Melissa Kaplan's
Herp Care Collection
Last update January 1, 2014

The Net: Effective Email, Web Surfing, and Assessing Information


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Cover Image: Iguanas for Dummies.  Book written by Melissa Kaplan.
by Melissa Kaplan

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Writing and sending email seem pretty no-brainer, once you learn which keys to push when. Until you start not getting responses to your posts and email, or not the responses you'd hoped for. The same goes for Web surfing: once you've found a search engine or directory you're comfortable with, it'll bring you everything you could possibly look for, right?

In a perfect world, perhaps.

In this one, some ways of doing things, like how you write your email and phrase your requests, work better than others. The Internet - World Wide Web - is huge, with billions of documents and databases stashed away, not all of which are accessible by all search engines nor do they all appear on all Web directories.

In order to make the best use of the information and resources - people and material - available through email and the WWW, take the time to learn some skills to help you maximize your online time, thus ensuring you'll have more time offline to enjoy the fruits of your learning.

Adobe Accessibility Aids
Assessing/Validating Net Information
Emoticons and Abbreviations (Smileys)

Graphics/Sound Search Engines
How To Clog Up The Internet
Portable Document Format (PDF) Readers & Converters
Online Reference Books
Search Engines
Shrink Long URLs
Viruses, Hoaxes and Chainletters


Adobe Accessibility Aids
Adobe's On-The-Fly PDF-to-HTML Conversion Utility
Adobe's Plug-in Windows PDF-to-HTML Conversion Utility
Adobe Acrobat Reader


Assessing/Validating Information
Assessing and Validating Information Found on the Internet

Graphics/Sound Search Engines
Art On The Web
Photos On The Web
Photo Vault
Sounds On The Web
Other types of search engines


Some people new (and not so new) to the Internet believe that this is one vast playground where there are no rules, no limits, no order. These people, sooner or later, find that they are wrong.

The Internet, whether you participate in the dialogue in a newsgroup, join an email list, join a commercial service such as AOL or register so you can post in one of the free services such as, is a cluster of communities and, like the communities we live in, there are rules and customs that, when you follow them, ultimately make life a lot easier and more pleasant for everyone involved. To make the most of your time on the 'net, familiarize yourself with the community's guidelines.

The Internet allows for rapid, almost instantaneous communication. There is a tendency for many people to just jam their thoughts or questions down into an email form and slam it off into the ether, waiting for someone to answer them. And most times they get an answer. Often, however, they don't. Why? Because they have been so careless about the basics of grammar, syntax, punctuation, spelling and basic organizational clarity that the recipient gives up trying to figure out what the heck the writer was trying to say.

If your job doesn't involve your doing a lot of original writing, you may think that you left all that boring language and writing stuff behind in school. I mean, who needs to diagram sentences and know a past participle from an intransitive verb in the real world, right? Well, while you won't be asked to diagram email or decline verbs, and no one will mark you down for the occasional misspelled word or typographical error, if your email or posts are so disorganized, contain rampant misspellings, or little to no appropriate punctuation --and, perhaps worse, no capital letters--you are less likely to get anyone to respond to you.

Bottom line: if you want to get answers to your questions or communicate information to others, you don't have to be a great writer, just an effective communicator. Having the latest operating platform, a megagazillibyte hard drive, a ton of RAM and supersonic DSL if no one will talk to you?

Researching Herp Information On- and Offline - Melissa Kaplan
The Art of Getting - Melissa Kaplan, Phil Agre
Emoticons and Abbreviations
Email Etiquette Primer - Melissa Kpalan
Inappropriate Email List Posting Scenarios
Netiquette Guidelines (PDF)


Not Necessarily Netiquette
and not just for beginners...
A Beginners Guide to Effective Email
Is Your Email As Clear As You Think?


If you don't already have a PDF reader, you can download one for free from Adobe Acrobat, FoxIt, or PrimoPDF. Primo also offers, in their free product, a PDF converter, which enables you do convert web, word processing and any other document you can print into PDF file format. Find other products at


Online Reference Books And Other Useful Resource
The dictionary I use most often for science, medical, etc. terms is Onelook MetaDictionary which searches over 740 general, medical, scientific, technology and other online dictionaries at once.
For "just" words, I use the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary.

