2139: Email Settings

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Email Settings
What are all these less-than signs? What's an HREF? Look, we know you live in a fancy futuristic tech world, but not all of us have upgraded to the latest from Sun Microsystems.
Title text: What are all these less-than signs? What's an HREF? Look, we know you live in a fancy futuristic tech world, but not all of us have upgraded to the latest from Sun Microsystems.


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The comic shows some email settings with a few less than helpful options.

Default Reply Behavior: Normal reply behavior would be to reply to the person who sent the original email. Reply all would be to reply all emails at once. Typically there is an option to Reply TO All other recipients of an email in addition to the sender. Depending on the email usage pattern this is a potentially useful or a potentially annoying option. Forward to address book takes this one step further by sending your reply to every person who is in your address book, whether they received the original email or not.

Vacation Autoresponder: This is a message that is automatically sent out in reply to an email to let them know that you are away and won't be replying until you return. While on vacation is the usual behavior, but since email systems typically have no way of knowing that you're on vacation other than this setting itself, it won't be able to comply. Always is a less useful option.

Reply to all newsletters with "thank you for the newsletter!": This option is completely unnecessary, in that newsletters are usually automated and shotgunned out to thousand of addresses at once, often with a do-not-reply from address.

Attachment limit: These attachment limits are all pretty small, with 300 kilobytes being fairly useless for anything, 1.4 megabytes being the size of an old floppy disk, and 5 megabytes, while better, is smaller than most high resolution cell phone camera pictures. It being in beta means that it might not be as dependable. However, setting the maximum attachment size would likely not be a user setting; it would be a setting the email system enforces on the user. In the past with slow connections and very limited mailbox sizes, this option was useful to keep the message size in check.

Default email format: plain text is self explanatory; plain text with no special formatting options. HTML means that it can have markup to allow for bold text, colors, etc. CSS is in reference to cascading style sheets, which is a styling option often combined with HTML, but useless on it's own. With emails it is typically used as inline CSS.

Reply to HTML emails with "Whoa, buddy, what's all this code?": HTML email is a format for sending email with rich-text contents, which may include images and links. If your email client isn't configured for HTML, the content may look like text interspersed with a bunch of weird code. Since HTML email is a common format, replying this way to every HTML email you receive can be an effective way to annoy people. This may be a "throwback" option: a few years ago, email systems didn't always recognize HTML emails, so if you sent an HTML email you might very well receive this kind of reply.

Character set: ASCII is the character group containing all of the letters in the English alphabet, as well as the digits and common symbols. The Non-ASCII set contains all of the non-English alphabets and the rest of they (lesser used) symbols. Lacking the ASCII characters however, would make the second option useless for most European languages.

Smart autocomplete: Some email platforms, including Gmail, have the ability to use machine learning to suggest possible, usually short reply options for you to choose from. If the original email asks if you want to go to dinner, the auto-complete replies might be, "Yes", "No", "How about Friday?" and then you could choose one, or type your own reply. The third option to automatically respond to all emails with suggested reply is putting a lot of faith in the computer, and is likely to backfire quickly, even more so, if your recipients also have activated this option.

Important emails: Showing important emails is the expected behavior, and hiding only them would be a very strange thing to want to do.

Show unread email count...: Seeing your unread email count is normal behavior, and a good way to see what a failure you are at reading your email. A projected unread email count based on when the system expects you to die, and how well you do at reading your email on a day to day basis is probably going to be depressing or in the extreme could be so overwhelming to be the actual cause of death on the projected date.

Signature: A signature is a bit of canned text that gets added to the end of an email, often containing your name, and sometimes a bit of other information like a title and other contact information. Having the choices being None and "That's my email. Hope you liked it!" is less useful. Less useful signatures somewhat came into vogue after Apple used it for cheap iPhone advertisement and others made fun of the Apple users who kept those default signatures, by using quite creative signatures themselves.

The title text also references HTML email, in which angle brackets (i.e, less-than and greater-than symbols) are used to show the opening and closing tags of elements. "href" is a common attribute in HTML elements denoting the location a hyperlink will take you to upon being clicked. This is likely another "throwback" reference, Sun Microsystems being a former maker of Unix workstations popular in the late 1980s and 2000s (now part of Oracle Corporation). The message could also be written by someone receiving an HTML email which is not recognized as one and directly shown on the screen.


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[A list of controls with radio buttons and checkboxes]
Default reply behavior
( ) Reply
( ) Reply All
(*) Forward to address book
Vacation autoresponder
(*) While on vacation
( ) Always
[x]Reply to all newsletters with "Thank you for the newsletter!"
Attachment limit
( ) 300 KB
(*) 1.4 MB
( ) 5 MB (Beta)
Default email format
(*) Plain text
( ) HTML
( ) CSS
[x]Reply to HTML emails with "Whoa, buddy, what's all this code?"
Character set
( ) ASCII (Unicode 0-127 only)
(*) Non-ASCII (Unicode 128+ only)
Smart autocomplete
( ) Do not suggest replies
( ) Suggest replies
(*) Automatically respond to all emails with suggested reply
Important emails
(*) Show
( ) Hide
Show unread email count...
(*) Now
( ) On my projected day of death
(*) "That's my email. Hope you liked it!"
( ) None

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Character set: I read the choice to be between ASCII only and non-ASCII only. That is, if you select non-ASCII only then you have no ordinary English letters, no decimal digits, no ordinary punctuation. Rather minimally useful.

