Follow-up: Google Support’s Response to my Inquiry

Wow – some interesting lessons learned in the past week. Some of them worthy of a blog post or two over the next little while on the power of sites like digg, features those sites really need (and methods for correcting foot-in-mouth disorder).

But first, just to put the final nail in the coffin – Google’s Support Response


Thank you for your message.

Gmail doesn’t recognize dots (.) as characters within a username, so you can add and remove them for desired address variations. For example, messages sent to and are delivered to the same inbox, since the characters in the username are the same. Gmail allows only one registration for any given username, so dot variations of any username aren’t allowed. In your case, you are the sole owner of both and

If you believe that a message was accidentally sent to you, we suggest contacting the sender to inform him or her of an incorrect address.

For your protection, you can only log in to Gmail by entering the exact username you used to set up your account. If you entered dots as part of your username when you signed up for Gmail, please enter them each time you log in to your account.


The Gmail Team

I actually received this response a few days ago – just haven’t had a chance to post until now.

While it’s good to know I’m the only one that has all the variants of my account, the “In your case” concerns me just a bit as it doesn’t speak to an overall inability for different people to have registered the same accounts at some point in time. For now though I’m just going to write it up as words that were used not knowing the bigger context of this answer (i.e. the admitted blogging disaster that was last Friday).

All I can suggest is to email Google support if you have a concern about getting someone else’s mail – as this response indicates they’ll clearly confirm if you’re the only person with that account.

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"Oops", Formerly, ‘Found in My Inbox. An odd GMail "feature"’

Wow. Somewhere this post took a very, very wrong turn – behold the power of “digg”. I’m really wishing I could fast forward to April 1 and just drop an “April Fools” on everyone.

I’ll admit I was wrong in this case. The other user’s account was very, very similar to the account but not exact. It didn’t drop the e but there’s a repeated character that very easily gets ignored by your brain when you read the email address (for the sake of Ryan #2 I won’t out the exact address). I made the same mistake many of his contacts did when I went back and re-read our prior conversation about this mix-up and still didn’t catch the subtle difference.

After reading through the comments and then going back and looking very very closely I realized my mistake. I still think Gmail not recognizing the “.” is a silly feature – but they don’t have the issue that I mis-interpreted to be there. Sorry to Google.

I guess I “dug” myself a deep hole now. From what I can gather the only way to fill it in is to report the link as bad/lame – if visiting dig’s could also do that it would be great – no point in pushing this any further than it has already gone.

Original post below – I’ll admit I’m wrong, not hide it. I’ll leave the comments open for a bit.

– Ryan

Original (Incorrect) Post:

I use “feature” in the loosest sense of the word.

In the big (ridiculous) GMail rush of ’04 I lucked into an invite through pretty early on and thought “What the heck?” and registered ryan.coleman@. I never really used it as I’m very much a “Push to Me” kind of guy when it comes to info – out of sight, out of mind.

So, a few months went by where I didn’t check the account. I logged in and to my surprise found 100 or so emails in my inbox. Odd, since I hadn’t really given the email out except to a couple of people. Odder still, it wasn’t Spam – my inbox was full of someone else’s email.

Having been a former “Media Arts” student I can’t say there wasn’t a certain enjoyment to seeing the other Ryan’s life playing out as he worked his way into the film industry – I did feel bad because there was some fairly sensitive stuff coming through the pipe (scripts etc.). I fired him off an email at his correct address (ryancoleman@) to let him know, and replied to some of the more important looking emails to let them know they got the wrong Ryan and to try his correct address.

I just wrote it off as someone accidentally giving out the wrong address and tried to help get it sorted out. Finished. Right?

I wish.

I logged in today after several months and again I’ve got an inbox full of his email again. Needless to say I figured something else was up other than simply giving someone the wrong email address (especially since you’d have to add the “.” to mine so it’s not like people were omitting it from his or something). I looked a little closer at who people were actually trying to email and sure enough they were sending messages to ryancoleman@, not ryan.coleman@ – so clearly there’s a bug of some sort.

Determined to now get to the bottom of this (and thus spending far too much time dealing with a free email account I don’t use) I dug into the Google Help knowledge base where I found this gem:

Why am I receiving someone else’s email?
You aren’t really. If you receive a message that is addressed to a variation of your email address, it might seem like you are getting someone else’s mail, but we promise you aren’t.

Gmail doesn’t recognize dots (.) as characters within usernames, so you can add and remove them, creating many email address variations.

For example, messages sent to and are delivered to the same inbox.

For your protection, you can’t log in to your account using a variation of your address – you’ll need to enter the exact username you used to create your account. If you entered dots as part of your username when you signed up for Gmail, please enter them each time you log in to your account.

If you believe that a message was accidentally sent to you, you may want to contact the sender to inform him or her of an incorrect address.

Source: GMail “Help”

Sorry, come again? This is a “feature”???

I find it amusing that the system is picky about what email address you use to log in but it doesn’t care where the mail ends up (I tried ryancoleman@ with my password and it thankfully didn’t work) but doesn’t care about where it sends the email to.

What boggles the mind even more is why Google even let two of us register variants of the same email address when they knew full well that mail sent to either account would go to both.

PIA factor aside this was actually a major security issue – had people realised this early on they could have easily gone and deliberately registered mirror accounts and been privy to all their email. Thankfully that loophole seems to be closed as I tried creating variants of my account with “.” in a different spot, and also new uniquely named accounts with a “.” and trying to create a mirror with no “.” – all with no luck.

