Article: Douglas Keller


The Small Business Library

October 22, 2000

Valuable Lessons for New Cybernetters

If you are just beginning to enjoy the wonders of the Web, there are many lessons you need to learn to navigate safely and securely, with the least amount of frustration possible. These tips won't cover everything you might encounter as you begin your online journey, but they will help you be more aware of some of the Internet traps that every Newbie must face.

Beware the Cybersharks

To the unwary cybernetter, there are tremendous dangers lurking in the turbulent waters of the Internet. Speaking mainly from my own experience, and from untold hours of surfing the Net, I have come to realize that the Internet is full of sharks. These aren't the teeth toting, man eating type, nonetheless, these cybersharks are quite capable of inflicting great harm on their prey.

These predators will cross all boundaries to make a kill. Their favorite morsels by far, however, are the brand-spanking-new cybernetters going for a swim, looking for a new opportunity to better themselves or their family, hoping to make some money with an online business. They especially love the newbies sitting in front of their computers with credit cards in hand.

These sharks use unscrupulous tactics to persuade these unwary beginners into believing that, should they decide to swim with them, they will become millionaires in no time. Boy, they sure are persuasive!

As most experienced Netters know, the bombardment of offers and opportunities are an endless source of aggravation and turmoil to be dealt with on a daily basis. The key to avoiding 90 percent of these shark-inflicted migraine headaches is in acquiring a savvy education as to what to look for, and by all means, what to avoid online.

Searching and researching using the Internet can be a very enjoyable and rewarding experience, whether young or old. The Internet truly is the information superhighway, and then some. It can provide assistance in almost every facet of life, from reference information to history. Whatever topic we choose to explore, the Internet provides a smorgasbord of past and current events on subjects such as news, weather, sports, health and much more. Not to mention the plethora of technological information that is sweeping the world, all available at the click of your mouse. It doesn't take a psychic to get a glimpse of the future of the Web. It can only continue to grow.

However, a savvy online education as to what to do and what to avoid is very important.

Consider these important Do's and Don'ts:

  1. Never give out personal information, like your name, address, telephone number, or online password. This should be stressed especially strongly to children.
  2. Don't pursue face-to-face meetings with strangers. Instruct your child to inform you immediately if someone asks to meet him in person, and warn him of the dangers involved in that kind of meeting.
  3. To insure your private information is secure online -- including personal information such as name and address, credit card numbers and other financial data -- it is very important to know with whom you are dealing. If you are unsure whether the company or organization requesting your information is reputable, research them before providing them with ANY information.
  4. Don't take the truth of other users' proclaimed identities for granted. Online user profiles and personal information provided by others may be less than complete, and may even be total fiction.
  5. Remember the old adage, "If it sounds to good to be true, it probably is."
  6. Avoid online gambling sites. The legality of online gambling is still under debate and most online gambling sites are operated from foreign countries.

Cyber Surfing Tips

  1. Become familiar with your computer and how it works. Knowing how to use your browser, keyboard, and mouse is important in order to navigate cyberspace more easily. There are many inexpensive books and literature available to provide help for anyone, from rank beginner to more advanced cybertechs. There is a lot of helpful information available free online, as well, that you can print and read at your leisure.

  2. A printer is a must. If you don't think you need one, think again. It's not an option.

  3. Learn how to use search engines so you can locate all those important pieces of data that are so dear to you and your family.

  4. Use your bookmarks. Mark favorite places online and those you'd like to visit again so you can return to those sites that are of special interest to you.

  5. Familiarize yourself completely with how to use your DELETE options. You will probably use them every single time you use your computer.

  6. Always spell check outgoing emails. Nothing looks worse -- or less professional -- than a bunch misspelled words.

  7. "Lurk" (read messages without responding) for awhile when joining a news group or chat room. Try to understand the topic of discussion, as well as getting to know the people participating.

  8. Be polite and practice good cyberetiquette. If you don't know the proper rules of etiquette for a particular situation, pick up a book about that, too. You'll be glad you did, and so will those who come in contact with you.

  9. Avoid insulting or offensive remarks (called flames). If you get flamed, don't return the fire. Do your best to ignore the offender.

  10. Writing in all upper case letters is considered SHOUTING.

Dealing with Spam

First off, I hope you realize that I'm not talking about lunch meat. Cyberspam is another term for unsolicited commercial email. My personal definition is ANY unsolicited email. Spam is a fact of life on the Internet. It can't be eliminated, but it's annoyance factor can be minimized. The easiest thing to do from the beginning of your time online, however, is to accept the fact that you ARE going to receive your fair share of unsolicited email, just like everyone else does.

It's like opening your mailbox at the end of your driveway and finding it full of junk mail. You don't necessarily like it, but do you go stomping into the house cursing heaven knows what, then call the post office with a bomb threat if they don't stop sending you this junk? Of course not. You throw the junk in the trash, or at the least in the neighbor's yard, and that's the end of it. Right? (Unless your neighbor sees you.)

I know there is nothing worse than checking your email to find your box full of all these great offers that are going to make you rich, or teach you what a fool you've been for paying Uncle Sam taxes all these years. The bottom line is, it's junk mail just like Ed MacMahon sends out every year... the only difference is, he has to pay postage to get it to your mailbox and Cyberspammers can do it free with the click of a mouse. (I bet that makes Ed irate.)

But my whole point is -- remember the delete option. You can make spam trash just as quick as it was born. And really, it's easier than disposing of junk mail, you don't have to buy plastic bags.

As when entering any new culture, following the accepted mores will help ensure that your first encounters with Cyberspace are exciting and adventuresome and will minimize the heartaches and hassles you may face as you learn to navigate the Net. Above all, relax and enjoy!

Doug Keller is the publisher of Business to Build Ezine, a "Guide for Helping Internet Newbies Make Money Online." Subscribe at businesstobuild.com or BusinessToBuild-subscribe@onelist.com.