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Why Have Email If You Can't Use It?

[Yeah, it's a rant!]

It's a good thing I can't crawl thru the internet wires and grab by the throat some of the morons running mail servers today. I'd be charged with murder for sure.

OK, so spam is a problem. But which is worse, unwanted email or missing important business email because the spam filter ate it?!?!?!

I must use some phrase that spam filters hate. About 20% of the mail I send gets sent back to me from some idiot spam filter. My favorite moronic bounce is what I get when I use my a return address that does not match my IPS's domain name. What are the millions of people who own their own domains supposed to do? Not send mail?

[geek example] Or if I use an IP address that resolves and I use my ISP's mail server I get the same problem.

What caused this rant was the odyssey I just went thru to send a single email. The first time I tried sending this domain mail, I had to be whitelisted. Then (bizarrely) it appeared to whitelist me by user. (ie: I could send to one user email but not another.)

After I got past that problem, (and a few others) the spam filter bounced me for content. It got offended because I used a word it did not like. It did not tell me the word so I had to guess. and guess and guess and guess.

By the time it was all said and done, the email bounced 15 times before I got it to go thru. I finally saved the mail as a text file, then I zipped it and sent it with no explanation lest it be bounced for that.

In the end, my contact did not get the mail in time for his meeting. A multi (multi multi) million dollar company wasting executives' time because the geeks (term used lightly) set the spam filter on "shoot anything that moves" because they have no ability to make an intelligent risk vs reward analysis.

So I get to the point... If you are going to set spam filters so tight that a simple business proposal gets bounced, why have email? Let's just go back to smoke signals.

At least than we knew what to expect.


Comments (12)

The ISP I use for my person... (Below threshold)
cirby:

The ISP I use for my personal domain recently went to a system where, if you send more than 500 emails in 24 hours, you get shut down until you get a special whitelist from the ISP.

Among other things, this is a good way to catch the virus-powered robot emailers.

Paul... did you call the pe... (Below threshold)

Paul... did you call the person you were trying to contact with the proposal during all of this? They might be interested in hearing your thoughts.

This would be funny if it w... (Below threshold)
-S-:

This would be funny if it wasn't so pesky.

There was a discussion once on a members' only forum (you had to register to use the forum, is all, and someone was moderating/blocking/adding/removing membership participations afterward based upon propriety)...and the theme was driving in the snow and inclement weather and vehicles and such and I shared my solution to surviving (well) many years of major snow in the Colorado Rockies: keep a new set of "S-M&S tires" on your vehicle.

That translates, from the receipt from the neighborhood tire/auto parts store where I frequented, to what they (all) say there are "studded mud and snow tires."

And I got booted for using the word, "studded."

It's what the dratted things are called: studded mud and snow tires. I've yet to ever encounter any randy guy (or gal either) in my home-town area who even remotely associates anything off-color or offensive about the tires they purchase, like me, every Fall.

But, I always got a laugh out of that experience, there, from a California group, who only associated one thing and one thing only with that expression about my dratted tires. The forum, when asked about that, later "advised" that the tires be referred to, instead, as "spiked mud and snow tires" and that was even funnier to me, particularly since that ISNT' WHAT THEY'RE CALLED, except, of course, in some fantasy land forum environment among certain techies in CA...

True story. Last time I purchased yet another set of those tires, I looked at my receipt and there it was, "studded M&S tires, 4#" with my paid price. I can only imagine the snickering if and when I ever tried walking into an auto parts store in CO and asking for "spiked mud and snow tires."

Letters, Paul, and the phon... (Below threshold)
-S-:

Letters, Paul, and the phone. If it's business, beyond the simple, a meeting and/or a phone call usually is still considered advisable.

I am actually glad about Spam filtering and only wish there was greater discrimination available, as in, you get to land your message in my Inbox if and only if I want it there. Has to be some sort of acceptance process is what I mean, otherwise, today's email is the eqivalent 90% of the time with the bacteria level found on public telephones. Spammers have ruined the process which otherwise sounded, once, pretty neat.

As a "Messaging Systems Eng... (Below threshold)

As a "Messaging Systems Engineer" (fancy name for email geek) we live in a thankless world. When everyone gets their email, nothing is said.

When they get spam, virii, or an email comes up missing people scream for our heads. Its a fine line we have to walk, but in my professional opinion it sounds like the administrators you are dealing with are either completely clueless or deliberately belligerent (ala BOFH).

Have the recipient add you ... (Below threshold)
Remy Logan:

Have the recipient add you to his address book and white list. Spam filtering software that does not allow white listing ain't worth anything.

Along the same lines...wher... (Below threshold)

Along the same lines...where I work I frequently get email FROM OUR CLIENTS with documents attached that range from 1 to about 6 MB. Without telling anyone, our IT department arbitrarily set the spam filter to reject any attachments larger than 5 MB, then a few weeks later arbitrarily and without telling anyone, reset it to reject anything larger than 1 MB. Meanwhile our clients were getting pissed off that their email was bouncing back and they were having to send hard copies instead, AND I was being told by our IT deparment that the problem was at the clients' end. OY!

Is virii plural for virus? ... (Below threshold)

Is virii plural for virus? I always used viruses.

