Become a Patron of Ask Leo! and go ad-free!
Hi, everyone. Leo Notenboom here for askleo.com. Earlier today, Seth Godin, a respected internet journalist, entrepreneurial type and someone that I pay attention to and follow, posted a list of ten tips that he actually targeted at people are coming to technology for the first time. The target he’s laid out was newbies, essentially, people maybe entering the business world or going to back to school this fall or whatever.
As I read through his list, I realized that you know, they really apply to everyone. They really could apply to just about anyone who’s, even myself, who’s been on the internet forever. It’s a good reminder. So what I want to do today is run down, essentially my version, of that list of his and just sort of act as a reminder as you maybe go back to school or go back to work after the holiday or whatever.
Number one. Don’t hit “reply all” unless you mean it. This is one of those mistakes that crop up from time to time and in fact, once again, there was an article published in the New York Times where someone basically sent a message to a large list unintentionally and people didn’t understand why they were on that list so they all started “replying all” to say, “Take me off this list”.
That’s not the thing to do. That’s not the way to do it. It ended up bringing the mail servers to a halt because of the overload of everybody sending all of those messages. It actually harkens back to a day, this actually, this same thing happened at Microsoft. Ask any old-time Microsoftie about something called Bedlam DL3 and they will tell you that’s exactly what happened.
Somebody set up a test mailing list, mistakenly sent something out to the entire company and one by one, lots and lots of people started “replying all” and the mail servers all crashed. It took, I think, two days to recover from that. So, it’s not just about mail server load, of course. You don’t necessarily want your reply to go to everyone, nor should your reply necessarily apply to everyone. Just do it when you mean it and make sure you are paying attention when you do.
Number two. Be sure you mean it when you hit “send”. You can’t unsend and email. You can’t get it back. I have articles on this. This is one of those topics that comes up from time to time. Once messages are sent, they are completely out of your control. Make sure you mean it when you hit “send”.
Number three. If you can, and there are reasons why it might be the right thing to do, but for the most part, don’t type in all caps. The problem is that all caps means shouting. It just does. Now the problem with that, of course, is that when I, for example, read a message that’s written in all capital letters, I read it as if someone is shouting at me.
That shouldn’t necessarily do that but that’s the way it comes across. And unfortunately, what that means is that’s going to color my reaction to that message. It’s not just me. This is industry wide. This is internet wide. When people get messages that are typed in all upper case, they will react to those messages as if they are being shouted at.
And rarely is that the reaction you’re really looking for. Now, after having published an article on this very topic called, “Why is everybody on the internet so grumpy?” the feedback I got from at least one person was that they choose to use all caps for vision reasons because it’s easier or better for them to read. I’ve two responses to that. One is there are potentially other solutions. Things like making the font bigger, using a higher contrast color scheme, those kinds of things but those aren’t necessarily options for everybody.
So I’ve two suggestions for you if you must type in all caps. One, remember people are going to react as if you’re shouting at them. Just be aware of that and two, especially for people that you correspond with frequently or maybe people that you don’t, just let them know, you’re not shouting; you’re typing in all caps because of this issue. They’re still going to at a very visceral, very emotional level, it’s really strange when I read these things, it’s a very deep-seated feeling, when you read a message in all caps, it’s like you’re being shouted at. There’s just no way around it.
Number four. Don’t buy anything from a stranger who contacts you. So by that I mean, and this is something that happens all the time especially via phone and on the internet. If someone reaches out to you and you’ve never heard of them, hang up. Delete the mail. Do whatever. Instead, if something is going to be legitimate, A) You should already know who they are and why they are contacting you or you should be contacting them and if there’s any objection to you saying, “Hey, I don’t know who you are or let me, this is a bad time, let me contact your company myself so that I can initiate the transaction, the sale, the whatever.” If there’s any objection to that, that’s even another sign that it’s probably not everything it’s supposed to be.
Never, ever purchase from strangers who contact you. Always be the one who initiates the contact so that you know who it is you are talking to.
Number five. It’s kind of a harsh reality and I don’t necessarily agree with it as an absolute statement but it’s a great way to think about the internet. Everything you do online is being recorded somewhere. Now like I said, I don’t necessarily agree with that, but enough of it is true, it’s true enough that you should act accordingly. Don’t do something online; don’t say something online; don’t share something online that you would not be completely happy with appearing on the front page of your local newspaper.
That’s a great rule of thumb. Assume that everything is being recorded and assume that there’s a risk that it will go public. That’s the safest approach you can take.
Seth Godin didn’t get to this until number six. For me, honestly, it’s number one and if I say that, you probably know what it is already. Back up. Back up your data, back up your computer; back up what’s on your phone. If a picture, if a file, if a whatever is in only one place, it’s not backed up. If you were to lose your phone and everything on it was only on your phone, it’s gone forever. Period.
