My new book: I like to write back—a collection of silly replies to unsolicited email

Book cover shows old Gmail icon

Look! I’ve made a thing!

What do you do with unsolicited emails? Ignore them? Delete them? Let your spam filter swallow them? What if you were to reply to them?

That’s exactly what I did in October 2009. Fed up of people wasting my time sending me emails about search engine optimisation opportunities, or who wanted to place adverts and guest posts on this blog, instead of rolling my eyes, tutting loudly and deleting them, I wrote back.

You can download a free copy in PDF, or buy a paperback copy on on my books page.

Continue reading My new book: I like to write back—a collection of silly replies to unsolicited email

Using Akismet on WordPress Multisite

Akismet is a WordPress plugin for dealing with comment spam. It’s pretty good and simple to set up:

  1. Sign up for an Akismet plan (from free for a personal site, to $50 per month for enterprise).
  2. Use the API key generated to activate your plugin.

The API key (like a license key) is in the format abcde1f23456.

And that’s fine if you have only one site, but if you’re running WordPress multisite then you don’t want to have to activate Akismet individually for each sub-site. That’s just tedious.

Wouldn’t it be much better if you could just add the API key once?

Akismet doesn’t offer that option within the user interface on Multisite. Undeterred, I went in search of a way to do it.

How to do it

The wonderful folks over at WPMU DEV have a really useful blog post from July 2013 about how to do this: How to use Akismet on WordPress Multisite with 1 license key.

The good news it’s really simple:

  1. Open wp-config.php in your favourite text editor.
  2. The WPMU DEV article recommends that you add the API code  below the comment /* That's all, stop editing! Happy blogging. */ but I prefer to add it below the define() block for Multisite. But you can add it where you like, really.
  3. Add the following code define('WPCOM_API_KEY','abcde1f23456');
  4. Save wp-config.php and upload it to your site.

Your wp-config.php file will then look something like this:

/** Multisite */
define('WP_ALLOW_MULTISITE', true );
define('MULTISITE', true);
define('SUBDOMAIN_INSTALL', false);
define('DOMAIN_CURRENT_SITE', '');
define('PATH_CURRENT_SITE', '/');
define('SITE_ID_CURRENT_SITE', 1);
define('BLOG_ID_CURRENT_SITE', 1);

/** Define API key for Akismet in WordPress Multisite */

Like many things on this blog I’ve added this here primarily for my own reference, but I hope it helps you too.

The real credit on how to do this, of course, goes to Sarah Gooding from WPMU DEV: thank you.

Happy spam-free blogging!

Post Express Delivery email is malware spam!

I received this email this afternoon:

Post Express Delivery. Package is available for pickup. NR 67433


Post notification No.17134

The company could not deliver your package to your address. Your package has been returned to the Post Express office. The reason of the return is “Incorrect delivery address of the package”

Please attention!

Attached to the letter mailing label contains the details of the package delivery. Please print out the invoice copy attached and collect the package at our office

Thank you for attention.
Post Express Service.

Now, I am waiting for a parcel to be delivered. It should contain a wall clock for the bathroom as we had a nice one with a bird on it that is now on the wall in Reuben and Joshua’s bedroom. So, I have to be honest and say that I was tempted to open it.

But then I read the email again and these were the things that concerned me:

  1. “Hello.” Not “Hello Gareth”, just “Hello”.
  2. Who are “Post Express”? Never heard of them.
  3. The reason of the return is “Incorrect delivery address of the package”, but seemingly they managed to guess my correct email address, despite my delivery address being freely available in the BT Phone Book but my email address not…?!
  4. “Please attention!” — that certainly grabbed my attention. Not the most professional use of the English language I’ve ever received.
  5. “Attach to…” — oh, look! an attachment. A zip attachment, which if I were to open I’m pretty certain Symantec Norton AntiVirus 2011 would inform me contains a virus, or trojan, or other such malware software.

I just deleted the email.

What’s a kitchen?!

Call centre
Congratulations! By looking at this photo of a call centre you qualify for an £850 voucher for …

Who you gonna call? Not me…!

