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by Lloyd A. de Vries

Vol. 39 - In Your Face!

You go to a Web site, and your browser seems to freeze with the opening page only partially loaded. All you can see is the site's header and the banner ad.

You go to a Web site, and much of the content you can to see is obscured by a large ad. As you scroll down the page, hoping to get away from it, the ad stays in the center of your screen.

You go to a Web site, start reading its content, and you notice that another browser window has opened.

You go to a Web site, nothing pops up, and you start reading its content. Suddenly, while you're reading, an ad pops up in front of you.

You go to a Web site, nothing pops up, and you start reading its content. As you leave the site, a pop-up ad appears.

It's all part of the war between Internet surfers and Internet advertisers. The industry knows we have all sorts of pop-up blockers and are conditioned now to hit that X-close box as soon as something pops up, so the marketers are desperate to make sure we see the ads.

"In your face" takes on a whole new meaning.

My "favorite" is the floating ad that remains after I click the X. It doesn't really remain; the site opened two versions of that ad, one underneath the other. I only closed one.

Other sites start loading advertising videos (complete with annoying audio) as soon as you arrive at the site. I can't imagine what this does to people using dial-up or older computers. I know I keep the volume off on my computers.

And when the ads on a site get too annoying, I stop visiting.

The marketers know that, too. They'll worry about it some other time. After all, tomorrow is another day.

Remember the U.S. Spay and Neuter stamps of 2002? I'm reminded of it several times a week, even though our last pet, a rabbit, died during Washington 2006.

Back when they were campaigning for that stamp and then celebrating its issuance, the responsible pet ownership people weren't so responsible with their e-mail. As a philatelic reporter, I inquired about the subject, and found myself receiving their press releases forever after, or at least until interest in the stamps was put to sleep.

That's fine. That's not really spam. I expressed an interest in the story, and that makes me fair game for further story pitches. And once the enthusiasm over stamps was curbed, the e-mailings stopped.

The problem is that the "TO" fields in those messages showed every single person to whom they were addressed, dozens and dozens of us, and ever since, I've gotten 3-4 messages a week from "Pet Meds," the furry equivalent of those "we cure any desease but bad spelling" spams.

Proper "netiquette" is to hide the addresses of recipients on a mass-e-mailing like that.

There are several ways to do that. Some e-mail programs may allow you to hide the addressees. All the recipients see is "undisclosed recipients" in the To field.

Your e-mail provider may allow you to create group addresses. Then all the recipients would see is a group address (for example, "petstamps@petpeople.org"). Of course, a spammer could send his bon mots to that group address, unless you restrict who can use it.

Much simpler is to put the addresses in the "BCC" ("blind carbon copy;" how many of today's Internet users remember what a carbon copy was?) field, with another address (yours, or perhaps even a phony) in the To field. Then all the recipients see is that one main recipient and the sender.

Besides keeping your friends, co-workers and others off the spam lists, there's another reason for hiding addresses when sending a message to a large group of people: Too many people hit "REPLY TO ALL" instead of "REPLY." I find it annoying to receive first a message (a joke, an idea, or something else) and then 23 "I agree" messages. "REPLY TO ALL" only sends to everyone in the "To" and "CC" fields, not those in the BCC field.

Please look before you punch that button. In Microsoft Outlook, the most common e-mail software, "Reply" and "Reply to all" are very clear marked.

One more bit of e-mail netiquette: If someone forwards to you and 643 other people something you find funny, and you just absolutely, positively have to forward it to another 458 people, please delete the earlier e-mail addresses from the body of the message.

There really are spammers and spam list compilers who harvest names from e-mail messages like that, either from the To fields or from the bodies of much-forwarded messages.

If you don't believe me, I'll be happy to forward some ads for pet medications to you.

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