OOF checklist

Fri, November 16, 2012, 02:05 PM under Communication

When going on vacation or otherwise being out of office (known as OOF in Microsoft), it is polite and professional that our absence creates the minimum disruption possible to the rest of the business, and especially our colleagues.

Below is my OOF checklist - I try to do these as soon as I know I'll be OOF, rather than leave it for the night before.image

  1. Let the relevant folks on the team know the planned dates of absence and check if anybody was expecting something from you during that timeframe. Reset expectations with them, and as applicable try to find another owner for individual activities that cannot wait.
  2. Go through your calendar for the OOF period and decline every meeting occurrence so the owner of the meeting knows that you won't be attending (similar to my post about responding to invites). If it is your meeting cancel it so that people don’t turn up without the meeting organizer being there. Do this even for meetings were the folks should know due to step #1. Over-communicating is a good thing here and keeps calendars all around up to date.
  3. Enter your OOF dates in whatever tool your company uses. Typically that is the notification to your manager.
  4. In your Outlook calendar, create a local Appointment (don't invite anyone) for the date range (All day event) setting the "Show As" dropdown to "Out of Office". This way, people won’t try to schedule meetings with you on that day.
  5. If you use Lync, set the status to "Off Work" for that period.
  6. If you won't be responding to email (which when on your vacation you definitely shouldn't) then in Outlook setup "Automatic Replies (Out of Office)" for that period. This way people won’t think you are rude when not replying to their emails. In your OOF message point to an alias (ideally of many people) as a fallback for urgent queries.
  7. If you want to proactively notify individuals of your OOFage then schedule and send a multi-day meeting request for the entire period.image Remember to set the "Show As" to "Free" (so their calendar doesn’t show busy/oof to others), set the "Reminder" to "None" (so they don’t get a reminder about it), set "Low Importance", and uncheck both "Response Options" so if they don't want this on their calendar, it is just one click for them to get rid of it. Aside: I have another post with advice on sending invites.
  8. If you care about people who would not observe the above but could drop by your office, stick a physical OOF note at your office door or chair/monitor or desk.

Have I missed any?

Responding to Invites

Sun, November 11, 2012, 05:40 PM under Communication

Following up from my post about Sending Outlook Invites here is a shorter one on how to respond.

  1. Whatever your choice (ACCEPT, TENTATIVE, DECLINE), if the sender has not unchecked the "Request Response" option, then send your response. Always send your response. Even if you think the sender made a mistake in keeping it on, send your response. Seriously, not responding is plain rude.
  2. If you knew about the meeting, and you are happy investing your time in it, and the time and location work for you, and there is an implicit/explicit agenda, then ACCEPT and send it.
  3. If one or more of those things don't work for you then you have a few options.
    1. Send a DECLINE explaining why.
    2. Reply with email to ask for further details or for a change to be made. If you don’t receive a response to your email, send a DECLINE when you've waited enough.
    3. Send a TENTATIVE if you haven't made up your mind yet. Hint: if they really require you there, they'll respond asking "why tentative" and you have a discussion about it.
    4. When you deem appropriate, instead of the options above, you can also use the counter propose feature of Outlook but IMO that feature has questionable interaction model and UI (on both sender and recipient) so many people get confused by it.

BTW, two of my outlook rules are relevant to invites. image

The first one auto-marks as read the ACCEPT responses if there is no comment in the body of the accept (I check later who has accepted and who hasn't via the "Tracking" button of the invite). I don’t have a rule for the DECLINE and TENTATIVE cause typically I follow up with folks that send those.


The second rule ensures that all Invites go to a specific folder. imageThat is the first folder I see when I triage email. It is also the only folder which I have configured to show a count of all items inside it, rather than the unread count - when sending a response to an invite the item disappears from the folder and hence it is empty and not nagging me.

Sending Outlook Invites

Sun, November 11, 2012, 05:18 PM under Communication

Sending an Outlook invite for a meeting (also referred to as S+ in Microsoft) is a simple thing to get right if you just run the quick mental check below, which is driven by visual cues in the Outlook UI.


