Mike Anderson


Proposal for an open-source project to end unwanted sales & marketing emails

This post outlines an open-source project to combat unsolicitied emails that will:

  1. Allow users to click a button and mark any inbound email as “unsolicited”
  2. Auto label and skip ‘inbox’ inbound email so the user never has to see it
  3. Add the email address to a list of all address that send unsolicited and unwanted emails to any user
  4. Notify the offending party of sending unwanted email
  5. Allow the user to out filter out addresses based on the severity of offenses

I’ve been trying to ignore this idea because I have more than enough on my plate at the moment. But, today I saw these posts:

So, I said — ‘fuck it, let’s spend a couple hours tonight and maybe set up some aspiring dev(s) for a quick MVP and see how it scales’. If you’re interested, there’s a link near the bottom to a Reddit conversation.

Here’s one possible way to approach it:

1. Allow users to click a button and mark any inbound email as “unsolicited”

There would be a simple icon in the Chrome browser that you can click, a dropdown will pop up, and it will be pre-filled with the name and email from the open Gmail tab. A click sends that info, along with a user ID, and time stamp to a database — more ideally it would be on a block chain to keep everything decentralized—not sure the mechanics yet...

I own graphe.co , which seems like a decent name for a social graph product like this — so let’s go with that. I like the tagline “Creating an opt-in society” It can change, but I’m also happy sign that over the URL to someone if they make something rad.

2. Auto file any inbound email so the user never has to deal with that sender again

When the user clicks the “Add to unsolicited list” the app uses the Gmail api to mark the email as read and move it into an “unsolicited” folder.

3. Add the email address to a list of all address that send unsolicited and unwanted emails

Whatever the database or blockchain looks like — it’s important that it keeps track of the total number of unsolicited emails coming from a domain and an individual email address, and also the number of unique users reporting those addresses or domains. I think this is where getting community input on how to keep things as decentralized as possible, and also private would be helpful. If you have any thoughts at all, please feel free to share on the Reddit thread, or hit me up @mikeyanderson.

4. Notify the offending party of sending unwanted email

It feels kind of weird emailing back an email they don’t want, but it only feels fair to give them warning that their actions have consequences. If the email is auto-blocked because they hit the filter level (below).

5. Allow the user to out filter out addresses based on the severity of offenses

The user should be able to set their filter to any level they choose starting with filtering out one time offenders, mild offenders, aggressive offenders, or extreme offenders. Some jobs require you to get pitches from folks you don’t know — so giving the users a level of control is important. I didn’t mock that up—but can if you need it.

Next steps:

  • If you’re interested in being part of this project — let’s have a community discussion. Here’s a Reddit thread for discussion. Also on Hacker News if that’s your style. Would love help getting the word out with an upvote too :)
  • After some conversation, I’d love to see someone set up a Github for collecting the spec and having one or more devs commit to launching an MVP.
  • Here’s a link to the sketch file if you want to play around. The font I used is Roboto— you’re free to do what you want with them. If you end up making a product on your own, I’d love for you to link back to mikeyanderson.com and let me know.
  • If you want to see this happen—please consider retweeting, upvoting, or sharing with someone who would like this.

Future things you could do with an opt-in decentralized social graph like this:

  1. Send offending unsolicited spammers to 21.co to be able to donate a small amount in order to reach out. Even a little friction can separate the signal from the noise, and could raise money for good non-profits.
  2. In a way, this product could be the foundation of an opt-in professional networking site ala LinkedIn without all the BS of YOU being the product they are selling. If when you tagged an email as unsolicited it triggered an email to those sales people to make an account, add their products and services, and then when a member is looking for a product or service — they can go to Graphe to find solutions that would fit their need. It would create a positive incentive loop. If it’s on the blockchain, there may even be a way to have the sales people or product people have to mine (or pay for AWS time to mine) in order to keep the ledger going.

As you can tell, I like dreaming about what could be. Would love if you dreamed with me and the right people could come together to make this happen. Please do share with people that may be interested.

~Mike Anderson

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