Opening and closing the feedback loop  MAR 13 2003

I receive great email from the people that read my site. Lots of links to interesting sites, books, music, articles, etc. People connecting what I write about with what they are thinking or reading. Thoughtful questions from enthusiastic beginners about setting up weblogs, getting into design, or making their own font. Contributions that add the depth and breadth of experience to my shallow, narrow observations. I get very little bad email.

As the traffic to this site has steadily increased over the past few years, my ability to keep up with my email has decreased. I've gone from answering all of my email almost immediately to answering all of it eventually to answering most of it eventually to now answering only some of it eventually. I could easily spend 2-3 hours a day answering my email, which, for a variety of good reasons, I don't want to do.

Now, I don't want to get less email, but I do want to set expections for people when contacting me so no one gets offended or upset when I don't respond right away or even not at all. To that end, I'm toying with replacing the email link on every page of the site with a link to a "contact me" page that lets people know all this.

I'm having a bit of trouble writing this contact page. On the one hand, I don't want to discourage people from writing with a lot of rules and warnings, but on the other hand, I want to set expectations and give people guidelines for getting in touch with me in the best way possible...remaining open while exerting some control so that the situation is manageable for everyone.

Any thoughts on this? Have you seen an approach to this type of problem on another site? Or is this just a natural trade-off that you just have to deal with?

There are 61 reader comments

Sarah32 13 2003 2:32AM

I'm a shy emailer and it would it would be a rare occasion on which I would inititate email contact with someone I didn't already have some kind of relationship with. Part of this reluctance is the fear of overburdening someone with more email than they can or wish to deal with. I would feel better, and possibly more inclined to email, if I knew the recipient knew that I knew that I may not get a response.

I would also feel better if I knew that I was unlikely to get a response rather than just not getting one without any explanation.

Anil36 13 2003 2:36AM

I'd been thinking about the same things, or at least that I would have to start having separate addresses for the purpose of filtering unmanageable email volume into manageable categories of messages. The problem is that people know that uninterestingmail@example.com isn't exactly going to get a high-priority filter.

Disclaimer text won't work. We know that because it doesn't work. Everyone thinks they're the exception to the guidelines you've set up. I think there might be a (very very small) market for a personal version of the ticket-management systems that companies use for email support. Filtering emails into types of messages, with common questions getting (essentially) canned messages in response to the majority that sit on top of the bell curve of content.

You lose the fact that it's a "personal" site, of course, when you do that. Email to an individual doesn't scale. When I got bombarded with hate mail a few months back, I did resort to writing a generalized response to lots of the emails and then just copying & pasting the relevant parts into individual replies that covered the majority of the messages I got.

It may be that the only solution is to either be less personal or more forgiving of yourself for the guilt you feel about not responding.

pthree36 13 2003 2:36AM

I don't think you should have to go to any great lengths to justify how you spend your time. A simple blurb stating something like "Due to the incredible volume of correspondence i receive, i am unable to reply to every message, thank you for your question(s) or comment(s)" It's not as if you owe anyone anything. pthree

sam21 13 2003 3:21AM

here's my suggestion. i based it upon your original post, actually. please feel free to use it, in whole or in part, as you see fit. or throw it all away.

cheers
sam

------

dear reader,
once upon a time, very few people read this website and, as such, i got very little email from readers. at that time, since there was so little email, i could write back to everyone who wrote to me.

nowadays, it seems that all sorts of folks write to me. you send me links, insight regarding my posts, lots of good questions, and it's just great to get all that mail. and it really is a great deal of email. much more than i used to get.

here's the thing; i don't want to fool anybody. even as the amount of email i receive goes up, the amount of time i have to sit down and write back goes down. life gets busier all the time, and nobody really wants to spend their whole day writing email.

so i'm not asking anyone not to write to me. and i'm not even saying i won't write back. but i might not. what i promise is this: i'll read every email i get, and i will try to reply to as much of it as i can.

