All posts by Jerry Stern

You Want Me at Your Webinar? Bye-bye!

by Jerry Stern

So, what’s the quickest way to get me to delete your business email?
Easy–invite me to a webinar!

I get these invitations every day. If I attended all of them, I’d get no work done. Ever. Or eat dinner. Or lunch, for that matter. Sleep is dubious. And that’s just from the companies that I already buy products or services from, not including the webinar offers from mystery companies who appear to be in my industry, but don’t actually explain what their service is.

Bluntly, why would I trust an hour of my time, and an extra ten minutes of “log in early to test your connection” time, to someone who has not yet mastered the concept of the elevator pitch? Webinars have their place–they’re good for technical topics. Not so good for sales. Horrible as corporate introductions–they send a message of slowwww….

Quick, we’re in the elevator. You have ten seconds–tell me what you do, and don’t bore me or I’ll get off on the wrong floor. Done, great, and maybe I’ll ask for a business card if you were clear and concise. If not, not. I won’t waste time doing business with time-wasters, so if you have convinced me that you need an hour to explain your company, uh, no, not going to happen.

So don’t invite me to webinars. You can email me, and keep the pitch short. ‘Above the fold’ short. Elevator short.

Or I’ll delete your message in the time it takes me to click on the next available elevator button.

Virus Warning! (Generic Reply to a Forwarded Hoax)

by Jerry Stern
Computer Tech and Webmaster at


Dear Friend–

I’ve received your latest forwarded message about the virus that is going to destroy the internet as we know it if we open that email with the urgent-sounding title. Please don’t forward these to anyone–they create FUD. That’s Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. They do nothing positive.

The message was, to begin with, old. When it was new, it had a few almost-true near-facts in it, like the name of a real email subject line. Everything beyond that was like listening to technology news on my local television news stations–it’s last week’s news, or last year’s news, with the important parts left out.

What you need to remember about forwarded messages that arrive in your mailbox is that they’ve generally been out and about being forwarded, for years. Decades, even–I’ve received forwarded jokes and cartoons that also showed up on my desk by fax in the 1990’s, and by interoffice photocopy-of-a-photocopy in the 1980’s. Forwarded emails are old, old, old.

And security news is meaningless after five days. All good antivirus software blocks every known threat that’s more than three days old. The bad guys know this, and they change their approaches to getting your system infected constantly, sometimes twice a day on some of the big families of rogue malware. Now, while there are bad emails going around that will infect your computer if you haven’t patched it, or that contain evil infectious links, the bad guys change the subject lines daily to keep their messages from being caught by SPAM filters, so trying to block them by not opening an email with a specific subject line isn’t remotely practical or safe.

So by forwarding this old message, you’re scaring people, and encouraging them to get their security news by watching for it to fall into their mailboxes from the sky. There are valid sources of security news, and forwarded email isn’t on the list.

Several points to keep in mind–every one of these tells you this is either a hoax or badly-reported ancient history:

  • Microsoft and Norton don’t need your help to report news. For that matter, neither do CNN, Neiman Marcus, or Homeland Security.
  • The message is undated.
  • It asks you to forward the message.
  • It claims knowledge from a credible source, but it’s a generic source that can’t be reached, like ‘Microsoft’ or ‘NBC’.

The best thing to do with these forwarded messages is to delete them. Don’t spread the FUD.

The REAL Microsoft security news is here:

The REAL security news from the US Department of Homeland Security is here:

And here’s an article by Rob Rosenberger on ‘False Authority Syndrome’, to help you recognize hoax emails: