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Mail Snafus

1. An increasing number of you are not setting up your e‑mail accounts properly; my replies to you bounce. To check this, send yourself an e‑mail, and then reply to it hitting the "Reply" function. If this second message bounces, you have a problem: once you've fixed it, write me again to let me know your proper address. (If no one ever answers your mail, now you know why.)

1a. If you are writing me from an account in Argentina or Brazil, the fault may lie not with you, but with your server. Sadly, no matter what either one of us does, I will receive your e‑mail, but my replies will always bounce. You will think me very rude, but be assured it is not so: this is very frustrating for me.

2. You may have written me at an obsolete e‑mail address. If it's not this one:

My e‑mail address is given here as an image. It is 'petworth' followed by the 'at'‑sign, followed by 'penelope.uchicago.edu' 
I won't have received your message and (logically) will be quite unable to answer it.

As of February 1, 2013, you must include my name in the e‑mail address. If you do not, your e‑mail will be automatically deleted, and I will not even be aware that you sent it; nor will it be bounced back to you.

3. You may have written me from a computer or domain that I've blocked. If so, (a) you will probably have got your note bounced right back to you; (b) there is nothing you can do about it. Much of China and the Arab countries of the Middle East is blocked: the quasi-totality of "e‑mail" I've received from these countries has consisted rather of spam and virus attacks, sometimes thousands of them, and only once, in Jul 02, after seven years online, have I ever got a legitimate communication from one of these places. Those of you who really do want to write me from beyond the pale of civilization, and finding you can't get thru, take it up with your government — as you well know, unfortunately, that you had better not.

4. Your e‑mail program is configured, either by you or by your server, to allow blank headers. E‑mail with blank headers is almost always mass-mailed spam, and therefore my own server filters it out and I never see it; nor will it be bounced back to you: it goes to "dev-null". If this is arcane computerese gobbledygook to you, it's still important, and you should learn about it and fix the problem: I'm far from the only person out there refusing such mail, and by configuring properly, you'll improve your chances of getting replies.

5. Most mail containing attachments (other than .jpg or .gif) is automatically filtered straight to the trash, and I never see it. If you want to send me an attachment, let me know first. The filter also trashes so much as a mere text mention of ".bat", ".exe", ".pif", ".scr", ".src", etc. so don't even try to talk to me about such things!

5a. Similarly, blank messages go to trash. You may have inadvertently sent me one by pressing the wrong key — but usually blank e‑mails are spam meant to elicit a reply that will open the floodgates to bigtime spam; I never reply to them.

5b. Somewhat similarly, e‑mail with vague subject lines, I throw away. I have to do it manually, but I do, and without so much as opening them: I learned that most of them are spam. So if you want me to read you, or even reply,

don't use subject lines like

"Hi!", "Great opportunity", "Thanks for yesterday", "u will like this ", etc.;

do use instead,

"Errors in Suetonius", "Question about Spoleto", "S. Biagio degli Armeni", or whatever.

6. You've asked me some question that shows that you don't take the time to read what's in front of you. Examples:

you send mail to "whom it may concern", "Penelope Petworth", etc. when my name is plastered on every page of this site;

you ask for the source of a quote that in fact I already identify;

you have a query about online translations of Pliny, etc. (you need to read the orientation pages).

I don't answer this type of mail, because in effect, I've already done so; or because it's clear you don't read what I write, why should I think you will read my e‑mail reply?

7. You've sent me a nasty note just for the hell of it. You know who you are: it's just a sign of stupidity. If you're a child, I sincerely hope you grow out of it: you will find life deservedly difficult if you don't. If you're older, you've chosen to be one of those who destroy rather than build. At any rate, I've been online since 1995, have seen it all, and although it did take me 2 or 3 years, such mail now has no impact on me; plus, usually, it's automatically been filtered to trash and I never see it. . . .

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Page updated: 1 Feb 13