Mike35 13 2003 3:35AM

On TV over there there's a fairly standard 'disclaimer' on most programmes where letters and correspondance are invited from the viewers which I think could be of use to you.

I don't recall the exact wording but it is to the effect of:

"Though your [insert form of contact here] are important to use, due to the volume of [insert form of contact here] we receive we are unable to reply to each of you individually."

"However, please be assured we do read all of your [insert form of contact here] and they are very important to us."

Just a thought, but would having comments enabled for more posts reduce the amount of email you receive?

Good luck,

Mike

mog46 13 2003 3:46AM

You could go the comprehensive route and add if and when I can provided something doesn't crash and wipe out all my email or something similar which covers all eventualities. You shouldn't feel obligated to respond to everything or respond in a timely manner. With the volume of email many people get, most people should understand. I credit the idea for those disclaimers to my friend, James Huggins.

Form letters aren't terribly personal and many people, me included, have received Yahoo's form letters and they tend to be irritating. Not recommended.

Whether you go with a more comprehensive disclaimer or a simple I'm swamped, most people will understand.

sanj55 13 2003 3:55AM

just copy Alison (bluishorange.com) -

mini faq with contact form.

http://www.bluishorange.com/green.php4?x=contact.html


darinsan21 13 2003 4:21AM

I think the reality is, as far as blogging and bloggers go, you are somewhat of a celebrity.

So examine the model of the celebrity or sports star: venturing out in public is a taxing experience, whether they choose the route of signing autographs, posing for pictures and taking opinions about their last movie or jump shot, or they decide to avoid the photographers, don some dark glasses, and skulk about in wishful obscurity.

To answer your question: Yes, there is a trade-off. Celebrity means demands on your time from people you don't know, who may not realize you have bad days too, or are overwhelmed with email or get sick, etc.

My advice is to offer your readers a simple blurb that sets the expectation a reply may not be possible. I think you have attained a large enough reader base that someone will take what you write the wrong way, no matter how delicately worded it is.

Do the best you can with the time you decide to set aside.

Benjy27 13 2003 6:27AM

Allow comments on all posts, so people can respond there instead of by email. Other readers might then answer questions for you, or you could reply once in a comment instead of answering similar comments/questions received in multiple emails.

Ashley38 13 2003 7:38AM

why not just have an autoresponder and have the contact page go to a different email adress than you normally use.

the autoresponder can be turned on in busy times. Just states that you have a life and may not be able to repky to all emails. dont take it personally :)

anyway no need to be so worried abotu offending people

davidpbrown52 13 2003 7:52AM

Try a guestbook or visitors book.. it cuts down peoples expectations. I have about half comments there, half by email not that I have as many visitors as you but reading the mails I get gives a sense of whether people expect a reply. Many don't..

Arve39 13 2003 8:39AM

I don't think there's one universal way to handle this, but I think both the volume of mail, and people's expectation of an answer could be lowered if you removed your e-mail address from the sidebar, and replaced it with a contact page, listing your e-mail address and a simple message along these lines:

"Due to the incredible amount of e-mail I'm receiving, I cannot gurantee that everybody will receive a personal answer. I will however, to my best effort attempt to read all incoming mail."

The keyword here is "attempt". You aren't making any promises, and you won't be insulting anyone by instructing them on acceptable subjects.

Feedback forms are IMHO a very bad idea, because they are inherently unfriendly to anyone who wishes to contact you, since they have to go to extraordinary steps to archive whatever it is they sent you.

rajah02 13 2003 9:02AM

damn it kottke why haven't you written me!

Anon17 13 2003 9:17AM

You can use an automatic reply thus eliminating the need for a "contact me" page (you won't be discouraging people). The automatic reply will tell people that you get loads of email, that you read them all, but simply can not reply to most of them, but they are appreciated. To that effect.

Tim30 13 2003 9:30AM

I like the idea of leaving comments open for more (if not all) posts, but doing so would require monitoring on your part, which again could be time-consuming.

