Moving to your new email account

May 22, 2009

Suppose everyone has known you for decades as That address appears in printed publications, in your comments on the Federal docket, a gazillion business cards floating around the world, and in your favorite great-auntie’s contact list (on AOL of course). The whole point of an email address is to keep in touch, but now you’re faced with the daunting prospect of notifying everyone. And what about all those email lists where you subscribe via your old, well-known address? Though you recognize the thick rich goodness of my advice to move to a new email account, you can’t get over the steep hump of the transition.

Have no fear! The modern mail systems make it easy for you to continue using your AOL account while you ease your way out of its walled garden. For example, you can move your activity to gmail, and instruct gmail to act as your front-end to AOL. This way you’ll see all your messages in gmail’s user interface (does a nice job with rich HTML formatting and attachments, convenient tools for handling high volume so you don’t need to bother with daily digests) even for those folks who send mail to your old AOL account.

  1. In the gmail front page, select “Settings” in the upper-right corner.
  2. In the “Settings” page, select the “Accounts” tab.
  3. In the “Get mail from other accounts” section, select “Add a mail account you own”.
  4. Tell gmail your AOL account (e.g. ““) and password.
  5. Gmail will send an email to your AOL account to verify you really do own it. The email will contain a secret numeric code that you need to bring back to gmail.

Other settings are available, but most of the defaults are fine for now:

  • You might want to select “Leave a copy of retrieved message on the server” until you are comfortable and ready to trust the setup.
  • For sure you should “Always use a secure connection (SSL) when retrieving mail”.
  • You can “Label incoming messages” if you’d like to keep track of how much traffic is coming from your old account.
  • Use “Archive incoming messages” once you’re comfortable with your gmail label (like folders) setups.

You can start publishing your new gmail address.
You will continue to receive mail sent to your old AOL address.

Now you can start changing all your email list subscriptions to your new mailbox. Stay tuned for more on that…

How to select an email address

May 6, 2009

When you’re preparing a new “serious” email account (e.g. for professional publications or a job search) you need to choose a domain name and a mailbox name. The domain name is usually determined by the service provider, though not necessarily. Your mailbox name is much more free, unless somebody got there first.

Choosing A Provider

Your domain can fit in one of several tiers of credibility and utility:

  1. or – This is bad because
    • unprofessional handle
    • AOL and Juno are so 1987
    • AOL connotes technophobia (my mom only recently left AOL)
  2. – Only slightly better.
    • appearances: Looks like you just took whatever free mailboxes your ISP was offering when you set up your phone line or cable service, and you weren’t thinking about
    • utility: Whether your ISP is Comcast or ATT or any other, your address will change when you move or pick a different ISP. You’ll need to tell all your friends your new address, change all your email subscriptions, reprint all your resumes and business cards, … This is a powerful lock-in to keep you on their system.
  3. or – Good because it’s portable, as stable as the free service’s underlying company, and never needs to change when you move. Also gmail has good spam filters.
  4. me@mydomain – Best, and not much trouble or expense.

I host my domains’ mail on Google so I get their excellent spam filtering and tie-in with all their other services. Also, Google’s delivery performance is faster than Yahoo’s, both inbound and outbound, and they’re blackholed less.


Any provider’s web user interface is an acquired taste. If you prefer, most providers also let you get your mail via POP/SMTP or IMAP from a desktop application like Microsoft Office Outlook or Thunderbird, though for some that access brings an additional fee.

I have come to strongly prefer using the web interface to gmail, because I have access to all my mail (and calendar and everything else) from any web browser in the world. None of it is in a folder on my desktop computer back home, and none of it will be lost or stolen with my laptop. It’s all in the cloud. Also, gmail’s labeling and filtering paradigm is uncommonly powerful.

Choosing A Mailbox Name

Whichever provider you use, choose your name carefully so it’s accurate and professional and obvious. Think what it will look like to the grad school admission counselor, or to the hiring manager: “hotchick21” or “bikergod43” won’t look so great on a resume.

Avoid numbers (lissim123) because it sounds like you were late to the party. Particularly avoid numbers that might sound like your birthday (lissim1962) because it might reveal your age, which could be either older or younger than the hiring manager wants. (Yes, that’s age discrimination. Yes, it’s illegal. Yes, it happens. No, you can’t prove that’s why you didn’t get that job. Get over it.)

A good starting point is your first initial and last name, if it’s still available (lsimpson). If you want to be a little less formal, check for first name and last initial (lisas).

Grab all the permutations you can think of (lisasimpson and lisa_simpson and lisa.simpson and lisa-simpson and l.simpson and lisas) also near-misspellings (lsimson and lsimpsone and lsympson) and funnel them all to the same inbox. Gmail makes this funneling easy and I presume Yahoo does too. You really, really don’t want a dozen mailboxes to check every day.

If you will primarily publish you should also grab and all the permutations there too. Forward them all to your gmail account.

If you establish your own domain, you’re guaranteed to be the first arrival, so you can have a very short mailbox name and it will be unique. So you can be or if you like.


Capitalization doesn’t matter in an email address, so arrange the letters in the way that makes it most readable. For example, in teeny-tiny type at the bottom of a business card, “l” (lower case L) is indistinguishable from “1” (digit one). So print it as LSimpson@whatever or LisaS@whatever.