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I'm experiencing something that is obviously dumb users.

i have a first.last@gmail address and my name is very common. So i bet others had to use less desirable gmail addresses.

Since google started to aggressively push for adding alternative email and/or phone number, dumb users that initially wanted my email address entered it as their "alternate email" not understanding it's for password recovery only.

I clicked the "not me" link in more than 20 confirmation emails, but google probably never used that to better inform the dumb users.

Now my gmail account is a cesspool of emails intended for other people, site registration confirmation for idiots with same first/last name but a different middle name... And there's no spam algorithm that can fight that!

Time to start looking for alternatives.




Most of my projects involve a mass-market audience so I get a pretty good view of what average competence looks like. Based on this, I would guess that a significant portion of Americans have a great difficultly reading. Even when you put a big message that says this is not for X, people will continue to do X.

If you run a startup or a company whose audience is early adapters you get a skewed view of the average level of competence of users.

I don't know if things get worse in other countries. However, I would guess that 10-20% of the US population lacks the basic literacy and logic skills to hold a manual job involving anything but repetitive tasks.


However, I would guess that 10-20% of the US population lacks the basic literacy and logic skills to hold a manual job involving anything but repetitive tasks.

~13% when it comes to reading, ~20% when it comes to quantitative tasks.

http://nces.ed.gov/naal/pdf/2006470_1.pdf


And even besides the people with low IQ, most everyone is only capable of thinking abstractly some of the time--and even then only after years of cognitive development[1]. System 2 thinking[2] is taxing to the brain (consumes more glucose/oxygen/etc), and is switched out of whenever it's not absolutely necessary.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piagets_theory_of_cognitive_dev...

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dual_process_theory


> Most of my projects involve a mass-market audience so I get

> a pretty good view of what average competence looks like.

How interesting - I bet you could tell some good (and informative/scary) stories. I'd buy the book.


> I don't know if things get worse in other countries.

Due to the decentralized nature of education in the US, there is higher variation in outcomes. This likely leads to greater illiteracy in the US than in other industrialized countries.


in my case, most of the emails i get are in portuguese. so portugal, brazil and parts of africa.


It's not about reading ability, it's about the way things are written. There's been plenty of research done on how to write notices and warnings etc. that will catch attention, and how to persuade readers to follow the directions. But of course "user interfaces" are often not "designed" by designers at all, much less anyone who's ever studied the research. (Not that most designers study the research, either, but they're more likely to than Joe Programmer.)

Example: Jakob Nielsen publishes research that shows "people on the web don't read." The sample content used to determine this? The list of tourist attractions in North Dakota.

Garbage in, garbage out.

Finally, the vast majority of text on the web around forms etc. is useless, poorly written, obtuse, abstruse. People have been indirectly trained to ignore it. It's not surprising that most users ignore that messages you took the effort to write.


If you cross paths with enough Googlers in your career, eventually you'll come across the lucky souls with first names as gmail accounts; then when they explain the deafening background radiation they get, you start thinking "hm, maybe lolhackerx0@gmail.com isn't such a bad address after all"...

Example: Grandma sending pictures to Larry! Oh, he must be larry@gmail.com, right?


I have a first name only email forwarding account at a "well known Easter technical school." (I signed up first thing when these were made available at a time when a lot of people still weren't on the Internet.) I don't get as many random emails as I once did but, at one point, I even got on an email thread involving board discussions at some company.


ha! i can up you. last year got invites to some chinese gov stuff intended to a consul of some country with my same first/last name as me. they had a bunch of emails @gmail and @yahoo and a couple @country.gov, and apparently mixed a few.

Should have taken that free trip to shengze or something :)


> well known Easter technical school

Derived from a well-known Passover technical school?


You can always drop the few dollars a year for a vanity domain. No one has ever accidentally typed/used tk@tkte.ch!


This is exactly why I:

1. Use a handle that is a deliberate misspelling of an archaic name, and;

2. Use an archaic spelling of my surname as a vanity domain.


I wonder if you have trouble giving your email over the phone.