I definitely like the idea of a contact form that forwards to a separate e-mail address. It's an automatic filter for all messages coming in from the site, and should cut down on the amount of mail you receive in your main mail account.

To be honest, when I send e-mail to people that I know are busy (like Mr. Kottke here), I usually only make a comment that can be replied to, but rarely pose a question that I would like a response to (except for the French Laundry thing).

Jason38 13 2003 9:38AM

As somebody who wrote you with web design questions for the very first time a few days ago, I may have contributed to the "problem," I guess. But what you should know (and perhaps I should have written in the e-mail) is that after reading your website thoroughly, I knew that you would probably not get back to my e-mail for a while, if at all. I think you made this very clear on your site. Of course, not everybody is as thorough as myself. :)

I would hate to see the site become less "personal" because I think it's one of the things that drew me to your site in the first place. An autoresponder wouldn't be a bad idea and I like the thing that Sam came up with. If people think they're an exception to the rule, well...tough for them. You're only human, you can only do so much. My expectations were set before I e-mailed you. If I hear back in a few months or not at all, no big deal. I knew what I was getting into.

Tamar06 13 200310:06AM

Like Sarah, I'm a shy emailer. I'm also a bit cynical and I'd never send a letter to a company or person who I thought had little intention of reading and/or replying to what I wrote. This isn't a criticism by any means—hey, I have trouble replying to my regular, personal email, and I'm impressed that you provide your address at all. But in terms of disclaimers, I liked your idea about establishing some email guidelines. In the past those have encouraged me to post, rather than the other way around. It's helpful to know what type of message you generally skip over, or if there's a more effective way of getting it to you (guestbook, comments below posts, etc.) I say, be as blatant as you want, e.g. "I will only repsond to concise, well-written nuanced questions that aren't overtly or implicitly answered in my FAQ."

And, congrats on attaining email overflow, a definite mark of distinction!

Redmond12 13 200310:12AM

Take the new internet model approach:
Open a paypal account.
Free content.
Pay for emailing you.

:)

Charles Hartman19 13 200310:19AM

Having written you a few days ago wanting to hire you to help me with two new sites... my expectations were one of a variety of short replies like "not for me, but try the following starving but talented designers with MT experience" or "ok, we can talk but you should know this kind of work would cost a minimum of $___" or possibly "get off my shoes newbie blogling!" ... I figured that "sounds interesting, let's talk about it" was a possible, if low probability reply. Anyway, I certainly understand the fact that I may receive no reply at all... Generally speaking, with the increasingly numerous new ways to leave people messages and the ease with which this can be accomplished, our culture is changing with regard to people's expections of getting a response.

jkottke20 13 200310:20AM

Disclaimer text won't work. We know that because it doesn't work.

Disclaimers do work, they just don't work all the time for everyone. Tone, style, and placement have a lot to do with how well they work or don't work. You might as well say that user experience stuff never works.

Allow comments on all posts, so people can respond there instead of by email.

Most posts on this site don't warrant public discourse, and I don't want to turn my site into MetaFilter (the MT comment system just isn't built to easily manage a large number of active conversations). Ideally there should be some sort of MT/email hack so that when people wanted to email me about a particular post, they email to a post-specific email address and it would show up in my inbox but also on the page for that post (but I can only see it when I'm "logged in" to my site). There's a whole lot I've been thinking about in regard to using a weblog to organize information in a semi-public way rather than the standard completely public way, but that's for another post.

Marshall18 13 200311:18AM

I think Zeldman says it very well.

Dan22 13 200311:22AM

Take a look at the contact form on As The Apple Turns (an entertaining Mac news/opinion column on hiatus at the moment):

http://www.appleturns.com/contact/

I think their reply priority menu is good way to go, although I wonder if the highest priority is really ever necessary:

Sadly, we can't reply to everyone.
Choose a reply priority:
No Reply Necessary.
Reply if you feel like it.
Reply if you can.
PLEASE Reply -- Urgent!

