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05/29/2004 Archived Entry: "More on handling email"
It seems forever since I've ranted about Microsoft and their products. Well, Michael Robertson of Linspire.com (formerly Lindows.com) has saved me the trouble this week. Does this strike too close to home?
It's a sad time when people are afraid of their own computers, but that's where Microsoft Windows users are at currently. It's reminiscent of Hal from Space Odyssey. Computer owners fear that if they launch the wrong program, visit a 'bad' website or simply view an email, they will trigger an unstoppable torrent of emails and virus spewing from their computer. Then comes public humiliation and chastising for not having performed the mandatory daily software and virus update routine (which often times wouldn't have prevented it anyway).
I don't endorse his vague implication that Congress should step in, but I do agree with his main recommendation, which is to buy something else.
More experiments on the email front. Long-time readers will recall that, at the start of this year, I revamped my email addresses, cutting my spam down from 2000 messages a week to about 12 a day. Since then, it's crept back up to 20-30 a day. So much for the loudly touted "Can Spam" Act; it's now reported that 80% of email is spam, and increasing.
So I'm tweaking my email system a bit. I have one "throwaway" address -- my old public email address, thoroughly spammed. That one gets an autoresponder telling humans (not robots) my new email address. Then I have my new "private" email address, and two "public" email addresses (which appear as contact links on web pages).
I used to use mail forwarding to route all of this email to my single POP account. (The POP -- Post Office Protocol -- account is where the email is stored on my ISP, until I download it with my email program.) This was handy when my email program could only handle one POP account, but it dumped all my email into one in-box, and I had to write a bunch of filtering rules to sort out, say, the ifeminists administrative email from my Linux users group email. Worse, the spam filter was dumping them all into a single spam box...and I need to check the purported spam to ifeminists, because a lot of legitimate messages get improperly tagged.
Fortunately, Mozilla (like many modern email programs) will handle multiple POP accounts, and as the owners of two domains on web hosting services, we have a lot of freedom to set up additional POP accounts. So I now have three: one for my private address, and one for each public address. Each has its own in-box in Mozilla. I also forward a few other email addresses to those accounts, which get automatically sorted: so personal queries sent to me as ifeminists.com administrator no longer get mixed in with subscription requests or bounce messages. It may be hard to visualize, but the upshot is that my mail-sorting task is much easier now.
You can do this too. If you host a web domain, you might be able to set up your own POP accounts. If not, your ISP may allow you to have multiple POP accounts (sometimes free, sometimes for a surcharge). And of course there are free email services on the Internet, and email forwarding services. What I've learned is, first, make a plan for your email. (I've reached the point where I have a chart of email accounts and forwarding.) Second, never publish your "personal" email address -- on the web, in a newsgroup, or in an on-line forum. Use a second account, web-based email, or a mail forwarding service to create a separate "public" email address.
With a little bit of care, and a small investment in "up-front" effort, email can remain useful.