I have a <name>@<name>.net email. And every time I'm spelling my email to someone, I say: name, n a m e @name.net, 99 times out of 100 they ask me if the second "name" is spelled like the first one.


I have a friend whose surname was McCurry (which she rarely used - family baggage) and she ended up changing it to Blake, because you never have to spell out Blake to people, but you do every time with McCurry.


Yeah .... I had the same problem with a common first name + last name @gmail - even to the extent of getting someone else's buddy passes for JetBlue - before getting my own domain. I thought it wasn't bad for my purposes, but it's a terrible domain name for spelling out (my handle here plus .com).


Don't Googlers have mailboxes on the google.com domain directly? Gmail has only been around since April 1, 2004.


Some worked on gmail and were in the right place at the right time for personal mail. You keep it after you leave.


I own <first initial><last name>@gmail and I routinely get email intended for other people, including flight itineraries, new account info at various sites, personal emails, and once I even received legal correspondence.

Not only has this taught me how incredibly oblivious some people are to how their email works, but it also showed me just how many companies out there are willing to sign up a random email for an account without verifying the email's ownership, including some big companies like PayPal.


A pedantic but important point - you do _not_ "own" AnyUserName@gmail.com - Google owns them all.


So true. Also, I frown whenever I read someone ‘bought’ a domain name (when they mean they’ve registered it).


I got that for my Bank Of America account.

If three other people tried that username, I not only got locked out of my BoA account, and had to set up a bunch of stuff again.

I have a long blog post about BoA's horrible policies I still haven't published because I work in a major financial city and might end up wanting to work for them some day, but as time goes by the odds of it getting published go way up.


This happens to me, and I wouldn't call my name common (the email that this happens to is <nickname>@gmail.com, not my <firstname>.<lastname> one though).

It does make for fun responses... I was invited to a bachelor party in Las Vegas, which I sadly had to decline on account of being halfway around the world.


> including flight itineraries

Those are not real flight itineraries.

They are usually well crafted spam sent to anyone and everyone, designed to entice personal details like bank accounts, pin numbers and visa card numbers from unexpecting users.


No, they're real flight itineraries. I checked. Also, they're made out to the same people who keep misusing my address.


I have a few other people's bank accounts from foreign countries (mainly the US) emailing me. I really couldn't believe that banks have no email verification at all...


And same as the article, i never get to know the idiots email address they are trying to register mine as the password recovery. That's the dumbest on googles side. Makes me powerless to solve the idiocy dos attack on my account


Why do you repeatedly call them idiots and refer to this behavior as idiocy?


I've gotten everything from business plans to divorce papers sent to my firstname.lastname@gmail.com address. In some cases I've tracked them down and called their cell phones, and they still mistakenly send me email. There are some people whose email automatically gets re-routed to the 'correct' account with a note, and they continue to use my email address. Some have even sent me nasty emails saying they're blocking my address, as if I am to blame somehow for their incompetence.

I understand that people make mistakes and typos happen. But when you're dealing with legal documents there's no excuse for this kind of oversight.


> There are some people whose email automatically gets re-routed to the 'correct' account with a note..

How does that work? Have you created some sort of filter? (How do you make sure that it gets the correct emails?)


Yes, I've created a filter so that any emails from certain people automatically get re-routed to the intended recipient.


Because it's the near-equivalent of misspelling your name on an exam, at least when it's entering your own email address.

On the flipside I sometimes get mails intended for someone else with my name in Australia, but that is easy enough to assume that his friends/kids' teachers/etc. just manually typed in the address and messed it up.


Oh, you'll love this one. I was sent a notice that my car was ready to pick up, but it was for a guy that lives in Canada and has a similar name/email.

I respond saying the shop has the wrong email address. The shop owner (let's call him Bob) replies saying "that's the one you gave me" facepalm #1

I find the car owner and forward him the info on facebook. He responds back saying "Thanks, Bob." Even though the message is clearly from me. facepalm #2

Even if these people were completely tech illiterate... have they never heard of a wrong number?!?