Interesting, Scott's and El... (Below threshold)
-S-:

Interesting, Scott's and Elisa's comments...I just decided, in an effort to turn a page in life from Black Op Emails to Happy Trails Are Here Again, and that is that insane people are sought out and hired to man/woman Customer Service positions in and among I.S.P.s. Along with same in HMOs and most telephone companies (not mine, thank God), I think it's a case of companies searching out the most antisocial personalities and then setting them upon consumers as some form of passive aggressive payback to anyone in need.

Back to hit the delete key in a certain Inbox of mine and clear the environment of more darkness from "[email protected]". Very funny, that.

I've suffered from corporat... (Below threshold)

I've suffered from corporate spam filters as well, with finished work not getting through to clients because it was trapped.

I swear by user-end spam filters like the one built into Thunderbird. Corporations should supply these to their users.

Every day I log on and it catches the 90 or so spam emails, occasionally missing one or two. Then I glance quickly through my junk folder to see if it's accidentally caught a real email. If there are any mistakes, they are easily corrected and the filter makes a new rule.

Spam just isn't a problem for me anymore.

This is a problem I have, t... (Below threshold)
Alcuin:

This is a problem I have, too. I have a domain (not one with the e-mail address I have published with this comment) hosted by a company that has, from time to time, been used by spam artists.

How commercial spam filters work is not my purview; however, I had an interesting interaction with a Dutch government-sponsored housing project in 2002. Internet spam vigilantes were determined to shut down spam by enforcing various rules, many of which are common-sense, such as closing e-mail relaying on mail servers. (This allows an outsider to spew mail using your server and “relaying” their garbage through it.) In my case, my domain host provider not only let the relays open, but also failed to activate the reverse DNS on the mail server. This was noticed up by a guy in The Netherlands who was in a consortium contributing to e-mail blocks, and when I asked him why he’d done it, he told me that he had “listed the netblocks of your ISP because we get spam and autoreplies from it and only sometimes, if at all, mail that is readworthy.”

That torqued me! AOL, Hotmail, and Yahoo all used this consortium to block what they targeted as spam, as did several firms with which I was doing business. By the Dutchman’s standards, every AOL, hotmail, and yahoo address would be blocked, along with every single ISP operating inside the Chinese mainland: most of the e-mail I get from those domains is certainly spam. Some of it, thought, is extermely “readworthy,” like mail from my son’s hotmail account, so blocking everything from hotmail seems a little over the top.

Not so to the man who ran the e-mail for a Dutch housing authority (1550 flats in three communities with discounts for students and old people). The kicker was that he informed that his list of blocked IP’s was a “*local* list, [and] it would cost us time to check whether we can whitelist your IP.” Wow! Some guy in living 20 feet above a polder (and just below sea level) could block my e-mail and put me out of business, and then have the nerve to tell me that it was too much trouble for him to check to see if I could be whitelisted.

Fortunately for me, despite his obvious irritation with having somebody question his authority, the Dutch IT admin also included the little detail that there was no reverse DNS. It took me a while, but one of my more technologically sophisticated friends pointed out that this would likely resolve the problem. It did, as did closing down the relay on the SMTP. (Open relays, I am told, clog the afflicted server with the spammer’s mail, just like a virus takes over a host cell and jams the cellular machinery by making new virus, so this was good for my ISP, too.)

It’s apparently easy and quite common to forget to close down the relays on an e-mail server, or to forget to set the reserve DNS, or any number of other items that can result in getting on somebody’s list. If that’s what’s happened, generally

I suspect, however, that it is also possible that some malicious individual could complain and list your e-mail or domain with one of the spam blockers. In that case, you’d have a real problem.

My domain host provider was recently assigned a new block of IP addresses by ARIN (www.arin.net), some of which had been previously associated with spammers. My host moved my website and e-mail into this new IP block. It took several days for the spam flags on the block to be removed; I am not sure all of them ever were properly removed.

For my own solutions, I have been quite happy with Symantec’s Norton Spam Blocker, which has worked quite well, and while it does misidentify some incoming mail as spam, it can easily be corrected in the version I use.

There is a very good reference site on spam at the “open directory project”, http://dmoz.org/Computers/Internet/Abuse/Spam/.

If you have to deal with an organization like AOL (or the IT guy at some apartment building in The Netherlands), you’ll get more assistance and resolve the issue faster if you can keep your cool and work the problem. As a rule, unless someone is being malicious (and I don’t think I’ve encountered that – yet), most of the issues should be able to be resolved.

And always remember: that obnoxious little twit who is blocking your e-mail is like every other bureaucratic in the world: you’re in his clutches, he demands your respect, and all he really wants is you to go away so that he can get back to looking at dirty pictures.

Read Slashdot sometimes. Wh... (Below threshold)

Read Slashdot sometimes. When a certain breed of geeks get into a nasty mood they'll gladly subject lowly email users to almost any fate, lest a single spam message slip through. And then you have certain businesses who's idiotic lawyers claim that the company can be sued for creating a hostile workplace environment if an unsolicited message with sexual content appears in anyone's inbox. Sometimes I'm surprised email hasn't been banned in order to protect us from the horrors it may bring.




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