Annoying Newsletter Management

Just Stop it

Today’s complaint is about newsletter management, specifically the sign-up and unsubscribe processes.

I’ve noticed that I’ve been signed up for newsletters on the basis of a single contact with the company, perhaps a service enquiry, or a downloading a white paper. I’ve also seen email suppliers making it hard to unsubscribe from unwanted newsletters. These two annoyances combine into one big annoyance with a company that really should know better.

Automatically Signing Me Up

Please stop signing me up for newsletters without a specific opt in. Just because I visited your site, or emailed you once does not mean I want to hear from you again. Let me opt-in. Do not make it a condition of using your services (looking at you, Microsoft).

  1. There are two things I do to avoid adding to the unwanted email;
    I have an email account that I use only for sites I think might spam me.
  2. I use a junk filter est to “exclusive” in Hotmail so I never see them.

Making “Unsubscribe” Impossible

At some point Microsoft started sending me  emails relating to their products and services to my Hotmail account. Pretty sure I didn’t sign up for it, but Hotmail belongs to Microsoft so I get it.

I clicked on the handy “unsubscribe” button at the bottom of one of these emails, and got this.


Outlook has not given Outlook any info to help me unsubscribe from them.

Translation; Microsoft does not let you unsubscribe from their emails in their own email service. That’s a design choice, they make it difficult for you to unsubscribe so that won’t do it.

The result is that they are now blocked.

I’ve used Microsoft as the example here, but they’re not the only ones guilty of random spamming. In the last month I have been signed up for newsletters from conference organisers, potential suppliers, and random companies who guessed my work email.

I’ve unsubscribed from them all. Where that hasn’t been possible I’ve flagged them as “junk”. If that happens often enough at work their email domain could be blocked.

Please, just stop it.

 Image; Stop | Brainware3000 | CC BY-2.0

In Praise of Jane Austen

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jane Austen is one of Britain’s favourite writers. She has been one of my favourite writers for many years, even before Colin Firth took a swim. Jane Austen will soon adorn the 10 pound note, following a campaign to have at least one woman represented on their currency. Hurrah for women. Although I can’t help questioning the selection process. Since it’s replacing a scientist why not Ada Lovelace, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, or Rosalind Franklin? There used to be a woman on the five pound note; she has been replaced by Winston Churchill. So how about a woman politician or campaigner; Emmeline Pankhurst, Nancy Astor or Margaret Thatcher?

But Jane it will be, a somewhat innocuous choice. Although Austen scholars and fans the world over are disheartened by the choice of image and quote.

It turns out that this decision is more controversial and in ways I couldn’t have imagined. Those who campaigned to have a woman on the notes have been challenged on twitter with the most foul language. Including threats of rape and death. The UK police have taken the threats seriously, and already made arrests. Other twitter users have taken the side of the campaigners – to see their supportive reactions check the hashtag #shoutback.

The debate has moved on; there’s now a campaign to get twitter to make reporting abuse easier. There’s a debate about whether it’s really possible to monitor twitter and act on abusive tweets (which are outside twitter’s terms and conditions). There’s a debate on free speech and a discussion . Looking at those in order;

The campaign sought to get twitter to make it easier to report abuse. Currently you have two options; block the sender, which means you won’t see their tweets but others will, or report spam via a form, which takes a while too long when you’re receiving 50-100 abusive tweets per hour. Twitter has committed to making reporting abuse easier, but it’s not as easy as adding button.

It’s difficult because it can’t be an automatic blocking on the basis of a report, that in itself would be open to abuse. There are more than 100,000 tweets per minute, in a multitude of languages and in every time zones. It’d be difficult to build algorithms to sort out the tweets with issues from those without, as Flashboy discusses. Plus there’s context, there are conversations on twitter with banter that could seem abusive, but are not taken as such by the participants.

For all that Twitter has committed to finding a better way of protecting users from abuse. I guess using a mixture of streamlined reporting and monitoring, there are no specifics announced yet.

You must allow me to express how ardently I believe in the freedom of speech. But your freedom stops at the point where it destroys someone else’s freedom. Most countries, including the US place limits on the right of freedom of speech. You may not incite violence, slander another or threaten someone. Obviously your freedom to tweet does not supersede freedom in law. In this case the law, the UK Police, have taken the threats seriously, conducting investigations and making two arrests.

So what is in the minds of the people making these tweets? Where does the anger come from? The threats went on for days, that’s some serious anger.

I think the perceived anonymity of twitter is a drawcard, some have pointed out to the thin veneer of civilisation the abuse shows, others to the underlying misogyny in our society. It’s not wholly a misogynist issue, there are plenty of abusive tweets for anyone, including GQ. Perhaps the abusers are indeed Austen fans, or at least fans of Northanger Abbey where the narrator states;

A woman, especially, if she have the misfortune of knowing anything, should conceal it as well as she can.

We’re still reading Jane Austen’s works almost a hundred years after she died. I suspect the abusers will leave no such legacy.

Image: Jane Austen to Feature on Bank Notes  |  Bank of England  |  BY ND 2.0

Spam Tutorial

This was one of the comments submitted to this blog – or rather part of one, the full thing is about four times as long. It’s a “build your own” spam message, you can choose your name, your title and just what you want to be spammed about. Excellent innovation.

I feel like being Cherished today.

 

image spam