08 September 2011

Dear Via

Whenever I receive an email or a letter from someone I don't know, I usually look for two words before deciding to read further:  Dear Via (or whoever else I may be at the time).

I receive a large amount of correspondence each week, and also have a large amount of other reading to do. I play many roles in my life as a writer, Via being only one of them.  I perform many of those roles only through written words, as I rarely enjoy the verbal recounting of my work.  I also play many roles which are quite separate from my life as writer, usually in my closest and most valued relationships.

How would you prefer to address me?

If I receive a general circular or any form of advertising I have not requested, I usually do not read it at all.  The only exception I may make is if someone writes Dear Via there.  If there is no sign of Dear Via, the information will probably go into the recycling bin or the spam folder.  Most such material I receive in paper form usually ends up in the recycling bin quite quickly anyway, once I have removed my name and address from it that is.

If you send me an email message merely with the word "hi" on the top, before reading further I am likely just to delete it.  A message without a personal greeting sounds as if I have been put on a mailing list, or some other form of bulk mailout.

If a message begins with "hi all" or "hi there" or "hello" or "good morning" or anything similar, I am probably going to delete that too.  And I do not like being put on any mailing lists without my consent, to put it mildly.

Then there are those people who have the dubious distinction of complimenting my work but then do not give any reason for why they like what I write.  I always think they have ulterior motives rather than a genuine interest in the work I do.  Flattery is often used by those who wish to do us harm, or at least to profit in some way after contacting us.  Respect requires a reason, it needs an answer to "why".

Courteous formalities

If, on the other hand, you write Dear Via (if we have not been in contact previously) or even Hello Via (if we have been in touch before), I will probably read what you have written.  However, if your message says something like "an opportunity to make money" I am more likely to be annoyed than interested.  Nor do I wish to participate in surveys when their purpose is not clear.

Often, I am not at all interested in knowing about any products or services I am unlikely to use.  There is so much information to absorb each day that being selective is necessary for anyone.

I am motivated as a writer to provide something people will value, a few words based on my own experiences.  If money is a consequence of that, all well and good.  If it is not, then it probably means the value of what I am providing is not great enough, at least to enough people who are willing to provide support for what I do.

The desire to make money is a mercenary motivation.  The desire to provide something that is appreciated is far better.

Sometimes I will read a general email message from someone I know if it is directly concerned with one of my many research topics, but I will then let that person know if they send too much too often, or if the information is not relevant to me.

There are people who write to me to share information about common ancestors, which is what I mainly like to receive.  They almost always address me by name. There are also people who write interesting and thoughtful comments on my blogs, which is also very nice.

There are also malicious people out there who read blogs to gather information purely for their own purposes, regardless of the consequences for the writers and those they write about.  It is one of the reasons why I prefer to be anonymous, as much as is possible, yet provide portraits of myself to indicate who I am for anyone who I would wish to know something of my physical identity.

Today, I have also removed all of the google ads from my blogs.  The ads have not shown their usefulness to me or to visitors, as indicated by their infrequent use, hence such ads were more of a form of graffiti here.  They did not provide value.  I hope that the experience of my blogs without them will be more pleasant for you.

If you value my work, perhaps you would like to get in touch by email.  Remember, though, to start your message with the words:  Dear Via.

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