SafeUnsubscribe, a nice way to send a rejection

I recently relocated to New York City. As a consequence, I’ve been unsubscribing from a lot of email lists lately. A surprising number of them are using this service called “SafeUnsubscribe“/(SafeSubscribe) from Constant Contact. I guess this post is what you call “free advertising”. Actually, I don’t mind this at all. The service is really simple to use, and actually somewhat enjoyable. It makes me wish I had signed up for more newlists so that I could remove myself from even more.

Here’s a screen capture of the unsubscribe link at the bottom of the email I received. (Yes, I frequented the Russian Cultural Center in Houston).

Screen capture of the SafeUnsubscribe link in my inbox.
Screen capture of the SafeUnsubscribe link in my inbox.

When I clicked on the “Instant removal with SafeUnsubscribe” link, I got to this page, where it gives me a few clear options on what I’m unsubscribing from.

Unsubscribe options page
Unsubscribe options page

A few things I like about this page:

  • The email confirmation at the top that says that I don’t have anything to worry about if I’m not the person listed.
  • It’s a confirmation page, and technically it hasn’t done anything yet.
  • It gives me an option to reduce my emails vs. remove myself entirely.
  • It doesn’t features some log-in and then unsubscribe option. Usually when I’m unsubscribing it’s because I haven’t found whatever I signed up for originally interesting anymore and/or I can’t remember my password and log-in information anyway.
  • The Yes/No responses are written in sentence form, so it’s easier to understand that Yes = remove me/No = Cancel the unsubscribe; and not, Yes = keep me on the list/No = Unsubscribe.
  • The little guarantee notice at the bottom, which offers an extra dose of credibility to the site.

Finally, after clicking Save Changes, I get:

Final unsubscribe page
Final unsubscribe page

So, at this point, I feel really impressed that the Houston Russian Cultural Center is so dedicated to respecting my wishes and my privacy, and has such a fast way for me to get off their subscriber list. Check out Constant Contact’s Anti-Spam Policy, which they state is no tolerance:

“Constant Contact is a permission-based email-marketing tool that follows the strictest permission-based philosophies:

  • Communication – Your Constant Contact registration page already states why you are collecting the site visitor’s email address, how you plan to use their address, and that you are following the embedded privacy policy. Additionally, by accepting our license agreement you have agreed to use only permission-based lists and never to sell or rent your lists.
  • Verification – Constant Contact automatically sends all of your new contacts an email confirming their interest in receiving emails from you. Additionally, if your contact changes his or her interests or unsubscribes, Constant Contact automatically sends an email confirmation.
  • Unsubscribe – Every email generated from Constant Contact contains an unsubscribe link which allows your contacts to opt-out of future emails and automatically updates your contact lists to avoid the chance of sending unwanted emails to visitors who have unsubscribed.
  • Identification – Your email header information is correct because it is pre-set for you by Constant Contact. Your email’s “From” address is verified and already accurately identifies you as the sender.
  • Contact Information – all of your emails are pre-filled with your contact information including your physical address.”

This service certainly beats sending an email to someone’s personal email list and telling them you don’t want to get their emails anymore. Unsubscribe is not really rejection, per se, but it is an “I’m not interested” or “I don’t have time for you” type of thing. It’s nice to see such a well-thought out approach to goodbye. Kudos to Constant Contanct!

Art/Programming with A.B.S.M.L.

From the website at,

“[HTML and XML] allow us to write code that make up the internet as we know it today. But like it or not, the internet is boring and dumb.] A.B.S.M.L. (pronounced ABSML) is different because it is a language which writes itself, thereby making the internet interesting and smart. ABSML could be considered a text generator, but it’s much more sophisticated than that.”

Check out the screen saver on the site: flying toast and toasters with wings.

A.B.S.M.L. was used to supply the brain’s of James Chimpton, a robotic chimpaneze who interviews artists. Watch Chimpton work, inside the artist’s studio.

See also, supporters of net art.

