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I just got this email from my friends at Stack Exchange:

Hi!

We haven't seen you around Server Fault for a while.

We'd love to reconnect with you; attached below is a sample newsletter of a few recent interesting questions from the site.

See all Stack Exchange newsletters

If you are interested, you can subscribe to receive this newsletter weekly, or others like it. If not, no worries, we won't bug you again – promise!

Regards,

Your friends at Stack Exchange
http://serverfault.com

Top new questions this week

[lots of questions]

Can you answer these?

[some questions]

When I first entered my email address on ServerFault, I was under the impression that it would be used for extraordinary circumstances, e.g. if a moderator needed to contact me or there had been a security breach. Using my email address just to get me thinking about your site was not expected from an otherwise ethical company.

I know that it says you won't bug me again, but you shouldn't have bugged me at all. Please don't send me any more mass email that I haven't asked for.

Edited to add: The account linked in the email was my 8-rep unregistered user who asked a single question in October 2010. It's not OK to bug the little users either!

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10  
uh oh, I don't know what Jeff (aka, email hater) has to say about this! (ps: I haven't received anything like this myself) –  jmfsg Aug 17 '11 at 19:19
7  
Agreed. I personally wouldn't care, but I do seem to recall some sort of pseudoguarantee that they wouldn't do this sort of thing. –  Matthew Read Aug 17 '11 at 19:30
3  
I got the email too and was not offended. I think it's an unreasonable request that they never email you. –  Fosco Aug 17 '11 at 20:20
3  
@Fosco: If the email address is a compulsory field, I'd expect only to be emailed under special circumstances (not "you used our site one day a year ago, please come back") –  Tim N Aug 17 '11 at 20:22
4  
@Tim if the service is free and something you enjoy (I'm seeing you have good reputation on several stack sites,) I'd expect you to not really care if they send you an email once a year, or just once, without making a post on meta as if some great injustice has occurred. –  Fosco Aug 17 '11 at 20:28
2  
@Fosco, to be fair, since the account was an 8-rep unregistered user, I don't think you can use the "something you enjoy" argument. –  Pops Aug 17 '11 at 20:31
2  
I agree with @Fosco here - especially if only low-rep accounts were targeted. The vast majority of low-rep accounts has at some point drawn a huge benefit from the site by getting a question answered. Although it admittedly may be a break of the promise (if they ever literally said "we will never E-Mail you", which I don't know), I find myself unable to get worked up about one follow-up E-Mail –  Pëkka Aug 17 '11 at 20:33
3  
@Fosco and Eat: I'm not angry with Stack Exchange. If this was just another website asking me to come back, I'd delete the email and go on. When it comes to SE, though, I want to help them improve. I think that this is a waste of user trust and reputation, and don't want to see my favorite Q&A site slipping in that direction. –  Tim N Aug 17 '11 at 20:35
4  
@Tim: I just got this same email. Since I did not want Newsletters in the first place, I'm quite upset that I suddenly find one in my inbox. Not only that, but these emails are opt-out, which is a trick commonly used by spammers. –  Powerlord Aug 17 '11 at 20:45
    
    
This question is related to this topic, due to StackExchange apparently using our emails to follow us from one of its Twitter accounts. –  Powerlord Aug 23 '11 at 17:18
2  
@MatthewRead: The description of the email field is "never displayed, used for optional notifications and your gravatar." Since I didn't choose to receive this notification, it is, by definition, not an "optional notification." –  Powerlord Aug 23 '11 at 17:33
    
@Powerlord Ah yes. Thanks for following up, and I agree. –  Matthew Read Aug 23 '11 at 17:35

2 Answers 2

Well, this one is sort of a catch-22.

On one hand, the weekly newsletter subscriptions are explicitly designed for people who are not avid users -- people who use our sites in an extremely casual way, maybe once every 3 months.

On the other hand, how do you reach users you only see once every 3 months at most?

So we made the decision to do a one time mailing of users who:

  • are users of any non-meta, non-Stack Overflow SE 2.0 site
  • posted at least 1 (non-deleted, non-closed, score >= 0) Q or A
  • have not been seen in 180+ days

This mail explicitly lets them know about the new weekly newsletter feature which was created and designed for users exactly like them, with a sample newsletter included inline right there full of the best questions from last week. Given that they did post at least one Q or A, so they actually interacted with the site at one point, we're genuinely trying to be useful here.

The circumstances for this mailing are rather exceptional. We view this as a one-time, one-shot deal.

Either way, the one-click unsubscribe (not that anyone was actually subscribed to anything in the first place) is there to prevent any future mailings of this type, though given the exceptional circumstances, I can't say if there would be any more future mailings of this type.

share|improve this answer
    
Was I supposed to have unsubscribed? I thought the "unsubscribe here" link was part of the sample newsletter, since it had the same margins and the emails said that I wouldn't receive any more emails anyway. –  Tim N Aug 18 '11 at 5:50
3  
@JeffAtwood, I just voted to close this question as a duplicate of your answer here -- but the user notes that the link(s) are 404s? –  M. Tibbits Aug 18 '11 at 17:12
    
Hmm, this is the second report I've seen of broken unsubscribe links in that email. I've been unable to track down the cause of the bug so far -- it seems to have affected a small number of people. If you were unable to unsubscribe, please email team@stackexchange.com, and we'll manually unsubscribe you immediately. –  Emmett Aug 18 '11 at 22:22
4  
Catch 22? How is that a catch 22? The only way it would be a catch 22 is if you decided that you must contact people who haven't visited your site in a while. Otherwise, you could just choose not to do it, no catch 22 involved. –  Powerlord Aug 19 '11 at 17:19
1  
@r.b so we are building a feature explicitly for users that we can never notify of said feature? If nobody knows about the feature, does it still exist? –  Jeff Atwood Aug 19 '11 at 17:19
3  
@JeffAtwood In the 13 years I've run my site, I've never added such a feature. Why? Because it's not necessary. –  Powerlord Aug 19 '11 at 17:22
    
@R.Bemrose: This feature (newsletters) has been extremely widely used very quickly after being implemented. Just asserting "it's not necessary" isn't an argument. –  Jeremy Banks Aug 22 '11 at 14:59
2  
@JeremyBanks: That's irrelevant to this discussion. This discussion is about them being automatically sent to users who haven't visited a StackExchange site in a few months, which clearly isn't necessary. –  Powerlord Aug 22 '11 at 15:17
    
@R.Bemrose: Ah, I think you and Jeff were referring to different things by the word "feature". –  Jeremy Banks Aug 22 '11 at 15:19
    
@JeremyBanks: Yes, the feature I was referring to is emailing users who haven't used my site in a while asking them to come back. –  Powerlord Aug 22 '11 at 15:20

As the person who had my question dupe'd, I'm willing to provide the full non-working URLs and even the original email.

Since I'm a fan of email for just the sort of reasons @JeffAtwood mentions ("how do you reach users you only see once every 3 months at most?") and since I was considering this for our current user base (https://bugzilla.wikimedia.org/28026), thank you for a demonstration of just the sort of reaction that we would get if we weren't very careful.

share|improve this answer
    
See georgesaines.com/?p=484 for another perspective. This is a one-off event from our perspective, as described in my answer. –  Jeff Atwood Aug 18 '11 at 22:43
    
@Jeff Atwood, that georgesaines.com post is similar to my own experience. Since we're not selling anyone's email, they won't end up on anyone's non-opt out mailing list, but even with almost every spam including opt-out links, it can get annoying. Thanks for the pointer, though. I'll use it in further discussion. –  Mark A. Hershberger Aug 19 '11 at 1:41

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