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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Having Fun With Gmail Addresses

I'm one of those guys who will stumble across a newsletter and sign up for it thinking it looks fun. Currently I get mail from several places, including, but not limited to:

  • Tigerdirect - cause I love to see how cheaply they can sell refirbished computer equipment that I STILL can't afford anyway.
  • History.com "this day in history" - Apparently this day in 1985, "Take on me" by Ah-Hah hit the top of the charts in the US. 
  • Accuweather.com alerts - Evidentally it's raining in south eastern MA. 
  • Amazon.com - No activation fees when you buy sprint phones with service... 
  • Dictionary.com's word of the day - Harrowing. Extremely disturbing or distressing; grievous. I like learning these high-dollar words, even though in 20 minutes I'll forget them and never use them. It's handy for playing scrabble though.
There are a few others, but I think you get the idea here. There are times when I'm just too busy or disinterested and wont read them at all. Actually, 9 times out of 10, I'll just mark them read and move on.

Occassionally, like this morning, I'll see one that I don't remember signing up for, and "UNSUBSCRIBE" will be very apparent on the email in my preview pane, so I'll go for it. I clicked the link this morning and it took me to a webpage where I could enter my email address and have it removed from their mailing list. So I did. However, it told me that my email address didn't match any in their database.

I sat scratching my head a moment, because my email address is matthewconlon at gmail.com, and they had a preview of it above the box that looked like: m*************@gmail.com... I knew it had to be that address, as none of my other gmail accounts start with M.

I flipped back over to my inbox, and realized that the email was sent to matthew.conlon, not matthewconlon. And yet, it still arrived to me. I did some internet sluthing, and apparently there's a bug in Gmail's system that just doesn't recognize dots in email addresses. So technically, I could send an email to m..a..t..thew.con........lon at gmail.com and it would still get to me.

Further reading revealed that you can also create aliases on the fly by adding a + to your address. Anything following the + is omitted by the system. So ma...........tthew.conlon+themanthe...myth.thelegend at gmail.com would also get to me.

As with any new information, my mind immediate begins to try to figure out what kind of mischief or practical jokes I could use this for. Unfortunately, like myself this morning, no one looks at the email address to which a message was sent if it arrived in their inbox... Other than signing friends up for newsletters like catfancy or pledging donations as them or something like that to "email+payback.for.locking.the.car.windows.after.eating.mexican at gmail.com", I couldn't really think of anything.

So I started wondering what practical use I could get out of this. Given my tendency to sign up for newsletters, it's actually pretty useful. Say I wanted to sign up for a newsletter from walmart (just for an example). I could sign up as matthewconlon+walmart at gmail.com. Then if some day I don't want it anymore, and I've clicked unsubscribe but I still get the damned newsletter (cause that does happen) I can just set a filter to delete anything that comes in to that address.

Another benefit is if I start getting spam to that address, I know who sold my contact information. ...not that I really know what to do with that information other than send a scathing letter to management telling them that I'm onto them, but would they really care? I'd probably just get a coupon for 15% off of any purchase over $600 or something like that, IF anything at all.

So, do you subscribe to newsletters? Any ones you'd recommend? Can you think of anything better to use this gmail feature for?