Shonky email etiquette after 18 months away from my BBC email address

 by Martin Belam, 8 August 2007

So I'm now firmly back in Greece after a two week jaunt to the UK to do some work at the BBC and to visit a couple of other clients.

I had a really enjoyable trip, with a whirlwind tour of London staying at several different friends houses - which included the ultimate geek-out joy of ordering customised Pizza from Domino's over the internet using the Wii console and a TV.

Being back at the BBC was quite a strange experience. In some ways it was very comfortable, with lots of familiar faces and projects still ticking along.

I did though, on my first day, get a horrible fright and suddenly started thinking 'Did I dream all that travelling and living in Greece?'.

This feeling that I'd just stepped back into my old job after an 18 month holiday was exacerbated by the fact that rather then issuing a temporary pass to me, the BBC re-issued my old staff ID card. Complete with a picture first taken in Bush House in 2000, when I used to wear glasses.

Martin Belam circa 2000

I was also rather horrified to find that when I logged onto my new BBC computer, I already had 148 emails sitting in my inbox. Siemens had simply reactivated my old email address a couple of weeks before I arrived, and so I had a mountain of mail to manage.

In amongst the spam were a couple of speculative emails from people who presumably never knew that I'd ever left the organisation.

And a lot of email newsletters that I used to be subscribed to.

It was interesting to see the people whose email marketing software wasn't configured to stop sending after receiving a bounce for every mail they'd sent in the previous 18 months.

The BBC themselves were responsible for some of them. The Majordomo system that is used to power a lot of the BBC's email services had faithfully been sending my address updates from the mailing list, collective, 6music, and various other newsletters I used to be subscribed to.

Not all BBC email goes through that system however, and I was pleased to see that the Daily BBC News email, distributed by a system I helped to deliver, had correctly unsubscribed me automatically following bounce rules.

The BBC wasn't the only broadcaster at fault. Channel 4's Snowmail was faithfully sent in excess of 400 times during my absence to the BBC, with all of them bouncing until a couple of weeks ago., Virgin Wines, and The Ark Group were all also to blame.

As, more surprisingly perhaps, were Google.

Google Alerts logo

Like all good self-confessed blogging publicity-seeking whores, I have several vanity Google Alerts set-up so that I can be notified the instant that anyone mentions anything I've ever done anywhere on the internet. Well, almost, anyway.

These used to be, and it seems still are, delivered to my old address.

Google have faithfully and dutifully been noting the publication of our entire travelling blog and 'A lemon tree of our own', and then sending links to them to my old work email address, oblivious to the fact that the job I've left behind has been equally faithfully bouncing them straight back.

As one friend observed, it isn't as if Google can't afford the bandwidth, but it is a pretty fundamental failing for a system sending out dynamic emails. It is indicative of how poorly productised some of the things to emerge from Google Labs have been.

I'm pleased to be able to say though, that whilst I was in the UK, I agreed to do some further work for the BBC on two projects in September and October, so I daresay I shall have a very full inbox the next time I login at White City.

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