I know that some folks don’t do this often or are new to Outlook, so if you know one of those folks share this blog post with them and if they read nothing else ask them to read step 7.image

  1. Add on the To line the folks that you want to be at the meeting.
  2. Indicate optional invitees. Click on the “To” button to bring up the dialog that lets you move folks to be Optional (you can also do this from the Scheduling Assistant).
  3. Set the Reminder according to the attendee that has to travel the most. 5 minutes is the minimum.
  4. Use the Response Options and uncheck the "Request Response" if your event is going ahead regardless of who can make it or not, i.e. if everyone is optional. Don’t force every recipient to make an extra click, instead make the extra click yourself - you are the organizer.image
  5. Add a good subject
    1. Make the subject such that just by reading it folks know what the meeting is about. Examples, e.g. "Review…", "Finalize…", "XYZ sync up"
    2. If this is only between two people and what is commonly referred to as a one to one, the subject would be something like "MyName/YourName 1:1"
    3. Write the subject in such a way that when the recipient sees this on their calendar among all the other items, they know what this meeting is about without having to see location, recipients, or any other information about the invite.
  6. Add a location, typically a meeting room.
    1. If recipients are from different buildings, schedule it where the folks that are doing the other folks a favor live. Otherwise schedule it wherever the least amount of people will have to travel. If you send me an invite to come to your building, and there is more of us than you, you are silently sending me the message that you are doing me a favor so if you don’t want to do that, include a note of why this is in your building, e.g. "Sorry we are slammed with back to back meetings today so hope you can come over to our building".
    2. If this is in someone's office, the location would be something like "Moth's office (7/666)" where in parenthesis you see the office location.
    3. If some folks are remote in another building/country, or if you know you picked a time which wasn't free for everyone, add an Online option (click the Lync Meeting button).
  7. Add a date and time.
    1. This MUST be at a time that is showing on the recipients’ calendar as FREE or at worst TENTATIVE. You can check that on the Scheduling Assistant.
    2. The reality is that this is not always possible, so in that case you MUST say something about it in the Invite Body, e.g. "Sorry I can see X has a conflict, but I cannot find a better slot", or "With so many of us there are some conflicts and I cannot find a better slot so hope this works", or "Apologies but due to Y we must have this meeting at this time and I know there are some conflicts, hope you can make it anyway". When you do that, I better not be able to find a better slot myself for all of us, and of course when you do that you have implicitly designated the Busy folks as optional.
  8. Finally, the body of the invite.
    1. This has the agenda of the meeting and if applicable the courtesy apologies due to messing up steps 6 & 7.
    2. This should not be the introduction to the meeting, in other words the recipients should not be surprised when they see the invite and go to the body to read it. Notifying them of the meeting takes place via separate email where you explain the purpose and give them a heads up that you'll be sending an invite. That separate email is also your chance to attach documents, don’t do that as part of the invite.
    3. TIP: If you have sent mail about the meeting, you can then go to your sent folder to select the message and click the "Meeting" button (Ctrl+Alt+R). This will populate the body with the necessary background, auto select the mandatory and optional attendees as per the TO/CC line, and have a subject that may be good enough already (or you can tweak it).

Long to write, but very quick to remember and enforce since most of it is common sense and the checklist is driven of the visual cues in the UI you use to send the invite.

Link instead of Attaching

Tue, October 30, 2012, 09:37 PM under Communication

With email storage not being an issue in many companies (I think I currently have 25GB of storage on my email account, I don’t even think about storage), this encourages bad behaviors such as liberally attaching office documents to emails instead of sharing a link to the document in SharePoint or SkyDrive or some file share etc.

Attaching a file admittedly has its usage scenarios too, but it should not be the default. I thought I'd list the reasons why sharing a link can be better than attaching files directly.

