Guest Post: Reader Feedback Week

By: Huey Callison

[Transcription errors are my own. Listen to the voicemail here.]
This is Anderson from n.a.n-a.e. Oh man, what a piece of shit. Are you guys- ...are you the one that owns the uh- ...the uh- ...DNSBL blacklist thing you're running there, you piece of shit? The one that fucks with peoples' money? I just figured I'd give you a call every day and fuck with you since you wanna fuck with me. I'll see you on n.a.n-a.e, bitch.
Mister Anderson:

Regrettably, Mr. Iverson is travelling for an industry conference, and was unavailable to take your call. However, as your reader satisfaction is important to us, I appreciate the opportunity to address some of your concerns.

First, like many requests for assistance in the deliverability field, yours failed to include nearly enough information to identify the underlying problem, much less recommend a remediation strategy going forward. But, as a veteran of the US Army and a frequent bar-patron, I'm reasonably fluent in semi-coherent obscenities, so I'm going to make an educated guess as to what the problem is, and attempt to offer some suggestions that I hope you'll find useful.

To answer your initial question, probably not, no. DNSBL Resource and Spam Recource are websites focused on the discussion of various DNSBLs and issues relating to spam and deliverability in general, but do not actually operate any DNSBLs, so they don't actually do anything to anybody's money, other than the token amount it costs the owners to maintain a few domains and websites.

In re: your second point, we regret to inform you that we are uninterested in sexual intercourse with you at this time, and calling every day is unlikely to help, at least in the near term. We will be happy to keep your request on file, and let you know if any positions open up in the future.

As to your last point, I'm sorry to disappoint you again, but ceased to be a useful information source to email industry professionals somewhere around ten years ago. At this point, the nicest, most genuinely helpful person still reading and posting to n.a.n-a.e semi-regularly is a programmer named Vernon Schryver, and I'm confident that even he will admit that he is unlikely to win many Miss Congeniality awards.

But I can't help but notice that you sound very angry, and I strongly suspect that this is due to some interaction with a DNSBL (probably a listing, or a threatened listing) that has affected you financially in some way. Again, I'm operating on somewhat limited information here, so I can't definitively identify if that's even the case, much less which one. But again, I can guess: the only DNSBL with the reach and influence that I would suspect could provoke financial difficulties and this much ire would be the Spamhaus SBL.

A disclaimer: I am in no way connected to Spamhaus beyond being a fan and occasional user of services that they provide, so some of this information is conjecture on my part, based on observations of how they seem to work. It seems to me that an SBL listing is generally indicative of an emergent danger somewhere in your business process, and would most often indicate that you, or perhaps one of your affiliates, or possibly someone else on the same IP address as you, is sending a lot of spam. It could also indicate that your IP address also hosts a webserver serving a link that is mentionend in a lot of spam, or a nameserver that serves DNS records for a domain linked to a lot of spam. In general, an SBL listing is a pretty severe symptom of some kind of spam-related problem.

So, if you were listed by the SBL, and it's because of some link between your business and spam, getting angry at us will not help you. When our machines are listed by Spamhaus (it's rare, but it has happened) we have to go through the same delisting procedure as everyone else. Getting angry at Spamhaus will not help you either. The solution is relatively simple: cease any current involvement and avoid any future involvement with spam, and follow the published delisting procedures on the Spamhaus website.

I'll grant that it is possible that you are already avoiding any involvement with spam, and still find yourself SBL listed. Your SBL listing could be for a virtual server or shared webhosting arrangement on the same IP address as someone else who is involved with spam, in which case your solution is to move the affected services to a more reputable provider.

In summary: although I am unsure what exactly your DNSBL problems entail, I am certain that they are not being caused by DNSBL Resource or Spam Resource, and I can't really make any more specific recommendations without further information about your situation. I hope I've addressed your concerns to your satisfaction, but if I have not, please don't hesitate to contact us again. We always appreciate hearing from our loyal readers.