Chris Thompson26 13 200311:26AM

You could always turn comments on for all entries. This is an issue I struggled with when I was setting my own site back up last month. Technical issues have forced me to turn off comments for now (Ahh, XML), but I miss the give and take of comments from when I ran my blog actively last year.
I'd think that if you have high traffic, people being able to simply comment on your various entries might cut down your traffic.
Barring that, I'd probably do an autoresponder that tells people that you're insanely busy and not to be offended if you don't reply. Of course, I wonder how many people would actually be offended. I certainly wasn't when you didn't reply to the single email I sent.

EJY30 13 200311:30AM

A "contact form" definitely strips the intimacy of your blog. You are not a wireless phone company or a national bank, dude. Albeit an extraordinarily popular blog, it is still a *personal* blog.

Why not just set up an auto-responder to your email address? And the message doesn't need to be a big deal, either. "Don't be offended if I don't write back. I'm just swamped, yo. Thanks for writing, though." would work just fine with me if I was at the receiving end.

Offnote: auto-responder should be set up so that it only replies back to address once every X hours (typically 24), so that you don't set off a sick, never-ending cycle in the event that recepient has an auto-responder set up as well.

Just a thought.

paul35 13 200311:35AM

wil wheaton used to have a great autoreply that was a mock generic email explaining that he too receives too many emails and can't get to every one. sure autoreplies that are always on kind of suck, but this one was really funny, so i personally had a chuckle and silently came to terms with wesley crusher not returning my email.

s.jack39 13 200311:39AM

Your polite Midwestern roots are showing.

My approach to email has always been to never expect a response, with the exception of co-workers (though that's changing too), friends, and relatives. That way, when I get one, it's gravy.

I understand some folks don't manage expectations like that, but if they read your weblog, they know you're busy. It's not a giant deductive leap to conclude that you're not going to answer every mail.

And from there, it's not hard to realize that your top priority in email will be business-related responses and friends.

Patrik42 13 200311:42AM

What you need is an Eliza type script that answeres all your emails for you. Based on certain keywords within the mails you recieve, it would reply with pre-packaged answeres.

You're visitors will be happy thanks to the swift replies and you'll never need to touch email ever again!

matt pfeffer45 13 200311:45AM

why not just have an autoresponder and have the contact page go to a different email adress than you normally use.

This is what I was thinking, too.

Disclaimers are a turn-off. You can't say to someone, I might not think what you have to say merits an actual reply, and not have it be discouraging. (I know that's not what one wants to say -- but it's the message a reader inevitably gets; there's nothing you can do about it.)

Far better, I think, to openly invite feedback and emails without qualification, and then, in an auto-reply, express appreciation as well as the hope that you will have time to respond, at a later time, in a more personal matter.

Failing that, the contact form should be appreciative, but dispense with making excuses. It's spirit should be along the lines of: "You can reach me using this address, or the form below. Your thoughts are greatly appreciated, and I hope I will have the time and opportunity to respond to you personally."

Arve02 13 200312:02PM

I realise I might disagree with the general public here, but I strongly dislike autoresponders, because they feel very impersonal, and whenever I receive one, I always get this feeling: "Uh-oh. I just sent an email directly to {insert corporation name}'s trash can. I won't ever bother again."

Bill08 13 200312:08PM

First of all, I like 9.

Just put the text up that you think appropriate. People are fools if they think that their unsolicited email to a stranger should always be answered.

judith35 13 200312:35PM

my favorite contact page is my friend colin moock's. he has good links for people looking for answers to specific questions, and he indicates his general level of receptivity/busyness with the page's background color.

jkottke51 13 200312:51PM

Ooh, that's a good one, Judith. Thanks!

jack54 13 200312:54PM

Regarding the "Though your [insert form of contact here] are important to use, due to the volume of [insert form of contact here] we receive we are unable to reply to each of you individually."

I think it sounds too damn corporate, as if you're hiding behind lawyers or something, afraid to step on any toes.

Just something simple like you're talking to the person...

something like...