A few years ago, around about the end of May 2006, I signed up for the Telephone Preference Service (TPS). I know that because I have a letter from them confirming that I had signed up for it.

The TPS is

“the official central opt out register on which you can record your preference not to receive unsolicited sales or marketing calls. It is a legal requirement that all organisations (including charities, voluntary organisations and political parties) do not make such calls to numbers registered on the TPS unless they have your consent to do so.”

Despite that we still get unsolicited sales calls from time to time, wrapped up in a cunning disguise to make them look like we’ve won a competition or money-off voucher for a new kitchen, bathroom or bedroom.

I got another one of those calls this evening, and I have to confess to have … well, see for yourself.

The call

As professional sales calls go this one didn’t get off to a terribly good start.  When I picked up the phone the caller was in the middle of a chat with a colleague.  They were laughing about something.

I said hello.

“Oh! Sorry,” she replied, “Hello!”

I’d clearly taken her by surprise. But ever the professional she started to read from her script.

“Congratulations! You’ve been selected in a … blah blah blah … to receive an £850 voucher towards the cost of a new kitchen or bedroom.”

“Sorry, I’m not interested,” I said.

She ignored me and pressed on with her script.

“Can I ask you how old is your kitchen?”

“My what?” I asked.

“Your kitchen,” she said.

Kitchen?! What’s a kitchen?”

“You know,” she said, a little taken aback, “a kitchen.”

“I have no idea what that is. I don’t think we’ve got a … what did you call it?”


“Yeah, I don’t think we’ve got a kitchen.”

“A kitchen,” she said, her voice getting more animated now. “Surely you know what a kitchen is…”

And then she went to the trouble of trying to describe it for me.

“… A kitchen: a room with a sink and cupboards in it.”

“Hmm … no, sorry. I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Come on!” she said, “stop taking the mickey, everyone knows what a kitchen is.”

“I have … no … idea,” I said, sounding genuinely confused.

“Okay,” she continued, “then can you tell me how old your bedroom is?”

“Well!” I exclaimed, “that’s a very personal question!”

“No it’s not!” she said, quite forcefully.

I’m pretty certain that bit wasn’t on her call centre script.

“It is to me.”

“How can it be a personal question?” she challenged me.

“Well, I don’t phone up complete strangers and ask them how old their bedroom is! How rude!”

“But it’s for a voucher,” she said.

“Ahhh!” I said, sounding quite enlightened. “A VOUCHER!”

“Yes,” she said, almost audibly sighing with relief.

“Yeah, I’m not interested.”

“What?!” she exploded. “I can’t believe that you’re turning down the opportunity for an £850 voucher for a new kitchen or bedroom.”

“I … I …,” I wasn’t quite sure what to say.  But that was okay because I didn’t have to.  She was back to her script.

“Can you tell me how old the furniture in your bedroom is?”


“Well, can you tell me how old your kitchen is?”

I think she was trying to catch me out.  But how could she, had she forgotten, I don’t know what a kitchen is.

“My what?”

She then called for her manager, and I could hear her talking to him.  “This guy says that he doesn’t know what a kitchen is,” she said to him.

There was a pause while she handed me over to her manager, Dan.

“Hello sir,” he said, quite politely.

“Hello,” I replied, as is the custom.

“Are you having a good evening?” he asked.

“Erm, yes.  I was just trying to explain to your colleague,” I ventured, “that I wasn’t interested in your offer just now because we already have twins and have another baby on the way so we’re really not planning to upgrade our kitchen or bedrooms in the near future.”

“That’s fine,” he said. “I’m sorry about that, she must have been a bit slow to understand what you were saying.”

“That’s ok, I understand.  Thank you. Good night.”

I hung up.

Next time

We seem to get these calls every couple of weeks.  The next time it happens I really need to take the company’s name so that I can contact the Telephone Preference Service and ask them to follow up the call to ascertain why we were being contacted.

In the meantime I’ll just continue to have fun.  The last time I got a call like this I just told them that we hadn’t had a kitchen since the explosion and that the insurance company was dealing with it.  The next time … any suggestions?  Leave them in the comments, if you like.

p.s. I do know what a kitchen is. We’ve got loads of them!