Category Archives: Emails

GTD: Keeping Your Inbox Clean

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A community member wrote: “I receive about 220 emails a day (I know that’s nothing compared to what you get, Chris, but it’s a lot for us normal folk), and I sometimes find it hard to manage my Inbox. Over time, I came up with these tips for managing my Email more efficiently, and I thought that I would pass them along.”

  • Send replies in bulk. For you Yahoo Mail users, I’m not talking about “bulk” as in “spam”, I mean group your replies to Emails. If several people have the same question, send the same message to those multiple Email addresses. This will save time, and it will save you a lot of stress.
  • Publicly address common questions. Also, if several people have the same question, you could publicly address that issue (in a blog, a faq, etc.). This will cut down on the amount of Email you receive with that question.
  • Don’t reply to rude people. If someone is being rude, don’t reply to them. This is a waste of time, as your response will either be ignored or will trigger another rude response. If someone continues to be rude, block their email address.
  • Have a good spam blocker. Make sure that the Email program you’re using has a good Spam blocker, so no junk gets into your Inbox. Gmail on the Web is a good example, and Thunderbird for the desktop is also good.
  • Make your responses short and simple. Don’t type out extremely long responses to Emails. Chances are, the person you’re sending it to won’t read through it. Just explain the basics in a sentence or two (no more than a paragraph), and hit “send”. However, be careful with your wording. You don’t want to seem curt, as this will probably provoke a rude response.

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What Would You Ask Wikipedia's Jimmy Wales?

Vance Nelson has a question for you:

Cass Sunstein, of Republic.com 2.0, John Seigenthaler; long time considered one of the greatest journalists in America, Jimmy Wales; founder of Wikipedia, and Robert Cox; President of the Media Bloggers Association are all going be present at my college next week. Unfortunately my schedule doesn’t allow me to attend during the time that Robert Cox will be there. However, I will be able to be in the auditorium when Jimmy Wales is going to be speaking. I was wondering if you yourself had an opportunity to pick his brain, what kind of questions you might ask him, if any. I myself can only think of one so far. I want to ask him right there in front of a bunch of students and possibly quite a few professors why he thinks that ever since i’ve been in college I haven’t once been able to use his website as a credible source of information when doing a research paper or an essay of any kind. Certainly the founder of WIkipedia isn’t going to stand there in front of all those people and shout “BECAUSE IT ISN’T!” Surely he will at least give them some sort of feedback as to why it should at least be considered somewhat credible for academic research.

If I had one question to ask Jimmy, it would be: “Why didn’t you respond to my request to have you speak at Gnomedex a few years back?”

So, what would you ask Jimmy?

What Do You Use for Email – and Why?

My first experience with email was through the VMS MAIL application (in 1992). I graduated to ‘elm’ a few years later, then Eudora (briefly) before Internet Mail and News was released. Using Pegasus to help distribute emails independent of a listserv, I wound up sticking with MSIMN when it became Outlook Express. Then, it was on to Outlook 98 – and to Outlook 2000, until Outlook 2007 made a bearable upgrade (since Outlook XP and 2003 should be stricken from canon).

Now, I’m using an Exchange server in conjunction with Mail.app on OS X (with iCal and Address Book). The Internet mail client, itself, seems to be quite an upgrade from Outlook (in speed and in Internet-specific features).

I got dragged into a thread regarding the display of HTML in Eudora yesterday – an incompatibility I wrestled with for years and ultimately gave up on, much like Qualcomm has abandoned Eudora itself. I know it has a few diehard supporters, but… that’s not enough.

My statement was posted to a Eudora supporters list, and respondents were quick to defend their choice. No doubt, Eudora has tons of features – but it looks as though it was designed by a team of schizophrenic baboons. If you don’t care what your email client looks like, then I suppose Eudora is perfect?

What about you? What desktop email program (if any) are you using – and why?

How Not to Send an Email

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One of our viewers sent the following to me: “5 ways to make your e-mails more interesting and fun for all. I don’t know if such a list has already been sent to you, but in any case here are my views that I am sure you can mix with other peoples views to make a super-list.”

