Biting the hand that reads you. Your inbox, I bet, is filled with stuff you don’t want, some of which gets trapped into your spam filters and can be made to disappear with a poof. But what if the sender’s software thinks it is smarter than you are at knowing what that is? Lately this has happened more than once and I think it is a bit creepy. Today’s example is LinkedIn, which has monitoring tools to see if you’ve opened the e-mail it has sent you. If you don’t open the e-mail often enough, LinkedIn helpfully offers you the opportunity to reduce the frequency of those digests -- summary of posts from my membership in forty LinkedIn Groups. “Would I like to switch from daily to weekly?” Ya know, if it was really that irritating, maybe I would have switched the settings myself. So I switched the setting back to daily – but LinkedIn will no doubt try to outsmart me.
You must not like us – so says our spiffy email tracking software. Another day, another plea: “Would I like to be taken off the distribution list from some large nationwide non-profit because I don’t open up the newsletter?" Uh, no, please keep me on the list. Did you happen to notice that I have done free webinars and in-person presentations for this organization, paid for my own flights and hotel…and by-the-way, my dues are paid up? Or Google Ads based on sites I view – helpfully I am shown ads for products that Google thinks I need to see because these viewed sites participate in the Google Display Network. Setting ad preferences to opt out (see the NYTimes post from Pogue on this) lasts only until browser cookies are cleared, or ads are created through a different ad network, or a different browser is used, or you get some Opt Out plug-in that blocks ads. Bet you didn't know there were super cookies, huh? Battling the ad genie requires diligent work (switch browsers often, says Pogue!) So if I like music, buy concert tickets online, follow sports teams, shop online, but read lots of content on aging-related sites, then without setting preferences or opting out, I would see ads for home care and EMR tools. No matter that I buy and refer neither. No cool headphone or cheap ballpark seat ads for me.
We know you'll want to know us -- PR tech tools that reach out to engage. In addition to misunderstood searches, emails, and refusals-to-open, I also receive many opportunities to interview Dr. Brilliant What's-his-name who has written a new book or invented a new drug. But I write about aging and technology. Still I receive press releases and invitations to talk to this miracle worker, so that I can hear about creams, drugs, classes, and other products and services with no relationship to my published content. The messages are always from PR firms. (I cleverly figure this out because ‘PR’ is within the sender’s email address.) These firms must be deploying tech tools that search for the word ‘aging’, comb through the site, find my contact name/email address and voilà! I say that folks must be using tools, because I have been invited to hear about stuff that is so completely unrelated to the content of my website or the articles in which I am quoted or referenced – except for the single word ‘aging.’
Finding data I want, keeping the email I value, and avoiding junk. To avoid all of this constant contact, vigilance is required. If I deleted Boston Globe emails that have Red Sox updates, one day I find that these are now classified as spam. The very smart Gmail spam filter must have been upgraded recently to notice that I perhaps (okay, okay, it's true) delete the newspaper digest without clicking on the articles. Or maybe they now send the digest from a different server, or spam rules have changed – who knows, and who cares? Eureka, says the Gmail software, we have found it – the Boston Globe Headlines, they must be spam! So now I declare that it is not spam, moving the digest from Spam to my inbox every day – maybe one day Gmail will conclude that it’s okay, she really wants to scan the paper’s headlines... if only to see that the Sox lost four, make that five, in a row, most recently to the Orioles. I do thank Google, though, each and every day for its Alerts function, which is how I can still see what’s going on with all those firms whose PR agency tools don’t think I am interested, even when the company is directly in my topic space, and even, as happened recently, when they are one of my clients.