Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Web Secret 609: Digital etiquette part 3

This is the last in a series of 3 articles on digital good manners. The New York Times believes that poor digital behavior is a big problem, as they are devoting yet another week to the topic. Here are the top suggestions:

Best practices include:


The main recipients of an email, who are expected to reply, go in the “to” field. People who are not expected to reply go in the “CC” field.

Make your email as easy to deal with as possible. Keep it short, to the point and make clear what you need (if anything) in response. Passive-aggressive tricks to avoid — things like CCing someone’s boss, putting “URGENT” in the subject line unnecessarily, and the dreaded “Thanks in advance” signoff.

If necessary, consider declaring email "bankruptcy” — delete old emails you know you’ll never get to. If the emails are weeks old, it’s likely the senders are no longer expecting a response anyway.


Texting is replacing a face-to-face or phone conversation, but you don’t have access to all the nonverbal cues — facial expressions, tone of voice, etc. — to get the same message across. So getting the tone right is really important, and often really difficult. Because we have so little to go on, we often end up reading too much into messages. Read your message back to yourself and check that your intentions won’t be misunderstood before you hit send.

I think I'm going to be writing these kinds of blog posts again and again.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Web Secret 608: Digital etiquette part 2

Last week, I summarized an article in the New York Times, providing you with general principles about digital etiquette.

This week, some specifics:

Email signatures: Should you use a digital signature? It depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. If you’re selling something, include a link to whatever you’re selling. Ditto if you’re very active on social media: Include a link. An email signature can even be inspiring. The signature of TV producer Shonda Rhimes states: “Please Note: I will not engage in work emails after 7 p.m. or on weekends. IF I AM YOUR BOSS, MAY I SUGGEST: PUT DOWN YOUR PHONE.”

Direct messages. A direct message — DM — is a one-on-one conversation with another user hosted on a social media platform. Most of the places you spend your time online — like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn and so on — offer some form of DM communication.You can DM just about anyone, whether you know them or not, without needing to know their contact information. The barrier to communicating with people outside your realm socially, professionally and geographically is shrinking. A DM is tantamount to sitting across the table from someone who has given you their time and their openness. You want to use that opportunity well.

1. Keep it short. Think a few sentences, not several paragraphs. “When DMing, give the recipient the information they need. If you’re interested in continuing the conversation, suggest moving it over to email within the first two or three messages.

2. Don’t make demands. If you’ve never sent somebody a message before, your first message to them should never be a request of them.

3. Avoid chasing someone across several platforms. Don't send DMs across multiple platforms hoping to catch the person's attention.

4. Be interesting. Use your introductory message to offer something relevant to the person you’re DMing (a video, an article), and say, “Here’s something I thought you’d find interesting.

5. Never assume this is a private exchange. Anything we write through direct messaging could become part of a public post. Act accordingly.

6. Explain why you’re reaching out. Be specific. Pose precise questions, such as, “I’m wondering about the following two things.”

7. Check your DMs regularly, especially your requests folder. This way you won’t miss out on any professional opportunities. Ninety-two percent of H.R. people use social media before making hiring decisions. DM might not be the place you sign the contract, but it could be the place you first shake hands.

8. Let people know how you’d like to be contacted. Consider sharing your email address in your social media profiles, along with a note that lets people know how you want them to connect with you and what you wish to connect over.

9. Be realistic. If you admire a person in your field or industry, chances are that other people do, too. It’s probably not personal if they don’t respond to you. You’re allowed one follow-up email if your DM is unanswered. Saying something like, “I’m sorry to bother you, but I just want to make sure that you saw that I asked you about X,”

Lastly, when using social media for work purposes, Don't use emojis. Consider using emoticons sparingly.


Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Web Secret 607: Digital etiquette part 1

A basic grasp of digital etiquette is an essential aspect of modern “soft skills.” However, there is no real consensus on what actually constitutes “good” digital manners, and even if there were, that consensus would be constantly shifting as technology advances and social mores evolve.

So sayeth, the New York Times in a lengthy article on the subject. As always, I have summarized the essential information from said article:

Digital communication is usually text-based. Both the content of your message and its tone will live or die based on what you type on your keyboard, so the gap between, say, landing a joke and causing mortal offense can be perilously fine.

In digital messaging, a period is no longer required to show that the message is over; a sent message is presumed to be complete. Used in a sincere context — as in, “That’s terrible.” — the period reinforces the seriousness of the message. When used after a short, positive phrase — “That’s great.” — the tone of voice implied by the period can add a sense of sarcasm.

