How not to e-mail me

Originally published 2002 in Atomic: Maximum Power Computing
Last modified 26-Feb-2012.


I know what you all think. You think that playing with techno-toys for a living sounds like a pretty good gig.

You're wrong. It's hell. Why, just this afternoon, the prostitutes that brought me my free Xbox* made me breakfast - and burned the toast.

* (This piece was originally published when the Xbox wasn't yet a consumer product, and was widely expected to come with a humanoid robot and a ray gun. For the modern equivalent, substitute Xbox720. Or PS4.)

But seriously, folks. Generally pleasant though my job is, I still have my own special moments of irritation, un-shared with other computer users.

I get a lot of e-mail, for instance. Much of it's asking me questions. Sometimes I know the answer. When I have a moment, I reply. Not counting spam complaints, I send at least a dozen replies a day.

I can't reply to everybody, though. If a hundred bucks fell from the sky every time I did, then I would. But it doesn't. So I don't.

To simplify things for all concerned, here are some tips on the sort of message you should send me if you want to lighten my load by making sure that I don't even consider replying to you.

First up - if you know a language other than English, use it. I love the German guys who decide that since they can read English, I must obviously be a spelling bee champion auf Deutsch.

It's fun to feed such messages to and get "Rear One, I have nen Duron 850, which I want over clocks. A problem, you, I do not say have however a ECS K7SÄ with which I the Multiplicator nich in the Bios adjusting can!!!!!".

But that doesn't mean that this particular Rear One is going to bother hitting Control-R.

Don't worry if all you speak is something loosely describable as English, though. You still have a chance.

There's a special place in my heart - well, in one of my organs - for people who read some piece I've written that explains that the YumCha Technology Orchidtron 4300 and the Golden Umlaut SuperZoot are both good video cards, but which one you should choose depends on what you're doing. And then e-mail me to ask "so which one's better?"

Maybe they're just teasing me with a techno-modified Zen koan of sorts. But replying "A tree in a golden forest" doesn't seem to help.

If you ask me nine questions in one e-mail, then even if I know the answer to all of them, I'm still probably not going to reply. This is because I don't have time to write Dan's Epistle To The Corinthians Who Want To Know Some Stuff About Overclocking.

I will be particularly unlikely to reply if Google's "I'm Feeling Lucky" button can answer all of your questions as well as I can.

Splitting your nine-question e-mail into nine one-question e-mails, by the way, may work. But at around question four, I'm going to start liking you less and less, unless at least some token PayPal remuneration starts coming my way.

Full points go to the occasional person who e-mails me for help with their gimcrack Web site (as if looks like an HTML masterpiece, or something) and then gets really angry when I point out that doing stuff like putting 1.2 megabyte JPEGs on your page scaled down with width="240" height="160" isn't the greatest strategy.

Only about one out of five site-help-seekers flies off the handle when told that their kung fu would appear not to be the best. But that one can really turn you off replying to the other four.

I gave one woman who asked such a question a free image scaling tutorial, once. Complete with attached example files, hints on intensity-curve adjustment, and links to a couple of cheap-to-free image editing packages she might like to try. She then told me to get lost, and how dare I tell her how to do her business, and who asked for my opinion anyway?

I am not making this up.

A Special Achievement Award goes to people who ask me an interesting question, which I spend some time answering, only to discover that my questioner's reply address is nonexistent. A gold star goes on that Award for every time the questioner mails me again asking why I, like everyone else in the world, never seem to reply to their mail.

The same award goes to AOL users who've configured their Mail Controls to bounce all incoming mail that isn't from, with the oh-so-polite "...IS NOT ACCEPTING MAIL FROM THIS SENDER" error in the bounce message.

There's also a place in my heart for IncrediMail users. IncrediMail, apart from being fritterware of the highest order, creates messages that look less than totally professional in mail clients that don't support its, ah, enhancements.

Some people, of course, don't get a reply simply because I don't have an answer for them. I send a fair few "Nope - not a clue!" messages, but generally only to the people whose suffering I find amusing.

If you paid $7500 for a Compaq and now the thing doesn't even work then, well, you're a figure of fun. Live with it.

I'm sorry, but you'll have to excuse me now. Maxtor have a hard drive for me to review, but apparently they've hidden it somewhere in the Presidential Suite of the Sheraton on the Park, and I may have to work my way through crates of Pol Roger before I find it.

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