Michael Eriksson
A Swede in Germany
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Cooperation requests

I have received a few odd cooperation requests, since I started this website. While I am certainly open to cooperations, in principle, I do expect a proposal to show some possibility of mutual “value added”, a similarity in content, or some reason that would make the cooperation worth-while to pursue.

Most, however, seem to be centered on creating back-links without regard to relevancy, or on otherwise gaining dishonest advantages, e.g. by improving search rankings in a spammy manner.

Consider an email I received on 2009-11-16 (translated into English and anonymized):

From: [email address indicating a cheap airline or travel bureau]
To: info [at] aswedeingermany [dot] de
Subject: Cooperation inquiry

Good day,

I have found your website during my online researches, and would like to inquire whether you are interested in a mutual linking? [sic!]

Should you be interested in further contacts to this purpose, please reply to this email.

Should you not wish any further contacts, please do not react to this email. In this case you will receive no further emails to this address.

[signature, business address, etc.]

The following issues made me lack interest in the suggested cooperation:

  1. The sender’s address indicates a minimal to no overlap in content and interests, while the domain name gave me a spammy impression. (A visit to the corresponding website, when writing this article, gave no further indication of an overlap.)

  2. The local address (“info”) used to contact me is not one that I have (at the time of writing) publicized or otherwise shared. However, it is a near standard address—and one that I, with the appropriate domain name, often use as recipient when trying to get into contact with organisations that hide their email addresses from surfers. Seeing that my “official” addresses are easily available, I suspect that the sender simply appended “info@” to my domain name—and likely did so with a large number of other domains, using the same email text.

  3. I am not addressed by name, despite my name being obvious from the website. Either the sender lacks in social skills, or he did not bother to read even the start page.

  4. The email makes no mention of the grounds for a cooperation, e.g. that we share interests or that our respective visitors would benefit from the suggested linking.

  5. The subject is very generic, could apply to a message sent to almost anyone, and is arguably misleading: By “cooperation” something more than mutual linking is typically expected. This further raises the question of spam—spamming is a numbers game, and having the readers filter messages out after reading, instead of after seeing just the subject (hypothetically, “Proposal of mutual linking”), can lead to better numbers.

  6. While it is mostly positive that an opt-in system is used for future contacts, there are two possible implications that are negative: Firstly, this system makes it easy to automatically sort out interested parties from uninterested, which increases my suspicions that I am but one of many contacted people. Secondly, those users who wish to send other messages to the senders (e.g. a pointer to a netiquette page, an inquiry as to where the email address was found, or similar; but also automatically sent confirmation messages) run the risk of being counted as a “Yes! Please spam me!”.

This phenomenon is not limited to links and websites, however. Take for instance one friendship request at Xing: Someone I had never heard of, who lived in India, specialized in C++, and had 150-ish other contacts, felt that we would make an interesting team, and wrote me a highly generic message requesting that I “add him as a contact”—this without in anyway indicating what, specifically, I stood to gain, what kind of cooperation he had in mind, where our (business) interests overlapped, or similar. As above, I concluded that I was but one of many, and that our mutual value was limited to inflating each others contact count.


How to do it instead? Even brief notes like (linking)

Dear Michael, I noticed some writings of yours on [something or other] that I found interesting. My website, http://www.xxx.de, deals with similar topics, and I think that our respective readers would benefit from mutual linking. Let me know if you are interested.

respectively (Xing contact)

Dear Michael, I run the software department of XXX in YYY. XXX is about to start a new branch in Cologne, and I am looking for someone local to help me set up the initial development team. Let me know if you are interested in discussing the possibilities of a cooperation.

would make a sufficiently good first contact to warrant at least a first investigation.