"I like blueberry pie. Answering emails take time away from my eating of said pie.
I like blueberry pie.
Thank you for understanding."

-j

snr08 13 2003 1:08PM

When a node in the network reaches a certain age & connectivity, the rate of link death passes the rate of new link attachment. This is followed by a strengthening of the remaining links. You can try to reverse or retard the process, but you'll only end up putting more strain on the links that really matter & weaken your place in the network. Few & strong or many & weak, one or the other.

s/n:r

Anthony Baker36 13 2003 1:36PM

Create a BBS for the site.

That way, you can create message topics (maybe based on posts or whatever other subjects of interest you have) and people can populate their messages there. Also, regular readers may end up responding to messages others post.

There are a lot of great, free PHP-based BBS apps out there that would probably work brilliantly for this.

From your part and the reader's part, posts could be searchable, as well. It would probably make managing the volume of messages you get much easier.

Jonathan47 13 2003 1:47PM

You should hire an intern to sort through all your email.
I agree with Arve, auto-responses are WORSE than no reply at all.
A very nice contact page:
a.lifeuncommon.org

Alstki58 13 2003 1:58PM

It seems to me that if people take the time and make the effort to write you, you probably owe them something in response. If you are unable to do that (and understandly so, if you are swamped with mail), I'm not so sure you should be encouraging people to write you.

It's a trade off. This 'please keep writing me, but don't expect a response' business doesn't work for me.

Michael23 13 2003 2:23PM

Ditto on Zeldman's contact page. Short, to-the-point. Not overwrought. Not offensive.

Mark39 13 2003 2:39PM

I'll do the evil "make an assumption" thing and say that at least part of the problem can be alleviated with the help of something you pointed out yourself:

"Lots of links to interesting sites, books, music, articles, etc. People connecting what I write about with what they are thinking or reading. Thoughtful questions from enthusiastic beginners about setting up weblogs, getting into design, or making their own font."

The second assumption here is, of course, that you're _interested_ in reading/replying to more mail than you currently are.

Based on these two assumptions, it sounds to me like you should set up a feedback page (with a web form/mailer script) that asks readers to categorize their email (links/font help/book recommendation); blog-entry specific responses should more or less be relegated to comments. These categorized emails should/will be filtered in some way to make it (much) easier for you to sift through and process them (or, beyond filtering, even sent to different mail addresses based on their content -- you could even offload a certain address ("links@kottke.org") to another person/helper if you ever get to that point) .

Once you know that a collection of emails you are about to "take on" are all pre-sorted as "link recommendations" you can either:

1) prepare yourself to surf for a while and investigate these links.
2) realize that you have all the links you can handle right now and ignore them.
3) fairly easily gather the senders' addresses and send at-least-a-semi personilized group-email back saying, "Thanks for the link...I always appreciate...whatever...ack...bleh...gloop".

Similar thoughts hold for the other categories and feedback "types".

Also, obviously, this would be an easily expandable and adaptable system and you add/determine that you have better/improved/more specific categorizations for the type of feedback you get/want.

I'm also a big fan of reserving a special email address that you give out only to the "special" people who you "want" to hear from (like, say, your parents/close friends)--"therealjason@kottke.org". "therealjason" as opposed to "thejasonthatgetsalotofmailandcantreadallofit". It's a lot easier to find that mail from mom or dad when it's not sitting in the middle of 50 link recommendations. Of course, filtering can do something like this, but you usually have to get at least one email from the person (which might get lost) before you can put them on the "hot" filter list. By keeping a special address you avoid this potential problem, while also having an address you can hand out, with discretion.

Daniel06 13 2003 3:06PM

You might ask Dan Perkins (a fellow New Yorker) if his disclaimer works. I'm sure he deals with plenty of "flaming, trolling, and ass-kissing" in his inbox.

http://www.thismodernworld.com/pages/cont/cont_fr.html

Cheers,
Daniel Stout

Vince48 13 2003 3:48PM

I wonder whether the problem is really that you don't have time, or rather don't have time to sort all your inbound email.