On the other hand, if you had second copy, maybe in the Cloud, maybe on your computer, wherever, it doesn’t really matter, then you don’t have this risk of suddenly losing lots of important information because you lost your phone, because your hard disk failed or something like that. Back up. You know this. I’ve been saying it for years.
Number seven. When in doubt, reboot and this applies, in his list, he mentions it as number seven, reboot your computer, remember your phone is a computer, your camera is a computer, your TV is a computer, your DVR is a computer. All of these devices are computers. If something’s acting up and not acting properly, reboot it. It’s the very first thing that almost any technician is going to suggest you do.
It’s just the nature of technology that a lot of different things get cleaned up and cleared up and reset to a better state simply by rebooting them. And in his continuation, he says, “You know, if that doesn’t work then visit your favorite search engine (Duck Duck Go, in his case) and search. There’s a really, really good chance that people, other people are already out there experiencing whatever problem it is you’re having and may in fact already have a solution or a work around or at least can share some sympathy with whatever the issue you have is.
Number eight. His point of view is to become an expert in something you need to do more than read the first link that shows up in a search result. I’m going to go deeper than that. You don’t necessarily want to be an expert in something that you’re searching on. You just want an answer. That’s why people show up at Ask Leo! I get that. But the first response or the first listing in Google, it may be helpful it may not. The second may or may not.
Do some research. Take the time to look at multiple answers for whatever it is you’re researching be it a computer problem or be it just some information or some news information, look at multiple sources to see if there’s a consensus on the kind of answer you’re looking for; if the solution is what you need it to be. Especially when it comes to rumors and news and oh my gosh kind of, especially on social media postings that are just highlighting the most recent supposed atrocity by so and so, check Snopes.
Go to Snopes.com to check for urban legends, false information, there’s so much of it out there right now. Sites like Snopes and others are a great resource to make sure that before you react without rage to some story you’ve read, make sure you’re not reacting to something that is actually completely bogus. Not only does it make, give that story way too much legitimacy but it doesn’t really reflect all that well on you when it’s later pointed out that you just got all upset by a fake story.
Number nine. Be generous. Offer to help a community, like he says three times or so, before you turn in and ask for help from that same community. Give more than you get. It’s not, it’s a variation of the Golden Rule but it is something that I think applies really, really strongly. Give more than you get and you will get more than you expect.
Number ten. This is really a follow on to number eight where I talk about checking with Snopes. Don’t believe everything you read online. In fact, don’t believe most of it. Everybody has an agenda; they really do and when they’re presenting information, they color that information with whatever agenda it is that they have. Take the time to research it if you can. Be skeptical at least when you read anything online.
And a bonus number eleven, be kind. Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Kindness goes a long, long way.
So, what are your suggestions to add to this list? What kind of tips would you give either as refreshers to people who just have been at this for a long time, like me, or to people who are just entering their online world for the first time be it online in business, online in school or even online after having lived a life offline and now coming to understand all of the wonderful things we can do in our internet and connected world.
As always, here’s a link to this article out on askleo.com. This is where we actually allow you to post comments; it’s where we moderate the comments to keep the trolls out and every comment is read. I really, really appreciate all of them. Until next week, I’m Leo Notenboom for askleo.com. Remember, have fun, stay safe and don’t forget to back up. Take care.
- Don’t hit “Reply All” (unless you mean it)
- Be sure you mean it when you hit “Send” (There’s no “un-send”.)
- DON’T TYPE IN ALL CAPS (all caps means shouting – it just does)
- Don’t buy from a stranger that contacts you (phone or email)
- Assume EVERYTHING is being recorded (and act accordingly)
- BACK UP!1
- When in doubt: reboot
- Do the research! (It’s more than the first link in a search result)
- Give more than you take
- Don’t believe everything you read online
and a bonus:
- Be kind. – “Everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”
- Seth Godin: Endless September (10 quick rules)
- On Reducing Email: Do You Really Need to Reply? – One way to reduce the amount of email you get is to reduce the amount you send. One way to do that? Think twice before replying.
- Can I stop or ‘un-send’ an email I sent by mistake? – Once you hit that Send button, you must assume that there is no way to stop your email from being sent … even if it’s to the wrong person.
- WHY IS EVERYONE ON THE INTERNET SO GRUMPY? – Typing email using all upper-case characters is the email form of shouting and is considered quite rude. Don’t be surprised if you get a grumpy response.
- Would You Give Your Wallet to a Stranger? – Many people seem more than willing to let a complete stranger access their computer. Honestly? It’s safer to just give them your wallet.
- How Do I Back Up My Computer? – Backing up your computer is critical to avoiding data loss. I’ll look at what it means and give a suggestion for average users.
- Why do so many tech support solutions start with “reboot” or “turn it off”? – Quite often the first thing that a diagnostic technician will ask you to do is reboot your computer. Why? Because rebooting works surprisingly often.
- The one skill you should hone. – What’s the one computer-related skill that you should improve?
- It Pays to be Skeptical – If we could all be just a little more skeptical, we’d be safer, and the internet could be a more trustworthy place.