Off Topic Mail

It seems to be happening more and more. I get emails sent either through my contact page or emailed directly to me that are extremely misguided. Often to the point where you question if they would give you their credit card number, social security number, or proof of a sacrificed first born if you just replied and asked for it. We aren’t talking about spam, but questions that really have no purpose being directed towards me, and I can’t for the life of me figure out why someone would pick me.

I’ve tried with the “emails about _____ will be ignored” warnings on the contact page, but they were ignored, so to make the page cleaner I just removed it. Apparently people who do this are so misdirected, that didn’t help ;-).

Among the more memorable ones:

  • Account/Invite Requests – This is the most popular. They typically want an account on: Orkut, Reporter, Gmail, something about ‘Mozilla Email Service’ or something like that once or twice a few years ago. Are there plans to compete with Gmail that I haven’t heard about? Even The Venice Project (which I can’t confirm or deny any sneak peak, much less share if I did).
  • It’s Broken – I answer if it’s related to code that I wrote (extension, website, etc.). If it’s a “Firefox doesn’t work” I always point to mozillaZine forums for this (since those forums do a pretty good job), can’t login to some random site including online banking or their work email, or some other site. Requests about lost passwords? Yup.
  • He’s picking on me – How to get revenge? I got one of these before too.
  • Can you help me make… – Typically a request for me to do all the work (for free) behind someones moronic business idea. Like I don’t have enough things I want to do for myself.
  • Angry Mail – These are the ones where people feel that if your online, it’s your legally binding obligation is to be their digital slave. Not even a simple request, but a demand or threat, often either abrasive or just outright offensive in nature.

There are others, but not quite as memorable. 9/10 that fall into the above categories are just ignored and deleted with no reply. After all, why even get them started. Some people do get worse than me, so I really can’t complain too much.

A few months ago I was getting some serious spam, but since I rewrote the system to include several anti-spam defenses, that’s been remedied. That of course doesn’t solve this.

It doesn’t bother me to much (it’s not like it’s flooding my email), but just one of those silly things you have to deal with. I understand the Firefox related questions on occasion, or things related to work I’ve done. But much of it is so off target it’s funny.

I do wonder if there is a better way to handle it.

6 thoughts on “Off Topic Mail

  1. You could try looking for keywords in the subject/message and presenting the “emails about _____ will be ignored? warning on a “preview” page after they’ve submitted the form, (not as a JavaScript warning because you want to monitor how effective it is). Add appropriate links elsewhere (possibly through your own redirect so you can see if they are being used) and also another submit button for if they still want to contact you.

    You’d need to be careful with how strict it is in terms of what will trigger it and the language you use for the warnings because you don’t want to put people off sending on topic mails.

  2. Sam: Rules will always fail. Just look at the wide variety of topics, and consider how broad the English language is. It’s near impossible to do well. And to get it close is just not worth the time.

    Ultimately the question is: Why do people feel compelled to do this?

  3. Why do people feel compelled to do this?

    I’d put it down to selfishness. People are more concerned with solving their own problems than with how much they are inconveniencing other people. The angry mail would be people who people with an inflated sense of entitlement, the kind of people who will talk at length about what their “rights” are but don’t consider their responsibilities.

    I wonder too if you are coming across cultural differences. Of course it may also be that some of them are relatively young and their social skills are not yet developed. It’s hard to tell how old someone is from an email, and there’s a tendency (at least I’ve noticed this in myself) to assume that people are exactly like you until you are proved otherwise. (I am always surprised to find out that people on a forum are significantly younger or older than me, or not male.) So maybe it could also be that people assume that your interests align with their own, or they are surprised to find out that they don’t.

    Rules will always fail

    I’m not convinced that’s true.

    I’ve tried with the “emails about _____ will be ignored? warnings on the contact page, but they were ignored, so to make the page cleaner I just removed it.

    Do you mean that they were read and ignored or simply not read? I’d say it was the latter because:

    users don’t read anything

    So it’s not so much a case of “Rules will always fail” as “people will ignore rules until they are told they have broken them” and your system has to take that into account, which is why I suggested warning them only when they have tried to message you about something off topic, rather than before. By presenting the warning to them when it is relevant they are much more likely to read it and act appropriately.

    You say that Account/Invite Requests are the most popular. It shouldn’t be too hard to pick out some words/phrases that would reduce the spam from the contact page somewhat. It’s a pity you can’t hook up to some kind of bayesian filter. Although none of that will do anything about direct mail.

    Ultimately what I’m proposing is that anyone who wants to mail you having to deal with your spam filter rather than you.

  4. I base these views partly on the success of a comparable approach to making models generally available in cognitive modeling (Google for “ACT-R cognitive architecture” for more details.) Good luck!,

  5. Hey, I found this post while searching for help with JavaScript. I’ve recently changed browsers from Opera to Firefox 3.2. Just recently I seem to have a issue with loading JavaScript. Every time I go on a site that needs Javascript, the page doesn’t load and I get a “runtime error javascript.JSException: Unknown name”. I can’t seem to find out how to fix it. Any help is greatly appreciated! Thanks

  6. I need to write a program where the user has to guess the random number that the program makes up. The range is between 0 – 100 and the user only gets 10 tries to guess the number. If the number is too high or too low, it informs the user by saying that the random number is lower or higher.

    I’m still learning Java and C++ is very new to me, even though most of the stuff is similar. The program that I have written compiles and runs, but it doesn’t seem to reach the steps that tell the user whether the number the entered is higher or lower than the random number. This is my first time using nested if’s and I probably have them ordered in a way where they aren’t being read.

    Can anyone point me in the right direction so my program will follow through with the right step at the right time?

    Here is my code:

    #include <iostream>
    #include <time.h>
    #include <stdio.h>
    #include <stdlib.h>

    int main ()

    int usersGuess;
    int usersChances = 0;
    int secretInt;

    int MAX_VALUE = 100 + 1;
    int MIN_VALUE = 0;

    srand ( time(NULL) );

    secretInt = rand() % 100 + 1;

    while ( (usersGuess != secretInt) && (usersChances <= 9) )

    cout << "The secret number is between 1 and 100.\n"
    << "What is your guess? ";
    cin >> usersGuess;

    usersChances++;

    if ( usersGuess > MAX_VALUE && usersGuess > MIN_VALUE )

    if ( usersGuess == secretInt )

    cout << "Right! It took you " << usersChances << " guesses.";
    break;

    if ( usersGuess < secretInt )

    cout << "Too low, guess again? ";
    usersChances++;

    if ( usersGuess > secretInt )

    cout << "Too high, guess again? ";
    usersChances++;

    cout << "Invalid guess, guess again? ";

    Tips or suggestions are greatly appreciated. Thank you!

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