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Email List Etiquette

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I don’t mean to rant, but I’m going to do a small tiny rant. So…I guess I mean to rant. 🙂

I get on a lot of email lists for classes, performances, etc. Everything you do nowadays requires you to get on an email list to stay in touch. Recently I was put on a list for a writing class and an improv class so that we students could communicate about class stuff. IMMEDIATELY I got 4 or 5 mass emails from individuals on this list for their webisodes or YouTube videos or any number of other performances/stand-up/plays, who I don’t know because I’ve only met them once in class! Also, I got several emails today from people I didn’t recognize, again for YouTube/web shows GOD HELP ME, so I searched for their name in my Gmail, and they came up as a person who was on another mass email that another friend had sent out, but otherwise we had no connection. Friend of a friend of an acquaintance. So they ninjaed my email from that non-BCC mass email! GAH!

I try to be really careful who I put on my mailing lists, and I would NEVER just wantonly add new email addresses to my mailing list if I’d never even MET the person. And taking them off a CC: list is just plain tacky, am I right? Or am I the dumb one not to use every email that comes my way to send out notices?

With everyone and their uncle doing web videos and whatnot, I guess I just have more of this to look forward to. If I were ballsy enough, I’d email them and tell them to take me off their list, but if it’s a tangential acquaintance or even a friend, doesn’t that seem bitchy? I would get my feelings hurt if I received one of those. But as email becomes the primary way to get in touch with people, I feel like there needs to be some sort of standard with regards to contacting people. I mean, if you wouldn’t call them on the phone, why would you feel free to email them?

Rant over. 🙂

  • I actually send an email to a fake address I know doesn’t exist, then when I get the “sorry, fatal errors, the server hates you, don’t send stuff” email, I copy it, change the details, and then email that to the person who won’t take me off, and generally, they will get tired of hearing that my email “doesn’t work” anymore and delete my address. Either way it proves how much of an annoyance it is to me without really saying it bluntly to the person’s face. Call it passive-aggressive, call it social engineering, call it shallow, but I call “blame the server.” Works great.

    -Ryan

  • Igniferroque

    Does gmail have a whitelist feature which puts email from anyone not on your contact list in a holding folder? I’ve had the same email address for eight years and it is the only way I can keep the noise-to-signal ratio tolerable.

    Mailing people to ask them to remove you from their list is probably not the way to go. It comes across as confrontational and, if the story were told to an uninvolved person, you and not the spammer comes across looking like the bad guy.

    As for your last question, email is far less personal than a phone call, imo. A person on the other end of the line is far more real than a string of characters on a page. I knew a person who used to be very shy in person but was fabulous calling out football games at the University of Michigan. When asked what the difference was, he said that in the booth he isn’t talking to anyone in particular despite the fact he was broadcasting to thousands or tens of thousands any given afternoon.

  • S o M a

    back in the day.. you know.. aol via a 28.8kbps [v.92 56k flex]
    [im lucky to have never experienced those 9600bauds]

    checking email was an ordeal. hell, surfing the net was
    an ordeal.. trying to play UO was the BIGGEST ordeal..

    but i digress..

    today.. i can grab 3GB in about thirty mins. [visual studio 2008]..

    the small things are glazed over.. and generally viewed
    as typical annoyances .. coming with the territory.. et al

    which sucks..

    ive sent out cease and desist emails before. emotions be
    damned.. there needs to be a rise in common internet
    courtesy at some point..

    we should put our respective feet, down

  • ajla

    So are you saying that people I’ve never met DON’T want me to send them my youtube videos of me cleaning my gutters set to Culture Club songs?

    Because they are pretty awesome videos.

  • Igniferroque

    @ajla

    If you limit it to “Karma Chameleon” you should be fine.

  • Tyler

    I hate mass emails (that I haven’t specifically signed up for) and forwarded emails so much that I tell everyone I give my email address to NOT to sign me up for them… sometimes I have to remind people, so no I don’t think it’s bitchy or whatever because it’s in the interest of not having a cluttered email account. In regards to getting emails from friends of friends of acquaintances I quote Ron White “I’m third generation don’t give a f***”

    -Tyler

  • Chris

    Yeah, I feel you there. I am an IT manager and I get more list mail than some countries receive mail. And whats worse is when people get mad when I don’t read every piece of mail that they sent me. Everything should be done via RSS and forums 😛

    Anyways good rant.
    -C

  • matt

    I hear you, Felicia. Depending on the nature of the reply, I, too, will remove people from CC. At times, it can be a chore, but I think it falls on the shoulders of the sender to be responsible for this.

  • I agree with Chris. While email is convenient and ubiquitous, RSS, forums, and social networks are better ways to send targeted messages to the people who would be most interested in them. Almost everything else (especially email lists) is bacn.

  • “I mean, if you wouldn’t call them on the phone, why would you feel free to email them?”

    One of the best things about email is that one can make it as personal or impersonal as one wants, since you’re not right there all the time. A phone call canot help but be personal, as the caller must interrupt whatever the callee is doing in order to talk to them. That’s why telemarketers are so annoying, but spam gets flushed down the memory hole no problem.

