Certain benefits of SquirrelMail


I have to admit that as much as I was displeased at the prospect being unable to help out with the anime club this year, the past few months have in fact been somewhat liberating as these responsibilities are no longer mine. While the other members of the executive team have been reflecting, I have too, but it’s more of a reflection on how perhaps letting the club go has allowed me to go out and seek more employment for myself, that will definitely help me in the long run.

But I digress, because I wanted to discuss a few things that Ruben took the opportunity to discuss today in regards to Anime@UTS’ email system. While I don’t understand the ins-and-outs of the backend considering I was never in the webmaster position, there are a few critical elements of the frontend interface of SquirrelMail that are part of the reason it’s still a viable option.

It’s old and crusty, I hear you say, we should move to something new and modern. That’s true, but there are still a few key benefits from using SquirrelMail, despite its interface shortcomings.

A simple email client

I don’t think anyone would disagree that SquirrelMail by and large is extremely simple to use, and more simple to use than other options which the user is greeted with on logging in, namely what appears and old version of Horde and an equally old version of Roundcube.

This simplicity lends itself to use by many different people — by this I mean that the position changes when different people are voted into the role via the AGM, or Annual General Meeting, each year. It takes very little time to learn and to sort through, which is critical for getting new people in this role quickly set up.

Condensing information

While doing various theory-centric subjects as part of my Masters, I’ve come across various articles explaining how the younger generations are now only interested in short snippets of condensed information and can tend to baulk at reading anything long-form. How ironic, given I’m writing a blog post.

Nonetheless, the simple nature of SquirrelMail forces a certain need for succinctness, because formatting cannot be relied on as a way of distinguishing the different sections of the email from each other. People are probably not interested in a lengthy read anyway, and want to skip straight to the salient information so they can get to where they want to be.

It’s doing you a service.

With past members of past executive teams mentioning that they don’t read emails anyway, perhaps the greatest audience for emailed newsletters is in fact older generations of club members, some of whom maybe using similar setups to what Ruben mentioned. In which case, I have always been careful to insert only a minimum of formatting into my newsletters, such that anyone with a text-based email client may view the newsletter as comfortably as anyone with a client that can interpret HTML.

Text-based defense

This last one is potentially the most important in my eyes though, because as an email address that is published publicly, this means that this email address receives a great amount of spam, from the usual viagra and ‘winner of a million dollars’ ones to impersonations of one of the four major banks in Australia.

A text based email client such as SquirrelMail allows all the graphical elements and links to be stripped out of the message, so it is immediately obvious whether there are malicious attachments with the message, or if there is reason to suspect the origination of the message because the email address or any of the linked addresses in the body of the message make no sense.

Why make a task longer or harder for yourself?

A nostalgic sod

Fine, perhaps I’m just nostalgic for the way things are and have been as far as I remember it. Perhaps the reason this system has lasted for such a long time has simply been the result of laziness and ‘it works so leave it be’.

I’ve always accepted and used the system as my peers before had done, I hadn’t questioned it — perhaps the time is right to be asking such questions and to bring the club to it’s next level. Yet at the same time, there isn’t always a need for complex setups and elaborately designed layouts for emails.

Sometimes the simplest is the best.