Monday, 30 April 2007

Naive Bulk Emailers Howl in Protest

This is Andy Oram: pianist, CPSR member, and O'Reilly book editor. Andy's latest weblog post is a quiet rant about how difficult it is for new bulk email senders to navigate around a twisty maze of spam filters.

For example, he writes:

Just this morning, board members of a non-profit I volunteer for were complaining to me that email to board members gets trapped as spam
...
Ryan Bagueros ... told me lots of promising social networking companies are stymied because the emails they send members and prospective members get trapped by spam filters–especially at the major email hosting sites.

My sympathies. But there are two sides to every story.

On the other hand, some social networks behave idiotically and totally deserve to have their mail eaten.

Case in point: tagged.com, which -- let's be charitable -- was less than transparent in its description of what happens when new users signup.

Actually, no. Let's not be charitable. Let's tell it how it is. Email from Tagged.com is spam. It asks new users for the password to their [Hotmail|Yahoo|AOL|Gmail] account. Then, without warning, it spams all the addresses in their address book.

I carefully went through the signup process, using a test Gmail account. This is not a case of clueless users blindly clicking OK.

While I'm on the subject, a general point about email n00bs.

There's a pervasive naivety about what it takes to successfully send legitimate bulk email. It's not as simple as popping a default install of Sendmail onto a DSL connection someplace and expecting the whole world to be overjoyed that you're sending them mail.

Often, people don't know they need help, blindly assuming it's their "right" to have their email delivered to anyone they choose, regardless of how poorly they send it.

Two examples; there are plenty more:

  1. Get your FCrDNS right. Don't know what that is? Look it up in Wikipedia. Still don't understand? You probably need help.
  2. Behave correctly when presented with a greylisting tempfail. Don't know what that is? Look it up in Wikipedia. Still don't understand? You probably need help.

As I say, plenty more where those came from...

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