  • When sending to more than one person, ALWAYS use the Bcc: field. For those of you who don’t know, Bcc means Blind Carbon Copy, and what it does is it hides everyone’s e-mail address from one another, which is great if so-and-so #1 within your group of friends doesn’t necessarily want so-and-so #2 to know their e-mail address. Another advantage is the less e-mail addresses that can be seen, the less risk there is for them to be picked up by automatic spammers. And when that happens, we all lose.
  • Instead of sending videos as attachments, just send the video’s link on the web. Before the days of video hosting sites (like Youtube), it was common for people to manually send around videos of all kinds of stuff. Now this is not necessary, just send the link for people to click on. This is much easier for all and for various reasons. For one, your friends may only have Internet access at school (or work) and many times multi-Mb downloads are restricted. Aside from that, the computers may not have media players of any kind installed to watch such videos. However, it is very common for these computers to have their internet browsers updated so video watching via links shouldn’t be a problem. So forget the clunky attachments and just “link” it!
  • What is with all the Powerpoint presentations? Do I really HAVE to download these onto my computer to open them, only to see they are a complete waste of my time? Luckily some e-mail providers (like Gmail) allow you to open these within the browser to scan quickly through them. However many don’t, and the problems of point # 2 show up again. And boy am I tired of receiving the same “.pps” files over and over again with their smiling cats and pretty landscapes and moral whatnot. Who makes these? I have the feeling they are the same presentations since de mid-90’s, endlessly circulating from e-mail address to e-mail address in a vast circle of life, only instead of life, it’s a circle of WASTE MY TIME.
  • Urban E-mail Myths or UEM’s. If you get anything in your Inbox that seems too scary/unbelievable to be true, THAT’S BECAUSE IT PROBABLY ISN’T TRUE AT ALL. Nokia is NOT handing out cell phones, Microsoft is NOT paying anyone to receive forwarded messages and there isn’t an Indian girl with only two legs that needs an Elephant Tusk transplant. Of the few times I actually read these kinds of e-mails, it usually takes no more than 10 seconds to find out through any search engine that it is all a blatant HOAX (UEM). So, if you want your friends to believe you when you open your mouth, DON’T FORWARD ANYTHING without finding out for yourself whether or not it is true. And no, you’re not off the hook when you start your HOAX FORWARD with “I don’t know if this is true but I am letting you know anyway…”. When in doubt, DELETE THE MESSAGE, don’t send us trash in the form of Urban E-mail Myths!
  • Keep your e-mails short. Studies show the average Internet user spends about 4 (four) seconds on any given page. Our attention spans are getting dim… also we have so much other great stuff to do on-line, it just isn’t fair to take up everyone’s time with really long e-mails. Here’s a rule of thumb: If it was too long to read yourself before sending, it will be too long for others to read after sending. Short lists of content are OK, as is the occasional joke, but never a string of jokes… strings just aren’t funny. If it’s an interesting news story you want others to know about, just send the link to the story and maybe give your own (short) opinion. If you send the whole story in the e-mail… remember what I said lasted about 4 seconds? Right.. that’s the time people take before they mark your boring long e-mail as “read”. So, just send the link and one or two words, and let them be interested in reading the rest (or not).

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How to Avoid Spam (Junk Email)

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Community member Zachary is the Webmaster for RuneTomb, INC. Here are his top tips for stopping Email spam if you are a website Developer or IT person.

  • Download a good Email client. Personally, I find it is harder to block junk and spam on any of the Microsoft email applications. We use Thunderbird, the free client from the folks at Mozilla.
  • Never give your email address away via the Internet in text form. If you do, you are absolutely bound to have a bot from a search engine pick up that address and email it to a reseller. Try to give the email address in image form. For added security, “fuzz” that image just a bit using a program like Photoshop.
  • If you are a company, split up the different departments, and assign them their own email address. This makes it easier to destroy spam that eludes your filters, and is much better for organizational purposes, as well.
  • Don’t use common words for the name of the email address, such as [email protected] Common words such as help, support, department, billing, webmaster will all be tried (and quickly found) by search engine spiders. Avoiding simple words like these will seriously diminish your spam email.
  • Always have two email accounts: one for personal use, and one for business use. Only give out your personal email address to family and close friends. Make sure those people know not to send dozens of “forwards” to your business account.

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Reasons I Use Outlook

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I’ve been using Microsoft Outlook for about 9 years now. It’s an excellent personal information manager… from mail, to tasks and notes, to the calendar. Here is Lisa’s list of reasons why she uses Outlook, as well.

  • It’s much faster to get into your email using Outlook, than it is having to open a browser and log into a webmail client. All you have to do for Outlook is double-click the icon on your desktop, and it’s all right there.
  • It’s SO easy to set up. There are tours, guides and instructions every step of the way to get you started.
  • You can use an Exchange server with it. This will allow you to share information and schedules with others, such as your co-workers or family.
  • Outlook has excellent little reminder sounds built in, so you never forget an appointment or task!
  • You can personalize pretty much everything, from your signature to setting up a reading pane.

As I said before, I use Outlook as well, and love it. It keeps everything in one place for me, and makes it much easier to manage it all.

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Email Tips

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A community member at large named Chris (great name, btw!!) sent in his top five list. These are Email Tips, for things from creating an Email address, to proper Email etiquette. Thanks for these great reminders, Chris!

