How to say no.

A bunch of templates on this touchy activity. Like this one on avoiding a phone call

Hey {{ first_name }},

Thanks so much for reaching out.

My schedule has been crazy lately, and these days, email is usually more convenient for me instead of the phone. Would you mind if we kept the discussion here?

I like this even more though. Encourage them to get on with it with one line:

Hey {{ first_name }},

What do you want to talk about?

No, I Won’t Link to Your Spammy Article

I love that Troy Hunt has a blog post with that title that isn’t intended really for you or I to read, but for assholes that email him asking for spammy links.

If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve arrived here from a link I sent you via email. 

I get these email requests all too often myself. They look like this:

In that case, Greg is a real person and the article he wants me to link to is at least sort of topical. But it still spam, and I’m I don’t appreciate this kind of “marketing”. In fact, ButterCMS is obnoxious enough about it that I have scrubbed my site of legit links to them anyway as they should not be rewarded in any way for this kind of behavior.

Here’s one where it’s less clear if it’s a real person or not, but still on the dartboard:

And here’s one where they are just throwing darts in the ocean:

Troys post:

Alrighty, so it’s an unsolicited message (I certainly didn’t ask for it) and it’s intended to advertise your work. And that’s really what you’re asking for here – free advertising. You want people reading my content to leave my site and head on over to yours where they’ll not only read your content, but (probably) view your ads and drive revenue for you.

Thing is, it’s probably not even “your” site anyway because there’s a very high likelihood that you’re an Oompa Loompa in the “digital marketing” space tasked with spamming people like me (remember, you’re only allowed to have gotten down to here if you understand what spam is) in order to drive clicks. It’s either clicks alone or clicks and SEO courtesy of establishing more inbound links in an attempt to artificially inflate the popularity of the site.

Troy’s idea is to then put the keywords they want linked up into this post on his site so maybe he’ll get the SEO instead of them. Dangerous tactic, it seems to me, as it it makes the post body read like spam instead of the legit article it is. At least it doesn’t link anywhere spammy though.

I have strong emotions when it comes to this stuff, too. Last time I wrote about spam:

When I’m particularly frustrated, I think about changing my opinion on the death penalty. This asshole is using my software, which I work so hard at making awesome, to cheat and steal from others.

And not only are they trying to hurt others, they hurt me. Their spam puts CodePen at risk of Google thinking it’s a spam farm and displaying nasty warnings when people come there and removing us from search results. A devastating blow for any website.

And not only are they hurting others and me, they are hurting my team. All of us want CodePen to succeed because we believe in it, but we also need it to succeed because we’re trying to make a good life for ourselves and not succeeding means taking a step back.

And not only are they hurting others, me, and my team, they are hurting the internet. Think of how much better the internet would be if so many smart people didn’t constantly have to spend so much time and mental effort battling nefarious crap like spam and online fraud. Straight up, it would be better. Information would be easier to find, at least.

So this asshole is basically roundhouse kicking everything in my life that I love. And for that they should die.

But then I’m having a better day and new thoughts replace those murderous ones. Surely life is quite hard where this spammer lives. Maybe getting a job at the spam factory is the only way they can feed their family. They are just clicking some buttons and hitting some keys — how bad is that really? Certainly it’s not as bad as their cousin who shovels industrial waste into the river.

And here I am, with my great life in my happy home on my high horse thinking awful things about them. Should I just shut up and deal with it? Or are these really terrible people who need a dose of wrath? Or is there some middle ground? I wish I knew how to do life good.


Gmail Unsubscriber is a Google Apps Script for unsubscribing from unwanted emails newsletters and other bulk email with one click. 

Looks like a modified version is working for Anil. Thread:

I dig the idea of automating it if you’re in a problematic situation.

But even more, I like the idea of never letting it become a problem because you’re always pruning your email.

Typing out names by hand

I often start emails like:

Hey Jude,

Just “Hey”, their first name, and a comma. Then two line breaks, and launch into things.

Sometimes I copy and paste their first name from elsewhere on my screen at the movement, but usually I don’t. I often look at their name and type it out myself letter by letter. Just a minor little personal thing. I’m speaking to them, the least I can do is actually learn how to spell their name, at least for a moment.

You literally don’t have to answer any particular email.

That’s pretty obvious. A lot of emails you just glance at and archive. But some are talking directly to you, and often literally asking you to respond. Same thing, you can just hit archive if you want. Everything is a choice. You might be missing an opportunity. You might be being rude. But we make those same choices through other actions all the time.

I thought of it this weekend because I chose to respond to an email that was really on the fence (between me just archiving and me sending a probe response). The email was vague about an opportunity. The response we vague again. I responded again (oh god, my ad). The response was again woefully lack in detail. I responded again (I’m the worst) basically telling them this was silly and I’m done. They seemed offended. I should archived the first one, and I definitely should have archived all the rest of them.

How does the U.S. federal government know how many coronavirus cases there are?

They’ve asked the 4,700 hospitals to shoot over a daily email and tell them.


Down with contact forms

Strong opinion from Tobias Van Scheider:

The only time contact forms are worthwhile is when you are trying to collect very specific information for the purpose of helping someone or completing a task. Otherwise, forms are a relic from web days past.

Eh. I don’t think forms are a relic from web days past. Email is older than forms, if we’re gonna compare them like that. But I take the point, particularly this feeling after filling out a form on a site you have no experience with:

You more likely wondered if the form actually worked, and if it did, whether you would ever receive a response.

I know my email sends when I send it, and gives me the opportunity to send that email in whatever format I think will be the most useful. And I agree a contact form on a portfolio site like Tobias builds for a living… maybe not the best fit.

But just offhand, forms can do lots. You can route messages based on a dropdown selection. Forms can be integrated with other services. For example, saving the submitted data to a database, subscribing the user to a mailing list, or putting them into a CRM. Forms can help filter spam (as well as generate it if you aren’t careful). Forms can help submit contextual information, like what browser a user is using and the like.

I ain’t trying to dog on email. I prefer that people just provide their email for contacting when possible. I’m just not anti-form, either.

Auto-Archiving Auto Responders

I suppose if I email my home insurance agent needing to ask a fairly urgent question about my home insurance, and they happen to be in Hawaii for the week and aren’t answering emails, I’d appreciate an auto-responder email.

But that’s maybe it.

94% of the time I don’t care about auto-responders, and particularly not when I’m sending something like an email newsletter (but doing it from a real email address in case people want to reply to it) and get auto-responder emails from that.

Cool news though, some email clients can detect auto-responders. Once detected, rules can be made to get them out of the inbox.

For example, at CodePen, we get a good amount of auto-responder emails from day-to-day support work and from some of our transactional and marketing email. Why deal with that by hand? We we Front as an email client, and Front supports pretty powerful rules.

An important aspect here is that the detection needs to be able to look at email Headers. That’s where all the info is. Front can do this. Gmail (the web client) cannot, unfortunately.

Here’s our setup:

The only accidental capture we saw while testing this was some particular email that AWS sends us, so we added a tiny extra rule to allow that from: address.

Works great. No more auto-responder emails in our inbox.