I’ve been thinking of spiffying-up my Behold News mailings that I send out from time to time to Purchasers and Trial Users. Currently, I send out a text e-mail, but I was thinking of sending it out in HTML, so it could look nicer and match the look of my Behold website.
Quite a while ago, I had made up a template that was pretty close to what I wanted, so I thought it wouldn’t be a problem. But then as a test, I sent it from Outlook Express to myself, and to my great surprise, it came into my inbox marked as spam. So over the past two days, I have learned just about everything there is to know about spam e-mail, multipart messages (text and html), embedding images in email, and I have determined the best way to send HTML emails and have now finalized my template for future mailings. What I learned surprised me.
First, I found that my mailing list software makes it possible to add a 1 by 1 pixel transparent gif called a “web bug” that will record when the email was opened and every time it is opened. Spam mailers use this to verify that an e-mail address is valid. Second, the same software also allows tagging all links in the email so that when any link is clicked on, it will record who clicked what link and when. Marketers often use this for valid reasons, but there are many invalid uses as well.
I had heard about web bugs before hadn’t previously been concerned. I tried this out in some test mailings to myself, and now I’m a bit horrified. This amounts to blatantly hiding spyware inside an email message, and recording someone’s activities without their permission. To me that is not at all ethical, and I shudder to think how many email messages I have opened with such tracking devices in them. I’m not personally too worried, because I have nothing to hide about my emailing activities.
At any rate, I will not resort to such tactics, not now and not ever.
Instead, I think you’ll like the pleasant new look that my Behold News will have. For people who turn off viewing of images in their email reader to prevent this spying, my news should still look okay when it is translated to text form, although not quite as good as if I custom wrote the text part myself.
And a question: Does anyone who is reading this, have a copy of Behold on a Vista computer yet? I’m really curious as to whether it works without problems. I’m pretty sure it should, but you never know.