November 20, 2008 at 11:16 pm (Technology) (, , )

No one is a stranger to “the forward.”  “The forward” has the following characteristics; they usually contain some compelling statement “pads have asbestos” or “Obama is a terrorist.”  They proceed to provide “facts” to prove their point sometimes citing “sources”.  They are usually not signed and are defamatory in nature.

I want to address the forwarder.  Consider “research” as common netiquette.  I want to also address the people who receive forwards.  You are not free from obligation.

All this being said, I find the people who heavily forward me tend to be people who honestly do want the best for me.  They care about me.  Forwarding sans research is an easy trap to fall into and made easier by the following dangers.

Danger 1: Dubious Origin

Forwards are often not signed by the author but instead they are sent by a trustworthy friend.  The friend would surely not knowingly lie to you.  One assumes that the person who sent it to you, or sent it to begin with, did some research.  Why do it and repeat the work?  I feel like this is akin to waiting at a crosswalk controlled with a button with a crowd of people, when you get there you assume that someone pressed the button.  After waiting awhile, you realize no one hit it.  Everyone embarrassingly looks at each other sharing the blame for not doing a public service due to the fear of being redundant.  This is what sociologists would call “The Free-rider Problem.”

Origins are further obfuscated by the main mode of e-mailing itself; good old SMTP.  It indeed lives up to the “Simple” in “SMTP”,  but I think it would be more accurate to call it “Naïve” MTP.  It has no verification inherent to sign a e-mail or, for that matter, even to verify that the original sender used a legitimate e-mail address.  The e-mail, thanks to SMTP, cannot verify itself.

Danger 2: Mixed Motivation

Let’s face it, e-mail is one of the easiest things to use on the web.  Gorgeous/expensive UIs and high motivation from family and friends make even an occasional web visitor an e-mail pro.  You get a few e-mails a day, you check them it is a low pressure, low energy, and low cost investment.  You can send e-mails, to a ton of people, through a few clicks.  It is easy.  This same ease can lend to forwarding without concern of the veracity of the contents.

Another motivations for sending forwards is the want to connect with people without the need of providing any content.  It is easier to send it on without spending time researching.

The Big Misconception

This all comes down to a big misconception.  “It is hard/unreliable to research things on the Internet.”  This is simply not true.  Addressing the ease, it has never been easier to do cursory research on the Internet. Sites like,,, and Google all provide good sources of information.  If you really wanted to do your due diligence, don’t stop at these sites.  A good site provides good links to evidence that they did their research.  Follow them.  You may end up learning more about the subject than the original writer (if not malicious) ever attempted to find.

Addressing the reliability, there are bad and good sources on the internet.  Forwards and, dare I say it, blogs are notorious for having inaccurate information.  Getting information from the source company/individual is better as are news agencies.

My Plea

Please be a responsible forwarder.  Do your research.  Also, be a responsible forward reader.  Do your research.  I have no qualms about doing reply to all rebuttals, lies about people/companies/products/groups should stop here.  I would appreciate if someone defended me if there was a viral e-mail talking about illegitamate indiscressions, do the same for people who can’t defend themselves on a private/mass e-mail thread.  In the end, swallow your pride.  Admit to forwarding carlessly (I’ve done it myself) by privately/mass rebutting yourself.  Admit to reading forwards carelessly and pledge to verify claims.  If you want truth in your e-mail box, start contributing now and don’t add to problem by being a “free-rider”.



  1. said,

    My Dear,

    It is my pleasure to contact you for a business venture which I and my Sons George and Henry intend to establish in your country.Though I have not met with you before but I believe one has to risk confiding in succeed sometimes in life.
    I can confide on you for the brighter future of my children since you are a human being like me. There is this huge amount of TwentyEight Million united states dollars. ($ $28 million which my late Husband kept for us in a Security Company here in Abidjan Cote D’ivoire before he was assasinated by unknown persons.Now I and my Sons George and Henry have decided to invest these money in your country or anywhere safe enough for security and political reasons.

    We want you to help us claim and retrieve these fund from the Security company and transfer it into your personal account in your country for investment purposes on these areas:
    1). Telecommunication
    2). the transport industry
    3). Five star hotel
    4). Real Estate

    I await your soonest response.
    Respectfully yours,
    Mrs Rita Meash

  2. mollyjo said,

    That is what I mean. I would say I dislike the personal ones more. The ones saying “this person said this” so they are a terrible person.

  3. busybees42 said,

    Molly Jo, you crack me up. Don’t get me wrong, I agree with your stance. I just love how you stated it with technical writing, even using APA-esque formatting. 🙂 Nice work!

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