Who is this Ken Magill guy anyway?

A client asked me the other day, "Who is this Ken Magill guy anyway? Who reads his stuff? Does it matter?" I guess the answer to that is yeah, I've found what Ken has written to be highly insightful. After all, I've blogged about or linked to his articles more than two dozen times here on Spam Resource. Go see for yourself.

Engagement: Best Practice for Years

I just stumbled across this link to an Email Diva column from early 2007, talking about how to improve your list hygiene through re-confirmation and dumping people that never open and click. In other words, keep your list engaged, and dump un-engaged segments, after salvaging what you can from them. I guess that means that the engagement train has apparently been heading toward us for quite a long time!

Ken Magill Leaves Penton

Long-time chronicler of the email marketing space Ken Magill has just announced that he is leaving Penton Media.

Spam Complainants Are Sometimes Angry

People are, on occasion, very angry in response to spam. They sometimes send flaming emails filled with invective, questioning the parentage and every other possible quality of the sender and the product being advertised. To some, this is is considered a new brand of annoyance, specific to the innertubes.

Those people are wrong, as it turns out. This is not a new phenomenon. Don't believe me?

Check out this letter sent by Mark Twain, in response to a patent medicine advertisement, more than a hundred years ago. He writes, "[You are] without doubt the most ignorant person now alive on the planet; also without doubt [you are] an idiot, an idiot of the 33rd degree, and scion of an ancestral procession of idiots stretching back to the Missing Link."

Mark Twain, you're my hero. You can read the whole letter over on the awesome Letters of Note blog.

Bad News in 2010, if You Suck

In the MediaPost article "Why 2010 Could Be A Bad Year For 'Worst-Practice' Marketers," ReturnPath's George Bilbrey talks about what's driving ISPs nuts lately: legitimate companies with bad email practices. He writes: "The good news is that the ISPs (and their technology providers) are doing a much better job at preventing much of the truly criminal spam. With the worst mail out of the way, what are they finding? Of the mail that is not criminal spam, the mail streams that are causing the most noise from ISP subscribers (high "this is spam" rates, high spam ratings from spam rating panels, low "this is not spam" rates) is mail coming from legitimate companies with very poor practices. These mailers are now front and center on the ISPs' radar screens, which will result in widespread, critical delivery problems for this class of mailer in 2010."

This is something I've witnessed first hand, and I've also seen what happens next when ISPs denote that these mail streams aren't all that kosher: They block. Hard block, permanent block, spam block. The anvil drops right on the sender's head, and it takes months to clean things up and get unblocked. I've seen at least one really big ISP say to heck with this, don't ask us to unblock it until six months have passed AND you've cleaned up your act.

This is all yet another data point on why an ounce of prevention is much better than a pound of cure. Clean your act up now, so you keep getting to the inbox, instead of waiting until you get blocked and suddenly have to scramble to try to rescue your email program.

The E360 Pantsing Continues

Laura Atkins writes today about the newly discovered settlement between 'email marketer' E360 and Comcast: "Today, only weeks before the trial date, a settlement agreement was filed. The settlement agreement prohibits the defendants and any group associated with them from transmitting email to any domain owned by Comcast without affirmative consent (as defined by CAN SPAM). All mail sent by the defendants must comply with the Comcast Terms of Use or AUP. The defendants must not attempt to circumvent Comcast’s spam filters, must comply with CAN SPAM and must not help anyone else violate any of the provisions of the agreement."

Mickey Chandler provides some additional commentary and some MOST AWESOME opinion: "As I see it, Linhardt was so desperate to get out of this case he became willing to sign (in the Affidavit of Confession of Judgment) what’s basically a blank check to Comcast worth a quarter of a million dollars, and waive the usual niceties, like not having to allow the whole world to see what he agreed to I’ll also point out here, even though I don’t at Spamsuite, that Comcast basically agrees to nothing. This is all give on Linhardt’s part, with no take."

Work-at-Home Spam, Scam or both?

Check out this wonderful story from the Minneapolis Star Tribune, wherein a dupe robocalls a reporter for the paper. The consumer watchdog reporter -- aka "The Whistleblower." Oops.

From the story:
  • The product he was pitching was something called an “extractor.” It has nothing to do with your teeth. “What it does, is it extracts phone numbers and emails from businesses off the Internet,” he said.
  • Kitchen paid $249 for the extractor, and he’ll get a cut of any new extractor business he steers to Bayne.
  • [Kitchen] he hasn’t made any money yet, but he’s just getting started.
  • So far, Kitchen said, his phone blasts have resulted in one callback. [The reporter's.]
To recap: Guy buys a $250 program to allow him to harvest email addresses and phone numbers from the internet. He illegally robocalls various phone numbers, including the reporter's number. The only response he's received from his phone spam was....a call back from the reporter.

Might be time to consider a new line of work, Rodney Kitchen.

In-Application Email Signup: Ew, Really?

Yesterday, Campaign Monitor posted a helpful hint on how you can add an email list signup form to your Macintosh application. I would strongly recommend against this, unless it's both clearly optional, and tied to a confirmed opt-in (double opt-in) process. This is a mine field if you don't know what you're doing.