My gripe with tiny urls

The other day I got this newsletter via emai about some new conference in UX. Reading through the newsletter, I got to a few sections that used a few of those shorted URLs, such as created by websites like While I think shortened URLs are great for interfaces that have a restriction on characters, such as Twitter or SharePoint, I fail to see the good of a shortened URL in a newsletter. There are already gobs of text swimming around, what are a few extral characters in a URL going to do? I mean, if you’re going to take the time to write out an entire newsletter, I’d much rather see a longer and more meaningful URL than some shortened one that tells me nothing about the destination.

Wicked problems and the price of oil

Working in an oil company has certainly opened my eyes to the complexity of the energy infrastructure in the US and the world. I’m sure that the majority of the people I come into contact with who have an opinion on energy consumption are unaware of just how complex it is to actually get oil out of the ground and into our cars.

Last year I learned and started thinking about “wicked” problems and “designerly” thinking. My understanding is that there are some problems in the design world, in which the variables and interactions between problems are extremely complex and are called “wicked” problems. Sustainable energy consumption is most definitely a “wicked” problem.

Lately, it seems I’ve heard the term “sustainability” being used quite a bit, with what I suspect is a regards to energy conservation and design of manufactured goods. Technically, these are two different things and, to be honest, the word “sustainable” is used too often without any particular type of qualifier. Sustainability is like spirituality. There are all kinds of spiritual practices. We need to be clear about what we’re talking about with regards to sustainability – e.g., sustainable agriculture, a sustainable approach to business development, and sustainable technology development.
Change to the way the world uses energy is not something that can happen within even 5 years. It’s something that will require a deep commitment from several generations of political leaders and will require us all to put aside our motivations for power and economic wealth in favor of the future of the planet. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but I do believe that it’s somewhat unrealistic to think that one industry or even one country will be able to make lasting changes to the energy infrastructure of the world alone.

More info:
Check out this download for Firefox, “Oil Standard” – See the world in barrels of oil

Stirring Design Into Business – article on design thinking in Business Week, 2007

“On addressing wicked problems…” – from Interactions, 2008

Research through design as a method for interaction design research in HCI” – requires ACM subscription for full-text

Web design vs. Academia

Academia vs. Web design: The Journal on New Media and Society looks for papers on mobile communication and developing communities. Meanwhile, A List Apart posts an article on improving web design education.

For a Special Edition publication, the Journal on New Media and Society is looking for papers on Mobile Communication and the Developing World.

“We are seeking papers for a special edition of the journal New Media & Society focusing on mobile communication and media, and its impact on the developing world. We are interested in papers that empirically describe the use of mobile practices as well as the convergence of mobile and other platforms in the developing world (e.g. Africa, Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe or other locations in the “global south”). Successful papers will examine the integration and use of mobile communication technology and its implications (both positive and negative) in individuals’ lives. We are seeking papers that investigate the global as well as the local appropriations of mobile media use and its relationship to social change and/or development…”

Hrmm… Could this be yet another good reason why the myriad of professions in the “user experience design” field need more original research? Interestingly enough, while I pondered that thougth, I came across A List Apart’s post on elevating web design in academia. The article listed 3 tips for getting involved:

Here are three things you can do today to make a difference in web education:
• connect with a university,
• sponsor an educator, and
• volunteer your time.

I do like the idea of getting professionals more involved in education, but I feel that parts of the article are confusing the business model of web design companies with the academic model of universities. Companies are for-profit entities that ultimately need to make money. Universities are non-profit organizations that ultimately strive to advance knowledge. The two have motivations that can be, and apparently are for the web design industry, mutually exclusive. Their drivers are completely different and require different credentials to advance their needs. Business needs skill. Academia needs knowledge and degrees. It’s not so simple to simply ask universities to give up the need to hire people with graduate degrees. Universities are more established than web design, so why is it that universities are broken? Why not ask businesses to hire people who are “unqualified”, and then spend time training them to be productive in the context of their business? Why isn’t it that web design businesses should change, or at least change their expectations on who they should expect to hire?