Quick Tip: if you want someone to share job ads, announcements, etc, send links to web sites not attachments

OK I have had it. I have had it with people who send me job ads and meeting announcements and other things they want me to “share” with colleagues or students. I got six such requests today – two for job ads, two for course announcements and two for meeting announcements.

But this rant may not be what you think. I am not annoyed that they want me to share something. I actually like doing this. What I am annoyed with is how people do this. 95% of the time people send these email requests with an attachment and expect me to forward this on to all who might be interested. And much of the time these attachments are big files, sometimes written in programs that only some people can open.

Does this work some of the time? Sure. Do I sometimes forward these on? Sure. But that approach is so 2005. Here in 2010 there are better ways than email blasts to people who mostly just click delete. In my opinion, the best way to get someone to share something like this is to post your announcement on the web somewhere and then send people a link to the web site. Include a brief summary in the email you send around and if people want more information they can go to the web site. Not only does this save some bandwidth and not clutter up peoples email servers, but it also allows those of us who share via Twitter and Friendfeed and Facebook and so on to more easily send the announcement around. I am sure many people prefer the attachments, but I for one get 50+ attachments a day, almost all of which do not get looked at.

UPDATE 9/23/2012
So – the post above was written two years ago, almost to the day.  And not much has changed.  Excepted perhaps the way people share links (I mention Friendfeed above — I guess I that could be replaced by Google+).

What is an easy way to post a document and then send people a link?  There are many ways to do this including

  • Post as a Google Doc/Presentation in Google Drive and send the link
  • Upload to Dropbox or another such site and, well, share the link
  • Post as a blog post (if you have a blog) or friggin start a blog and post it there
And of course many many other ways.  But please please please stop sending all these files around.  For a while I was posting them to my blog (I can autopost by forwarding email messages to the right address).  But I am sick of doing this for other people and am going to stop.

Author: Jonathan Eisen

I am an evolutionary biologist and a Professor at U. C. Davis. (see my lab site here). My research focuses on the origin of novelty (how new processes and functions originate). To study this I focus on sequencing and analyzing genomes of organisms, especially microbes and using phylogenomic analysis

8 thoughts on “Quick Tip: if you want someone to share job ads, announcements, etc, send links to web sites not attachments”

  1. I'm glad I'm not the only one who has this experience. Next on the list is mailouts that are just an embedded image – I can't even cut & paste the details into a text email to distribute, nor can google calendar auto detect the date/time.


  2. @Ross – Actually, there are good reasons *not* to use URL shorteners when you can avoid them (i.e. when not on Twitter).

    Sample Reason #1: *When* the URL shortening service shuts down, the link is lost forever.

    Sample Reason #2: The URL shortening service gets to see who follows which links, which can create a significant privacy violation if the link leads to, say, information on Chlamydia; the URL shorteners can track who just followed that link, and sell the fact that they're interested in Chlamydia remedies to their Health insurers on the “Information Black Market” (why did you think people offer “free” URL shortening services? If you're not paying, you're probably the product!).

    As to main article, links vs. attachments, I'm all in favour. However, what bothers me most is when someone attaches a Word file (ugh already) containing information that could simply have been in the Email body; why attach at all? Just email the info and let it be shared to all and sundry as a FWD?


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