Greg Black
Mailing lists
Free software

Contacting me
FAQ list
Personal stuff
GnuPG/PGP keys

Why did you not answer my email?

Most likely, one of the explanations below will provide the answer to this question. If you believe that none of these applies, or if you believe that you really should have received an answer, you can try once more — but don't send the same email many times. Some of the answers in the list below suggest methods for getting email to me; if they apply, then you may wish to give those suggestions a try.

However, if you keep trying to send me email that ignores the guidelines below, don't expect to get a reply; and don't be surprised if your system is blocked from connecting here.

And don't forget: if I don't know you, there's no guarantee that I'll ever reply, no matter how perfectly your email follows the guidelines.

The most common reasons

It was something you should have researched for yourself

Perhaps you asked me a trivial question that you could have done some preliminary research on yourself using Google or some other similar service. If you have done some research, you need to explain what you did and why it did not help.

It should have gone to a mailing list

Perhaps you wrote directly to me to followup something that I posted to a mailing list or perhaps you just wrote direct to me with a question because you had seen my contributions to a related mailing list. In either case, your questions should be directed to the list, not to me. This is to give you the best chance of obtaining a timely and useful answer. I may not even read your email for some days; I may have nothing to say about the particular question; I may choose not to answer for any of the other reasons given below.

This is not to be confused with sending me a copy of a message that you are sending to a mailing list — I will only see whichever copy arrives here first and I have no problem with that. What I don't want to see is questions addressed solely to me, for the reasons given in the previous paragraph.

It was blocked or dropped

If your email was blocked, you will most likely have received a bounce message from here, giving the reason. In general, it will be because your mail host has been guilty of bad behaviour in the past (e.g., delivering spam); if that's the case, you're out of luck unless you setup another email account and write from there.

If your email was dropped, you will have no way of knowing about it. I use procmail to drop email from annoying senders, or about annoying subjects, or for a variety of other reasons. Such email is silently delivered to /dev/null. Again, you may be able to work around this, if you have a good reason, as described in the preceding paragraph.

It looked like spam

I have an extremely low tolerance for spam. Anything that looks even remotely like spam gets deleted instantly. Make sure that your email does not invite this reflex action.

It looked like a flame or pointless complaint

I have very low tolerance for flames or for pointless complaints and whining. Anything that appears to fall into these categories will probably be deleted unread and is most unlikely to attract an answer. Senders of such email are also likely to find themselves blocked.

It was badly formatted or hard to read

Like you, I am busy. I don't have the time or the patience to work at reading my email. If it's nicely set out, punctuated and spelt properly, uses quoted material with restraint and in the normal manner, then I'll probably read it. If it includes an entire previous message with mailing list trailers, or long signatures, or other stuff that makes it hard to read, I won't read it.

In particular, if it demonstrates utter incompetence with your mail software that results in lines of random lengths, quoted material that turns into a mess, or other unsightly effects, I will glance at it just long enough to see this and I'll immediately delete it.

For quoted material, make sure that you trim irrelevant sections (especially mailing list junk, signatures, etc); interleave your own comments with the quoted material, placing your contributions below the particular material that you're commenting on. Any deviation from this tried and true method will result in your email being ignored.

It was too long or it included attachments

I generally won't read long email, unless it's in response to a specific invitation from me. I will never read email that has unsolicited attachments and I'll probably block people who send attachments.

It was not interesting

I may have already said all I have to say on this topic; or I may simply not find it sufficiently interesting. In either case, there's nothing you can do except live with it.

It was not plain text

If you send me email in some proprietary format (e.g., a Word document), or in HTML, I won't read it. If you send it as a multipart/alternative, I probably won't read it even though it has a text/plain part. The only acceptable form for email is straight text/plain.

It covered too many topics

If you're writing to ask me a question or to report a bug or anything else non-personal, please limit yourself to one topic per message. I may be able to answer one question instantly and then forget it; if the message contains other questions, then it starts to be a burden to me and I'll probably just ignore the whole thing.

Copyright © 2001, 2003 Greg Black — All Rights Reserved
$Id: email.html 2.3 2003-06-21 11:03:04+10 gjb Exp $

Back to top