Friday, March 07, 2008

I am a wimp

I don't like email. I started this blog many years ago partly because I'm too lazy to forward to my friends every interesting thing I find on the internet and blogs obey the principal of keystroke conservation: rather than retype the same thing over and over in separate emails, why not say what I think once and for all and let those who are interested come to me. It also serves as a handy archive of interesting ideas I've accumulated, all nicely google-able so I can quickly go back and find something when I need it.

Occasionally people will forward something to me that I think is interesting, or I might hear something verbally that I want to write down. Again, my first instinct is to simply post it here once and for all, so I can find it again and in case any of my friends are interested. I just don't see the point of email forwarding it around.

But -- important point -- I publish under my own name, so there is no way I'm going to be one of those hyperactive, filth-spewing rumor-mongers that make up parts of the blogosphere. After all, my family reads this (hi Mom!)

Recently I overheard somebody (joking?) that you better not let Richard hear such-and-such because he might post it to his blog, and I was deeply disturbed because I really try hard to respect other people's privacy. Please be assured: I only post things that are either (1) available for all to see either in public or on the open internet, (2) my own personal thoughts or opinions, or (3) something I've been given express permission to repost.

For example, a few months back I emailed a person who was the subject of a local newspaper story about a public health issue and found -- to my surprise-- that the article was completely wrong. I wanted desperately to tell my friends, many of whom were making incorrect decisions partly based on the misinformation in the article. But the person asked me not to post their side of the story. So I dropped it.

During last year's election somebody forwarded me a very interesting email in support of a particular candidate. The email header specifically said "PLEASE PASS THIS TO YOUR FRIENDS". I didn't know the originator of the email, so I replied (privately) to ask for permission to repost. The author not only refused my request (which of course I respect) but seemed disturbed that I would contemplate such an invasion of their privacy. I wanted to scream! WHY DO YOU THINK AN EMAIL IS ANY MORE PRIVATE THAN A BLOG? But I dropped it.

Similarly, recently I came upon another of those "PLEASE FORWARD" emails, and this time the originator kindly gave me permission to repost. In the course of fact-checking a few things in order to form my own opinion, somebody else asked me specifically NOT to repost that email. "Don't give it any more publicity", I was told. "It probably only went to a few people."

Yeah, right. Maybe a few thousand people. But I wimped out. It's not my email, but this is my reputation here and I'm not going to antagonize either side. For what it's worth, I didn't forward the email either--although, interestingly, my censor did (in order to "warn" others). And probably those recipients forwarded it too….

Anyway, this is why I want everyone to get their own blog and avoid mass emails whenever possible. If anything, a blog posting is safer and more private than email. Every single one of your emails can be is already forwarded, deliberately or by accident. People can copy/paste your words out of context, can refer to them anonymously; the entire universe can be talking about you behind your back without your knowledge. With a blog posting, your words are your words, a permanent record that you control, and can't be quoted out of context.  For wimps like me, that's reason enough to avoid email.

1 comment:

Jimbo said...

What if they cut and paste yer blog into an email changing the important parts?

I prefer emailing my cohort--i'm guessing a large part of them only interface with their email; I know for a fact a bunch of our cheesehead friends don't click on links.

Besides the whole "viral" phenomenon is the America Idol of the internet. I'm still hoping for my 15 nanoseconds of internet fame!

Hope you watch Monk, daddio--you sound a lot like him.