Non-unicode can show ordinary English letters, for example the group starting at U+FF0x, but an ASCII system will see it as binary garbage that will generate unexpected beeps, corrupt terminals, and crash old software. 20:23, 19 April 2019 (UTC)

ASCII, OLD ASCII, which is characters 0-127, includes ONLY CAPS, plus the common punctuation and whitespace. The lower case letters are all part of EXTENDED ASCII. So, limiting to old ASCII, is limiting to all-caps, and limiting to only the second half of ASCII is even worse, as it has all the lower case letters, but, not only no caps, but also no punctuation, whitespace, or numerals. I'll leave it to someone with a login to make the correction.

ASCII 0-127 includes _both_ uppercase and lowercase. 20:23, 19 April 2019 (UTC)
That's correct. Note that some popular non-ASCII home computers, such as the Commodore 64 (which used PETSCII), did only include uppercase letters within the first 127, or only lowercase letters, depending on the screen "shift" mode, with the 8th bit used to either give the other case or add additional special line drawing, circle, or playing card symbols. -boB (talk) 21:33, 23 April 2019 (UTC)

Show unread email count: Wording in the graphic is ambiguous for me. Does show unread email count on my projected day of death mean a) show, today, what will be the count on my projected day of death, or b) wait to show any count until the very day I will probably to die. Choice a is indeed probably depressing. Choice b is more of a pop-up surprise if you didn't know it was coming, saying Hey, buddy, here's your final score, well done. JohnB 14:15, 19 April 2019 (UTC)

I interpreted the unread email count as you laid out in option "b," this could be a reference to the relatively new features of social networks which create "memorialized" profiles for members who died. This number would undoubtedly be like a memorial, provided you actually died on that day. If you didn't die it would be like a pop-up. It could also be a simple exaggeration of the statement that you'd rather not see your number, as seeing the number is depressing. 15:24, 19 April 2019 (UTC) Sam

I was going to edit the page with specifics on when html e-mail came into use, because I was sure I was using/experimenting with html in e-mail as early as 20 years ago. But looking at the wikipedia page on the topic seems to suggest that the adoption was much sooner than that, but I can still remember using html when I was a teenager, so I'm not sure what's going on here... 15:24, 19 April 2019 (UTC) Sam

I certainly remember sending emails with HTML formatting back in the late 90's. IIRC, I was using Netscape Communicator(?) and it used html snippets in an otherwise ascii email. At my first job in the early oughts, I had to manage an email subscription list for a newsletter that used mime-encoded multipart html emails. Not all the subscribers could see the html part, and I think AOL users often got gibberish due to bad support for mime-encoded messages in the AOL email client. -- 16:00, 20 April 2019 (UTC)

Seems to be that since the first option says 'reply functionality' the option which says 'Forward to Address Book' does not allow you to type a reply. Rather than 'forwarding your reply to your address book' I believe this would simply forward the email to everyone in your address book. Make sense as a joke at the expense of people who just forward emails/email chains. 16:26, 19 April 2019 (UTC)

Despite what the explanation currently indicates, "reply all" definitely means reply to all recipients of the original email. 21:15, 19 April 2019 (UTC)

Any idea why the dialog uses a Right-to-Left (RTL) formatting? 18:14, 21 April 2019 (UTC)

Having the text right next to the radiobuttons/tickboxes makes it much easier to identify which button belongs to which setting.--Lupo (talk) 04:42, 22 April 2019 (UTC)
I agree with the previous reply, but I think you mean "right-aligned" formatting instead of "RTL" formatting, which usually means the letters are actually ordered from right to left in reverse order. I don't think radio buttons are typically displayed on the right side of the label though. Ianrbibtitlht (talk) 11:46, 22 April 2019 (UTC)

Wanted to open this discussion here with other nerds...does anybody else cringe at the idea that "What are all these less than signs" implies a lack of greater than signs? Presumably a number of greater than signs would be just as concerning, or it implies that there are a significant number of erroneous less than signs. 20:20, 4 May 2019 (UTC)

Google and vacation

Google knows when you're on vacation by comparing your present cellphone GPS coordinates to your typical gps coordinates. They also always know your location via IP, to some extent. 02:50, 21 April 2019 (UTC)

That doesn't work necessarily, you could be on a work trip.SDSpivey (talk) 17:35, 22 April 2019 (UTC)
Don't forget that any of this technology is probably founded on Microsoft (doesn't)Works. 02:19, 23 April 2019 (UTC)