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Punishing email forwarders Thu, Dec 18, 2008
A certain member of my extended family (most likely no one reading this) has a habit of forwarding emails.  And not even good or funny stuff.  Just total crap.  The stuff from 1998 about the children and the puppies and the angels and all that garbage.  Not to be a cynic ... ok, since I'm a cynic, I don't want to read that stuff any more.  I don't want to receive it in my inbox.  I don't want to hear about it.  Email was invented as a means of communication.  It spent many years in the crapper as simply a way to spread misinformation and stupid jokes, but it has since made a comeback and continues to serve as a viable alternative to phone calls and face-to-face meetings. 

I thought about simply emailing the person and kindly asking them to only email me personal correspondence, but I've read that there's no way to actually do this without hurting the person's feelings.  Some people actually send out a form letter every year to remind people that their inbox is a precious resource that must not be wasted.  And there's even a website that "politely and anonymously" asks people to stop sending forwards -- the epitome of passive aggressiveness.  But hey, what other kind of aggressive is there? 

For the less-than-moral, I came up with two options, both of which involve lying.  You can either tell the person that your email address is only for business or professional use, so personal emails really shouldn't be sent there.  Or you can reply with one of those error messages from "Mail Delivery Subsystem" that says something like "Mail delivery failed: returning message to sender".  You could even include a little computer-generated-sounding imperative like, "Please remove this email address from all personal address books." 

The thing is, not all forwards are evil.  I receive some forwards that I'm genuinely thankful for.  They're usually addressed solely to me, or to a small group of people that have previously expressed interest in a certain topic (e.g. "To all cat people").  Sometimes I'll receive something I've already seen, but I'll appreciate the sender thinking the message would fall under my unusual brand of humor. 

In the end, the solution I'm going with is actually quite simple.  I'm blocking the sender.  I can either mark the message as spam, or set up a rule that automatically deletes anything from the sender.  That way, I'll never be able to receive actual communication from that person in the future, which I think is a fitting punishment for abusing the system.  Hopefully people will start to learn that the more garbage you spew, the less people will want to listen.  Perhaps kind of like this website. #technology


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