Great Circle Associates List-Managers
(February 2003)

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Subject: Re: [Fwd: EFF Mailing List Query]
From: Tom Neff <tneff @ grassyhill . net>
Date: Sun, 23 Feb 2003 11:52:05 -0500
To: list-managers @ greatcircle . com
In-reply-to: <20030223142626 . GA20724 @ gsp . org>
References: <3E583DD9 . 8030705 @ vo . cnchost . com> <20030223142626 . GA20724 @ gsp . org>

--On Sunday, February 23, 2003 9:26 AM -0500 Rich Kulawiec <rsk @
gsp .
org> wrote:

On Sat, Feb 22, 2003 at 07:19:53PM -0800, JC Dill wrote:
> From the latest EFF mailer...

-------------------- snip snip --------------------
* Mailing List Headaches? Contact us.

Unfortunately, we've lately learned that more and more opt-in mailing
lists are being mislabeled as spam and wrongly blocked.


It's wrong to call this FUD, because even if the EFF is *wrong* on this, they're not trying to grind an axe or sell us something. They're trying to help, because they are the good guys. They would certainly like nothing better than to be able to attach a new footer to next month's mailings saying "Fortunately, we did some more research and we found that essentially no opt-in mailing lists are being wrongly blocked, so relax and have a good Net." Anyone who wants that outcome should volunteer to help the EFF expand its understanding. I don't think it's likely because I think they are hearing real complaints that are not easy to explain away.

...  I'm unaware of any properly-run opt-in mailing lists that have
been mislabeled as spam and "wrongly blocked".

Yeah, right, but this is the classic slippery generalism. Any list that does get spam-blocked is not being "properly run" by definition, since preventing such an eventuality is one of the listowner's responsibilities. Until it's blocked, it's just an average list. After it's blocked, we can always find _something_ to point to and say, sure, if you hadn't set this or if you'd added that filter, this particular ISP wouldn't have blocked you.

It should not be necessary for a list to be **PERFECTLY** configured, against some excruciatingly fussy and ever-changing checklist of do's, don'ts and gotchas - in order to avoid being blocked by one or more of an ever-growing gaggle of Net::Torquemadas.

This is not about airheaded list admins buying Goldmine Address Blaster 4.0 and using it on an open relay to send block party announcements to everyone in Cleveland.

This is about ordinary, working, responsible list admins (the kind who have lives) who have been running ordinary lists for 5-6-7-10 years, with never a problem worth mentioning or a complaint from anybody - and then either in a huge batch one day, or bit by bit over the weeks and months, they find delivery to members starts being blocked because the resident genius at an ISP (or a University or company or whatever) has installed a Spam Protection layer with God alone knows what configuration settings -- if any -- and it has suddenly decided that it doesn't like the Digest because it has a line of dashes in it, or instructions to join/leave at the bottom, or because the IP address of the list engine doesn't match the domain name of someone in a From: header, etc, etc, etc.

It's about services like Hotmail deciding that they just can't handle the spam overwhelm, so anything that doesn't look like { From: Janey / To: Joey / Subj: When is the picnic? } gets silently dropped.

I don't know whether the EFF can actually help or not, but if they want to expend some energy on an issue that really matters to the average Netizen, rather than just defending people who want to clone Bjork videos, I'm all for it.

Of course, individual users may forget that they've signed up for
something and report it as spam: but that's easily fixed simply by hanging
onto all subscribe/unsubscribe logs permanently.  (I've got mine, or at
least I think/hope I do.  They compress nicely. ;-) )

Nov 20 16:52:40 majordomo[9455] {rsk @
gsp .
org} subscribe mkmonfast rsk @
gsp .

It would take about five minutes to write a script that generates a bogus subscribe/unsubscribe log for any database of addresses. Enough to confuse any ISP at least. A smart ISP knows this and would rely on other criteria...

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