More than a dozen years ago, The New Yorker ran the Peter Steiner cartoon featuring two dogs in front of a computer, one carefully instructing the other that “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” While pseudonyms and cute handles might still work well for posts to Match.com, eBay.com and hobby lists, mailing lists designed for lawyers generally require that participants disclose their real names. But revealed identity still doesn’t stop many from looking like complete idiots on law-related mailing lists.
Let’s explore some of the ways that you can convince the world that you should stay off mailing lists:
Requests to “unsubscribe me right this very minute” when the instructions for leaving the list are prominently displayed at the bottom of each message.
Persistently engaging in off-topic, inflammatory and controversial discussion, even after being asked to stop.
Posting a client’s personal information to a mailing list.
Using an autoresponder to advise everyone on the list over and over again that you’ll be out of the office until 6 July 2005. Using the wrong date will make you look even more negligent.
Responding to every message with “I agree,” Me, too,” or “I don’t know.”
Not trimming an overly long message or a digest of messages.
A ridiculously long signature file, including quotes, a favorite poem, a mission statement, a slogan, and ASCII art.
Diatribes, political infective, and venom spewed at individual list members.
Beating dead horses into the ground.
Distributing to an entire mailing list messages which are better saved for off-list and private e-mail.
Cross-posting from another list without permission.
Using a mailing list as personal bully pulpit.
Harvesting other list subscribers’ addresses for mass mailings.
Harassing list subscribers, either on- or off-list.
Nearly every human on earth, lawyers included, has done something remarkably stupid in face-to-face interactions, but memories fade. Akin to the much-feared permanent record, mailing list archives outlast human memories, and the acts of a buffoon can come back to haunt and humiliate lawyers for a long time.