E-mail Is For E-mailing

I’m starting to think an e-mail etiquette booklet should be required reading before anyone receives access to a mail server.

There’s no dearth of annoying customs in cyberspace, but this latest one really takes the cake. It’s almost worse than spam. There, I said it. Worse. Than. Spam. At least I understand spam. Like it? No. But I understand the purpose behind it.

You see, I always considered it intuitive that e-mail is primarily for conveying a message, not transferring a file. But lately I’ve been receiving a fair amount of empty e-mail. Messages with nothing in them.

Except an attachment.

The sender will write the message in Microsoft Word and then attach that to an otherwise blank e-mail. Usually the .doc file is a complex piece of letterhead with a background or company logo at 600 dpi. So basically I’m recieving a 1.5 megabyte file in order for the sender to say “call me”.

As if that’s not bad enough, I’ve had clients create a message in Word, then ouput it as a PDF file and attach that.

It’s only a matter of time before I get a body-less e-mail message with a PGP encrypted zip file containing a PDF of a Word document that, unless it contained next week’s winning lottery numbers, could not possibly be worth the effort it takes just to open it.

I think the booklet idea is a good one. It wouldn’t have to be very long. Just enough to convey the fact that some of us are using dial-up, not a dedicated T3 line. Some don’t have Microsoft Word (hard to believe, I know), probably because the macro features give any 13-year old the ability to completely commandeer your computer. Some are using slow computers with less than two gigabytes of RAM and can’t open PDF files in less than a week. Some are using text-only word processors like Pine. Some are reading your message on a cellphone or PDA that has a small, oddly-sized screen. Some are behind firewalls that block attachments or have account quotas that are eaten up with two megabyte Word documents.

So please, people. We’re trying to have a society here.

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