Friday 1 July 2005

From today's Popbitch

From today's Popbitch...
Paul Winchell, the voice of Tigger in the Disney movies and John Fiedler, who was the voice of Piglet, both died last week.
Rest in bouncy and squeaky peace, respectively.

Problems ahead for direct mailers: new state laws in MI and UT

Michigan and Utah have both enacted similar laws that purport to protect children from seeing certain content in email. The laws each create a separate, state-wide "Do Not Contact" suppression list, that will be available to direct marketers for a monthly fee. If marketers send email to addresses in these lists, they can be heavily fined or gaoled if the email contains "illegal" content, or if it links to such content.

Some direct marketers are livid about this move. As Brian Livingston of the Windows Secrets newsletter wrote, the laws "...make it a crime for our newsletter to link to any site containing ads for alcohol, tobacco, credit-card and financial accounts, mortgages, car rentals, gambling, and the myriad other things that minors aren't supposed to have. Since we can't predict what ads or subjects might appear on all of the sites we link to, don't sign up for these Do Not Contact lists or we may have to write a future issue from a cellblock."

The laws apply to all marketers sending to residents of MI or UT, no matter how clear the existing business or opt in relationship. They're also not superseded by CAN-SPAM. Although well-meaning, these laws will do very little to protect children from spammers, but will do much to increase the costs and risks of legitimate business.

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Thursday 30 June 2005

How not to use SPF

One of my clients is a big fan of hosted services. They use a hosted wiki, a hosted WebDAV service, hosted email (with IMAP and POP access), and a hosted anti-spam service.

It's the combination of the email and anti-spam services that's caused them some problems recently. Mail from some senders started bouncing. Looking at the headers revealed that someone was rejecting mail because of a "hard" SPF failure. It wasn't immediately clear who was rejecting it, however.

It turned out that the hosted email service had turned on aggressive SPF filtering, so that any message causing a hardfail would be rejected. The sender had specified "-all" in their SPF record, which means, "Hardfail any message which isn't being sent from our servers."

Lessons learned:
  1. If you use a hosted anti-spam service, don't implement SPF on your email system
  2. If you run a hosted anti-spam service or forward mail sor some other reason, consider supporting SRS, which munges the message sender
  3. If you publish SPF records, be cautious about using "-all" at this early stage
  4. If you filter using SPF records, rejecting simply because of an SPF hardfail is aggressive
  5. If you reject in whole or in part because of SPF, say why in the text of the error message. Include a link like this
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Monday 27 June 2005

Host is back

Amazing. How does it take TWO FREAKING DAYS to repair a downed vhost server? I wonder if I'll be renewing my Easily contract?

Sunday 26 June 2005

Main host broken

Thanks, Easily. My web site's been MIA since about Saturday 7pm UTC (15 hours as I write this). If you're reading this and the style sheet looks odd, we're on a temporary free host.