I’m going to email their support department and see what I hear back – thankfully I’ve never made major use of my gmail account so if I have to give it up it’s not the end of the world – I was there first but he’s actually making use of it. But really, at this stage post-gmail frenzy, I’d be lucky to get

So if you’ve got an original gmail account, be aware – someone else could be getting your mail too.

ETA: Woah – that blew up a little bigger than expected. I’m still waiting to hear back from Google to see what, if anything is going on here. I’ll post if I get a response.

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Where bilingualism pays off…

From the “oops” file:

Had you encountered this sign, and spoke both English and Welsh, you would have had the benefit of knowing that one needed to look both ways before crossing the street.

Thanks to a small error though, if you only spoke either English or Welsh, you would have only known to look either Right or Left as the Welsh text at the bottom says “Pedestrians Look Left”.

Regardless of circumstances I wholeheartedly suggest all pedestrians look both ways regardless of what a sign says. Then again, after years of driving in Toronto I’d take pedestrians looking any direction before they stepped out onto the street.

Source: BBC

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Office québécois de la langue française – a primer of sorts.

We recently just signed a new client for our WCMS product. Their decision to go multilingual, was “hurried up” after some conversations with the “Office Québécois de la langue française” (OQLF), or as they’re not so affectionately known, probably politically incorrectly, in the rest of Canada – the “Language Police” (according to Wikipedia it was actually “60 Minutes” that coined this term during a report).

For those not too familiar with this organization they are essentially an extension of the provincial government whose mandate is to preserve, protect and promote the usage of the French language within the province of Quebec – their actions and mission largely revolve around ensuring the Charter of the French Language is followed.

Until this point I’d admittedly never really read up on the Charter, nor the office that enforces it, largely because none of my previous companies or employers have done much business in Quebec. Our clients, prior to Clay Tablet, were typically doing a French version of their website by choice because they wanted to get into that market and at the time we weren’t positioning ourselves as a globalization/multilingual vendor, it was just a feature of some of our tools.

Obviously the first place I went to read up on the implications of the French charter was the OQLF’s website ( A nice looking site, until you click the “English Section” button at the top of the page – which takes you to a purely utilitarian version of the site with the basic information you need to get by.

It’s actually a good reminder of how important it is to consider the message you’re sending to your audience when translating your site. Needless to say this version of the site didn’t make me feel all that welcome – which, given the context strikes me as odd. At the end of the day the purpose of the OQLF’s mandate is really to encourage non-French speakers to use the French language within the province of Quebec. I’d suggest a better strategy would be to make this process as inviting and simple for someone like myself, so you feel as if you want to comply and work with them – instead, you’re left begrudgingly clicking through a lack-lustre site, trying to figure out a process that seems pointless and artificial.

I initially tried wading through the charter but it’s long, legal and frankly I’m sick of looking at legal-type docs right now (I imagine SLA’s would have been much easier a few hundred years ago: “If the goat dies, come back and I’ll give you another one”). Also, the legal-type docs tend to cover all the bases and are far scarier then the application of the rules actually tend to be.

Anecdotally I’ve heard mixed reviews on how friendly the OQLF can actually be when dealing with your business. It seems to largely to revolve around whether you contact them, or they contact you. There’s also a little bit of urban legend-ish fear built up around how scary they can be. As an example, I came across this interesting anecdote while searching for info.

All indications from our client are also that the office has been quite reasonable with regards to their “encouragement”. This PDF “Doing Business in Quebec”, that can be found on the OQLF site, paints a friendly, patient office that’s willing to help and it appears that larger organizations even have up to a few years to complete the process once they open an office within Quebec.

At the end of the day, if your business is considering Quebec as a target market, even if it’s purely through a website, you should really make sure to read through the OQLF resources and ensure you understand what’s ahead of you. In addition to the variants of rules depending on the size and nature of your company, there are some web specific considerations when selling to Quebec that you should understand before starting to ship product. If all else fails they seem to make it pretty clear they’re happy to work with you, so try giving the OQLF a call.

Note: I refer to this as a primer “of sorts” because I just don’t have the depth to portray a full picture just yet. If I find any handy summaries or resources I’ll be sure to post them.

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Filtering out what you don’t understand

I couldn’t figure out why my Junk Email filter on Outlook appeared to kick the bucket when I reset my laptop a couple of months ago – then this morning, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted something go in the junk mail folder and then get pulled out. It appears that all this time my message rules have been working against me and pulling junk mail back out of the junk folder and into my other folders. Hmph.

So, after a little Googling I found a MS Knowledge Base article that indicates Office Service Pack 1 solves this issue. (Why QA when you can patch?). It turns out SP 2 is actually out not for it as well so I installed it as well. Junk Email problem fixed and as an added bonus I got a tab added to my junk email options pop-up:

I’d love to know who suggested this feature – because we all know the best way to deal with things we’re unfamiliar with is to discard them and pretend they don’t exist. Thankfully this feature isn’t enabled by default. Personally, I don’t get any SPAM in a language other than English (although English is a loose description for what some of them are written in) – so generally if I get an email in something other than English it’s likely that the sender actually bothered to email me. At the very least I’ll run it through some freebie Machine Translator to see what pops out, or maybe run it by someone who might understand it.

I shudder to think how many inboxes are checked to only receive English emails. The tab should really be labeled “Uninternational”.

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