Everlasting Email

Definitely. Email is almost like too-big-to-fail. Not that chat isn’t just as (possibly more) important for intimate team communication. But more importantly, email is good.

The Effectiveness of Email Obfuscation

Speaking of email address obfuscation (I mentioned I never do it and it causes me zero problems), I was pointed to some interesting research by Silvan Mühlemann. It’s only up on Web Archive here, as apparently the original site is gone. 

In 2006, Silvan put up a page on the internet, linked to it, and put nine different email addresses on it, all obfuscated in different ways. 

Here’s the code for posterity:

<p><a href="https://web.archive.org/web/20180422184621/mailto:silvan1@tilllate.com">silvan1@tilllate.com</a></p>

<p><a href="https://web.archive.org/web/20180422184621/mailto:silvan2ATtilllateDOTcom">silvan2 AT tilllate DOT com</a></p>

<p><a href="https://web.archive.org/web/20180422184621/mailto:silvan3@tilllate.com">silvan3</a></p>

<p><a href="https://web.archive.org/web/20180422184621/mailto:%73%69%6c%76%61%6e%34%40%74%69%6c%6c%6c%61%74%65%2e%63%6f%6d">silvan4</a></p>

silvan5<!-- -->@<!--- @ -->till<!-- -->late.<!--- . -->com</p>

<p>
<script language="JavaScript" type="text/javascript">
<!--
	var string1 = "silvan6";
	var string2 = "@";
	var string3 = "tilllate.com";
	var string4 = string1 + string2 + string3;
	document.write("<a href=" + "mail" + "to:" + string1 +
		string2 + string3 + ">" + string4 + "</a>");
//-->
</script>
</p>

<style type="text/css">
p.email:after { content: "silvan6\40tilllate.com"; }
</style>
<p class="email">email me: </p>

<style type="text/css">
span.codedirection { unicode-bidi:bidi-override; direction: rtl; }
</style>

<p><span class="codedirection">moc.etalllit@7navlis</span></p>

<style type="text/css">
p span.displaynone { display:none; }
</style>

<p>silvan8@<span class="displaynone">null</span>tilllate.com</p>

Only three of which actually worked. 

And all three of those seem pretty awful:

  1. Mailto link won’t work and quite awkward for accessibility
  2. Mailto link won’t work
  3. document.write is bad for performance. Relying upon JavaScript base content isn’t a great idea. Hard to maintain.

I absolutely love the actual research. It confirms to me it’s just not a game I wanna play. 

The Various Intensities of Saying No (and letting people know you can’t prioritize their thing)

Say someone emails you and your answer needs to be no. There are different intensities of that. 

Say it’s a good friend of yours.

Being honest with your friends is usually easy.

You’re going to hate me, because I have to say no on this one. I looooveeee the idea and I’m so glad you’re doing it and please keep me in the loop on it if you have time. It’s just with everything I have going on, I might go bananas taking on anything else. 💙s, Chris.


Yours will probably be much more personal, explaining how your mother-in-law is staying with you because she broke her hip or whatever.

Say it’s someone who’s done a pretty good job of writing that email…

… and you don’t dislike the idea, but the answer is still no. That’s the thing that got me thinking an inspired this:

Probably ends up like:

Hey! Thanks for reaching out about this. I think it’s a great idea and you should totally do it. As for my part, I’m afraid that I can’t prioritize it right now. Best of luck and feel free to let me know how it goes.


What I like about it is that it feels:

  1. Most honest
  2. Slightly stronger than my typical “I’m too busy” or “I don’t have time” response

I’m literally telling you that I’m not willing to prioritize your thing. Theoretically I “have time”. I could make an extra cup of coffee at night and stay up an hour later and do it probably. But I don’t want to. I’m not willing to prioritize that over the sleep or other side project or whatever else. 

If you really do wish you could do the thing but can’t, feel free to say that. I’m sure you can say that honestly and not feel like your lying. For example:

Jason Fried has a story where he really liked a kid who wanted to intern form him, but it turns out he just didn’t have the attention:

I recently realized that if I’m too busy to take something on, I shouldn’t say “I don’t have the time”. In fact, I often do have the time. It’s not that hard to squeeze in some extra time for someone.


