Are you annoying the people you share files with services like Dropbox? Maybe; here are some things you do that may bug others, and some rules you can use to avoid doing so.
Some people think “online etiquette” is a contradiction in terms, but it really isn’t. Since the early 90’s web users have agreed on rules about what is and isn’t appropriate online. For example: CAPS LOCK IS LIKE YELLING, AND GENERALLY CONSIDERED IMPOLITE. You should research before asking a question online. And there’s the strict Bittorrent etiquette, which can help you avoid being banned from private trackers.
As new services come online, new rules of etiquette tend to pop up, but it seems as though manners surrounding cloud sharing services like Dropbox are yet to crystalize. Let’s try to fix that, okay? Here are rules I’d like to see catch on.
Name Folders After Projects, Not People
Sharing a document, folder or calendar appointment with someone else? Don’t name it after them. Here’s why.
Say you’re using Dropbox, and you’re about to share a file with me: Justin Pot. You might think that naming that folder “Justin Pot” or “MakeUseOf” would be ideal, and you’d be right: for you.
The problem: I get yet another folder named “Justin Pot” in my Dropbox.
That’s not useful, and over time becomes downright confusing. Ask anyone who spends a lot of time coordinating projects online and you’ll find out: this gets annoying, quickly. Sure, I can rename the folder at my end, but if I then share it with someone else the original name will stick: not helpful for the people I’m sharing with.
The solution: name shared folders after what you’re going to do with them, not after the person you’re sharing with. It’s less confusing for them, but still useful for you. It also shows that you’re thinking of what these files will look like on their computer, and not just your own.
Oh, and the same goes for calendar appointments: calling something “Meeting With Justin” and sending me the invite is kind of silly, as it means nothing to me. Include both names in the description, or say what the meeting is about.
Ask Before Deleting Individual Files
Have a shared folder that you’re not using, and figure you can just delete individual files from it to save space? Ask first.
Because of how services like Dropbox work, files you delete in those folders aren’t just deleted from your folder: they’re deleted from the folder of everyone you shared with. Sure, most services allow you to recover deleted files, but the time in which you can do so is limited – one month for Dropbox. Once that time passes the files are simply gone – frustrating if your sharing partner still needed them.
So don’t delete files from folders without asking. If you really need the space, there’s a workaround.
Disconnect From Folders You’re Not Using
Delete a file from a folder and it’s gone for both you and the other user; delete a folder from your computer and it’s just gone for you. That’s how it works in Dropbox, and is also how it works in most services like it.
So if you need more space in your Dropbox or other cloud-based service, delete the entire folder, or drag it outside your cloud-syncing service. This allows your sharing partners to keep the files as long as they want, but keeps those same files from filling your folder.
Don’t Overfill Folders
Speaking of space: don’t fill folders with large, unnecessary files. You might have paid Dropbox for extra space, but your sharing partner hasn’t. Think before you drop a 5 GB monstrosity into a folder, because odds are you’ll be the only person who can sync it. Don’t overwhelm people if you can avoid it.
If you really need to share and sync large files, consider a service like BitTorrent Sync [No longer available], which is a free, unlimited syncing service that syncs directly between two machines. It’s probably a better fit for the job, especially if you set up a Bittorrent Sync server.
But seriously, let people know if you’re planning on syncing huge files. The download is going to take a while, and might even slow down the web connection of some users.
Think Before You Sync
This is arguably all you need to keep in mind: thinking. When you share a folder with someone on Dropbox and similar services, you’re tying a folder on your computer directly to one on someone else’s. Adding massive files, constantly saving changes or cluttering things up could cause others annoyance – and that’s just plain bad manners.
Not sure if you should delete something, or make changes to a file? Contact the people you’re coordinating with first. Better that than delete a file they care about, right?
Are there any cloud-sharing rules of etiquette you wish were more widely known? Here’s your chance to spread them: share your thoughts in the comments below.