In no particular order:

  1. Better Review. It allows multiple recipients to review the file and their comments are aggregated into a single document. The alternative is everyone having to detach the document, add their comments, then send back to you, and then you have to collate. With the alternative, you also potentially miss out on recipients reading comments from other recipients.
  2. Always up to date. The attachment becomes a fork instead of an always up to date document. For example, you send the email on Thursday, I only open it on Tuesday: between those days you could have made updates that now I am missing because you decided to share an attachment instead of a link.
  3. Better bookmarking. When I need to find that document you shared, you are forcing me to search through my email (I may not even be running outlook), instead of opening the link which I have bookmarked in my browser or my collection of links in my OneNote or from the recent/pinned links of the office app on my task bar, etc.
  4. Can control access. If someone accidentally or naively forwards your link to someone outside your group/org who you’d prefer not to have access to it, the location of the document can be protected with specific access control.
  5. Can add more recipients. If someone adds people to the email thread in outlook, your attachment doesn't get re-attached - instead, the person added is left without the attachment unless someone remembers to re-attach it. If it was a link, they are immediately caught up without further actions.
  6. Enable Discovery. If you put it on a share, I may be able to discover other cool stuff that lives alongside that document.
  7. Save on storage. So this doesn't apply to me given my opening statement, but if in your company you do have such limitations, attaching files eats up storage on all recipients accounts and will also get "lost" when those people archive email (and lose completely at some point if they follow the company retention policy).

Like I said, attachments do have their place, but they should be an explicit choice for explicit reasons rather than the default.

Processing Email in Outlook

Mon, September 6, 2010, 11:59 PM under Communication

A. Why

imageGoal 1 = Help others: Have at most a 24-hour response turnaround to internal (from colleague) emails, typically achieving same day response.

Goal 2 = Help projects: Not to implicitly pass/miss an opportunity to have impact on electronic discussions around any project on the radar.

Not achieving goals 1 & 2 = Colleagues stop relying on you, drop you off conversations, don't see you as a contributing resource or someone that cares, you are perceived as someone with no peripheral vision. Note this is perfect if all you are doing is cruising at your job, trying to fly under the radar, with no ambitions of having impact beyond your absolute minimum 'day job'.

B. DON'T: Leave unread email lurking around

  1. Don't: Receive or process all incoming emails in a single folder ('inbox' or 'unread mail').
    • This is actually possible if you receive a small number of emails (e.g. new to the job, not working at a company like Microsoft). Even so, with (your future) success at any level (company, community) comes large incoming email, so learn to deal with it.
    • With large volumes, it is best to let the system help you by doing some categorization and filtering on your behalf (instead of trying to do that in your head as you process the single folder). See later section on how to achieve this.
  2. Don't: Leave emails as 'unread' (or worse: read them, then mark them as unread).
    • Often done by individuals who think they possess super powers ("I can mentally cache and distinguish between the emails I chose not to read, the ones that are actually new, and the ones I decided to revisit in the future; the fact that they all show up the same (bold = unread) does not confuse me"). Interactions with this super-powered individuals typically end up with them saying stuff like "I must have missed that email you are talking about (from 2 weeks ago)" or "I am a bit behind, so I haven't read your email, can you remind me".
    • TIP: The only place where you are "allowed" unread email is in your Deleted Items folder.
  3. Don't: Interpret a read email as an email that has been processed.
    • Doing that, means you will always end up with fake unread email (that you have actually read, but haven't dealt with completely so you then marked it as unread) lurking between actual unread email.
    • Another side effect is reading the email and making a 'mental' note to action it, then leaving the email as read, so the only thing left to remind you to carry out the action is… you. You are not super human, you will forget.
    • This is a key distinction.
      • Reading (or even scanning) a new email, means you now know what needs to be done with it, in order for it to be truly considered processed. Truly processing an email is to, for example, write an email of your own (e.g. to reply or forward), or take a non-email related action (e.g. create calendar entry, do something on some website), or read it carefully to gain some knowledge (e.g. it had a spec as an attachment), or keep it around as reference etc. 'Reading' means that you know what to do, not that you have done it. An email that is read is an email that is triaged, not an email that is resolved.
      • Sometimes the thing that needs to be done based on receiving the email, you can (and want) to do immediately after reading the email. That is fine, you read the email and you processed it (typically when it takes no longer than X minutes, where X is your personal tolerance – mine is roughly 2 minutes). Other times, you decide that you don't want to spend X minutes at that moment, so after reading the email you need a quick system for "marking" the email as to be processed later (and you still leave it as 'read' in outlook). See later section for how.

