Friday, September 5, 2014

Email Unsubscribing
I undertook a mission last month to unsubscribe from all the emails that I don't even read and just delete. I thought it would just be a couple of emails each day for a week or so to get rid of the bulk of them and then every now and then to remove the stragglers that don't get emailed to me too often.

Wrong! I am not 6 weeks into the exercise and still unsubscribing strong! While unsubscribing, I thought I saw a few emails that I'd unsubscribed from coming back, I dismissed it and thought that I must be mistaken. After a month I decided that I needed to track what I was unsubscribing from so that I could check to see who was not actually removing me from their lists.

I didn't want this to be a taxing task as I should have to do it at all, so I just created a Gmail label (a folder in any other email application would work just as well) and placed emails that I unsubscribed from under that label (in that folder) after unsubscribing. That folder is filling up and sadly the most repeats are from an organisation that I used to support through work reasons while I was a developer.

Why not just mark them as "Spam" I hear you say? Well, to me, spam is for emails that I shouldn't have received at all that an automated service marks as spam using its smarts. I don't want to add to my spam folder as I check it every now and then for false positives (emails mistakenly captured as spam), so I'd just be sweeping the issue under the carpet and still be pained by it when I checked for my false positives.

I foresaw this issue of receiving emails that I didn't really want a long time ago, I think about 10 years actually. I had purchased several domain names that in some way or another related to a project that I wanted to do or a company that I want to manage. I used one of these domain names to give out dummy email addresses, giving a different email address to everything and everyone that asked for email contact details from me. This way, if I was to receive an email from an unknown sender, it would allow me to see who I gave the email address to originally (details of how this works below). My thought was then that I would be able to just kill that email address if I didn't want to receive emails from that sender anymore.

Gmail has setup an option to do something similar, where you can tag some text onto the front of your email address followed by a plus "+" sign and then your actual Gmail address. For example But I think most techies will catch onto this pretty quickly and it will be easy to write some code to just remove everything before the plus "+" sign and get around it.

Although a great idea, it got tedious as people would always ask why the strange email address. Of course the truth was that I had just made it up on the spot, but I didn't want to let on. It got a little tricky when they would ask me to repeat it, but luckily manageable. I kept up and keep up with this to a degree even now, but only when a shop asks for an email address or if I have to register for something online.

I could just put the second half of my plan into action and start killing off email addresses that I don't want to receive emails on anymore, but the problem is that I shouldn't have to and that gets me. So I'm trying the unsubscribing thing first and if that doesn't work, will have have to start killing the email addresses... sadly.

Now details on how the "giving a different email address" works as promised.
Purchase a domain name e.g. In the email settings of the domain name you can set up email addresses for your domain e.g., etc.. No set up a "catch all" email recipient. That is an email address that will receive all emails sent to anything that isn't one of the specific ones that you've set up. Done! Now when you don't want emails to certain addresses at your domain, just specify them like you did with Bob and Fred above. Obviously, this will also allow you to see if someone (and who) has sold your email address off to a 3rd party.

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