Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Defeat google's canned response

There is a great application in gmail lab, called "canned responses". Basically, it replies on your behalf, when your email matches the filter you set up.
This is great for example if you go on vacation and you want to auto-reply a particular message. However, gmail is following "too well" the standard.

In my case, I was really disturbed by the emails I was receiving from my school associations. You know, they are the kind of emails you absolutely don't care about.

So what's the problem ?

The problem is this emails are sent through lists. Usually, there is a moderator deciding whether or not forwarding the email. In my case, I couldn't unsubscribe from the list and I was receiving like 3-5 emails/day.
When using the gmail canned responses, it replied to the "list-bounce" (ie following theReturn-Path in the email header and then, the sender did not receive my email back. That was a pitty.
The idea was then to:
  1. Effectively reply to the sender, not to the bouncer.
  2. Also send an email to the list moderator to show my displeasure.
Sounds like a perl script would be very easy to write. I created a new gmail account and I enabled the POP (Settings->Forwarding and POP/IMAP). On my main email address, I forwarded the email matching a certain pattern to this new mailbox.
To respond to the sender, I was using the mailx command, for simplicity.

Perl is new for me, so my coding style is crappy, I know. Of course, feel free to criticize it if you feel the need.

#!/usr/bin/perl -w
my $user = 'bobo@gmail.com';
my $pass = 'papassword';
my $home = '/home/blabla/automailer';

my $pop = new Mail::POP3Client(
USER => $user,
PASSWORD => $pass,
HOST => "pop.gmail.com",
PORT => 995,
USESSL => 'true',

my $count = $pop->Count();
for my $i (1 .. $count) {
my $name = "";
my $email = "";
my $subj = "";
foreach ($pop->Head($i)) {
$name = $1 if /^(?:From):(.+)<(.+)>/i;
$email = $1 if /^(?:From):(?:.+)<(.+)>/i;
$subj = $1 if /^(?:Subject):(.+)/i;

# We remove the spaces at beginning/end
s/^\s+// for $subj;
s/\s+$// for $subj;
s/^\s+// for $email;
s/\s+$// for $email;
s/^\s+// for $name;
s/\s+$// for $name;

# We save the history
open FILE, "< $home/contact.txt" or die; my @array = ;
close FILE or die;
my $found = 0;
my $number = 0;
for my $i (0..$#array) {
if ($array[$i] =~ /$email\s+(\d+)/) {
$number = $1;
$array[$i] =~ s/$1/$number/;
$found = 1;
# print FILE;
if ($found == 0) {
push(@array, "$email 1\n");
$number = 1;
open FILE, "> $home/contact.txt" or die;
print FILE @array;
close FILE or die;

my $msg;
$msg .= "Hi $name,\n\n";
$msg .= "I'm an auto replier.\n";
$msg .= "Thanks a lot for your email \"".$subj."\", but I am absolutely not interested. Next time,
please remove my address from your contact list.\n";
$msg .= "Since apparently you already sent me ".$number." times an email, I am going to do the same
x6. Thus, I'm sending you back ".($number * 6)." emails.\n" if ($number > 1);
$msg .= "\n";
$msg .= "Thanks,\n";
$msg .= "\n";
$msg .= "Blabla.";
$msg .= "\n";
# print $msg;
open FILE, "> $home/msg.txt" or die;
print FILE $msg;
close FILE or die;

for (my $i = 0; $i < $number; $i++) {
`mailx $email -s \"Not interested: $subj $i\" < $home/msg.txt`;
`mailx crappylist\@vovo.com -s \"Not interested: $subj $i\" < $home/msg.txt`; }


So what do we do ?

  • We first connect to the server and retrieve every email.
  • For each email, we take the sender's name, email address and the subject.
  • We build the message with the previously collected data.
  • We send the message and update the history. An entry in the history is email - times. First time we are polite, then we send 6x the number of emails the sender sent to us.
  • We send the email using mailx (easy way...).
  • We delete the message on the server, in order not to reprocess it.
There we have a very effective auto-replier that will spam back the sender (and the list btw). You can put this Perl script in you crontab, of run a small bash script in a screen that will execute it every 10 minutes for instance.

The end of the story ?

The administrator contacted me, because I was improperly using the computer resources of my school and I had to shut off my script :(...

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