As in the real world, a lot of digital etiquette is highly context-dependent; you wouldn’t behave the same way when sending an email to your manager as you would when texting your best friend. As well as choosing the right level of formality for the situation, you should be prepared to adapt according to the culture and background of the person you are speaking with and the medium through which you are communicating.

In an email chain, this could mean starting with a formal means of address, such as “Dear Mr. Wesson,” but then switching to “Hi Rupert” if the conversation becomes more familiar.

There are plenty of specific digital etiquette pointers to live by: don’t reply-all to an all-office email; always get consent before sending an intimate photo; never leave a voicemail (a text message shows much more respect for the other person’s time).

Etiquette in the digital world can shift particularly quickly as new technologies and platforms call for the development of new standards.

Even where the technology stays the same, social and cultural norms can rapidly shift. It used to be OK to upload whole albums full of photos to Facebook and tag everyone in them. Now, the rise of Instagram has correlated with a more curated approach to online photo-sharing, and people are generally more aware of privacy and security concerns.

Next week, some specifics.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Web Secret 606: Cyber security for solo practitioners

This week's post comes courtesy of Diana Wicker, Director of Compliance and Reporting at First Sun EAP and easily the coolest person I met in 2019. She is a social worker turned Chief Technology Officer of a major EAP.

How cool is that?Here is her post:

You can do this thing.

The one thing I would like everyone reading this to take away is – you can do this thing. You can learn about and implement cyber security even as a solo practice counselor.

Step 1: Read – You won’t know what you don’t know until you start reading. Right now, the US Federal government is diligently pushing to update regulations and create guidelines and frameworks that are easily accessible and understandable so that everyone that needs to comply can do so.

A great place to start:

Step 2: Watch – So, you’ve done the reading and some of it is still above your head. I get that. Look for videos so that you can see how these frameworks are intended to be used. Many of the government agencies are holding webinars and releasing video tutorials on how to do these things.

A great place to start is

Step 3: Attend – Cyber security is hands on, and not everyone has experience with updating settings on computers, smart phones, tablets, and other electronic equipment. Many local technical schools, colleges, and universities hold continuing education classes in computer skills.

Step 4. Do – Download and use SRA Tool 3.1. This is a freebie from the federal government that helps you track:

a. HIPAA Security Rule
c. NIST Cybersecurity Framework

Step 5: Vendors – When in doubt, hire out. IT consulting firms abound. Seek one familiar with HIPAA, HITECH, and the most up to date guidelines and frameworks so they can review your office setup and help you ensure that you have everything set up as you need it to be.

The easy things you can do with the equipment you already have:

1. Modem/Router – how the internet gets to you

• Update the name of the device to something unique.
• Change the default password that came with the device to something unique.
• Update the Firmware on your wireless router so the security patches have been completed.
• Turn off unnecessary ports and services (such as FTP servers), if they are not routinely used.
• Encryption on your router: WPA2-PSK (AES) or WPA3 (SAE)

2. Machine – how you do your work

• Encrypt your machines with a password (computer, laptop, tablet, smart phone)
• Set password or PIN for the operating system
• Turn on virus protection
• Turn on security updates
• Do not set programs, apps, or websites to auto-fill passwords to login. Use a password keeper app instead.

3. Software – where your data lives

• Set password or PIN on all software that might contain PHI (18 PHI Identifiers:
• Encrypt your data – at rest and in transmission (this means email too)
• Know what your software touches – be mindful of integrated apps and what they have access to.

4. The Cloud – 3rd party services and vendors

• Software that lives on the internet and you log into it – Get a BAA if it touches PHI.

5. Internet of Things – smart toys

• Does it listen? Does it record? Does it respond? Then it is NOT HIPAA compliant. Turn these OFF in your clinical areas!

Oh, and, heads up, just in case you missed the announcement - The FAX machine is dead.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid have decreed that in 2020 the FAX is no longer to be used for healthcare information. Whither the government goest, business/industry will follow. Look for a HIPAA compliant cloud fax/email service.

I know, that really looks like a lot. Take one item on the list at a time and work your way through.

And remember, you can do this thing!

Thank you Diana!

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Web Secret 605: Tik Tok

Happy 2020.

TikTok is an app that I have no use for.

And most likely, neither do you.

But you do need to know about it.

TikTok is an app that enables you to make a very short (20 second) mobile video and add music to it. It is super easy to use and fun.

And mostly loved by teenage girls.

And owned by China.

Never heard of it? It's the mot popular app in the world (see "China").

What is China going to do with all the data it collects from Tik Tok users?

I have no idea.

But I am concerned.

And you should too.