I don’t like receiving HTML emails for a variety of reasons, including privacy, security, bandwidth, and simplicity, so my default setting in my mail client is to receive emails in text-only format.
The iNaturalist emails come through in a format that is poorly readable in text-only format, because the URL’s are so long. Most are around 500 characters long, making them bleed onto 4-6 lines of text. And there are a total of 18 different URL’s. This combination results in the email being hard to read, and also looking a little spammy and unprofessional.
This stuff is absolutely unnecessary because the links are simply SendGrid tracking links to things where raw URL’s could be included instead, and the raw URL’s are much shorter. For example, the iNaturalist canonical URL for an observation is short, even when appeanding a string for the notification, for instance, this is generated from the internal notification system:
In text-only emails, I would expect the URL’s to be this short or shorter. With URL shorteners or clever hashes, you could get them a lot shorter than above, if you wanted to.
Furthermore, if someone is receiving a text-only email, there is a high likelihood that this person is doing so because they don’t want to be tracked. This is one of the major reasons I opt for text-only emails. To include very long URL’s in the email, for tracking purposes, like altering the natural URL’s of the site, is thus disrespectful to the user.
I am also worried that, potentially, some users might report these emails as spam. It’s the sort of thing I would do. For one, the length of the URL’s and the fact that the bulk of the email is taken up by URL’s and not actual content, make the email look spammy, so at a glance, I would probably label the message as spam. For two, the disrespect of including tracking links in the email, might drive some people to do this. The emails look so bad to me that if they were not originating from an organization that I think is important and care a lot about the success of, I would have already reported these as spam. And for three, I dislike receiving emails like this and the idea of holding people accountable for doing so, making them face some negative consequences for an action that, to me, seems sloppy and disrespectful to me as a user, appeals to me. Again, I’m not going to do this with iNaturalist, but I’ll eagerly do this with emails from an organization I have less warm-fuzzy feels about, and I could imagine others perhaps making this choice.
What do others think? It seems to me like it would be a huge improvement to these emails to simply include the shorter, on-site URL’s in the emails, in the text-only format.
I don’t know if iNaturalist has much of a problem with emails getting reported as spam, but having run several social websites myself, it’s a pretty much ubiquitous problem with any organization that sends out automated emails, and usually people are thrilled by the idea of anything that can lower the rate of spam reports.