    > of wood, but find no marijuana. They sneer at Virgil and
    leave.
    >
    > The phone rings at Virgil’s house. “Hey, Virgil! This here is
    Floyd. Did the
    > sheriff come?”
    >
    > “Yeah!”
    >
    > “Did they split yer farwood?”
    >
    > “Yep!”
    >
    > “Happy Birthday, buddy!”

    Wouldn’t this be so much easier to read as:

    “Hello, is this here the sheriff’s office?”

    “Yes. What can I do for you?”

    “I’m callin’ to report my neighbor, Virgil Smith. He’s drillin’ holes in his farwood and hiding marijuana inside!”

    “Thank you very much for the call, sir.”

    The next day, the sheriff & his deputies descend on Virgil’s house. They search the shed where the firewood is kept. Using axes, they split every piece of wood, but find no marijuana. They sneer at Virgil and leave.

    The phone rings at Virgil’s house. “Hey, Virgil! This here is Floyd. Did the sheriff come?”

    “Yeah!”

    “Did they split yer farwood?”

    “Yep!”

    “Happy Birthday, buddy!”

    If it’s worth forwarding, it’s worth cleaning up the paragraphing.

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