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Some people don't treat technology they way you would want them to. Should you try and "fix" them?

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This is Leo Notenboom for

I was having a discussion with some friends the other day, and we touched on the topic of email behavior and how to change it in the people that send us email. In the past I've also received requests to post a "good behavior" checklist on that a reader wanted to then send to some co-workers.

What behaviors do people want to change? Things like:

  • CC'ing instead of BCC'ing a large list of recipients, thereby exposing everyone's email address to everyone else.

  • Sending huge attachments.

  • Using evite and e-greeting services which then not only send the intended greeting or invitation, but continue sending offers and marketing materials that you didn't ask for, also known as spam.

  • Sending in HTML when plain text will do.

  • Sending messages overloaded with cutesy graphics and backgrounds that serve no real purpose other than to distract the reader and slow down email delivery.

  • Forwarding humor, urban legends, chain letters and more when it's not wanted.

The list goes on. It actually varies a great deal from person to person. What one person finds objectionable may be another person's favorite part of getting email.

The common theme though is wanting the other person to change the way they deal with email and perhaps specifically the email they send you.

Asking someone to remember your preference and then keep that straight with all the other people they might email is a little unrealistic. (By the way, it's also unrealistic to think that yours is the one true way. Even if you're right, someone will disagree with you.)

You can ask your correspondents to change if you like. At best the other person may try for a while until they revert into old habits. At worst, they'll be offended and solve the problem another way - by severely limiting any communication with you at all.

Perhaps you wouldn't even mind that.

But the bottom line is, and to get a little philosophical and psychological here, you have no control over them, but you can control what you do and how you react. In fact, you are probably the only thing in this scenario you really have any control over.

So use the delete key. Often. Perhaps use a little technology like email filters and multiple email addresses to control how you receive what you inevitably will.

And yes, I will put together that "email best practices" list sometime, but it'll be for you, not for them. Show it to others if you like, but expecting them to change just because you want them to ... well, I'm thinking you're in for a lot of disappointment and frustration.

I'd love to hear what you think. Visit and enter 12164 in the go to article number box to access the show notes, the transcript and to leave me a comment. While you're there, browse the hundreds of technical questions and answers on the site.

Till next time, I'm Leo Notenboom, for

Article C3265 - January 13, 2008 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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