Phish Or Cut Bait.

replyDear E-mail sender,

Thank you for what I think is a quick reply. It’s hard to tell because you didn’t include my original message in your reply. You also seem to have replied from a different address than the one I contacted. This made searching my Sent folder useless. Your terse response was also admirable in its ability to straddle the vague and specific: “Yes, they are available. Please confirm and I’ll send you an invoice.” I know exactly what that means. The problem is it could apply to about a dozen different emails I’ve sent in the past month, most of which, as far as I can tell, haven’t been answered yet. You really seem to have thought of everything. If I wanted to spread paralyzing confusion around the world I’d certainly follow your example.

I didn’t even know not including the original message in an email reply was an option anymore. If I outlookwanted to turn it off I’m not sure how I’d do it. It seems like including a copy of the message you’re replying to is such standard email etiquette that I can’t remember the last time I got a reply that didn’t include my message. It wasn’t the default back when I first started using email, but that was a time when everybody was still getting used to it and most people thought they’d be using their AOL address forever. It was a time when email was so new and so strange to some that I sent an email to a company that had just gotten it, and they printed it, typed their reply at the bottom, put it a stamped envelope, and mailed it to me. They didn’t quite grasp the concept of the “Reply” button, but at least they were nice enough to include my original message with their reply so I knew what they were talking about. And then we moved into the time when people would send ridiculously long emails which would prompt ridiculously long replies with the occasional <snip> but mostly consisting of the original message broken up into parts with each section replied to separately. And every line of the original message would have a > next to it, which always kind of bugged me. In math class > meant “less than”, and I didn’t like the idea that someone else’s message was less than mine, but that’s another story.

How do I even know this is a legitimate reply? Yes, it does sound like a reply to something I sent, but baitthe more I think about it the more this sounds like it might be some kind of phishing technique. And I don’t mean the ‘90’s band, which seems to have gone the way of printing emails. Why is it called “phishing” and not “fishing”? The idea is to hook a sucker, right? When I got my first computer I knew there were people called “phone phreaks”. The “ph-“ there made sense because it was visually as well as aurally alliterative. All I really knew about phone phreaks was they had ways of getting out of paying for long distance calls. This was a time when “long distance” meant the next county over, and the rates were pretty high, two things which seem to have gone the way of AOL addresses. Not paying for long distance never interested me, because there wasn’t anyone that far away I wanted to talk to. If I’d had that power I would have been too tempted to do weird things with it. Somewhere in Utah a phone would ring. A woman would pick it up. We didn’t have caller ID back in those days so she wouldn’t know it was me, and I wouldn’t bother with introductions because she wouldn’t know who I was anyway. “Hi,” I’d say. “I’m doing a report on your state for school. So can you see the Great Salt Lake from your house?” stamp

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