How not to get into trouble on the Internet

If you're new to all this, there's a few things to watch out for. The Internet has occasionally been called the "Information Super-Highway". Personally, I think that's a ridiculous name. It's not much like a road or highway as far as I can see.

But in one way it is like a highway - it can be risky. Putting up a page on the Internet is putting it up for anyone at all to see. This includes the 99% of humanity that is going to leave you in peace, and also the 1% that wants to rob you, sell you things you don't really want, email you offers that don't interest you (but you pay for the emails), sell information about you to someone else and generally never give you a moment's rest.

So here's a few traffic warnings, gleaned from experience:

Don't put your postal address and telephone number up on your web page

- Why not? Well, burglars also have Internet access. If you are a company, you'll ignore this advice. If you are an individual, I'd recommend you to follow it.

Be careful about putting your permanent email address up on your web page

- Why? Because there are specialised search engines running the internet, collecting email addresses from web pages. They are looking for actual names. These are compiled into lists, which are sold to spammers. Spammers are the people that send you email you didn't ask for. Once on the list, you'll never get off it, so avoid getting on the list in the first place.

Consider getting a free email address just for the web page

- There are plenty of places to get a free email address, and these can be set up to be collected using your main account. Get one that says something like "webmasterZZZQQQWWW@free-email-address". If you put this free email address as the contact address on your website, then if it gets onto a list that annoys you -well cancel it and get another one. Also it's not a proper name, so not interesting to the spammers.

If you are female then consider not telling everyone this on your webpage

- I know of one young woman who received 2000 emails in a week from everywhere around the world after putting up her photograph, name, and email address. Many of the emails were not very appealing. Fortunately she had not put up her street address!

If you are young enough that your parents still take a huge interest in what you do (that is, if you are younger than about 75 years old!) then consider asking their opinion as to whether what you are doing is a good idea. This applies especially if they are going to be paying for it.

- Why? Well, parents often will not understand what you are doing, but if they are (as is usual) older than you then presumably they've learnt one or two things you've yet to get to. Sometimes they might even have good advice for you.