Monday, February 11, 2013

The Need to Keep E-Mails Simple, Revisited

Attention all correspondents...although I'm generally pleased with the spam filter Yahoo provides, this winter I've noticed legitimate e-mails, e-mails for which I was eagerly waiting, going into the Spam Folder.

Part of a vast left-wing conspiracy? No; lots of right-wing stuff--including e-mails from the hater known as Eugene Delgaudio, until I specifically put him on the spam list--got through, while e-mail from Democrats I respect, including Senators Webb and Warner, was being classified as spam. Clearly the problem wasn't political.

What it is, so far as I can tell, is primarily...fancy stuff. Some nice people want to make their e-mails look fancier. And sometimes fancy-looking e-mails get through just fine on this computer; sometimes when somebody makes an e-mail look fancy I can even paste it into a post so readers can appreciate their efforts here. And sometimes fancy-looking e-mails are read, by the computers I use or by Yahoo generally, as garbage, because they contain some special effects that some computers don't recognize.

I can't see any rhyme or reason to it. Some computers receive automatic "updates," some don't. Some "updates" are incompatible with what's on other computers, some aren't. Thus, the first time Senator Warner sent a newsletter containing photos and videos, I was able to share it; the next forty or fifty times, apparently, Yahoo and/or the computers I use automatically rejected the newsletters.

There are some clues to the kind of thing that tends not to work for me. File extensions can be clues. If it ends in ".doc" or ".xls," any computer I use can probably open it. If it ends in ".pdf," most of them can't, although occasionally a PDF does work for me (the chances are better if it's very short). If it's a video, chances are that it won't work. If it's an audio file, although there have been occasions when I've gone online from places where I was able to listen and I've listened to audio files, most of the time I won't have any right even to find out whether the audio file works (which it probably won't).

Other times, there may be more going on than the sender of an e-mail realizes. Earlier this morning I tried to open what appeared to be e-mail from a trusted Tea Party correspondent. What opened appeared to be a legitimate article...from a printed magazine...called Esquire. (Some foreign readers may not recognize this name. Esquire is the competitor with Playboy; both magazines justify their existence by printing some good-quality articles, but both are basically about pictures of naked women.) I'm fairly sure that none of the women from the Tea Parties who send me worthwhile e-mail would knowingly have sent a link that opened directly into Esquire, even if the article had been about something pertinent to this web site. So you, dear e-friend, have been hacked. And I wasn't even able to click back and verify which dear e-friend it was, but it was one of the three who sent the CoLA update.

Then there's Yahoo's attempt to screen out obnoxious language. Some legitimate e-mail gets into the spam folder because somebody used a word that most Americans my age don't consider especially offensive, but...Yahoo once asterisked out the word "Homo" in the phrase "Homo sapiens." Please think twice about sending me any salty language.

Anyway, some of the e-mail problems come from illegal hacking that has nothing to do with what was originally sent in an e-mail...but the overwhelming majority come from e-mails that are, and links to sites that are, too fancy. If it's a picture--even a picture of a logo or a sign--it's likely to snag on something, somewhere in cyberspace.