Monday, June 19, 2006

Finding a colleague's e-mail address

Finding a colleague's e-mail address is messy with much trial and error. Today many people want their address to be confidential due to the onslaught of spam. The best strategy is to find their phone number and then call to ask their e-mail address. <8-)

Chances for success increase if they
  • have participated in newsgroups or mailing lists
  • work for a major organization, e.g., university, health service, government, etc.
  • have authored published research papers

That said, here's a few tricks to try if you want to find "Jane Doe":

1. Search online phone books to get Jane's phone number You also need the city or town where she lives, otherwise the "hit" list of possibilities will be large.

Note that people can remove their listing from online "white page" directories.

Some examples of online directories:

Try searching for yourself (scary stuff!) or learn how to remove yourself.

2. If Jane works for an organization, find the organization on the web . If it's a university, you can almost always find the e-mail address (via a dept. listing or staff search utility). For example, search:

You can also contact Jane by phone by calling the department's main office.

3. Note how an organization's addresses are formatted by visiting its website. Once you find one address at an organization, you have the key to its address formatting. For example:

  • CBS addresses are formatted (
  • NBS address are ( )

4. Do a simple web search of the person's name ("jane doe") in Google - you can sometimes luck out.

5. If Jane has authored scientitfic papers, do an author search on PubMed in the format:

  • doe j[au]

Select several abstracts where Jane is the main author and her e-mail address will soon be discovered. Usually it takes only 1 to 5 abstracts to reveal an e-mail address. For fun, try a selection of your colleagues who have been published.

6. If Jane has been active on the Internet, try searching newsgroups at Google (Google Groups Beta - at top). For example, try "ed uthman"

7. Contact a person who may know Jane's address. For example, I get a many inquiries from colleages since I manage several mailing lists.

  • Precaution: Never give an e-mail address to someone you do not know and preferably let the person decide if they want the requester to have their address.

8. Send a general inquiry to e-mail address possibilities:

"I am looking for a colleague Jane Doe who works at Jane, If it's you, hi from Pat! Please drop me a line when you can. If it's not Jane, my apologies - please delete message."

Generic possibilities for hypothetical Canadian institution "":


If the first and last name together are long (e.g., Jane Smithsonian), try truncating at 8 letters (a common e-mail protocol):


Invalid addresses will bounce. The worst that can happen is a stranger gets your message and deletes it.

Hope this is useful! Here are some other search goodies.

Cheers, Pat

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