The unexpected email


In almost every discussion of “how to stop spam” someone will come up with the idea that if a recipient only allowed known people to send them email then the spam problem would be solved. There are lots of problems with this type of solution, but one of the biggest is that it ignores that sometimes the unexpected email is wanted. Typically, these unexpected but wanted emails is from an old friend or contact. But sometimes, the unexpected email can actually look like unsolicited bulk email and yet be wanted.
I actually received one of those emails today. The folks at found my flickr stream and sent me email asking me for permission to use a couple of my photos in their London city guide. Completely unexpected, but very welcome email.
Sometimes, in the struggle to keep email useful and to keep spam out of the inbox, we forget how useful and wanted that unexpected email can be.

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  • This is something that has been hovering around for for a few years now, especially when people got scared that social sites like facebook would take over from normal inbox email.
    I can’t remember where I read it but I think it was Yahoo or AOL who were rumoured to be creating 3 inbox folders per user:
    – one for people in the address-book/safe-list
    – one for spam (emails that don’t pass the spam check and email from people that have previously been manually marked as spam by that user)
    – and a final one for all of the others, that is where the unexpected email would go, providing it passed the spam checking process.
    I have not seen it implemented any where, so I assumed that it was dropped after user testing to be too much work for the end user.
    Most of us who get a little too much email tend to get involved in filters, folders and labels etc.
    interesting through though?

  • This is indeed a tricky subject. We recently wrote an article on avoiding this pitfall as a sender –
    But the frustrations of an end recipient are problematic. I too have experienced issues where information from possible business have been lost to spam/junk folders.
    Both Novatech and Maplins regularly ended up in my junk folder (presumably because of excessive image use) until I white listed the IP ranges.
    I guess the real question as a recipient is if you are getting so much spam that you cannot spot the good from the chaff, what did you do to start with to get your address syndicated on so many bad lists?

By laura

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