If it wasn’t broken, why did it take all day to fix?

A few years ago, I decided to set up my own domain. I was (and am) a happy Gmail user, but I didn’t want my email to necessarily have to go through Google, and I’d realized that sending my personal email to my ibm.com address wasn’t viable in the long run. So I picked a nice short domain and started using it for everything.

I was worried about spam – not the random spam that we all have to put up with, but spam created by companies sharing email addresses. So I took advantage of having my own domain and started giving out unique email addresses every time I created a new account. Everything funneled into one mailbox anyway, but I had control.

Over time, I realized that there really wasn’t a lot of leakage due to email sharing. In fact, I found that I got more spam sent to “random_address@my_domain” than from any other source. So I stopped making up new addresses but I didn’t do anything about the hundred-or-so addresses I’d created.

In the last year, I’ve gotten quite a bit of misdirected legitimate mail – some of which I really didn’t want to have anywhere near my computer (other people’s financial data). But I couldn’t easily block it, because I had to leave my catchall forwarding in effect to handle all of the accounts I’d created years ago.

Today, I decided to fix the problem once and for all. First, I had to find out what addresses were getting mail. I fired up Mail.app and downloaded all of my current mail; then I crawled through the mail folders, pulled out the “Delivered-To” lines, and built the list of addresses in use (not all of which were ones I wanted to maintain).

After that, it was a straightforward, if slow, process:

  1. Look at the next address in the list
  2. Search for the mail referring to that address (on Gmail, search for “address in:anywhere”)
  3. Figure out what company or companies was using that address
  4. Log onto their website and change the address (or unsubscribe, if it was someone I no longer cared about)
  5. While I was there, I usually changed the username to something I could remember and made the password stronger (1Password is my friend!)
  6. Lather, rinse, repeat

It took all day (with frequent Facebook, Google+, and newsreader breaks, of course).

And I’m not finished – I still have quite a few weak passwords to strengthen. But not tonight.

Memo to self: sometimes, simple is just fine.

3 thoughts on “If it wasn’t broken, why did it take all day to fix?”

  1. I’ve been strengthening passwords myself, of late, and I’ve found that while the following comic is, in fact, correct – many sites also require the use of numbers or symbols. http://xkcd.com/936/

  2. Yes, I loved that comic! I use 1Password for my password management, and I usually let it generate a truly random, long, complicated password for me — and I never look at it. There are a few sites I really want to be able to log into ‘by hand’, and for those, I’m moving to the xkcd model, adapted to the site’s requirements.

    It’s a slow process.

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