I got added to a Black Board announcement list for some school. They don't seem to have a way to say 'stop sending this address mail'. I'm cranky, so I emailed the dean of student affairs about it.

He emailed back as if I were a student. I responded pointing out that I had no association with the school. He emailed back asking me to explain further, as there was someone with my name at the school. So I explained that I thought it was probably someone with the same name. At least that ended it.


(Shrug) There has to be some way to distinguish their behavior from people who actually bother to understand what email addresses are before using email.

Calling them either "Idiots" or "Dumb users" seems reasonable, so why not roll with it?


That's the most arrogant thing I've read in a while. The fat that someone doesn't comprehend something technical makes them inexperienced. Computer literacy is literacy.

Would you call someone who can't drive a car an idiot? Or someone who is using an ATM machine for the first time? These people are not competent. They are inexperienced. But a pejorative term like "idiot" isn't called for.


These people, for the most part, do not respond or even seem to comprehend correction. They seem to be the same people that refuse to understand what is going on when they dial a wrong number: "Hey Stan! What's goi-" "I am not Stan. You have the wrong number." "No, this is Stan's number." "....click"

If you can't apply the term "idiots" to these people then the word is useless and can never be used.


> Would you call someone who can't drive a car an idiot?

I would if this person was out on the highway. I learned to drive on a parking lot, and then on roads with very little traffic. People who can't drive are a danger to themselves. People who are too incompetent to know what their correct email address is are a danger to themselves too.


Would you call someone who can't drive a car an idiot?

Sure, if they didn't even attempt to learn to drive before getting behind the wheel.

Or someone who is using an ATM machine for the first time?

Sure, if their failure to use even the most elementary mental faculties available to them affected anyone other than themselves.


Oh boy! so many "idiots" and "dumb people" in your world, they don't deserve you believe me.

Next time call the Internet Police on those fkers!!

You are fantastic, cheers.


I get bank statements and postpaid mobile bills. When I wrote a bank (Kotak, India) the executive's first reaction was - "please contact the user" - of course I had mentioned in the email that I've no idea who the intended recipient(Some one in Pune, India) is. I finally had to set a filter and take a vow that I can never be this bank's customer and I ought to quit if my firm decides to tie up with them for salary a/c.

There's Tata Docomo who sends me monthly postpaid bill. I've learened two things from their emails - that gentleman in Nagpur is very irresponsible in paying bills and that Tata Docomo's spam filters are so strong my email never made it them. They keep on sending. I guess they shall send me the calls records if I request to this email.

My fault? I've one of the most famous/common Indian/Hindi names on Gmail/Hotmail/Yahoo and domain name too - both .in and .com.


> I get bank statements and postpaid mobile bills.

Most such e-mail traffic is just spam, not sent by the banks, but sent by people hoping to trick the recipitent into reading the e-mail, following the link and logging into a false web page set up to act like the bank web site.

Once they have your logon details they will go to the real bank page and transfer out your money.


The most amazing thing is that even though most of it is spam not all of it is. I get monthly emails telling me about various bills or status of from at least my internet, cell phone, and student loans. Pretty sure none have a copy of the bill and ask me to follow a link to log in.

I don't click on most email links because you never know if it's the scammer or the company.


>Most such e-mail traffic is just spam

Of course. But it's a real bank statement and it's a real mobile bill that makes its way into my inbox each month. Used to, I mean before I created a filter to delete it as soon as it arrives.


I have an email alias that’s similar to well-known rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s[1] personal email address (‘schmuley’ instead of ‘shmuley’). Occasionally, I get an email that’s meant for him, so I forward it. Not a problem.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shmuley_Boteach


This is one reason I put my email on my own domain. But yeah, you can't really expect most users to do that.


Same thing happened to me, but only once.

Gmail has broken the standard by adding dot aliases. They should at the very least acknowledge it.


I feel your pain. I also have this problem.




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