Posts Tagged ‘Email

The ‘From’ email header

Posted in Technicalon Dec 5, 2011

Every email that is ever sent has a set of header fields. These fields keep track of things like the sender, recipient, subject, date, and content type. Normally, these header fields aren’t directly presented, but instead are used by email programs like Gmail or Outlook to properly display information about the email.

Side comment: If you are using Gmail, you can select “Show original” (from the same menu that allows you to reply or forward the email) to see the full email content, including all of the email header fields.

There is a header field called ‘From’ that is particularly important. Like you might expect, it encodes information about who the email is from. The ‘From’ field can contain just an email address like this:
or perhaps like this:
From: <>
The ‘From’ field can be more useful by containing both a name and the email address like this:
From: Sir Spamalot <>

When an email program, like Gmail or Outlook, present the name of the email sender, they often parse the ‘From’ field to display the name of the sender. If the name is not included, then the program displays all or part of the actual email address.

Let me proceed with two examples, one good and one bad.

Bad example: sends me an email to confirm my recent order. The ‘From’ field of their email looks like this:
From: <>
When I look at the sender’s name in Gmail, it simply says, “support.” Of course I need support on all sorts of levels, but I don’t know anyone names support.

Good example: sends me frequent emails to tell me about discounted deals in Fort Collins. The ‘From’ field of their email looks like this:
From: LivingSocial Deals <>
When I look at the sender’s name in Gmail, it shows up as “LivingSocial Deals” so I can quickly determine who is telling me about “6 Laser Hair-Removal Treatments.”

When writing a program (or website) which sends emails, it is important that the program include a name along with the required email address. This allows the recipient’s email program to more meaningfully present the name of the email sender. This is especially important in business applications, which need to establish a clear identity for their customers.

A couple of email reminders

Posted in Insightson May 5, 2010

Recently I saw an email which was sent out to an entire organization, but it was only meant for that organization’s leadership.  What is bad, is that it contained some sensitive information which could embarrass some people.   These mistakes can be hard to avoid, but it reminds me of three practices which should always be followed when writing emails.

1. Always use a meaningful subject.  The incorrectly-addressed email had a subject of only “Hi.”  It should have had a more appropriate title like, “Leadership Meeting Notes from April 20.”  A meaningful subject helps the reader understand how urgently they should read the email.

2. Always address your audience at the beginning of the email. If you begin your email with, “Hi everyone…” as this email did, then everyone will think that the email is written to them.  If you instead begin your email with, “Hey leadership committee…” then people know if they should be reading the email or not.

3. Avoid emailing confidential information. Emails are too easily forwarded and archived.  Too many businesses and politicians have been burned by something that they emailed.  Once you send an email, you loose full control over who sees it.  It may be better to just say things in person.

Before the 2008 Olympics, I was at looking for information. I noticed how they had a form where you could enter your email address to receive Olympic coverage updates or something like that. I entered the email address: nbcolympics@jacob…com.

I have an email system where anything@jacob…com will land in my inbox. That makes it really easy to give a custom email address to different people/sites so I can filter my email based on the TO address.

I didn’t receive a single email about the Olympics in all of that time. But I have received emails from about some sort of Fantasy sports thing.

What does this mean? The only person I gave that particular email address to was NBCOlympics. If I’m getting other email to that address, the only conclusion is that NBCOlympics sold off or gave away my email address to others.

Not that I’ll be bothered by the spam, because I’ve now switched all email to that address to arrive in a special spam email account.

Voicemail label in Gmail

Posted in Technicalon Feb 5, 2008

In my attempt to clean up my inbox (hosted through Google Apps; powered by Gmail), I wanted to take all the email messages about voicemail from GrandCentral, Gizmo Project, and others, and apply a label to them so I can sort them away.

I thought an appropriate label for these types of messages would be Voicemail.

When I tried this, it returned the following error message:

System specific names are not allowed. Please try another name.

I don’t understand why Voicemail would be a system specific name, unless Google has something special coming to Gmail.

Cleaning out the inbox

Posted in Technicalon Jun 6, 2007

I think we all probably manage our email in different ways. I’m usually the type that only ever looks at the top of the unread message list and goes on with life not worrying what messages might be left around.

However, recently I found that I’ve accumulated 2500 messages in my inbox. I’m not sure it is necessarily a bad thing, but it is something I’m trying to fix.
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Thunderbird 2.0

Posted in Technicalon Apr 19, 2007

Thunderbird is an email software sibling to Firefox, the excellent web browser from the Mozilla foundation.  Today I found out that version 2.0 was released for Thunderbird.  Among the new features are:

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Email overload

Posted in Technicalon Sep 14, 2006

This post really isn’t that important, so feel free not to read it. That is because I just got done reading a lot of emails that aren’t that important, so if I can save you a bit of time from having to read this post, I will.

All it takes is a couple of email lists to go a couple days and the unread emails stack up like nothing else. Particularly, the BYU webmasters list and the Nutch users list kept me quite busy.

In other news, I think the spellcheck feature of the Google Toobar is pretty cool.