    Felicia, you and I have never met, we don’t know each other from Adam, but we have exchanged emails; no big deal. Wouldn’t you be just a teensy bit freaked if I phoned you?

  • Ben

    I think the issue is bigger than, “is it ok to send emails to an acquaintance or someone I only briefly met in person?” For everyone here but you Felicia, this is an accurate description of the issue. For you, it’s a totally different story. Ok quick, raise of hands, how many of you had recurring roles on tv shows with cult status? Mmhhmm. That’s what I thought. (just Felicia is raising her hand)

    I’m sure you all have noticed the public’s “slight” obsession with fame, famous people, Hollywood, reality shows, etc. Maybe a “public” email address for lists and public consumption would be helpful in the long term. Something like, Idontwanttogiveyoumypersonalemail@felciaday.com would probably do the trick.

  • Nodgarb

    One of my pet peeves with email is if I am clumped in a mass email with people that I clearly do not get along with. The mass email usually leaves opportunity for a mass reply, but I don’t want to mass reply and email person B (b for beeyotch :p ). I don’t want to leave off person B either because I know other people get along with that person and the removal of the person’s email addresses is a bit “eh”

    Then of course, person B does a mass reply. I want to reach thru my monitor to e-slap the person, but they probably didn’t realize they replied to me too because if they knew, they wouldn’t have replied or would have taken me off.

    I know, I know “can’t we all just get along?” No, not really 🙂

    I agree with ya Felica, unless you are a spammer, please don’t ‘borrow’ my email from a friend of a friend’s cat’s uncle’s sister’s brother-in-law’s mass email list and start spamming me to buy your daughters Girl Scout cookies. As delicious as they are, no thanks. I rather be put on the spot as I walk into my grocery store and can’t help but buy some or look like a bad person if I ignore them and just walk in 🙂

  • edgar

    I blame both Igniferroque and youtube for my watching “Karma Chameleon” 78303972 times after reading the previous comment about it…

    I’ve never even liked that song… “You’re my lovarrrr, not my rival!”

    fyi… you really want to click the following link… you really do… http://youtube.com/watch?v=A3u3HQtv61M

  • Ronnie

    IMHO, email “lists” should always be done via a list manager software that has a nice and discreet “unsubscribe” feature/link at the bottom, that way I can remove myself from the list without having that confrontational aspect of directly mailing the person. Of course, if they created their list in their own email software, then the only way to get off the list is to write to them personally …

  • We really need some sort of mass etiquette lessons for how to deal with other people’s email addresses. I get so much junk from people I “almost” know, it’s totally outweighted the spam. How sad is that?

  • unwanted e-mails suck – they killed my hotspace e-mail years ago.
    i rarely check my e-mails anymore. If someone wants to talk to me they either txt me or message my myspace.
    I guess that is my own bitterness towards e-junk
    It would be nice if there was an easier filter to life’s communications where the sender was unable to change the type of communication.
    Like whenever someone sends you an e-mail they had to classify it as something and they couldn’t lie but that is part of my utopia – along with never having to wait at red lights or in traffic or stand in lines and everything is open until midnight and i would wake-up fully rested every morning and candy bars and fast food were health food and made you not get clogged arteries.

  • InnocentBardWannabeDefNotAStalkerNoSir

    Yo. Greetings from a recent subscriber of “The Guild” (though I renounced my WoW-ism a couple years ago, I still find the humor and acting superb). But on to the beef:

    I think anyone in a very “connected” workplace or school has dealt with similar issues, which is all the more reason the public at large should start giving more thought to “netiquette.”

    A major hurdle, though, is the fact that many people (I’d venture to say MOST) are weirded out by the prospect of “web communities” to begin with, and they only resort to the more powerful services the internet can provide (e.g. mass mailing lists) when they have to. Consequently, despite all the complaints about spam for the past decade, there still isn’t a very high public consciousness on the issue of web etiquette. And the problem is compounded by techies who know very well the consquences of their actions but continue to practice mailing list abuses and the like.

    But umm… yeah. On another topic, if there were ever to be a modern Trojan War-kind of event, then yours is the face that will launch a thousand nukes. And I mean that in the sweetest way possible, because only beauty of the highest order can incite such catastrophic global violence. <3

    <3 <– (heart or mushroom cloud? discuss.)

  • Three words: “Mark as spam”. 😀

    If I get anything from someone I don’t know (or which is unsolicited) I do that. They need never know, and I need never read their crap.

  • Andrew

    Unfortunately this sort of thing seems to happen all the time.

    This is the reason I setup a unique email alias for each mailing list I sign up to. Each of those email aliases still forwards onto my usual email address so I still only have to check my email in one place, but that way I know exactly which list it was that leaked my email.

    I wouldn’t usually bother sending a ‘please remove me from the list’ email to the manager of the list I have been unwillingly added to. Marking it as spam is usually good enough. I will, however, sometimes send an email off to the person in charge of the original email list. They are the ones who you trusted with your email after all and they are technically responsible for any misuse.

    Worst case scenario, if I get too many unwanted emails, all I need to do is kill the offending alias.

