Emails to me

The odds are high that you don't have a clue what it is like to deal with 200+ non-spam email messages each and every single day as I do. Please understand that things start to look a bit different when 80% of the mails are incorrectly addressed, grossly misformatted, or needlessly inconvenient.

The Martin Neitzel Preferred Email Wishlist

In order to communicate effectively with me through email, you are kindly asked to follow this wishlist. If you don't, it will essentially delay the work on your email.

If you are in a hurry, it's enough to skim over the terse commandments and stick to them. The remaining text just explains my perhaps odd preferences.

  1. Business email: In any business context, you will very likely have been told a list address leading to an entire team (such as Never ever send mail just to my individual address only.

    Send your email To: that list address, or send it to: me with a Cc: to the list. Whenever I send you an business email with a Cc: to the support address, keep the Cc: to my colleagues in your replies.

    The reason behind those list addresses is to assure your prompt service even when your usual contact is ill, too occupied with other customers, or taking a vacation.

    Hint: during my vacations, it is not my favourite pastime to check my email box and to relay messages to my colleagues. Please respect my time off. Thanks.

  2. Use a meaningful Subject: header. My inbox has currently about 19000+ messages. I am searching that mostly by subject. If your message does not carry a meaningful subject line, its fate is clear. It will simply drown under the next 150 messages within 24 hours if I'm not getting around to deal with it right away.

    By the way, Subject: urgent question is not a meaningful header.

  3. One topic per message is preferred. This makes it easier for you to select meaningful subject lines and, perhaps more importantly, to forward/file/delete things and keep what's relevant.

  4. Preferred format is text/plain. It's simple. It works.

    It works even better if you stick to the convention to pre-format your message to a line width smaller than 80 columns. (Or still better just 72 columns to give some room for quoting prefixes.)

    Alternatively, if you prefer to send one really long line for each paragraph and expect me to reformat that, please follow RFC 2646/3676 (The Text/Plain Format Parameter).

    And yes: It's YOUR job to come up with a legible message in first place. Don't expect all the readers to do the formatting you forgot. If you are a client: all extra-time I have to do to read your message will be billed.

    You can rely upon me using a constant width font and standard tabs (which means: every 8th column).

  5. Text encoding:ASCII 7 bit is just fine. Don't bother with umlauts beyond their simple two-letter "ae" etc. approximation. If you do, I actually prefer 8bit/iso-latin-1 encodings to "quoted printable".

  6. Definitely no Umlauts anywhere in the header. This refers mostly to the Subject: and your address. (These fields are usually rendered as-is in summaries and if you don't want me to be able to search for your
    Subject: =?iso-8859-1?Q?Anfrage=3AM=F6glichkeit_f=FCr_einen_Internetzug?=ang
    then this is your problem, not mine.

  7. No HTML, please. I won't see a nice rendition of it. For a start, no fonts or no colors here through telnet.

  8. No multipart/alternate text/plain+text/html, please. The HTML is just wasted, and the combo will make it hard to extract the text/plain.

  9. No attachments, please. Well, perhaps for the odd small file. Definitely no big attachments! I *always* prefer an URL to some FTP or WWW host to retrieve the document myself. In most cases that document is destined for some otheer host than my mail machine, anyway.

  10. I am not using Microsoft Word or other "common" Office Tools. I'm usually not even using Windows. Do not send me Word (TM) documents or Excel(TM) spreadsheets.

    Only send Word files to me if you are willing to deal with nicely formatted replies from my side, coming in DVI or ditroff format.

  11. If you have a support question about an error message or configuration menues or some such, do not send screen shots to us unless we are explicitely asking you for that. Please take the pains to report any input and output in a plain text email message.

  12. Be specific. Don't just write "We have to fix that CGI script for orders." Please write instead: "We have to fix that CGI script for orders reachable via". Don't let me guess what you are talking about or search for it needlessly. It usually takes you five seconds to add that URL. It takes me 20 minutes to search at the wrong place -- 20 minutes you would be billed for, by the way.

  13. You can exchange signed and/or encrypted mails with me using PGP/GPG. I do not use the X.500 PKI as integrated, say, in Netscape's Messenger.

    If you ask me for some access password and security does matter (that's not always the case), just send me your public key. My public key is this one and is already registered with the key server network. Small public endorsement: I do trust the escape e.V. Certification Authority. I convinced myself that they stick to thorough procedures. Most important, they are competent enough to ensure to know what they are actually doing, not just some droids which are easily betrayed.

  14. If you put my address on a mailing list, that is perfectly OK (and appreciated) for any small project I am personally involved with. Otherwise, at least notify me about it, and it might be better to ask me beforehand.

    For larger lists: make sure your list maintains some standards of decency. (To be extended. In short: Don't mess around with "From:"/"Reply-To:"/"Message-Id:" headers. Do your best to prevent spam. Educate mailing-list members with ill vacation auto-replies. Mark list messages so they can be recognized. Include unsubscribe directions with each message.)

Why all that?

In order to be able to read and work on my/your email from anywhere, I restrict myself to absolutely portable (read: stone-aged) mail interfaces.

If you absolutely need to know: I usually use good ol' "mailx" through a telnet session. This works at the office, at home, and abroad. It works through firewalls, it works on a dinky palm. Yes, I used elm/mutt/rmail/vm/netscape-messenger/thunderbird/outlook before. mailx does the things I need, protects me from virii, allows me to spec the header lines, allows me to know reliably what I send, and let's me filter messages and sets of of messages through Unix programs. Let me know when Netscape Messenger is up to these things.