C. DO: Use Outlook rules and have multiple folders where incoming email is automatically moved to

Outlook email rules are very powerful and easy to configure.


Use them to automatically file email into folders. Here are mine (note that if a rule catches an email message then no further rules get processed):

  1. "personal"
    • Email is either personal or business related. Almost all personal email goes to my gmail account. The personal emails that end up on my work email account, go to a dedicated folder – that is achieved via a rule that looks at the email's 'From' field. For those that slip through, I use the new Outlook 2010  quick step of "Conversation To Folder" feature to let the slippage only occur once per conversation, and then update my rules.
  2. "External" and "ViaBlog"
    • The remaining external emails either come from my blog (rule on the subject line) or are unsolicited (rule on the domain name not being microsoft) and they are filed accordingly.
  3. "invites"
    • I may do a separate blog post on calendar management, but suffice to say it should be kept up to date. All invite requests end up in this folder, so that even if mail gets out of control, the calendar can stay under control (only 1 folder to check). I.e. so I can let the organizer know why I won't be attending their meeting (or that I will be). Note: This folder is the only one that shows the total number of items in it, instead of the total unread.
  4. "Inbox"
    • The only email that ends up here is email sent TO me and me only. Note that this is also the only email that shows up above the systray icon in the notification toast – all other emails cannot interrupt.
  5. "ToMe++"
    • Email where I am on the TO line, but there are other recipients as well (on the TO or CC line).
  6. "CC"
    • Email where I am on the CC line. I need to read these, but nobody is expecting a response or action from me so they are not as urgent (and if they are and follow up with me, they'll receive a link to this).
  7. "@ XYZ"
    • Emails to aliases that are about projects that I directly work on (and I wasn't on the TO or CC line, of course). Test: these projects are in my commitments that I get measured on at the end of the year.
  8. "Z Mass" and subfolders under it per distribution list (DL)
    • Emails to aliases that are about topics that I am interested in, but not that I formally own/contribute to. Test: if I unsubscribed from these aliases, nobody could rightfully complain.
  9. "Admin" folder, which resides under "Z Mass" folder
    • Emails to aliases that I was added typically by an admin, e.g. broad emails to the floor/group/org/building/division/company that I am a member of.
  10. "BCC" folder, which resides under "Z Mass"
    • Emails where I was not on the TO or the CC line explicitly and the alias it was sent to is not one I explicitly subscribed to (or I have been added to the BCC line, which I briefly touched on in another post).

When there are only a few quick minutes to catch up on email, read as much as possible from these folders, in this order: Invites, Inbox, ToMe++. Only when these folders are all read (remember that doesn't mean that each email in them has been fully dealt with), we can move on to the @XYZ and then the CC folders. Only when those are read we can go on to the remaining folders.

Note that the typical flow in the "Z Mass" subfolders is to scan subject lines and use the new Ctrl+Delete Outlook 2010 feature to ignore conversations.

D. DO: Use Outlook Search folders in combination with categories

As you process each folder, when you open a new email (i.e. click on it and read it in the preview pane) the email becomes read and stays read and you have to decide whether:

  • It can take 2 minutes to deal with for good, right now, or
  • It will take longer than 2 minutes, so it needs to be postponed with a clear next step, which is one of
    1. ToReply – there may be intermediate action steps, but ultimately someone else needs to receive email about this
    2. Action – no email is required, but I need to do something
    3. ReadLater – no email is required from the quick scan, but this is too long to fully read now, so it needs to be read it later
    4. WaitingFor – the email is informing of an intermediate status and 'promising' a future email update. Need to track.
    5. SomedayMaybe – interesting but not important, non-urgent, non-time-bound information. I may want to spend part of one of my weekends reading it.