Area Code Lookup
Botanical Terms
Columbia Encyclopedia
Encarta Encyclopedia Online

High-Tech Dictionary - emoticons, HTML tags, email, and more
Merriam-Webster Dictionary and Thesarus
Merck Medical Manual
MedlinePlus - National Library of Medicine
OneLook Dictionary
Online Conversions
Online Medical Dictionary
PubMed - Medline
RefDesk - reference works and resources online
More Dictionaries and Encyclopedias


Search Engines
These search engines search many different search engines at once, returning their finds in a variety of ways. Test a couple out to find which one(s) you prefer, then bookmark the sites for easy access when you need it. Different search engines work in different ways. Depending on the type of data you need or search you are doing, you should become familiar with ones that best meet the needs of the moment.

Yahoo's How To Search The Web
Find the best search engine for your search
How To Search The Web - UC Berkeley


While canned SPAM® may be versatile and tasty (not, uhm, that I've ever actually tried it...), the email variety is nasty. Find out more about the email kind, how to deal with it, and precautions you can take to reduce the amounts cluttering up your email boxes.

Check with your ISP for their recommendations on client-side anti-spam software (that you install on your computer and use with your email software to filter out junk) and to find out what they are doing to filter out spam. Some are developing options for their clients to enable their clients to opt in or out of more aggressive server-side spam filters. Tucows has software compatible for a variety of client-side email programs and operating systems.
anti-spam resources


Viruses, Hoaxes and Chainletters
Before you go sending email to the 15,000 family members and closest friends in your address book about the latest virus alert or free-GAP-jeans-if-you-send-email-to-a-child-dying-of-cancer-to-get-a-Mrs.-Fields- chocolate-chip-recipe-made-with-flesh-eating-bananas, do a little research first. It may just save you from getting your account terminated by your ISP. So, learn to recognize a real virus from a hoax. You'll ultimately save time, won't endanger your email service, and your friends and e-acquaintances will like you a lot more when you stop filling up their email boxes with junk. As for actual viruses/worms/trojans, the best advice is: don't get infected to begin with! Install, update and use an antivirus program that automatically scans all incoming mail and deals with any nasty bugs it finds.

How To Protect Your Computer From A Virus
How to Avoid Trojans in Your Email
Avoiding Virus Attacks
Trend Micro's HouseCall Online Scanner
Symantec's Virus Encyclopedia and Viral Hoaxes
alt.urban.folklore newsgroup
Snope's Urban Legends Reference Pages


How To Clog Up The Internet
Many of the recent viruses and worms, such as Klez, not only infect the computer of the person who still doesn't use updated antivirus software to either scan all incoming mail, or who still opens attachments without first manually scanning them with updated antivirus software, or scans using software whose definitions they haven't updated since they bought the software three years ago, but but it grabs the person's address book and sends itself out to everyone in the address book AND masquerades as everyone in the address book. This means that if you have my email address in your address book, everyone else in your address book is going to be an infected email that will appear to be coming from me.

Many email programs have a feature whereby you can set the program to automatically capture every email address in email that is sent to you. If you have a friend or coworker who sends out a joke to 35 of their nearest and dearest, all 35 email addresses will be automatically added to your address book if you have your email program set to automatically capture all the addresses in the To:, From; and CC: fields. If you belong to email lists, the list address will be captured, as well as those of list members whose email address appears in these fields.

So, please do yourself, and all your friends, acquaintances and fellow listmembers a big favor and go through your email program's options and set the option to not automatically capture every email address that hits your inbox.

Also install and use an antivirus program to scan all incoming mail or at least manually (meaning you have to tell it to) scan all attachments before you open them, even if they are from your best friend or family members. The people who are writing these viruses and worms know that most users are being lazy and cluttering up their address books (autocapture) and that far too many people are still not using updated antivirus software to scan their mail. The virus/worm creators are exploiting this. As all this infected mail clogs up the Internet, it slows overall speed down, fills up mail boxes, and causes untold problems for Internet service providers (ISP), networks, etc.

Email users who don't take the steps to protect themselves make themselves part of the problem.


Shrink Long URLs
When you copy and paste the URLs from some websites into an email, the URL is so long that it breaks and part of it isn't picked up when the reader clicks the link. There are two free services that will convert those long URLS into very short ones that never expire. Head to TinyURL and SnipURL to find out how easy they are to use.


Missing Children
While there is nothing funny about missing children, many of the "help us find this missing child" email that circulate the Internet are long outdated. Before sending them on, check them out first:

National Center for Missing and Exploited Kids
Urbanlegend's Sick, Dying and Missing Kids  

Need to update a veterinary or herp society/rescue listing?

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