A couple of ideas then based on the latter.

One:
I like sam's idea as it lays it out pretty much as it is. On top of that I'd make the user read it by putting it on one page, and having to click through to your actual comments acceptance page. At least this way, in theory, people read it, get the picture, then move on to actually leave the comment (or not). Provides food for thought.

Two:
As above per sam. Skip the 2nd page idea. Then, in your webform, maybe a list of checkboxes "I want to hire you" "I need your blog advice" "Do you know how to" "I think your site is c00l" and these checkboxes feed into the note so that you can prioritize what's important to you, right now, and determine how best to respond. I'm thinking that you open most notes just to see what's important and this idear may save you a bit of time.

At any rate handling a high volume of emails is tough in any case. Oh, that reminds me to one last point... if the volume is heavy, cut it back to one way of contact (pick one) so that you don't have to prioritize between multiple places.

...Vince

Phillip Harrington38 13 2003 4:38PM

Random thoughts (all in good fun):

We should all be able to whine about these kinds of problems. Get over yourself.

Have a form with:
I want a reply (0) - I don't want a reply (*)
Then when they click "I want a reply" have javascript select "I don't want a reply" again. It will eliminate half your email right there.

Just have the feedback form say "If I don't reply it means I hate you" or something... (Seriously - people will read a disclaimer if it's short.)

"If I don't reply in 5 minutes please dial 1-212-..." and insert the number to someone you want to annoy. "Why do people keep calling and asking for some guy named Jason?"

If you're so swamped with email, how can you possibly read these comments???

I'll help your traffic problem out by not linking to you anymore.

:-) Love, Phil

Andy51 13 2003 4:51PM

Contact page sounds good. Whatever you do dont have a contact form because it will most likely get abused. Well on my last site it did.

WebPhenom07 13 2003 6:07PM

How about getting a life and quit whining. Who cares if you cant read your e-mail or reply to everyone. Life will continue!

Stu10 13 2003 6:10PM

You could always set up a website where people can leave those links, then other people could comment on them and discuss them. Oh wait, someone already did that.

dws18 13 2003 6:18PM

How about a small bar chart at the top of the contact page, with a BIG bar that says "I get this much email", and a smaller bar that says "But I can only answer this much".

CT15 14 2003 2:15AM

I don't feel that the personal touch would be diminished without email. I come to this site because I can relate to what your blog says. On the rare occasion I would write you, simply having the option to know that you are reading it, is ok by me.

Tom Coates05 14 2003 6:05AM

I removed my e-mail address from my site ages ago to try and cut down on the strangers who tried to contact me. It kind of works, but it's a bit of a con reallly, and I feel a bit churlish. I would replace it with an contact me form if I believed it wouldn't get picked up and spammed to death in one way or another, but unfortunately I'm dubious.

Martin33 14 2003 9:33AM

Firstly, filter. don't treat email from the site as personal email - get it shunted into another folder marked "website info".

Seperate your personal email address from the site one.

Set up the 'contact me' page to email to you based on subject (perhaps a drop-down menu that allows visitors to choose what type of message they are sending you, along with a priority setting).

Next, create a text field on the contact me page that has a maximum character limit - and explain to people that they need to keep it brief. This should make the messages easier to read, and thereby easier to respond to.

Next, get that feedback email address to auto-respond, it's always nice to get a decent message, even if it is an automated one.

Dan Gillmor has some nice comments on his site about sending him email, which helps to lower people's expectations of a quick response.

Lastly, discipline yourself to respond to messages as soon as you read them.

I work for the BBC, and sometimes I get thousands of queries/messages/comments every week.

As a rule, we have to respond to every single message, no matter how trivial, within 48 hours.

You get used to doing it - but we're always brief and to the point with a reply.

Oh - and ignore/delete the crap.

David09 14 200310:09AM

Charge just one penny to read and 99% will disappear. Harsh, but unfortunately true.

