How To Blow It From “From”


I’m amazed by how many times this happens, and it always seems to be PR folk in the technology industry who are the culprits: An email where the sender, say Geoff Blah, hasn’t filled in the ‘From’ field in his email program or service so it appears in my inbox as from ‘’ or, sometimes, just gblah. (Yes, very lame for a PR person to be using their AOL account to send out pitches, but that’s another story.)

Why is not having any ‘from’ name not good?

  • Well, first off, it looks shoddy. It would be like sending me a letter and not bothering to actually put your name at the bottom, requiring me to decipher your handwriting. Or handing out namecards without an actual name on. Your emails are your business cards.
  • Secondly, it suggests a lack of technological prowess that may undermine you, or your agency’s, claims of being ‘best of breed’ or whatever is the cool term these days. One I received this morning was from a PR agency that claims expertise in consumer technology and IT technology. (The same agency hasn’t bothered to check its DNS registration, so entering the website’s name without the www’s —, not – – will result in an error. This further erodes my confidence in their much trumpeted ‘technical savvy.’)
  • Thirdly, it raises the chance of the email itself being discarded as spam. A lot of spam filters check these header fields for unusual or inconsistent activity and not having the ‘From’ alias field filled is one of them.
  • Fourthly, it irritates me and I hate being irritated in the morning.

So, all together now: Fill in your name in your email program or online service. Anything less looks like you’re either in a real hurry or you’re not sure what you’re doing.

How To Fix The Annoying Ringtone Problem

Ringtones. The day of the fancy, polyphonic, clip-from-your-favorite-song-or-theme-tune ringtone is here. Especially in North Asia, it seems. And it’s annoying. It’s like hearing someone turning on a radio full-blast and then turning it off, and jabbering instead. Either you’re just beginning to get into the music, or recognise it, and it’s off. I thought I would never say this, but I miss the inane, twee, monophonic warbles of the old cellphone. At least you knew it was a phone, and what the tune was. Is there nothing better?

You could argue that everyone having their personalized call sign is good, because they know it’s their phone. No longer do you have people grabbing at bags, pockets or private parts thinking the phone ringing is theirs. Unless, of course, everyone just loves the same song so much they all choose it as their ringtone.

But all this does is shift the problem from getting your peace and quiet shattered by inane monophonic warble to getting it shattered by two bars of inane pop tune. It doesn’t seem to actually help any of us excise the intrusion that is the cellphone ringing in public. We’re still looking, in my view, for a way for people to know their phone is ringing without everyone else hearing about it.

My solution is simple, and probably not very original. But I haven’t read it anywhere else, so until someone points me there, I’ll assume this is My Own Idea. When people buy their phone, they record their own voice saying ‘hi, this is Joey. Leave a message’ for the voicemail. Then Joey hands it over to his mother/father/foster parent or other significant elder in the family and has them call out “Joey!’ at a reasonable volume. That recording becomes Joey’s ringtone.

The point? Joey’s always going to recognise his ma’s voice, across the room, across town, across continents. Mothers’ voices have that kind of quality. So he’s going to hear his phone ringing. But everyone else on the train? Unless they’re called Joey, it won’t register. If they are called Joey, it’s unlikely the voice is going to have quite the same impact. Simple. Joey will know his phone’s ringing. No one else is disturbed, because people are calling other people’s names all the time.

Ok, the business end of all this? Set up an online service that lets people record and store them saying their children’s/spouses/relatives’ names. Every time one of the folk involved buys a new phone, they can just synchronise it with the website and download the appropriate voice calling their name, even after Ma has passed onto that cellphone-free waiting room in the sky. Cellphone providers etc would jump at the advertising opportunities. is taken, but doesn’t seem to be yet. I’m onto it.

News: The Future of Music and DRM

 For those of you interested in the debate about copyright protection for music (digital rights management, or DRM, as it’s called) here’s an interesting article from the industry point of view — and a lively discussion on the lively Slashdot forum (some contributions are more, er, erudite than others).
Something I think hasn’t been thought through by either side on the debate is that once a product ceases to be purely the property of the holder — like a CD — then problems will occur. What happens if I want to sell the music I’ve downloaded via an online service using DRM? What happens when I want to sell software I’ve bought that uses an activation feature? In the old days I could just sell my CDs, or CD-ROMs, out of the trunk of my car.

News: Phew. Search Engines Are Safe, For Now

  From the I Didn’t Know I Was Breaking The Law Dept, you’ll be relieved to know that deep linking is now legal, at least in Germany. Thank God for that. Er, what is deep linking?
Basically a deep link takes you from one webpage to another page that isn’t the homepage on another website. Nothing wrong with that, I hear you say. But what if the link takes you to an article in a pay-as-you-surf database?
The excellent TechDirt website alerts us to a report that says the German Federal Court of Justice last week issued a verdict “holding that an online service which offers links to articles in a protected database is not in violation of copyright and competition law”, rejecting arguments that deep links deprive folk of revenue because they take users directly to news articles, bypassing introductory pages and advertising. 
As the article says, a decision the other way may have eventually put an end to search engines, which are nothing more than a list of deep links. “Try to imagine the Internet without search engines!” the article concludes.