Grok McTanys (grok_mctanys) wrote,
Grok McTanys
grok_mctanys

How do you tell someone they're committing a faux pas?

Without causing offence? Especially if they're a business associate you don't know very well or have many dealings with.

Some moderately high-up guy (i.e. not a grunt) in an organisation that deals with an organisation that I deal with sent out a "Merry Xmas" email over the holidays.

Unfortunately, he put everyone he sent the email to in the "To" field, instead of using a "BCC" field, so now everyone he wanted to say "Merry Xmas" to has had their name and email address distributed to everyone else on the list.

(He also included his large signature block, including legal disclaimer, 5 times at the end of the message. I've no idea how he managed that one, and it's beside the point here.)

There was the possibility he used the "To" field by accident, but he's not emailed an apology round in the week or so since it went out, so I can only assume that he doesn't know that what he's done is extremely poor etiquette, and disrespectful of everyone's privacy.

Now, in the good old days of the internet I would, as was previously done to me, simply prod him with a gentle flame along the lines of "RTFM n00b!", and tell him the name of the newsgroup where the netiquette faq was posted regularly enough to always be in any ISP's cache, so he could grab a copy. (I think it was called news.announce.n00bs or something). He would then be, as I was to my educator, thankful for the opportunity to learn how to not be a n00b in the future.

But I feel that the time for teachings in this idiom has passed; that I would be the one in breach of etiquette were I to employ such methods in these advancing days, this being the 5600th September, 1993.

So what do I do?

I don't want to embarass the guy or make him feel like an idiot. There's nothing wrong with being a n00b - we were all one once - so long as you are capable of learning how to not be one. I just want to politely point him to the Wikipedia BCC article and possibly also directly to the BCC for privacy page so he understands how to use email better in the future. It will help everyone he knows, in that they won't get their email address spread around indiscriminately, and it will help him in that the people he emails will think less unfavourably of him.

I've thought of doing something short and simple, with nothing but an "*ahem*", "*polite cough*" or similar, followed by the URLs I previously indicated.

I've thought of the slightly longer "Please don't take this the wrong way, but:" + URLs.

I've thought of a longer explanation up front.

All of these I have considered, written out, carefully edited and re-edited, and then thrown away.

Part of the trouble is that I have no idea who this guy really is, or how he's likely to react. The following is totally unfair to him, and I have no reason to think it other than as a precaution to consider the worst case scenario, but I am worried from years of interacting with other people on the tubes that he might be demonstrably prideful of his previous behaviour and throw a hissy fit at me for daring to point out that said behaviour might have inconvenienced others and therefore be considered less than impeccable; rather than have the tiny scrap of humility it would take to admit that there might be a slightly better way of conducting himself than he is currently doing, which someone else noticed it first, and had the arrogance to point out to him.

And in this worst-case scenario, after the hissy fit would come recriminations, breaking off of contract negotiations, me being fired, unable to find another job, losing my place to live, and being forced to move back with my parents.

*sigh*

In general, are people openly proud enough of their being ignorant, for this to be a valid concern? Am I being way too cautious, or should I just send one of the emails already? Is there a better way for me to let this guy know what a n00b he's being?

Or should I just let it go, and let the average internet knowledge quotient continue its slide towards zero? Is the sensible use of email by others a preposterous fantasy that no-one in their right mind should bother chasing?

Answers on a postcard...
Tags: life, n00bs, netiquette, work
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