The Internet Driver’s License

The Internet Driver’s License

I think you should be required to pass a test before being allowed to go on the Internet. What prompts this sentiment (today)?

I’m on a mail list from a particular pro-life organization. Unfortunately they have their list software misconfigured so that any emails back to the sender are repeated to every recipient. When they get this email it looks like it’s coming from the list owner. Thus someone writes “Unsubscribe me from this email list.” Clueless Person #1 writes back, “I didn’t subscribe you to anything.” Clueless Person #2 jumps in: “Don’t unsubscribe me!” CP #3 writes, “Why am I getting these emails!” Then comes the flood of copycat unsubscribers: “Stop sending me email,” “Unsub,” and so on. After about the 50th message someone tries to explain what’s going on: “This email is coming from a listserv [Oh yeah, like they’ll know what that is.] mail sent to it will be sent to everyone on the list. If we all stop sending the problem should go away.” By now you can predict what happens. Yup, another dozen emails ensue. Eventually we hope the list owner catches on and fixes things. This same scenario happens a few times a year on various mailing lists.

So I was thinking that maybe people should have a basic set of skills before being allowed online. Maybe they should be given a test somewhat along these lines:

  1. A friendly African fellow, perhaps the orphaned son of a deposed dictator, offers you millions of dollars. All you have to do is give them your bank account information so they can wire it you. Do you: (a) happily send a complete stranger in a foreign land your most confidential financial information or (b) trash the email?
  2. Your bank (or another bank you have never heard of) sends you an email that your confidential personal information has been compromised so click on this little link right here with the very strange address (pay no attention to it) and re-enter it. Do you: (a) Click on the link, (b) open your web browser and enter your bank’s web address by hand, or (c) delete the email?
  3. Someone you never heard of sends you an email with a file attached that they say is the funniest thing ever seen on the Internet, but they can’t tell you what it is. Just open the attachment. Go ahead. Don’t run the virus checker, just open it. Do you… you know the drill.
  4. You receive an unbelievable offer for that prescription medicine you pay scads of money for. Sure all the words are misspelled and the “pharmacy” is in Hong Kong, but it’s such a good deal. Blah, blah, what do you do?

What other questions should go on the Internet Driver’s License Test?

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Written by
Domenico Bettinelli
  • so a class reunion is coming for us Grinnell College grads. I start getting emails from the class agents about the reunion. Well, one guy has his out-of-office autoreply set to reply EVERY TIME to EVERYONE on the distribution list to tell them he is out. One day I got eight “soandso is out of the office emails.”

    So in the print version of the class notes, several of my classmates, including myself, had the little comment in their update: “Yes, Ross WE KNOW YOU ARE OUT OF THE OFFICE!!!!”

  • 5. This email has touched the lives of millions. If you don’t foward it to 20 people, nothing good will happen to your for a week plus a cat in mongolia will be struck by lightning. Do you: a) dutifully send it to 20 of your closest friends to save the cat and avoid the curse or b) delete it without thinking about it.

    (this is applicable to EVERY email chain letter you receive).

    6. OH MY GOSH! They are going to release a movie claiming that Jesus was a homosexual and had relations with all his apostles! Sign this petition now to stop this blasphemy from reaching the movie screens of the U.S. Do you: a) panickedly send this email to dozens of your militant Catholic friends bemoaning the state of modern society and asking them to send the petition as well and set the forwarded email to everyone on their list or b) delete it because you’ve received the same hoax email 5 or 6 times in the last 4 years?

    (I regularly get this “warning” and “request to sign the petition” about the “homosexual Jesus movie” about once every six months….)

  • How ‘bout
    5.  When you receive an email that ends with “Show your Faith!” or “If you don’t send this along are you ashamed of your faith?” or “You’re going to He*(( if you don’t send this on to 10 people you never email on a regular day anyway” do you a.  Send it along to all 138 people in your address book, b.  Post it on your personal website so that everyone can see how not ashamed you are of your faith or c. ROLL YOUR EYES, MOVE THE CURSER TO DELETE AND WITH ONE STRONG INDEX FINGER FLICK, DELETE THE STUPID THING?