What I don’t have – and what I can’t squeeze in – is more attention. Attention is a far more limited resource than time. So what I should say is “I don’t have the attention”.

You don’t have to say yes to everything, even when you like them.

Say you just don’t like the idea

I’d probably go with a very similar, but shorter response:

Hey! I’m sorry but I can’t prioritize this right now. Best of luck!

It’s not your job or mine to give people a bunch of feedback on why you’re not into the idea. That’s work, and the goal here is shooing away this email, not having it take up time.

Turns out Dan Mall had the same exact idea a few years ago:

Recently, I’ve tried to stop saying, “I don’t have time.” It insinuates that I’m a helpless victim to the all-powerful stream of hours that mightily passes me by. It’s easy to adopt an “Oh well” attitude to what you’re giving up. It authorizes my apathy.


Instead, I’ve replaced it with the phrase, “That’s not a priority.” Suddenly, I’ve taken control of my own decisions. I’ve taken responsibility for what I do and don’t do. I’ve added clarity, condemnation, and encouragement, all in 4 short words.


“Watching another episode is not a priority.”
“Taking my wife on a date is not a priority.”
“Writing a blog post is not a priority.”
“Building that side project is not a priority.”

Say they are rude

By-eeeeee. You get nothing. If they are extraordinarily rude or even dangerous, I’d say use your best instincts there on what to do. I’ve had circumstances where I felt it was a good idea to forward it along to their employer being like “look at your boy here, not a good look.”

You don’t have to give a reason at all

It sure seems culturally necessary to say why you can’t do a thing. We just had a 1st birthday party for my daughter Ruby, and not a single e-decline for our invite didn’t include an elaborate reason why they couldn’t attend. I get it. It feels abrupt and a bit rude to just click a “no” radio button and close a tab. 

But with an unsolicited email… an elaborate reason seems unnecessary. You probably won’t get one from me. 

Here’s the best one in history:

Brad Frost tells me there is good advice in this book

I’ll have to pick it up.

Email Address Encoder

I had the creator of Email Address Encoder shoot me an email looking for a testimonial I think. I imagine it does a decent job. It probably RegEx’s for emails it finds on your WordPress site anywhere it finds one in the content then does some weird obfuscation shit in which to:

protects your email addresses from email-harvesting robots.

I’m sure it does a perfectly fine job of that. But I had to tell the fellow:

I’m just weird in that I’ve publicly listed my email address anywhere and everywhere without any obfuscation for like 15 years and it’s never once been a problem. With that experience, it’s hard for me to endorse personally doing any kind of obfuscation.

🤷‍♂️

Adiós

Adiós is to help you deal with email less: 

Adiós brings your emails into your inbox just 3 times a day, so you can get sh*t done.

I’m not entirely sure how it works, but it appears to be a Gmail-only thing that you just have to authorize and it does it’s thing. They promise to not look at the content of your email ever. The setup processes looks quick, easy, and configurable. 

This is curious to me as it doesn’t really help deal with email overload. It seems to be more about email addiction. If you find yourself poking around in your email too often, this could help. But if that’s the case, I wonder if delayed-then-bulk delivery is really a solution? Especially since surely it’s easy enough to turn off. The present some interesting light data though (no sources):

The average person checks email 74 times a day! That’s astronomical, given that most emails really aren’t that time-critical.


And it’s not just the time you spend reading and responding to mail – it’s also the time and mental-energy you expend context-switching.


Being interrupted during a focused task and then trying to context-switch back to focus on it again can take 20+ minutes before your mind is fully back in the zone again being productive.

In any case, it’s free and easy, so perhaps it will appeal to you. 

The most baller move in email

When you write out the entire email in the subject line and leave the body blank. 

That one above seems like a mistake, but it made me think of other times I’ve seen it where it wasn’t. It’s almost like a wrong-direction smiley (: in the way it makes you think for a second, Or a 150 character headline in how it grabs your attention in a unique way, but only because it’s rare. Or like the bass and guitar dropping out during a song and your attention is drawn clearly to the drums.