  • Do not use any fancy stationary or elaborate signatures. These detract from the content of the e-mail, and waste valuable KB of space on peoples’ already over-spammed e-mail boxes. Not to mention most of the time people don’t even look at the signature once they know who it’s sent from via the address. A simple one line signature is best.
  • Create an e-mail with Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail or another free web e-mail service in addition to your ISP or personal e-mail box. This new e-mail box you will use exclusively for forum registrations, online shopping, and other sites that could potentially use your e-mail address to send you spam, or sell your e-mail address to a spammer. This lessens the possibility that spammers will get a hold of your private e-mail address you use to communicate for personal or business correspondence.
  • Use proper spelling, grammar, and netiquette. At the very least use a spell-check on your e-mail before sending it, especially to someone you don’t know. Not using proper English lowers your IQ in other peoples’ minds. Punctuation and sentence structure helps as well, especially when communicating for business. Last but not least, for the love of God (yell at camera) DO NOT TYPE IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS! THIS IS CONSIDERED YELLING IN THE OTHER PERSON’S FACE ON THE INTERNET!
  • Be careful with e-mail from people or businesses you do not know. Most tech-savvy people can recognize spam at a glance, but be careful with e-mail from an unrecognized name with subjects like “Hey! I’m glad I found you!” or “Urgent! Final Notice!” Spammers use every technique they can think of to get you to second guess yourself and open that e-mail. Also, use an e-mail client or service that automatically blocks the download of embedded or linked pictures because often the e-mail downloading these can be a sign to the spammer that your account is active.
  • Be intelligent with the name of your e-mail address when you created it, and when you use it. Do not create long and complex e-mail addresses such as [email protected] because nobody will ever remember that without having to go to their address book every time. Long complex names cause confusion. Use a unique nickname and as few numbers as possible. Also, sending e-mail from names such as “babycakes21” or “sexyboy19” or “flirtymama” looks highly unprofessional. Never use these kinds of e-mail names when communicating professionally with businesses or especially prospective employers. Also never put them on a resume. For business and professional e-mailing, stick with the first initial of your first name and all or part of your last name if possible.

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Top 5 Reasons Eudora is Better than Apple Mail


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I personally use Microsoft Outlook 2007 in an Exchange environment for my email. I’ve used Eudora in the past, and wasn’t very happy with it. However, CalgaryGuru sent me the top 5 reasons he uses Eudora instead of the Apple Mail. By the way, he is also using Tiger (10.4) and not Leopard (10.5).

  • Images pasted into Apple Mail are automatically converted to .tif format. If I wanted them as a .tif, I would have saved them that way.
  • With Apple Mail, you can only send messages that are plain text or Rich Text Format. You can’t send an HTML email.
  • Speed… the more saved messages you have, the slower Apple Mail gets. For power users, this is crippling when trying to work.
  • Apple Mail has no formatting controls in the message window.
  • If a message has styled text and images both, Apple Mail will send it out twice. With Eudora, you can send them as one regular message.

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Spam Fighting Tools: Desktop or ISP Hosted?


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http://live.pirillo.com/ – The last topic the round table discussed is whether or not Spam fighting tools should be run server side, or via your desktop.

Four of my friends joined me for this discussion: Kat, SC_Thor, Wirelesspacket, and last but certainly not least… Datalore.

SC_Thor hosts many clients with his company, and uses SpamAssassin to block the Spam from getting through to his clients. SpamAssassin is open-source, and can be run server-side… or via desktop using one of the modified versions people have created. SpamAssassin uses a wide variety of local and network tests to identify spam signatures. This makes it harder for spammers to identify one aspect which they can craft their messages to work around. Anti-spam tests and configuration are stored in plain text, making it easy to configure and add new rules. SpamAssassin requires very little configuration; you do not need to continually update it with details of your mail accounts, mailing list memberships, etc. Once classified, site and user-specific policies can then be applied against spam. Policies can be applied on both mail servers and later using the user’s own mail user-agent application.

Whether you use something server-side, or locally installed on your desktop, make sure you choose a program that allows YOU to set your own customization. You shouldn’t tell the program to automatically delete the emails before you see them. Mark them, yes. Delete them? No… there can be false positives in any program. You don’t want to lose something important, simply because someone chose to use an odd subject line that got marked as Spam.

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Thunderbird or Outlook for Email?


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http://live.pirillo.com/ – I have been using Outlook since it came out in 1998. Until recently, I wouldn’t have recommended using Thunderbird, but that has changed. Both are good clients, but it depends on what exactly you’re looking for, and your preferences are.

The first email client I ever used was VMS. After that came Elm (via Unix), Eudora, Pegasus, and finally Outlook Express. When Microsoft Outlook became available in 1998, I switched to that, and have used it ever since. I currently run Outlook 2007 on Microsoft Exchange 2003 .

racedude from our live chat channel asked me today which email client he should be using… Outlook or Mozilla Thunderbird. He says that he doesn’t use any of the features that come with Outlook, he just reads email with it. Until recently, I wouldn’t recommend Thunderbid, as it seemed to have been left behind while Firefox was developed further. However, Mozilla has recently begun updating Thunderbird, and it’s a pretty good email client now.

Both programs will do essentially the same thing. Take a look at the features and previews of each, and see which better fit your needs and lifestyle.

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