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Was: Re: Please read this.... (( LONG ))

Poster: Julien de Montfort <julien@spiaggia.org>

> I would rather someone alert people of possible dangers (even if it
>turns out
> to be false) than not send it because it is not a middle ages topic
>or has not
> been fully researched.  The time something does not get posted
>because someone
> is afraid of being flamed is the time someone actually gets hurt.

While concern for others is notable and appreciated, I think it is
folly to simply send along any information one gets online as being
truth and gospel.  In fact, by *not* bothering to check up on random or
otherwise suspect emails that come along, one is participating in no
more than idle gossip and rumor, which is also the spreading of
information without checking up on it.

Many of us who have been on the 'net for some time (and especially
those of us who work in the industry) will tell you that the vast
majority of those warnings sent around are in fact untrue at worst, and
a deliberate hoax at worse (and by vast I mean that I personally cannot
think of any of the estimated 100+ "warnings" I've seen or gotten as
being legitimate).

Many of these got sent out originally as a joke or a prank (such as the
infamous  "Good Times" virus hoax), but once released, they acquired a
life of their own.  People read them and, not understanding the
situations behind them, assumed they were the gods-honest truth and
forwarded them along to people they knew.  Those people, in turn, read
them, and a portion of those folks also accepted them as fact and
forwarded them along, etc., etc.

While it might be said that early on in the life of the 'net there may
not have been many opportunities to verify facts, these days it can be
hardly said to be so.  I suspect a few minutes of searching on the web
would bring up commentary about this or many other supposed 'warnings'
that circulate.

Sometimes just reading the darn thing and thinking about it for a
moment will bring light to these false alarms.  For example, there was
the famous one saying that everyone who forwarded a particular email
would recieve five bucks or so from Bill Gates.  Yeah, right.  That's
about as unlikely as me taking over Microsoft, but people just
naturally assumed that since in was in "print" (email), it must be true.

Another famous one talked about a child with a heart problem, and that
for every time somebody forwarded it along, the Red Cross (other
variations mentioned the American Heart Foundation) would donate 5
cents to a charity.  Well, okay, maybe some people out there figured
that yeah, sure, theres a way for a third party to keep track of stuff
like that (there's not), but beyond that, a simple pause would make a
person wonder: the Red Cross *is* a charity -- people donate money *to*
them, not the other way around.

So the bottom line is that for the overwhelmingly vast majority of
cases, any email you get that warns or alerts you of something --
whether it be a new "virus" or whether it asks you to donate money to
the Labor Day foundation so it can buy trees to plant around Microsoft
so that they can afford to buy little Jimmy a new liver after he woke
up in a bathtub of icewater following his brief run-in with a celebrity
on an elevator whose doberman was eating designer cookies -- is in all
likelihood false.

Of course, yes, there is that slight probability that it might be true.
And if you are at all curious, a simple check or two should be able to
clarify the situation.  Trust me, there will be *no* late-breaking
warnings that make their case known exclusively through email, so if
it's real, you'll likely find confirmatory evidence out there in short
order.  Or, if you'd like, talk to somebody more experienced on the
internet than you -- your system administrator, for example.  I used to
work at an ISP, and frankly, I was thrilled when someone would send me
a suspicious letter they had received, asking if it were legit or not.
It just meant one (actually, more like 25 or 30) less useless emails
cluttering up our server.  For the record, if somebody does get
something like this in the future, keep my email address handy -- I'd
still be more than happy to help check the veracity of such stuff as I

Here's a useful rule of thumb when trying to decide if one should pass
along stuff such as this: replace a name or two with that of a local
establishment (in this case, replace Burger King with the name of your
favorite local restaurant).  Now, would you be willing to stand up in
front of your community and relate this new warning without
investigating the veracity of it first?  If you wouldn't do that, you
shouldn't forward it along without checking either...

My thanks,

Seigneur Julien de Montfort                  De sable, seme d'hermines
"Solum Dice Nullus Sunt Suficio"             d'or, tres amphorae et un
Seneschal, Web Minister, pursuivant@large        caid palissade argent
Canton de Spiaggia Levantina                   http://www.spiaggia.org
Bright Hills, Atlantia                             julien@spiaggia.org
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