Once upon a time, I worked for an e-commerce service provider, a company whose original core business was hosting online stores for downloadable software. Online registrations and in-application registrations were two very popular ways of driving list growth, and it led us to learn a few lessons the hard way.
  • If you force a signup form in front of somebody's face, they're going to fill the form with crap.
  • If the form isn't very clearly optional, they're going to fill the form with crap.
  • If the form pops up without any clear initiation from the end consumer, they're going to fill the form with crap.
  • If you make registration a condition of anything at all, they're going to fill the form with crap.
Been there, done that. I observed people putting in email addresses of people at Spamhaus, AOL's anti-spam team, various US presidents, etc. And lots and lots and lots of spamtraps. Deliverability was very poor; clients got blacklisted, the signup server got blacklisted, emails went to the bulk folder, and AOL even very angrily called me directly once (how often has that happened to you?).

What we learned is that the only way this works at all is if you make any sort of registration process like this confirmed opt-in (double opt-in), making it so that the registration is not complete until the consumer receives an email message and clicks on the link to validate their address and confirm their desire to be on the mailing list. It got so bad with people putting crap in the forms that we ended up creating a dedicated system, explicitly for handling software registrations, and no address was ever considered to have opted-in until and unless the double opt-in process was completed.

The net result is that our deliverability woes went away. We still had issues from time to time, clients that needed remediation, but it was never due to software registrations handled by the system we built.

What is Zeusmail.org?

A whole bunch of sites have noticed seemingly bogus signups from email addresses in the zeusmail.org domain. Does anybody know who or what this is? Of course, the domain owner's WHOIS information is hidden by way of Privacy Protect (barf).

Pivotal Veracity Acquired by Unica Corp.

Multiple sources are reporting today that provider of email delivery tracking and email rendering test tools Pivotal Veracity has been acquired by online marketer Unica.

Ken Magill Sucks

That is all.

Brazil Overtakes US as Spam Leader

Ed Falk points out that multiple sources explain that Brazil has overtaken the US as the source of the most spam. However, Ed goes on to point out a very important point. "Vietnam, China, and Brazil may be the places where most of the spam is delivered from, but I think if you follow the trails (and follow the money), you'll find that it all leads back to the U.S." Follow the money, and it probably all points back to....us.

How Tradeshow Email Lists Can Get You Blacklisted

The other day, Mark Brownlow tweeted a link to an older MailChimp blog post, touching on the perils of trade show email lists. In that post, MailChimp's Ben Chestnut touches on the do's and don'ts of email best practices when it comes to trade shows.

The Beatings Will Continue...Forever

It seems to me that there are a few different reasons why you'd want to list an IP address on a blocking list.
  1. Proactive prevention of an issue; things like listing of dynamic and non-SMTP space; things that shouldn't connect to your mail server, and if they do, that alone is typically a spam sign.
  2. Reaction to a specific issue, like spam received from a server. From where one spam message comes, more are likely to follow.
  3. Spam support, somebody in league with spammers or providing some sort of service to spammers.
But there seems to be really only two possible goals for any kind of blocking list issue.
  1. Protect my network. I'm receiving spam from this IP address, so it's fair for me to protect my users by not letting any more spam through from this IP address.
  2. Push the bad guys to reform with a combination of carrot and stick. While you're bad, you can't mail me. When you change to be good, I'll let you email me again.
  3. ???????? NYARRR, I'M ANGRY!! The sort of mentality where they say, to hell with you, you don't deserve to be able to send email to anybody ever again. Sometimes validly so, but do the people this gets aimed at really end up going away? And, is it always merited? The beatings will continue forever, no matter what, there's nothing you can do about it.
What's your goal when blocklisting an IP address? On a personal server, "set it and forget it" makes more sense. That IP address sent spam, so now it's dead to me. For a public, widely-used blocking list, that seems to make less sense. If somebody gets listed by an entity like Spamhaus for sending mail to spamtraps, and if there's no opportunity to ever get delisted, what is the incentive for the sender to clean up their list?

It's easy to say "nobody should send spam ever," but there's a long history of lists helping to improve the email ecosystem by engendering change; by pushing bad senders to become good senders. Right?

I'd be curious to hear any thoughts y'all might have on this topic. What's the best possible policy for a blocklist in this situation? Why does it matter, or why doesn't it matter? Your feedback welcome.

10 Deliverability Tips for 2010

My friend Mickey Chandler, newly freed deliverability consultant, has just posted his Top 10 Delivery Tips for 2010 whitepaper. Useful stuff about IP reputation, authentication, message stream diversity, and much more. And if you need deliverability guidance, don't forget, Mickey is now for hire!

Email to Die in 2010

No, not really. But, "there will be at least 39 more articles in the mainstream announcing the 'death of email,'" says ReturnPath's Matt Blumberg. I suspect Matt is right.


Have you ever told an ISP's postmaster, "The contents of the email follow all of the CAN-SPAM guidelines!" or "Why are you targeting my 100% opt-in emails?" You might want to reconsider that.

SpamAssassin 2010 bug

If you use SpamAssassin and today it's suddenly scoring every email you receive with at least 3.2 points, and it says that "the date is grossly in the future," then you should read this.