For all these 'next steps' use Outlook categories (right click on the email and assign category, or use shortcut key). Note that I also use category 'WaitingFor' for email that I send where I am expecting a response and need to track it.

Create a new search folder for each category (I dragged the search folders into my favorites at the top left of Outlook, above my inboxes). So after the activity of reading/triaging email in the normal folders (where the email arrived) is done, the result is a bunch of emails appearing in the search folders (configure them to show the total items, not the total unread items).

To actually process email (that takes more than 2 minutes to deal with) process the search folders, starting with ToReply and Action.

E. DO: Get into a Routine

Now you have a system in place, get into a routine of using it. Here is how I personally use mine, but this part I keep tweaking:

  1. Spend short bursts of time (between meetings, during boring but mandatory meetings and, in general, 2-4 times a day) aiming to have no unread emails (and in the process deal with some emails that take less than 2 minutes).
  2. Spend around 30 minutes at the end of each day processing most urgent items in search folders.
  3. Spend as long as it takes each Friday (or even the weekend) ensuring there is no unnecessary email baggage carried forward to the following week.

F. Other resources


Sat, December 13, 2008, 12:32 PM under Communication
It is the season where many people are Out of Office (which is not acronymed as OOO, but as OOF – read here for explanation).

Our team has a shared calendar on our SharePoint site where everyone adds their holidays/vacations so the PM can take actions accordingly. In addition, it is customary for individuals to send a Meeting Request (called S+ in homage of the Schedule+ product) to the team's distribution list's (DL's) alias that describe the OOF schedule. It is here where you need to be careful.

1. Do not request responses
2. Show the time as Free with no Reminder (remember, your OOF ends up in my calendar so I don’t need a reminder or my calendar to show as anything other than FREE for your vacation)
3. Create a separate appointment for your own calendar that shows the time as "Out of Office" (so people can see that when trying to schedule a meeting with you)
4. Setup your Out Of Office Assistant (from the Tools menu) with an appropriate message (so they understand you will not be responding promptly – also touched on in #33 of my email rules)

There is a more detailed blog post (and the comments section is useful too) here.

Speaking of OOF, I will be out of the physical office starting now and I'll be working from home in Greece until mid-January (with a few holiday and vacation days thrown in for good measure). So, unless you work with me on daily basis, you'll see no change… if you were planning on visiting me in-person, use email instead ;-)

Email Rules

Sun, October 12, 2008, 07:20 PM under Communication
Back in my MVP days before joining Microsoft I used to help out a lot on newsgroups and forums so I wrote a piece about Newsgroup Rules. The time has come to do the same for Professional Email.

Many of us work in organizations where email is the primary mode of communication dominating every other medium. For example, in Microsoft, I have yet to hear my desk phone ring and I easily send around 300 emails per week and that is far less than the amount I receive. With email being so prevalent, I would have expected every person joining large companies to immediately get training on making best use of their email client e.g. Outlook. If everybody followed a simple set of rules, we could reduce the amount of emails on the wire, which is a good thing for everyone’s time involved.

Below are the rules that everyone in my (fantasy?) world would follow. I break it down by the fields we can fill in when composing or replying to email:

1. KEEP the explicit recipient list short. The more people you add, the less chance you’ll get a reply. Who is it that really must be on the TO list? Who is it that you are expecting to take some action based on your email?
2. MOVE to CC if it is just an FYI. If you are not expecting a reply from me and you are not expecting me to take some action, I should be on the CC list not the TO list._
3. ADDRESS the TO people. If I am on the CC list, don’t talk to me – talk to the TO people. You are sending it to the TO people, not the CC people. Also, really do address the TO people: if you cannot imagine reading out loud your email to *everyone* on the TO list, then you have your TO list wrong.

4. MOVE to TO if expecting an action. If you are expecting an action/reply from me, I should be on the TO list, not the CC list. If you leave me on the CC list don't be surprised when I don’t reply promptly (because your email has gone to a folder that I empty every week).
5. REMOVE if it is not even an FYI. If I don’t even care about the topic of your email, remove me from the CC list. Don’t assume I am interested in your email to start with.
6. NOTE that when you hit Reply, Outlook cannot read your intention and make the changes suggested by the rules above: you are allowed to move people between the TO and CC fields while a thread is ongoing.