Maybe that’s a bit too metaphorical, but you take the point. Next time I have a short-to-medium length question to ask someone, I might just it myself.

Vacation Auto Responders

My educated guess is that 0.01% of all sent emails get an auto-responder response, 80% of that is from the recipient being out of the office. 

They all have some version of:

Thanks for your email! I’m out of the office from Monday, October 15, 2018, at 9:00 a.m. ET to Monday, October 15, 2018, at 5:00 p.m. ET. I will have access to email while out of the office, but if your email needs prompt attention, please forward it to 

I just got back today from being out of the office for 10 days or so. I also had access to email but didn’t respond to a ton of it. I didn’t feel any particular need to let people know that I was out. Email is already very asynchronous and the expectation is already there that a response will be sent when it gets sent. For me, urgent matters are rarely if ever conducted over email. I almost enjoy taking my time with email, enforcing that expectation. 

But in an informal poll (asking my wife), she totally uses vacation auto responders. I didn’t get a chance to dig in too deeply as to why, but I still am curious. Is it because people want to set a clear expectation that normally they are very fast with email, just not right now? Or it is just kinda whatcha do?

Send… later?

There are quite a few “email enhancement” products out there that do things like add read receipts and snooze emails. Another common feature is the ability to send emails later. A little perplexing, isn’t it? Like email is super asynchronous already. People assume and expect that email isn’t an instant medium. If you can’t wait on a reply, people move up the immediacy chain to texting/messaging, calling, or tapping on the shoulder. So why the hell would it matter when I send an email? Might as well just send it when my fingers are done.

Yet.

Certainly there are better times of day than others to send marketing emails. People think hard about that and email sending services allow you to set those times and help you optimize it. Social media posting has a timely nature to it, hence the need for tools like Buffer.

Then I saw this:

I can see that. I think at the places I work we’ve built a culture such that nobody would assume they need to jump on an email from me if I happen to send it at 10pm, but I understand that’s not necessarily the case everywhere. 

What’s the culture like where you work? Do you get emails at all hours? Do you feel the need to jump on them at any hour? Is it you doing that to others?

BitBounce

This is fascinating. BitBounce:

BitBounce is a free email service that pays you for every message you receive from an unfamiliar sender.

I became aware of it as I get a few auto-replies from people using it when I send the CSS-Tricks Newsletter.

This person wants a nickel from me to deliver my email. I’m not going to do it, as they are the ones who wanted the email from me, so the situation is a little reversed.

But I get it! It’s the ultimate spam guard. We’ve found at CodePen that putting things that could be attractive to a spammer behind a paywall has 100% effectiveness in stopping the spam.

The point here is that nobody is going to cough up a nickel to email you unless they really wanna email you. It’s not even spam, it’s anybody. And it’s not the nickel either, it’s signing up for some new service and needing cryptocurrency and all that. I can’t think of a single person I’d be willing to jump through that hoop for. Especially because I feel like if you did jump through that hoop, you’d look a little needy/desperate.

Points for cleverness though. I wonder how much usage they’ll need to stay in business. They say they have 400,000 users and a team of 14 so color me impressed so far.

No More Inbox

Of course, just a few days after I blogged about one little feature of Inbox that I really like (reminders, particularly on iOS), it is announced that Inbox will be shut down in March 2019.

I saw a good amount of sadness/frustration of it, but nowhere near the blowback I thought I’d see. No petitions to keep it open or bizarre threats (there probably are some, but none have crossed my path naturally). I wonder if that’s because people care, but not like I’m moving to Canada care about an email client. Nothing like what Google Reader saw. People still talk about that one.

Bad timing for power-user email people, as the also seemingly-beloved Newton is shutting down at the end of September 2019. Part of me wishes I could have gotten to try Newton anyway. With user quotes like: If you’re buried in email and want to get your life back, use Newton, plus the fact they charged 10 bucks a month for it so were strongly incentivized to make it awesome, sounds good to me. Founder Rohit Nadhani straight up said the competition from free apps is just too stiff.

There is even the other Google product, Google Keep, that I hear people quite like and appeals to me in some ways, but I’m not even going to bother to try it since I just don’t trust little things that feel like playground test apps for Google are going to stick around. They won’t.