: views from the Hill

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

E-mail and read receipts

There's an interesting discussion continuing on over at MissSnark's that was triggered by someone asking whether they should be using read receipts when they send something off to an agent.

Miss Snark hadn't realized such a thing existed. Her mail client, obviously, doesn't provide that annoying "The sender has asked to be notified when you read this e-mail. Do you want to send a read receipt?" message.

So the comments are flying about how annoying read receipts are and other people replying well, how else are you going to be able to tell whether someone got your mail? Tech types say that the read receipt means nothing. Doesn't mean the person has actually read your mail.

Someone said, Frankly, I've never had this problem of lost email, and if I were to lay received email end-to-end, they'd extend into the thirtieth century.

That may be true, or he may just not know he has a problem with lost e-mail.

I get more e-mail than is good for me. I've setup my e-mail so that sal@ sally@ self@ go to my Comcast mail account and everything else -- all the e-mails from timemag@towse.com or tribune@towse.com or pge@towse.com -- goes to a gmail account.

I recently discovered that things that should be showing up at the Comcast account weren't. Sure, I'd had some inkling. His Nibs would ask me what I thought of something he'd e-mailed from work and I'd never received it. Something quirky from his end, we thought. Maybe the corporate e-mail mavens were hijacking his notes.

His Nibs and I share an office with facing desks when we're home and one afternoon he said, "I'm sending you an interesting URL." Well, the URL never arrived. This happened a couple times in a single afternoon. I even went online to check my spam folder at Comcast, nothing.

So I changed my mail settings to send the sal@ sally@ self@ mail not only to my Comcast account but also to a separate gmail account from the one that all the general mail falls into.

Surprise. Surprise. Comcast was dropping mail on the floor. The mail wasn't getting to me. The mail wasn't caught in their spam filter. Nothing.

I've set things up with Thunderbird now so it picks up the Comcast mail and tucks it into one folder and picks up the gmail for sal@ sally@ self@ and tucks it into another folder. My rough estimate over the last few weeks since I made the change is that Comcast is dropping at least 10% of my incoming mail.

And there's been one mail that came to Comcast and never made it to gmail.

Go figure.

Update:Found it! I was looking in the wrong gmail account's spam folder.
[end: Update]

I still hate read receipts -- don't return them and don't ask for them.

If someone tells me they never received something I sent these days, I don't automatically assume that something happened in transit or the mail got caught up in a spam trap. Could be, I now know, that the mail servers at the ISP end might just be dropping the incoming e-mail into /dev/null, never to be seen again.

Added Update: I just counted. ... so far Thunderbird has picked up twelve e-mails from family members today from the gmail account. Comcast only had seven of those e-mails.

Has this always been going on? How much e-mail have I missed out on?

Miss Snark asked why I just didn't change ISPs. I told her that Comcast has a sole source franchise deal with the cool, grey city of love. If I want broadband, Comcast is the only game in town. And who's to say that other ISPs don't have similar issues with e-mail?

How many people are really so cockeyed they'd start forwarding their mail to two different servers to see if there's a difference in throughput?
[end: Added Update]

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