this week’s public relations onslaught

Something happened this week. Suddenly instead of the one or two spam messages I’d get a week from people who really “liked my blog” and wanted me to check out their new product, I got about fifteen in the last twenty-four hours. Most were from places that could be considered loosely library-oriented. All of them addressed me by name. None of them had an unsubscribe link in the email. All of them I replied to saying, fairly succinctly, “Please take me off of your email list.” Nothing worse. Nothing rude. In a few cases I’d mention that my blog didn’t actually review or mention the type of product that they were trying to promote. Then I click the “report spam” link in gmail.

A few times I’d hear back from people saying, somewhat defensively in my opinion, “Well your email address was right there on your website” or “I really am a fan of your blog” without additional specifics and with an address from or something similar. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that suddenly today my inbox was full of PR pitches. I think my name and address was sold. So, I figured I should maybe write a little post about this phenomenon. There have been other posts made by more general topic bloggers like Matt Haughey, Gina Trapani and Chris Anderson. I am already using the PR Blacklist. My angle, library centered as it is, may be a little different.

I have a review policy for printed material, tightened significantly since I had a nasty exchange with someone who misinterpreted it. Since I do a lot of public speaking I often register, or am registered for, many library events annually. In almost no cases am I given the option of not giving my personal information — hey I need to get paid, right? — or even checking a box that says “Please do not share my contact information with your advertisers.” I am aware that I have the option of staying home. I think this solution is suboptimal. I am also aware that some of this is the cost of doing business. That’s okay with me too. What I’d like is for the people who are selling these lists and buying these lists to be aware of a few things

  1. Any time I spend reading and replying to these emails is time I can’t spend doing my other jobs, jobs I love and jobs that pay and jobs that are fun
  2. I do not think there is any deficit in my current awareness reading and I do not think sending me press releases with fake familiar overtures is a way to make me think otherwise
  3. My site is not even the sort of site that does the sort of thing you want someone to do for you.
  4. has a budget of zero. There is a one in a thousand chance that a product or service that costs money will get any attention from me at all.
  5. I am aware that public relations is a numbers game and that you have chosen it for a job. Replying to my polite request to be taken off of your mailing list with defensiveness and a non-answer to the “where did you get my email address from?” question reveals that you are not really trying to have a conversation of any stripe with me.
  6. Part of the reason, in my opinion, that people respect my opinions is because I don’t shill. I’m aware that you don’t think that is what you are doing and if I could only see how awesome your product is, I would agree with you. You and I do not share that opinion.
  7. Conference planners, please give people a way to not have their personal information sold to your advertisers. This sort of thing only increases bad karma in the world.

I appreciate that times are tough and we all need to make money how and where we can. That said, unsolicited commercial email — even targeted unsolicited commercial email — is still spam as I see it and I wish people would not send it to me. Feel free to copy/paste this URL in a reply to any spammers who are plaguing you. That’s my current plan. Thanks for reading.

email @ your library, and a request

I often tell people after my talks to email me their questions if they’re longer than I can reasonably answer during a quick after-talk chat session. A librarian from New Hampshire emailed me yesterday to ask about the email classes I’ve taught, both in the library and in the adult ed classes I teach at nights. I wrote her a long chatty email about the ins and outs of teaching email classes mostly to older adults. Then I figured I’d copy it over and linkt o it here. Then I figured I’d include it a few different ways so that readers could see a few ways you can get content on the web, instantly. For those of you who just want to read about my email classes, any of these will work.

  • email class on Jottit – a very smooth interface where you get a subdomain of your choosing and can put text there. You can do this short-term or own your page wiht the addition of a password and an email address to send a lost password. Brainchild of Aaron Swartz
  • email class on pasta mostly just a text box that you can paste words into that will automatically link it to your account. I’ve used this for years and while there is no guaratnee, it often fits the bill for text I don’t want to dump directly on the blog but want to be able to talk about.
  • email class on – lets you post as text, rich text or “message board” and pick a URL starting with For a small donation you can own the URL for some length of time. Pretty basic but functional

And my question. I say in the email that I’d really like a “getting started with email” book, something totally brand-neutral that just discusses email concepts and mechanisms. I don’t care if there are branded examples, but I’m not looking for a “how to use Yahoo mail” tutorial and I’m looking for PRINT though I know I can print out a website. So, I can Google like anyone, but does such a simple book exist? I’m feeling maybe it could even be a pamphlet that if it doesn’t exist, might be better off being created one of these days.

this is broken: public library notice

Anyone know if it’s typical for libraries to send overdue notices only after the book is over a week late? Since I live in the hinterlands we don’t usually even have overdue fines, much less automated email communications with patrons. If you have advice for that particular patron, leave it in the comments of that post.

information need: mailto form for wordpress

A lot of housecleaning going on this weekend. I need a better contact form for this website. WordPress folks, what are you using? Is it mostly spamfree? Was it easy enough to install and administer? I’m looking for something ideally where I could customize it to work with my theme, add a custom subject line, and not much else. More info, slightly on the Flickr page.

wanted: plug in mailto form solution

heroism and CSS

Even though library jobs don’t pay super-well and they’re not particularly high-status positions, the opportunity for heroism and just general fairy-godmother type actions are many. I’ve only been back in town for a few days but I already helped the head of the garden club get her mailing list online, helped a woman in town sell off her old books on tape (including pictures, on Ebay) helped a woman apply for US citizenship and get her own email account so she doesn’t have to share her husband’s any longer. I have one student I work with who learns one new email feature a session, and every time she comes in and we learn, say, how to forward mail, she’ll look up at me grinning and say “It’s just like magic, itsn’t it?”

The fun part for me is that most of this work is easy for me and yet solves a large problem for other people. The most fun part is often helping out bloggers, because when you get it right, they’re likely to say all sorts of nice things about you on the Internet.