7. DO NOT USE. Ever. Never!
8. REPLACE with two actions: Reply to the people on the TO/CC field and additionally FORWARD to the people you wanted to place on the BCC field.
As an aside, if you BCC me, your email will end up in my DELETED folder due to a rule I have setup.

9. HAVE one. Take a moment to summarize your email in a few words on the subject. If you can’t, then your email probably serves no purpose.
10. KEEP short. There is a BODY field for your diatribe, keep it out of the SUBJECT field.
11. BE specific. Subjects such as “Bug”, “Question”, “Visual Studio”, “Your blog” etc are not good subjects on their own. I should be able to distinguish your email from other emails just by looking at the SUBJECT.
12. USE hints at the start of the subjects. For example: "Action Required: xyz", "FYI: xyz"
13. AVOID changing the subject unless it is a new topic. Don’t even correct a spelling mistake (it breaks the thread).
14. DO change for new topic. If the topic has changed, then the previous rule can be broken BUT: consider keeping original in parenthesis e.g. “New topic (WAS: old topic goes here)”.

15. KEEP short and small. Short URLs, small size of attachments. If you can’t keep to the previous two guidelines, group together the URLs/Attachments on an intranet site and just point to that.
16. LIMIT overall items. The more URLs/ATTACHMENTs you send, the less likely I am to look at any of them.
17. PROVIDE context. Why do you think I’d open your email attachment or click on your URL if you don’t tell me something about them? Don't assume I am interested.
18. AVOID uncommon extensions. I don’t care about the technical merits of TAR vs RAR vs ZIP. Zip is what most people have installed – use that.

19. KEEP short. When your email signature is longer than your message, you know something is wrong. Generally, a single line of text is more than enough.
20. FORMAT as text-only. In particular, no images or anything that would appear as an attachment in a text-only client.

21. AVOID fancy backgrounds. White works.
22. AVOID funky fonts.
23. DON'T USE shortcuts as if you are writing a TXT or IM message. For example, "R u going 2 rpl to that eml?" should be "Are you going to reply to that email?". You are exchanging emails with professionals here, not your family. Using standard acronyms (e.g. LOL, AFAIK) can be OK though.
37. DO NOT UNDERLINE unless it is a URL you are underlying. In this internet age, people try to click on underlined words. Instead if you want to emphasize something use highlight, boldness and italics.

24. AVOID long text. There is a threshold for the length of an email after which nobody reads it.
25. HAVE structure (paragraphs were invented with good reason).
26. USE spelling and grammar tools.
27. CONSIDER using bullets.
28. CLARIFY the purpose of your email: Are you blocked and need someone to unblock you or looking for an answer to a question or for someone to take action or just reporting some status or sharing some information etc.
29. ANTICIPATE follow up questions. If you are going to send me an email saying that "it doesn't work", you can bet that my reply will be "in what way doesn't it work and what have you tried already?". Anticipate and provide that info up front.
30. VERIFY that you really need to send the email. Are you looking for information that your favorite search engine can provide you with? Does the answer already exist in your inbox? Does the information exist on your intranet?
36. DO NOT INCLUDE a body if the subject says it all. Write <eom> in the body for “end of message” or at the end of your subject. If the subject says it all and the attachment is valuable, include, <attached> or <attached, eom>

31. DO REPLY within 24 hours to any email that lists you and only you on the TO line. Try to do the same for emails that include you on the TO line amongst others.
32. SET expectation of when you will have a final reply or an update, if you cannot get the answer within 24 hours.
33. SETUP Out Of Office auto-replies when you are not checking your email as often as usual.
34. READ your composed email before hitting SEND. 1% of all emails I compose do not get sent after I re-read them and 25% I tweak for clarity after reading them. I bet you'll have similar experience if you do this for emails you compose.
35. DON'T SEND while experiencing negative emotions - anger, fear, grievance, annoyance, etc. Only send the email when you can calmly and professionally review your thoughts first.

