Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Neitiquette and email file attachments

Netiquette and email attachmnets - some guidelines


"Getting information off the internet is like taking a drink from a fire hydrant."

- Mitchell Kapor
    

Attachments
        Uses of attachments greatly enhance the flexibility capabilities and even potential hazards of email.  Due to the significant differences and compatibilities of different mail programs, many items such as tables, charts, documents with advanced formatting and items which require or demand editing integrity attachments are critical to communication dynamics.  Nonetheless, many obstacles and potential for problems exist when utilizing attachments. What follows are examples where attachments can manifest poor results and loss of productivity or worse.

        In the earliest days of email a limited number of formats existed.  However the rapid proliferation of programs has produced hundreds, if not thousands, of formats.  These are identified by their file extensions, i.e., .txt, .pdf and so on.  Although many programs can read multiple formats, these are no universal file readers.  It follows that to read these attachments, the native program must be installed.
        Care must be given by the sender to insure that an attachment, particularly an important or critical one, is conveniently able to be opened by the recipient(s).  This is, of course, critical in business communication and less so in personal email.  Nonetheless, it may take a significant amount of time to open an attachment which might have been intended to be provided for quick review or action.  Often, once a new program is installed, it may take the user sometime to negotiate or operate the program.  If this fails, the attachment may never be opened.
        For many, attachment size is not a problem.  For many others, it is a consideration which may have even a greater negative effect than a file attribute or format.  Many internet service providers (ISP's) have limitation for file size or mailbox size.  Large files can be rejected altogether or they may exhaust allotment of mailbox capacity.  Thusly, a recipient may not even know a message was sent and rejected.  Large attachments, even when accepted, might fill the recipient mailbox which will result in disruption of their service.  Finally, small laptops or most smart phones could have performance issues when attachments are opened.  There are several ways to avoid the pitfalls of attachment size.  The first is to be selective when sending large files or multiple smaller ones.  In the former case, many files can be significantly reduced by file compression programs of which there are many.  At least one of the popular ones is resident on most  desktops or laptops.  If other formats for document size reduction are appropriate such as .PDF, this is a very good approach.  In the case of the later multiple attachment email, simply sending multiple messages with fewer attachments per email is practical, straight forward and sure to reduce or eliminate the stress of unwieldy attachments.

Potential hazards of attachments
        Most attachments are simply a means of document delivery.  However, it has also become commonplace for some to use attachments to launch cyber attacks typically with executable code which produce many varied effects, some highly destructive and malicious.  When a recipient receives a suspicious attachment, it should be scanned and, unless it is from a trusted source, not opened.  Some corporations, hosting companies and ISPs (internet service providers) will block, quarantine or remove files with specifically identified file extensions.  It is beneficial to realize at least some of these to prevent inadvertent file removal.  Care should be taken as well not to forward such messages without a security scan.

1.   Do not send attachments that are not needed.

2.   Do not return attachments when replying.  The original sender knows what they attached.

        Finally, when attachments are sent, some may have similar names to other files on the sender's system.  With an inadvertent slip, the wrong attachment may go out perhaps a compromising or confidential document.  Therefore, opening attachments to validate they are appropriate and correct is critical to a proper email process.

        Titles of attachments are often visible in a mailbox preview mode.  These titles can be very important for a number of reasons.  Primarily an accurate and appropriately named attachment will encourage the recipient to open the email and read the attachment. If an attachment is not appropriately named, opening it may be delayed, denied or dropped altogether.  Some important considerations to utilize in titling attachments are date, specific content (i.e., proposal, invoice, resume, author and others).  Avoid using titles which are very long, contain all numeric characters, do not represent the content or have inappropriate information.  The latter might contain dates, long since past or very generic names as "letter", "schedule" and so forth.  Maintaining a structured process such as consecutive numbering, key defining categories, are not only useful for the recipient but for the sender as well.  It is also important to adhere to Netiquette in attachment titles by utilizing correct punctuation, capitalization and spelling.

Meta data and drafts in attachments

        Certain programs can actively send all of the corrections already visible.  Some programs leave hidden information which can be retrieved.  Care should be given to prevent this as it may lead to lawsuits, security breaches or other negative situations.  Attention should be given to "clean" these files or utilize an attachment format which will erase the meta data.  Even better converting attachments to a .pdf or other unchangeable file format eliminates this danger.

 

"Do's" for attachments
"Don'ts" for attachments
·         Be consistent with names or descriptions
·         Have too few or too many characters
·         Verify an attachment need
·         Do not send "v" card attachments unless requested
·         Capitalize the title
·         Reply to someone with the attachment they sent you
·         "Zip" or compress large files
·         Send attachments with possible compromising meta data
·         Use universal formats
 
·         Clean Meta data
 
·         Title possessions for convenience in storage
 
 
The next posting will be a listing of attachment document file extensions