21 December, 2007

Doing Your bit to reduce Spam - Using BCC

In 2001, spam accounted for an estimated 5% of our email. In 2007, it clogs our inboxes* to the tune of 90-95% of all email sent, according to a new report released recently by Barracuda Networks. Barracuda, a leading vendor of spam filtering technology, based their analysis on the over 1 billion emails that the company's software scans each day.

Spammers need email IDs to send the spam to, and there are many sneaky sites out there who collect addresses from visitors and sell them to the spammers. Email addresses are also collected by spambots, which crawl the web just like regular search engine crawlers (like Google's Googlebot) , but looking for email IDs in webpages (say, in comments) instead of keywords.

Another source of valid email addresses are, believe it or not, your own forwarded emails. Whether sending jokes, amaaaaaazing pictures, inspiring presentations, friendship quotes or, the worst of them all - Chain Mails, the way you send it could very well be helping spammers send more unwanted messages to your own friends, relatives & colleagues...

As I mentioned in the last post, when you put all the addresses in the 'to' or 'cc' boxes while forwarding an email, the email IDs of all the recipients are visible to each other!. The actual use of 'cc' is for intimating persons other than those whom the message is meant for about the email. For example, you want to let Archie know that you have sent the mail to Jughead, while the letter isn't actually meant for Archie himself. If you didn't want Jughead to know that, then you'd put Archie's email ID into the 'BCC' box instead. Since email IDs in 'BCC' aren't visible to any of the recipients, the addresses remain safely within your contact list, away from prying eyes.

Another responsible thing you can do is to clean up the mail being forwarded before sending it across - remove the huge list of previous forwarders & forwardees from the mail. That isn't what you want your friends to read, right? You want them to see the contents of the mail itself. I have seen forwards with three to four PAGES of

"Forwarded Message: Fwd:Fw:Fwd: Subject
From: xx32, To: yy1, yy2..... yy56, yy 57...
Forwarded Message: Subject
From: zz20, To: xx1, xx2, xx3.... xx71

... followed by a One-Liner Joke. What gives?!

Once I even got a mail with just the list; no content - it had been clipped due to the mail being too long.. ( In Gmail, you can view the full content through the 'Show Original' link in the Reply button drop-down. )

Same thing with the Subject line as well - whatz with the 'Fwd: Fw: Re: [Groupkkk] Fwd [MailingList DingDong]....' ?? In Gmail, you should just click 'Edit Subject' link, clean it up so that just one 'Fwd:' & the Subject itself remains before sending it.

Inspired by a post at Yahoo! Mail's blog, where they explain the use of BCC through a screencast. The video itself isn't that impressive, so I'll just link to it rather than embed it here in the blog. > Using BCC Feature (Yahoo! Video)

* The part about 'Clogging your Inboxes' assumes that you aren't using Gmail :D

15 December, 2007

Its now easier to locate your Gmail contacts in Orkut. But...

Orkut has just announced the ability to check whether people in your Gmail Address book are already in your orkut friends list. If they aren't, you are given the option to either add them (if they are already orkut members) or invite them to orkut.

Original Post : orkut Blog: I'm feeling serendipitous!

This would've worked out better, If only Gmail didn't add each and every contact you ever emailed - even just for once - to your address book! When I tried out the feature, I had to spend hours cleaning up my Gmail address book. Why? The sequence of mistakes are as follows:
  1. A friend of mine gets a forward. He is compelled by the warning in the email to send it to all his contacts, because otherwise, he could die within a few hours!! (Have been receiving mails which ask you to forward them? They are called 'Chain Mails' - click here if you have a minute to spare.)

  2. He puts his entire address book into the 'To' field when sending the forward. By doing so, he has just exposed all the email addresses in his contact list to the entire world - even company emails, private addresses which other people trusted him with.. each and every one. If only he had put them in the 'bcc' field - the email ids of his contacts would've remained hidden from all recipients.

  3. When I got the email, I couldn't resist telling him the errors of his ways, so I told him the stuff I just explained in the last two steps through the 'Reply' button - but alas! I had used the 'Reply to all' button instead; my advice is now being sent to more than a hundred people - my friend's entire address book..

  4. The last mistake wouldn't have been so bad as it was, if it wasn't for the Gmail feature I mentioned at first - all of the addresses which I (accidentally) just sent the email to were now in my address book as well! People I don't even know, haven't even heard of - were now in my Address book. Great. Just Great.
So when I tried to use the new orkut feature, many of those contacts appeared in the list of prospective orkutians who aren't already in my friends list. Suffice to say, hours had to be spent cleaning up my address book before I could bring down the number to below 100.

One of the features I really wish Gmail had is the ability to combine contacts - I don't want to manually merge multiple entries into single contacts. But since I had to, I've already done that - just took me about three days... :(

I've also noticed another mistake some orkutians are making. They have multiple email addresses, like most of us do, say, tom@gmail.com & tom@yahoo.com. Lets say Tom created his orkut account using the gmail id (It was possible with any email id until Google integrated orkut into the Google Account). So when a friend searches for Tom with his yahoo ID, they may not find him.. Tom thinks, "Oh no! I don't want to keep my friends from finding me!"

So Tom figures out a workaround - he makes a dummy profile in orkut with his yahoo ID, and adds himself as a friend to that profile. Now when anyone searches for him in orkut with his yahoo id, they'll come to this profile, notices his real profile in the friends list, and sends the friend request to that profile instead. Simple, right?

No, its not, and there are two reasons: One, when we search for an email id in orkut, and if a profile with that address already exists, the orkut interface just gives us the option to add the friend; it doesn't show us the friends list of that profile. So, your friend won't even know that it was just a dummy profile. And Two, you could just add the second, third or even fourth email id to orkut's Contacts section in 'Edit Profile'. If you are signed-in to orkut, just click here to get there. All searches for any of the added addresses would lead the searcher to your profile.

07 December, 2007

BREAKING : Get your @live.in email address right now!

Microsoft enabled public signups to their live.com email addresses exactly 1 month ago, but Indians couldn't sign up because it was only available from US locations. I tried a few URL hacks, but those didn't work. Kept trying for weeks, but it wasn't working at all... until now!

Okay, it isn't @live.com - but @live.in is even kewler!! (As in, you know - LIVE IN, like the Jeans Brand?) All you have to do is go to the signup page and click on the 'Get It' button to signup. The best thing is, since this hasn't been announced officially (well, I haven't heard :D ), virtually all email usernames are available for the taking - I just got ashley[at]live.in!!! No need to add numbers & random junk to get an address you really want!

Note: You have to access it from India to get the live.in address. Otherwise, it will be the country-specific TLD that shows up. It is also possible that you get only a hotmail.com address as the option..

EDIT: Forgot to mention, Microsoft already provides lots of custom domains for their 'Windows Live Hotmail' email services at CoolHotmail.com, exclusively for Indians (Anyone can get it, but the domains are mostly India-specific: such as bangalorerocks.in, bornleader.co.in, chennairocks.in, clubaishwarya.com, clubasin.in, clubdravid.com, clubsachin.com, clubsrk.com, ilovebhavans.in & ilovekabbadi.com, to mention just a few.)

World's Tallest Building, Burj Dubai.

Twice as tall as the Empire State Building, Burj Dubai is destined to take the crown for "The World's Tallest Building" back to the Middle East, since the time of the Pyramids..