Finally, specifically for Microsoft colleagues that use our internal DLs:
a) Realize that even if you are not a member of the DL, you will get a reply to your question. The only way you wouldn’t, is if someone explicitly removed you from the TO field which I have never seen happen. So stop asking: “I am not a member of this DL please Include me in the reply”.
b) Stop stating: “Remove/Add me to this DL”. One word for you: autogroup.

Do you agree/disagree with any of the above? Have you got any other guidelines that you would add to the list?

Outlook rules

Thu, April 19, 2007, 11:53 AM under Communication
After a long period offline on holiday, I returned to all my inboxes overflowing with email - none more than my work email account. It has taken me about 3 days to address everything emailed to me, but that is another story. There are many factors to receiving tons of email and I could easily rant about people CC'ing me for no reason whatsoever (or rant about those asking for read receipts, wot's up with that?).

However, the one that really ticks me off is people that BCC me: I call those people BCCards (pronounced slightly differently than what it is spelled). BCCing also happens when someone decides to add a bunch of distribution lists (DLs) to the BCC field thus avoiding my carefully constructed Outlook rules for categorising posts to DLs into their own folders. It also happens when someone sends an email to a DL that I have not subscribed to but that is a member of some larger DL that I have no interest in. So how can I deal with this issue and avoid the useless message from landing in my inbox directly? Annoyingly, I cannot find a rule that I can create in Outlook to cope with this situation, so I had to take a number of steps. If you know of a better way please let me know and if you don't, then I hope you appreciate my approach (works with Outlook 2007).

1. Go through all the existing rules and make sure that in the Actions (step 2) you have checked the "stop processing more rules" action.
2. Create a new rule and move it to be the last rule of them all (FYI rules get processed in order). Do not create a condition for this rule, and go straight to step 2 on the actions. Check the "Permanently Delete it" box. AND then move to the next page on Exceptions and check the "except if my name is in the To or Cc" box.

I won't tell you how close I came to also doing the above for messages marked with "High Importance". Have you ever received a message that had this set and was truly important? Have a look in your inbox now and check to see which messages are marked as such. Looking at mine, it seems that the messages are not important but the people that send them think they themselves are...

Before you email me with a question

Sat, September 10, 2005, 11:03 AM under Communication
Dear friend,

Thank you for your email containing a *generic* netcf/mobility/wince/vb/c# question. Sorry, but I have decided to stop answering generic unsolicited questions emailed to me directly.

I monitor both the MSDN forums and the netcf newsgroup. By posting there, my answer to your question could help potentially numerous other developers rather than just yourself. In addition, you get the benefit of input from other experienced developers and a faster reply.

Please feel free to continue emailing me about *my* blog entries with specific questions/comments.


Daniel Moth

Please read before posting to the ng

Sat, March 12, 2005, 08:20 AM under Communication
Helping out in the newsgroups but also as someone that got a lot of support from them in my earlier days, I thought it would be interesting to classify the "types" of posts in a newsgroup (ng) that may rub some people the wrong way (myself included). Note that in the past, I have broken many of these rules myself :-)

So here are my suggestions (in random order):

Capitals are interpreted as shouting so post in capitals if you want to start an argument rather than get help.

Before posting to an ng, it makes sense to check if your question applies to it - otherwise you are just wasting bandwidth.

Just because you are hanging out in the aspnet newsgroup doesn't mean you should start asking about the difference between value types and reference types. It is a .NET question but it is not specific to the technology ng. Same goes e.g. into asking about differences between C# and VB in the winforms ng: both are dotnet languages but that doesn't mean you can post them anywhere.

So obvious, but so rarely adhered to. I think there is a problem with the technology we are using. There should be a method to detect when a new user posts to an ng and send them the FAQ with a 30 minute delay before they can actually post a question. BTW, for CF look here.

Follows on from “Read the FAQ”, but guess what you look like when your exact question was asked and answered a few hours ago.

