Internet Email Annoyances

[Commentary]

1998

There are many things that annoy me about the current habits of emailing. They can be attributed to the basic ignorance of most people, and to Microsoft making it easy for people to be lazy and stupid.

This is my list of things that irritate me, in no particular order.

[Commentary]

Using Microsoft Word as your emailer

This is pure ignorance. When you install Microsoft Word or Office, one of the options you get is to make the horrible word processor your default mail writer. If you do this, Microsoft Word documents, those pathetically huge files ending in .doc get sent. I don't use Windows. I use Linux. So when I receive a file that consists solely of a huge file ending in .doc, I assume it is from some clueless person and I delete it. If I know them, I will email and tell them so and ask for them to send it to me in plain text.

Is this arrogant of me? Damn right. Is it arrogant of you to waste my time and bandwidth and hard disk space by sending me a bloated document? Damn right again.

Consider writing an email message that consists of the word "Hullo". If that gets sent in text mode, email's natural state, it takes up 5 bytes, ignoring the header and signature. If you send that same word to me as a Microsoft Word file, it can consume up to 100,000 bytes for just that one word. Add in your list of macros, styles, revisions, fonts, and all the other crap that Microsoft bloats a file with, and your single 5 byte word is now 20,000 times larger. What a waste of space and time.

So I will happily continue to delete any email that arrives as a Microsoft Word document. If you want to be read, send text. If not, I don't particularly care.

[Commentary]

Sending your email in HTML format

This comes about by using the "send as HTML" option in your browser, which is either the superior Netscape, or the inferior Microsoft Internet Exploder. Why would you want to write your email in HTML? You want to use funny fonts, have underlined text and headings? Spare me. It's email, not an advertising brochure. When I see a pretty document with all that fancy crap, my eyes roll back in my head and I fall asleep, which is my usual response to advertising or promotional material which is invariably boring.

I want to read your words. As text. Not prettified up. If you pretty it up, I have to use something like Netscape or Microsoft's Internet Exposer to read it. I don't use GUI email readers. I use mutt. Proudly. It's text and it's fast and it's beautifully organised, and I can do more with the keystrokes for mutt than most of you can do in a month of mouse-tugging.

And once again, it's a waste of bandwidth and hard disk space. You add tags to the text, and I don't want tags. Just send the text.

If I get email as HTML, I do the same as for a Microsoft Word document. I delete it. If I know you, I email you and tell you. If you want to be read, send me text. If not, I don't particularly care.

[Commentary]

Sending email as text, followed by the HTML version

I don't know what produces this abomination. I sometimes receive email with the message as text, and then straight after the text, the whole thing again in HTML. Spare me. Once is enough. Don't send it as HTML again in case I'm foolish enough to change the habits of a lifetime and just happen to be using a GUI emailer. It wastes space. I don't delete this, but I email back and complain about it.

[Commentary]

Quoting entire messages

This irritates me. It started becoming popular when Microsoft got interested in the Internet. I think the theory goes likes this: Microsoft users are really stupid, so if we reply to someone's email, they are too stupid to remember what they originally said, so let's quote their entire message back to them so they have some idea what we are talking about.

That might be true for most Microsoft users, but please, spare me. I've been doing email since 1986 and I can remember what I write. I can even juggle threads of conversations with more than one person at a time. And even if I couldn't, I use a nifty little email program that can juggle threads for me and show me the original message.

So don't quote the entire message back to me. Delete the damn message. Or better still, if you do want to emphasise some of the points in the original, cut the quotes down to one or two lines, preface them with "> " and insert them in the right place in your message. If that's too much trouble for you, then don't bother writing to me.

[Commentary]

Forwarding jokes unedited

I can't blame this on Microsoft. It's just the laziness of most people. Who hasn't received a joke that's been forwarded to them that is almost unreadable? Too many quotes at front ">> >> >>>>> " of each line, line wrapping that is unreadable, hundreds of people's addresses before the joke starts. Why bother sending it like that? Clean it up before sending it. Get rid of the other addresses, get rid of the quotes at the start of each line, wrap the paragraphs properly, and if you want to do a decent job, translate it from American into your own language or variant of English.

That's probably difficult for most of you to do, given that you're mostly using some brain-dead GUI editor that can't do smart things like clean up all those "> and spaces at the start of each line with one command. And can't re-wrap the paragraphs with a single command either. Try using Vim or emacs. Versions of those exist for Windows, if you're committed to using the lowest common denominator of operating systems.

[Commentary]

Forwarding jokes as a way of staying in touch

Do you have in-laws or distant relatives whose idea of staying in touch is to forward jokes to you? I used to have that. I would hear nothing about their lives, nothing personal, but I would regularly receive a butchered joke, that I had usually received 50 times in the previous 6 months. That's like me keeping in touch by sending someone a dead rabbit in a box with no covering note.

If I want to keep in touch with someone, I send them an email that says "Hullo, how are you, I've done this and that, and what have you done?". Except I take about 20K to say and ask that. I don't forward the same junk that everyone else shunts around the world.