As spam filters get increasingly sophisticated

Geoff Kleinman, an entrepreneur on one of the mailing lists I’m on, shared the results of some research into why his email newsletter wasn’t getting through to AOL subscribers. Apparently it wasn’t that his ISP was blocked, but that there were certain URLs within the message that were on a blocked list. So his messages vanished without a trace into the big AOL /dev/null bucket. On the one hand this is quite surprising because he runs an opt-in newsletter called DVD Talk and those messages should get through, theoretically.

On the other hand, with my own antispam setup, I have found that I can’t just scan headers to identify inappropriate or unsolicited email, so I have > 500 rules checking for URLs, phrases and other constructs within the body of the message to best identify spam. When found, it’s all routed into a separate spam mailbox (yes, there’s a user called spam on my system. Hormel eat your, um, heart out) and then deleted after a quick check to ensure nothing has been misflagged.

But it’s an interesting example of how the corruption of technology – in this case email – causes legitimate businesses to suffer, more than the people pushing the envelope and otherwise subverting the system for their own gain…

Of course I also realize as I type this that one man’s “subverting the system for their own gain” is the next man’s legitimate marketing vehicle, so clearly all of this is a continuum. On one extreme are the ghastly porn and similar spam that’s guaranteed to be unsolicited by anyone (do people really want this kind of stuff in their mailbox?? Maybe, what, 0.001% of the population?) but on the other extreme are mailings like DVD Talk or my own Pearls of the Net, where one misplaced phrase can cause it to get caught in the system and vanish.

What’s your opinion on this? Is there a continuum, or are there good mailers and bad mailers (or just bad mailers)?

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