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.

Inbox Reminders

Inbox (literally Google Inbox) has this built-in concept of Reminders. You can do it from the desktop app:

It saves you the annoyingness of creating a new email, typing in your own email address, choosing a subject line, and all that.

It’s even more awesome on mobile:

I email myself a lot (or the concept of it), and I was really lamenting the loss of Mail To Self, which shut down after they couldn’t comply with GDPR. This has entirely replaced that for me and I think I like it even better.

Yes, this is an obvious and simple thing, but it wasn’t until maybe a month or two when I even bothered to try it. For some reason, I just avoided this feature, always choosing to email myself instead. It’s easy to learn one thing and do it forever, so it feels like to break the mold sometimes and find a new little workflow you like even better.

Noise

Sifting through my post-long-weekend Team CSS-Tricks inbox, it reminds me why so many folks have a bad taste in their mouth about email. Your inbox can get so flooded with noise so quickly. By noise, I mean those emails that aren’t junk or spam, but are just so un-important that spending time on them feels like a waste. Here’s a list of ones I was hacking through this morning:

  1. Someone just typing gibberish into my form. Happens sometimes on a site about web design. They are probably “testing” the form.
  2. Someone wanting to translate an article into Chinese. I generally don’t reply to these as I have a published page about this they can find and I really don’t care what they do.
  3. Same thing; Russian.
  4. Please add me on Skype so we can talk about something. (No. I think that’s rude to assume I have a bunch of time for you with zero context.)
  5. I have this great article for you to publish! (No. It’s written like garbage and full of spam links.)
  6. We already translated an article of yours, here’s a link to it. (Uh, OK.)
  7. I have amazing opportunities for your site, please respond to me. (No.)
  8. More gibberish.
  9. Super technical question about image editing. (I have no particular expertise in this area and make clear on the contact form I don’t do personal technical support.)
  10. There is a typo in an article of yours. This one is actually quite welcome. It’s my mistake, I’d like to fix it. If it’s sort and sweet and has the URL and where is, awesome. 
  11. I have a guest post to pitch. (Yay! Not at all noise!)
  12. Killer Infographic for your CBD Content from Vaping 360. (Sigh.)

This is what having an open contact form is like, at least for me. It’s mostly junk. But still, it doesn’t take that much time to deal with, and I like having an open door for legit people to get in touch.

Grunt Work

My mom works at a place where they handle their email system internally. They don’t use any sort of cloud-hosted email. They have their own domain and have @company.com email addresses, and the email servers are set up locally at the brick-and-mortar business. 

She just gets hammered with spam, and has for years. 

Something like a 100 spam messages a day. I’m sure some of it is junk-not-spam mail that she could slowly fight. But plenty is honest-to-god spam. And so she deals with it by hand every day. Making very sure she isn’t missing or accidentally deleting customer emails, as she is in sales and email is a huge part of her job. 

I try not to think about it much as there isn’t anything I can do and it doesn’t seem to severely hurt her ability to do her job anyway. I think it’s just the idea of grunt work that bothers me. Hand deleting spam is grunt work, and computers should be doing all grunt work for us. 

It also just surprises me because in the small-tech-business world I live in, you never see this kind of thing.  You see people use G Suite, which is entirely hosted online, easy to admin, gives you email, calendar, storage and a bunch of apps, for 5 bucks a person. Or Microsoft Exchange which starts at just 4 bucks, or 12.50 if you want all the apps. 

It’s not just the price of those that seems like such an obvious win, but the quality. Your employees won’t be hand deleting spam.

Why are signatures so bad?

Message from reader Steven Hambleton:

Despite the power and intelligence available to companies like Microsoft and Google, we still have five instances of our image-laden signature staring back at us when we reply to an email conversation.

Why oh why can’t they detect a duplicate and snip it off? We only need it once!

I’m with Steven on this one.

I like having a signature, as it gives me some kind of warm-fuzzy feeling that every bit of email I write does a tiny bit of marketing for me. Mine is a simple reminder of the big projects I work on. But it makes me an offender of signature-creep:

Hey. Sorry.

Seems like the kind of thing huge tech companies can solve. For the most part, I never see that stuff, thanks to the […] menu I get in Inbox.

But still, I see it often enough it’s silly and obnoxious. Particularly when the signature is massive. Like this kind of thing:

That just came up in an Google Image Search for “massive email signature”.

That would be a cool paid feature for an email client:

We chop off email signatures.

“Provide an opportunity for escape.”

In the article How to Ask a Favor published by the Valet. magazine staff, they say:

  1. Be direct with your request
  2. Give your reason why
  3. Provide an opportunity for escape

Great little framework. If I was to apply it to my publication CSS-Tricks and me reaching out to a potential writer I might say:

Hey person!

Are you interested in writing a guest post for CSS-Tricks? I saw you’ve been working on ________ and it’s extremely cool. 

I’m always looking for great guest posts, and it’s often a win-win-win. You get some publicity and payment, I get content for the site, and our readers will love it.

If you don’t have time or just would rather not for any reason, just ignore me. 

I do like #3. It relaxes the whole thing and it flips something that could be pushy and a turn-off into no big deal.