    It still surprises me how many people use CC for mailing lists. It really isn’t that hard to setup your own mailing list software or failing that, create a Yahoo or Google group.

  • This is awesome… I linked and quote over at my blog for Internet etiquette, hope you don’t mind. 🙂

    If you’d ever like to write an article specifically for Internetiquette on any internet-related topic, I’d love to have you! I’ve been looking for other bloggers who are passionate about not being jerk online. 🙂

  • horray for the interweb again!
    do you have a two or more email felicia?

    feel the same way, cuz i usually will get CC and FWD from people about recent scientific research that ‘eating apple will improve long life’, etc, etc.
    i guess this rant is excluding the other tons of junk mails you got?

    i DO miss the good ol’ days where there is not as much spam via the BBS (well, some).

    SoMa: you are lucky, i’ve actually never gotten anything more than 50kb/s on any of my transfers. (ADSL , CABLE, T3 even.)
    maybe it’s some sort of curse.

    great rant!

  • Really, the only way to combat that is to spend a good couple of hours working on your GMail labeling rules.

    For example, I go to Fresno State – anything that I get from a Fresno State e-mail (*@csufresno.edu) immediately goes to my CSU Fresno label; I don’t see it in my normal inbox.

    It’ll take some work, but after a few weeks, you’ll start to see that a lot of your random-ass e-mails start getting pushed to the back and most of the ones you want to read float to the top. It’s not a perfect system, but at least GMail gives you the option to create a system that you can tailor to your own needs.

  • WCD

    It’s not bitchy at all to ask to be taken off of an email list. I do that every day. Myself between work, personal, school, and other stuff I sift through no less than 500 emails a day. Not including spam. You are right — would you want to get oodles of unsolicited phone calls at home? No. So tell em to take you off and give no explanation you don’t have to give one.

  • Ben

    Hey congrats on your LA Times Guild article! Nice exposure.

  • SNT

    Yeah, this is why I take the “message myself, BCC my list” approach, lest names be improperly harvested/ninjaed.

    And, relatedly, why I don’t sign up for the FunWall-type app on Facebook, because the next thing you know is that everyone and his Gorgeous Nerd Actress (TM) friend (;-)) feels free to forward the latest chilling death premonition/transvestite soft-porn/bad old very very very very long joke . . . as SoMa says, there’s a lot of screening out. I suppose that as long as e-mail is seen as relatively frictionless in terms of (personal) costs, folks will persist in sending this stuff. But, I agree soooo much with the rant.

  • Do they have a Friend invite/bulletin posting etiquette List for on youtube?

    If you like my retarded videos just SUBSCRIBE you little twits!

    Sorry Felicia and people. I have those invites…

  • oh man.. can i type?? Something went horribly wrong. Please just add words or subtract them when necessary.

  • very nice web site. My English is not so good, so I do not understandt it well, but it seems very good. Thanks

  • CurmudgeonlyYours

    I thank you for sharing your frustrations over people who unwittingly (or perhaps half-wittingly) violate what should be common courtesy. I found your interesting “Flog” while searching for list etiquette rules that I could use to help enlighten some ignorant users. In return for your lucid observation, I offer the following suggestions that may help others in such situations.

    1. When someone egregiously violates common Internet courtesy, he or she usually also is in violation of his or her Internet provider’s acceptable use policy (AUP) or terms of service (TOS). Never hesitate to forward such a message to the “abuse” contact for the sender’s provider, along with a polite complaint and a request for appropriate action. (See http://www.abuse.net to search for contact information.) I’ve found that many providers will take swift action, usually a stern warning for a first offense and then account cancellation for a subsequent offense. I’ve managed to piss off more than one casual acquaintance by filing formal complaints that resulted in their accounts being suspended or terminated. I have no regret or sympathy, as I undertook my actions only in response to *their* actual AUP/TOS violations.

    2. Throw-away email addresses are worth their weight in gold. However, not everyone controls an Internet domain, so not everyone can create aliases on demand. However, disposable addresses can be obtained from a number of sources, some even for free. (Just do an Internet search for “disposable email.”) You can create a unique address for each of your mail lists or even on-line stores where you like to shop. Mail sent to the alias address will be forwarded to your real address without revealing your address to the sender. When you are done with that forum or seller, simply delete the address. Many services even allow you to turn an address on or off at will, allowing you sole control over when mail should get through to you.

    Finally, there is nothing wrong with vigorously protecting your privacy. More than 100 years ago, Louis Brandeis, the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice, defined the right to privacy as “the right to be let alone.” He also identified the right to privacy as an inherent component of the pursuit of happiness, one of the inalienable rights defined in the U.S. Constitution.

    (However, I wish that you and quite a few other Internet users would observe another established Internet usage standard: the .NET top-level domain (TLD) was intended to be reserved for entities that provided Internet services to others, just as .COM was intended to be reserved for commercial enterprises. Other TLDs are more appropriate for personal web sites such as yours. Feel free to flame me; I’m just the messenger. If you want people to abide by standards, you must respect all of them, not just the ones that suit you.)

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