Friday, September 24, 2004

Rant!

People who know me know who I work for but I won't mention the name here just to keep this a personal rant.

I hate SPAM as much as the next person. But what right does an email provider or ISP have to automatically stop my business email bulletins from getting to a subscriber who has explicitly asked for them. This wouldn't happen with any other form of business communication. The post office is obliged to deliver all post to a destination address and can be fined for losing it or not delivering it. They certainly can't automatically decide on your behalf what you should and shouldn't receive. That's your job.

Yet this is the crazy situation we're faced with as legitimate email marketers. We double opt in all of our subscribers and they choose the bulletins they want to receive. And yet we're now finding more and more of our emails are being blocked because they "appear" to be spam. The software these businesses use to control the SPAM filters are all set to err on the stricter side and most of them catch an unacceptable amount of false positives.

Don't get me wrong, we use a filter ourselves but we cannot rely on it being 100% accurate and have to monitor for incorrect catches. IT departments all over the world are blissfully ignorant thinking they've installed an all singing all dancing spam filter and yes, no more spam is getting in. But then neither is a lot of other email that their users have explicitly asked to receive. Would you accept the post office deciding and not delivering your monthly mail order catalogue from your IT supplier?

This is now affecting my companies business and we're losing revenue because of it and yet we have no legal recourse what so ever. We can only change the formatting to a certain extent to stop it looking like the run of the mill spam but it's a marketing email and these spam systems just assume there's no such thing as legitimate email marketers.

We're being told we shouldn't use certain words to avoid being trapped. Why should we have to modify our emails because of the industries paranoia over spam. Is hitting the delete key really that hard? It takes more effort to take all those credit card offers that come in the post over to the bin and put them in and yet we've all been doing it for years.

The other contributing factor in the growing spam paranoia is people reporting an email as spam instead of unsubscribing. I see it time and time again. With email and the Internet it is very easy to subscribe to news letters and the like and after a while the news letters you've subscribed get so numerous and mixed with other unsolicited email that you can't remember what you did and didn't subscribe to. So you follow the advice that the SPAM filter vendors and supporters are brainwashing you with - "never click an unsubscribe link" - always report spam. Sheesh - madness of the first degree.

The spam report is NOT an alternative unsubscribe mechanism. If you've taken the time to subscribe then you owe it to the organisation you subscribed to to unsubscribe. Whether it's following a link or emailing them. By all means if they continue to send mail to you when you've asked them to stop then report them. Email end users must become as accountable for their actions as email marketers have to be now. If you report me and I can prove we have your permission to email you then I have to be able to recoup my losses.

We've been working with IronPort who run both SpamCop (blacklist) and BondedSender (whitelist) and have got ourselves vetted and added to the centralised whitelist. But this is a tiny step in what is a massive problem that is only going to get worse. There has to be an independant body that is accepted by ALL ISPs and ALL email providers that will vet your email practices and subscriber practices and if you prove that you are doing everything above board then your email WILL be delivered. Guaranteed. Period.

The BondedSender plan is going in the right direction but it needs much wider acceptance before is can start showing the benfits.

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