Opening your post with insults to Microsoft and the way they support developers (e.g. documentation) is not helping your cause (to get support). The experts helping out are obviously happy with the platform, so you are insulting their choice. Even when you are right with your accusations, do you think that others are not aware of them? That is why the ng is there: Ask your question without the rant.

Describing a problem is fine, but do try to end your post by formulating some kind of question.

Just stating that you found a bug will not get you many replies. Do you really think you are the first one to report the bug? If yes then fine, you have reported it and don't expect any replies. If on the other hand you would like some help to work around it or validate that it is a bug, state your problem with repro steps and ask for help (note how that does not include proclaiming that you found a bug).

This is probably the number one omission. Imagine if I send you an email telling you I have a problem when e.g. calling a WS but don't show you any code; kind of daft, right? Show me the code so I can repro your problem and show you what is wrong or how to change it to make it right.

Which version are you running (SP1, SP2 etc)? E.g. you have a problem running some code on your device but not the emulator. What device/emulator (PPC 2000/2002/2003, WinCE 4.1/4.2/5.0 etc)? E.g. you'd like a code sample that does xyz. What language are you using (VB/C#/C etc)?

Do not finish off your post with "code in VB only". If the help is given in C#, translate it with one of the many online converters or use it in a class library. If you are having trouble translating it, post back including the specific line you are having trouble with. If you prefer to see it in VB, state at the beginning what language you are using (it will be used as a hint but not as a constraint).

"Here is my code. It doesn't work". What doesn't work? Does it not compile (what is the compilation error on what line?), does it throw an exception at runtime (what exception on what line)? Learn to at least use breakpoints and step into to locate the offending line!

Everybody that posts to the ng requires help urgently. Marking your message as such will only piss off some experts, thus you get less attention. Don't do it. Don't cry for help; the fact that you posted a question is a big clue that you are after help.

Posting the same question separately to every ng you think it applies to, is real bad manners. Most experts hung out in more than one ng, so they have to read your post multiple times. Imagine if you posted the same question to one ng multiple times; isn't that stupid? That is exactly what multi-posting does. If you think that you *must* target multiple ngs, please cross-post (include the ngs in the “to” field - if your newsreader doesn't support that then change newsreaders).

"How do I pass parameters from one thread to another" is OK. "Post a sample that animates a little person on the screen collecting coins while avoiding aliens" is not OK.

Do not gather up your questions in one post. You may have encountered these 5 problems in the last hour, but posting them in one message will not get them answered. Think about it: Unless someone has the best answer to all of them, they are not going to help (had you split them into many posts, some would get answered). Worst, someone replies with answers to some questions (but not all). Given that the post has had a reply, others may not look at the thread so your unanswered questions get ignored. Also, posting many unrelated questions invariably breaks the following rule.

Not everybody reads all the posts in the ng. Besides, an expert may get a couple of minutes at lunchtime to scan the group for a few easy questions to address. Guess what they are scanning. You got it: the subject. Subjects such as ".NET" or "TabControl" or "Exception" or "[no subject]" are ignored.

Sticking your question in the subject and leaving the body empty is not clever. Not repeating any info of the subject (or referring to it) is not clever either. Choose an appropriate subject and then, when you write the actual message, forget what you wrote in the subject: (re)describe the full problem.

You are participating in a thread of discussion and mid way through you change the subject - please don't! If you want to say "thank you" or "solved" say it in the body; don't change the subject text. Without going into details, this causes problems to some newsreaders (when they are used in a certain way).

This is a bit like the multiple unrelated questions in one post. You've started a thread, you got your problem solved and now you have a new problem. Don't insist that the kind person that just helped you should now address your new issue! Start a new thread.

Exclamation marks, smileys etc have their place in newsgroups. I have no problems with them and use them myself but please don't end *every* single sentence that you *ever* wrote on *every* post with 3 exclamation marks!!! [ true story]

22. Last but by no means least: DON’T REPLY TO ME
Replying in the ng is fine. Replying to me personally is not – please don’t. (Comments on my blog entries are always welcome of course)

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