Slide Of The Conference

Written by Piers Cawley on

Britt Selvitelle of Twitter gave a cracking talk at RailsConf Europe about scaling Rails applications to Twitter scale. It was great. Full of advice that we shall definitely be taking on board as we continue to develop amazing tunes. However, the last slide before the inevitable “Any Questions?” was the slide of the conference. It read:

It’s 2007. Every spammer has your email address. Put it on your goddamn webpage so people can get ahold of you about interesting things

I was the only person in the room who applauded.

I’m enough of an old fart (I was 40 a couple of Saturdays ago. I don’t think I’m properly old, but, on the net it feels positively ancient) that I remember getting annoyed at people obfuscating their sender addresses so that I couldn’t simply hit r in rn to reply to them directly rather than wibbling on channel. This was especially annoying when I was replying with an answer to a question they’d asked.

In the (my stats tell me) unlikely event that you’re reading this directly on the webpage, you’ll see my email address, complete with mailto: link. The wayback machine tells me it’s been there since at least February 2006, I’ve been using the same email address, unobfuscated, on mailing lists, newsgroups, business cards and presentation slides for over 10 years now. Yes, I get spammed, so will you. So do you, I’ll bet. But I’ll pay the cost of making it easy for spammers if it also makes it easy for people I want to hear from to get in touch with me. Spammers are predictable; that’s why spamfilters work most of the time. Interested people - people who are prepared to send me relevant mail - are golden.

The marketing types will tell you that clicks cost money. Every screen your customer has to go through before you get her money is another place she could decide she has better things to do. And, presumably, she is going to get something tangible at the end of that process so she’s motivated to go all the way through the process.

Someone who wants to send you email has far less motivation than that. The reader who thinks, “Ooh, Piers has missed something there, but I the comment box is the wrong place to bring it up.” or “Ooh, Piers Cawley, I haven’t seen him since we were at university, I should drop him a line” will be far more likely to act on that impulse and send that mail if it’s one click away. If they have to go and google my address from an obscure newgroup, or crack pdcawley [at] bofh [dot] org [dot] uk, or some other fatuous scheme designed to hide me from bad guys who already know where I live…

You’re intelligent people; you know what’s going to happen.

Seriously, would it kill you to publish your contact details on your website?


One of the RSS feeds I follow is a technorati feed of blogs linking to Typosphere. It’s a reasonably good way of seeing what people are saying about Typo (even if it’s simply “I’m switching to Mephisto/Wordpress/Whatever”). However, a few days back, the feed told me that someone had said:

Sorry, comments are broken. Please send complains to Typo.

So, being a conscientious Typo maintainer, I thought I’d drop him a line and ask for a few more details to see if we could track down the root of his problem. No email on the page. No obvious pointers to an email address.

He might be paranoid on his blog, but he’s not paranoid enough to avoid spammers. I found his email on the first page of google results, but I only bothered to look because I was inspired by Britt’s slide to write this. I guess I should drop him a line and see if we can’t sort it out.