17 Aug 2008

The truth behind chain emails

Chain Email (net "slang" for emails that keep getting forwarded a large number of times) or "forwards" are nothing new to those with email accounts. Although interesting (at times), most are usually partly or fully works of fiction. So it's necessary to check your facts before using information from such emails.

An recent example is the email titled "Facts that make every Indian proud". The email claims figures like
There are 3.22 millions of Indians in USA (1.5% of population). YET,
36% of NASA scientists are Indians.
38% of doctors in USA are Indians.
According to the Indian magazine Outlook,
The actual figures, it turns out, are a modest five per cent and 10 per cent respectively.
It can be especially embarrassing if these figures are used for formal presentations and they are exposed for what they are. Take the example of Mr. Lalit Mansingh (Indian Ex-ambassador to the US) who went on to quote these in his address to the Womans National Democratic Club in the US!

I understand that if such an email is received from someone you know, then it is a natural tendency to first believe what it says. While this works in real life, I would suggest that you make an exception if that "information" comes in the form of a chain email.

A few important points to remember the next time you forward such an email
  • Take some time to verify the information you are about to send out. The easiest way to do this is use your favorite search engine and it takes a few minutes. After all, the next person will believe it because it comes from you!
  • Follow the net-etiquette (courtesies of communicating over the internet) and remove all the "garbage" around the actual content. Particularly remove email addresses, signatures at the end. After all, there's no reason why the next person should see all this information. In my experience the real content is usually only about 10% of the size of the email received :-) Not only does this make the email easier to read, it is also your way to saying that you care!
  • Use the BCC field when forwarding such emails, unless you have a good reason not to. The BCC (short for Blind Carbon Copy) field is the pretty much the same as the CC (or the Carbon Copy) field, except that the receiving person does not see the email addresses within this field. That way you are protecting the privacy of people you know.

Read: You've got mail, & It's fictional (via Outlookindia.com), Thanks Amod!

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