After reading this thread about the limit BigPond imposes on sending email on regular user accounts (apparently “it’s no more than 25 electronic messages in a period of 10 consecutive minutes and no more than 100 recipients per single message”) I got interested in how much email I send. I certainly feel like I spend all day reading and writing emails, but when I actually crunched the numbers for the last month, I was surprised about how low the volume was – only 286 emails in 30 days.
If anyone cares, this data came from hackily parsing the Outlook Express smtp.log file (which you can enable by going into Tools, then select Options, hit the Maintenance tab, and check the “Mail” box at the bottom under troubleshooting. The log file will end up wherever your .dbx files live – if you can’t find it just search your system for smtp.log.)
I signed up for the LinkSys forums ages ago to whine about the problems with the WAG-325N series of devices.
I’m usually pretty careful when signing up for new sites to uncheck all the “send me email” boxes – I get enough email already. So I was a bit surprised this morning when I received what looked like unsolicited commercial email from LinkSys to my Gmail address: “the first issue of Linksys by Cisco e-newsletter, Connections.”
Determining the difference between actual spam and sneaky company tactics is a little tricky. Most people probably don’t care and just hit the ‘report spam’ or ‘junk’ or whatever it is in their email client. As a discriminating email nerd though I take the time to figure it out, because it’s often only a few extra seconds of reading and thinking, which I can generally justify.
In this case I decided that this probably wasn’t real spam and instead was either LinkSys being a bit lame and sending me unsolicited email because I’d signed up to their forums, or perhaps I did check the box that says “send me your stuff” – or maybe I missed something in a 400 page Terms and Conditions document that said by signing up it means they can send me email anyway.
At this point, who cares, right? I either want to keep getting the emails or I want to ditch them. My usual practice then is to just scroll immediately to the bottom of the email and look for the unsubscribe link. I saw this:
At first I just saw “managed subscriptions” and groaned internally, because that generally means its a multi-step process to unsubscribe – slow and painful. Then I saw the “one-click unsubscribe” link!
Being able to immediately and simply unsubscribe from email services is really, really important. This sort of link – a clearly labeled link that actually does what it says, instantly and quickly, is something that should be in the bottom of every single email you’re ever sent from a service.
Ever got one of these? An email of the form “Person X would like to recall the message, [subject of the message goes here]”?
You’ll probably get something like this a few minutes after someone has just sent you an email you weren’t supposed to get. This happens semi-regularly – I’ll get a game press release that wasn’t supposed to be out in the wild yet, or someone has just sent a message to 300 people and put them all in the Cc: list instead of the Bcc: list… there’s a lot of great screw-ups I could refer to.
While this is, on the surface, just a hilarious artifact of newbs using computers, it actually is demonstrative of a pretty serious problem – controlling accidental information spread in an increasingly digital world.
A single mis-addressed email these days can bring down businesses and sway entire markets, and trying to control confidential information is something that companies are taking more and more seriously (but still probably not seriously enough to make a big difference).
Fortunately, open source has got you covered. Some clever students over at Carnegie Mellon University have created an extension for Thunderbird (the free, open source email client from the Mozilla team) that attempts to help control the spread of information by helping you make sure you’re sending emails to the right spot.
The extension, called Cut Once, learns who should be and shouldn’t be receiving emails that you’re sending (through some sort of document word count analysis). Once it has been trained, when you go to send an email it will check your recipients and advise you if there’s someone on there that perhaps shouldn’t be.
It will also suggest recipients that you might want to add – something which I feel would be less useful for my line of work, but possibly useful for others.