Saturday, May 16, 2009

Ugly E-mail Addresses

We all hate spam and we keep looking for ways to reduce how much reaches our inbox. I filter a lot of it out at the server, but some makes it through anyway, such as those e-mail message that appear to have been sent from my own e-mail address. For those, I have a rule set up that just deletes them, as everyone should. If everyone would delete them without looking at them, spammers would stop wasting their time sending them.

One method of controlling spam that has gotten popular among people in the writing community is to list their e-mail address as something like somename [at] adomain [dot] com. The idea is that the web crawlers won’t realize that it is an e-mail address and thus protect the owner from receiving unwanted e-mails. Some people go ahead and create the mailto link, as I have done above, while others leave it out. In either case, all this method only discourages the people you want to e-mail you from doing so. Mangling the e-mail address like this will not keep the address off a spammer’s list. It may have worked for the first person who tried it, but with so many people using this method, you can be sure that spammers have software searching the web for text that matches the pattern above. The software will remove the blank space, convert the “[at]” into @, convert the “[dot]” into a period and the e-mail address will go into a list of e-mail addresses, untouched by human hands.

We can’t hide from unscrupulous people and still make ourselves accessible to everyone else. There are other methods of allowing people to contact you, but if you want people to be able to contact you via e-mail, I say, stick your e-mail address out there in the way it is supposed to be. Make it easy for people to copy it and paste it into the to field. Use the mailto shortcut if you like, keeping in mind that it may not work for some of your readers. Convenience for the reader should be our aim, even while trying to reduce the influx of spam.