Bobby42 14 200311:42AM

The answer is simple JJ. You need to hire a staff to screen your email for you.

I'll send my resume asap! :)

Mark Crane32 14 2003 1:32PM

I would just enable comments on posts and deflate the posting vibe that way. Hey, wait a minute...

Chris Reid15 14 2003 2:15PM

Quit working and spend every waking hour answering emails (and reading comments).

ess58 14 2003 2:58PM

Comments comments comments!!! I see no reason why you'd have to monitor them.

Several times, I've almost written because of a question about a post. (Either you asked one and I knew the answer or your post confused me.) But I didn't want to clutter your inbox.

Comments. Let readers comment.

MPH46 14 2003 3:46PM

"Now, I don't want to get less email, but I do want to set expections for people when contacting me so no one..."

I'm in complete agreeance.

Grant57 14 2003 6:57PM

If you don't read your email, you're probably not reading this far.

But here goes: Most email is needy. It's grasping and demanding. It rarely gives, and when it does, it give uselessly and superfluously. On one site I administer, all the email is needy. It comes from students, elementary through college, doctoral candidates, professional journalists, and everyday people. They all want something, even if it's just attention. Usually they want me to do their homework for them or write their article for them. Nine times out of ten they could find the answer with a simple Google search or a trip to the library. But they email. They are needy, their email is needy.

How do we respond to needy people? By giving. We make them indebted to us, and sometimes we make them dependent on us. Neither is healthy.

So, my response would be: Fuck 'em. Change your email address, add a whitelist, and pipe everything else do /dev/null.

That is all.

Raphy03 14 2003 8:03PM

I agree. Enable comments on all posts.

steve20 15 2003 1:20PM

Look, email is too easy. It's simply too easy for me to contact you. So, why shouldn't it be easy for you to have the courtesy to respond to me?

All a disclaimer can do is offer an explanation as to why you are not responding.

So, write a good one. Whether it be funny, or a color coded background, or however you choose to express yourself...

Additionally, I think allowing a person to indicate whether they want a response or not is no filter. It creates the expectation for those that want a response that you will respond.

The only other alternative is to in fact answer all your email. It doesn't even have to be a long response. But a response that indicates YOU read it and YOU are responding to it. Some sort of personal touch.

That's it.

In conclusion, write a good disclaimer, get prepared for the disgruntled emailer who never got a response and move along....


zaz42 15 2003 2:42PM

I like contact forms, because I can write from the website without opening the email program, if it's not open already. I like short, funny (friendly) ones, just very simply saying "thanks for writing, it's appreciated", etc. Just don't add much in terms of explaining why you may not reply, I don't like people detailing too much why they're busy to the point they make it sound as if it they were involved in some james bond top secret mission and you're just lounging about wasting their precious time while they're trying to save the world or something. if you go into lengthy explanations, it can sound too pretentious, and too reminiscent of "please hold, our operators are busy".

I'd say, just skip any disclaimer, it's implied that your job is not answering emails - but try and write back just one word or two of acknowledgement.

When it's a personal site, not a company, no one forces you to reply - but no one forces you to put your email address on your site either. So you're making a choice the moment you publish your contact details on your site.

I'd go with something like the lifeuncommon instance, and maybe with the "I want a reply-I don't want a reply" options - that would be enough in way of "disclaimer" really. also, I liked the advice from BBC Martin. and NO autoresponders, they're worse than anything.

Mark Crane52 15 2003 2:52PM

This is actually a good idea:

Set up a contact address.

Put SpamAssassin in reverse, or tweak Procmail, so it sorts based on content and/or subject. Give people a contact form with drop down subject selection. It'd take about two hours, but that's two hours you'll earn back later.

Rich Lafferty24 15 2003 3:24PM

One more for comments on all posts. That'll give people a chance to respond and know that you will probably see it, while _lowering_ their expectations for a response from you (while still keeping open the possibility that others will engage them).

This thread is closed to new comments. Thanks to everyone who responded.

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