Arman's stuff
Pet Peeves

(Tue Nov 30 16:55:57 2010)

One thing I really can't stand...

A pet peeve is something you like to dislike; loud phone conversations in a restaurant, drivers not using turn signals, and ALWAYS POSTING EVERYTHING IN CAPS are just a few such peeves. I have some of my own, for various reasons; I dislike it when people slow down in the traffic lane, then swerve into the turn lane at the last second, for one. But the one that brought me to write this little thought down is one that few people realize is even all that bad. It isn't going to go away any time soon, but all the same, it makes me cringe when I see it: writing an email to the world, and NOT using BCC.

Long ago, in the shifting sands of time, there were memos. In the ancient office days of yore, the only way to get information from one office to another was to write the information on a piece of paper, and fill out the top part to direct where it should go. The fields directing the memo's delivery were well thought out, and thus were incorporated into email.

The first two fields on an email are quite easy to understand; even the slowest computer user understands "To" and "From". If not, well, it's not much of a mark on society, because the email will never be delivered, effectively removing such a user from the email pool.
The next field is a bit trickier - the CC field, or "Carbon Copy" field. In ye old days, to make a copy of a note, sheets of "carbon paper" were inserted between each copy, so when the note was typed or written, the pressure of the writing implement would cause the next layers of paper to become a (slightly blurry) copy. While members of the "To" field are directly involved in the email, members of the "CC" field are not; they are direct supervisors, secretaries, and other people that need to be "in the loop," but won't actually do anything about it. In todays email, the average office worker knows this, and generally uses it well. It's not terribly useful to the average user, so don't bother with it, unless you work in an office.

The last field, however, is largely unknown; BCC, or Blind Carbon Copy, is designed to be somewhat discreet. If, say, you wanted your memo to go to someone who never responds to email, you could BCC his boss, as well, to leave a paper trail that your coworker can't follow; you see, everyone in the BCC field will get the email, but without the contents of the BCC field itself. This is actually a very important point. Say, for example, you want to email five people to tell them that they are getting bonus checks. However, you don't want anyone but the person receiving a check to know that he has gotten one.
This is what not to do:

To: everyone in the entire office
From: Me
Re: Bob, Frank, Eddie, Fred, and Joe each get a bonus check!

This is bad, because everyone will know, which is not what you want at all.

To: Bob, Frank, Eddie, Fred, Joe
From: Me
Re: You get a bonus check!

This is better, but still wrong - nobody but the five getting checks know, but Bob knows Fred got a check, which still isn't what we want.

To: Me
From: Me
BCC: Bob, Frank, Eddie, Fred, Joe
Re: You a get bonus check!

This is perfect! As far as everyone knows, they got an email from you, to you, and they are the only other one that got that email. Fred doesn't know Joe will get a check, Joe doesn't know Eddie will get a check, and everyone is happy.

But wait, you say. How often do I send out bonus checks? This isn't useful to me!
Ah, but it is! While obscuring recipients may be handy for giving out secret information, it is also handy for a completely different reason - when you BCC someone, no one else knows their email address. If, for example, you want to send an email to everyone in your contact list - say, for example, "It's a boy!" - you don't really want to stuff them all in the "To" field. Instead, put them all in the BCC field; that way, you don't give away all those emails, when Uncle Billy forwards the email to his whole knitting group, or Grandma Marge forwards it to her entire office.

That is my pet peeve; people will send an email to a huge group, happily stuffing every last email address into their "To" field - churches, schools, offices, you name it - and it only takes one slip to push every last email address into the great wild world. In days, you'll be getting massive amounts of spam, and you'll have no idea how. Or worse, Crazy Aunt Edna will get everyone's email addresses and begin to write massive missives detailing her gall bladder surgery, to the aggravation of all who had carefully hidden their addresses from her.

Next time you want to send an email to more than two people who don't know each other, BCC them. Please. I've gotten enough emails from Aunt Edna as it is.

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