  • 5) You just got a hot tip on a stock from someone you never heard of. Do you a) forward it to everybody who has ever sent you an email, then invest all your money in the stock b) invest first, then forward, c) invest, but don’t tell anybody, or d) delete and ignore. (Answer is c (for people I don’t like) or d (for someone I do))

    6) When forwarding an email about something you’ve never heard of that either a) sounds dangerous, b) seems heartbreaking, or c) seems improbable but the email swears it’s a true story, when would you _not_ first look up the keywords of the story on (Answer: Never)

    7) If you are forwarding mail to a huge list of diverse people that you are sure will be forwarded around, should you a) remove the names of the other people on the to and cc lists before forwarding, so people you don’t know don’t get their email pasted all around the net, b) put everybody you are sending to in the bcc list, so future forwarders others can’t see the list of all your friends, c) figure out that the vast majority of people get enough junk in their mail and aren’t really as interested in it as you, and decide not to send it d) all of the above.

    8) You are experiencing computer problems, do you a) call your son/nephew/cousin who’s in the computer business since he’s such a genius and can obviously solve your problem in seconds using only the psychic bond of his mind to your computer, and give him your description “well, the monitor flickered a bit and prints out an error message that said something like Error:…something…and some number I forget, then it stopped working”, b) call dell technical support with the same description, c) pay the 14 year old kid down the street $20 to just fix it. (Answer: B or C. Just, please, God, not A. Please. Seriously.)

  • You are an adult male between the ages of 50-60 and you are online in a chat room, myspace, you fill in the blank and you decide to take up a conversation with a 14 year old girl who is interested in older men you A. _____continue the coversation B.____Send her a picture of your homeland security badge picture C_____Send her your home phone and govt issued cell phone number D_____all of the above if you are Brian Doyle deputy press secretary to Michael Chertoff

  • You receive an e-mail containing a prayer or inspirational story. At its conclusion you are told to forward this e-mail to at least 10 other people (including the one who sent it to you in the first place) or prove that You Are Ashamed To Be A Christian. Do you:

    A.) Immediately follow the instructions
    B.) Delete the e-mail
    C.) Delete the e-mail and gently (or not) advise the sender that he or she is participating in spamming and to please for bleep’s sake knock it off

  • jrp,

    “8) You are experiencing computer problems, do you a) call your son/nephew/cousin who’s in the computer business since he’s such a genius….”

    I confess. I do A. I call my mom every time.

  • Hum. Point taken, Melanie.

    I wasn’t being intentionally sexist, I was just characterizing my particular experience, but I apologize for the appearance of sexism.

  • You receive a mass e-mail from a friend informing you how to detect a virus on your system.  It instructs you to delete a file in your System directory. 

    Do you
    A) Delete the file and forward the e-mail to all your friends
    B) Have second thoughts and look up the alleged virus
    C) Reply to your friend’s mass e-mail, giving them instructions on how to undo the damage they’ve done to their own computer.

  • JRP: I don’t think she was accusing you of sexism. It’s just funny that Melanie’s mom runs a successful computer consulting business and she’s the one all the kids call with their computer problems. On the other hand, I’m the one my family calls because they’re all Mac users and I’m the Mac guy.

  • Well, then, I was convicted by a guilty conscience, I guess. grin No harm, no foul.

    How about another couple:

    After accidently pressing a button on the front of your computer, a previously hidden coffee cup holder pops out. Do you a) put your styrofoam coffee cup in there, b) as a, but then press the button again afterwards, c) contact Dell technical support. Answer: C (because, even the support people need a laugh on occasion).

    You live in the NorthEast. After plugging in the computer you bought for Christmas and working away merrily, a few days later, your power goes out. Do you a) call the electric company and ask them if you forgot to pay the bill, again b) keep swapping fuses (and use pennies for those extra fuses you keep forgetting to buy) until the power comes back on, or c) light a candle and get out your ski-mask, gloves, and go shovel the driveway, since it’s just another blizzard and the power will be back on in a couple of days, when the electric company gets around to it…

  • one question test.

    Your web browser is:
    a) Internet Explorer
    b) Safari
    c) Firefox
    d) Opera

    If you choose a), you don’t get a license.  It’s that simple.

    Yours in Christ,