Have a blessed day,

Huey Callison

An Informal Definition of Spam

I was talking to a guy the other day about the whole LinkedIn harvesting incident (or non-incident, depending upon your point of view), and this guy offered up that he had previously been in a somewhat similar situation before -- but on the other side of it. I offered up the opportunity to guest post about that here, and that leads us to today's guest post authored by Robby Slaughter. Robby runs Slaughter Development, a productivity consulting firm in Indianapolis, IN. Take it away, Robby:

Last year, I wrote a book called Failure: The Secret to Success. As part of the marketing campaign for the book, and generally because I was really excited, I wanted to share the news with everybody I knew.

Spreading a message to your contact sphere is almost certainly going to involve email. Sending lots of emails is going to flirt with the official, legal definition of spam. Like anyone trying to self-promote, I didn't want upset people, but at the same time I didn’t want to establish any undue limits on spreading the word about my new book. Spam puts all of us at a crossroads between the important role of marketing and the unacceptable behavior of abuse. I had to make a choice.

Email vs. Email

You don't have to be a technical wizard to recognize that there are two very different kinds of electronic messages landing in inboxes. On the one hand, there are personal emails sent by people through the act of typing, pointing and clicking. Billions of emails like this circle the planet every day, most of which represent a conversation between just one sender and one recipient.
Then, there's an entire universe of bulk email. The phrase "bulk" does not mean that every message is exactly the same or delivered at precisely the same time, of course. Each one goes to a different recipient and may have all kinds of complex personalization. Rather, "bulk" merely indicates that these emails are part of a larger campaign and are sent en-masse. Some bulk messages are entirely legitimate, opt-in newsletters or announcements, and others promote lucrative Nigerian business opportunities or pharmaceuticals hawked with peculiar spellings.

It is sometimes difficult to tell the difference between spam and not-spam, but it's almost always easy to tell the difference between personal emails and bulk emails. The content of personal messages absolutely ooze with the eccentricities of the sender. They were written in a text box in an email client, and were probably sent by a laptop computer, not a "deliverability network." We all might complain about that uncle who forwards chain emails that could be refuted in ten seconds on Snopes, but that doesn’t seem like bulk email. Therefore, messages written in Microsoft Outlook using BCC which have a personal touch do not seem like spam.

What I Did: Genius? Evil? Or Evil Genius?

Here’s what I did last summer: I took a lifetime of personal contacts—over 5,000 people—and sent them all the same, friendly email message. I did this 100 email addresses at a time and used blind carbon copy. It wasn’t really an automated process, and the message wasn’t all that commercial. Here’s what I wrote to a bazillion of my closest friends:

First of all, this is one of those big BCC-everyone-you-know emails, so if I haven't talked to you in a while please REPLY to this message to let me know how you are doing.

Second: I wrote a book! It's called "Failure: The Secret to Success." You can learn all about it (and buy an advance copy even) at:

Third: These things sometimes get duplicated. So if you get more than one copy of this email, accept my apologies. Or: forward it to a friend! Or: if you have no idea who I am and think this is spam, please let me know.

That's it! Hope you're having a fantastic day.

Robby Slaughter
Spam vs. spam and is this spam?

To answer the question about whether or not what I did was spam I want to make a difference between the legal definition of Spam (according to CAN-SPAM and industry experts) and the practical definition of spam. CAN-SPAM doesn’t exactly define what Spam is but instead clarifies appropriate behaviors for "commercial email." But what does that mean? The law speaketh:
[commercial email is] any electronic mail message the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service.
From my point of view, the primary purpose of the message is laid out in point my first point: "REPLY to this message and let me know how you are doing!" So I think I have an argument that the message is in fact, not covered under CAN-SPAM.

But at the same time, clearly I wanted people to buy the book! I also added language about replying to the email to effectively "opt out," which sort of implies intent to conform to CAN-SPAM if in fact this really is a commercial message.

What about the lowercase, practical definition of "spam?" To me, that would be "a solicitation message that was sent to lots of people including me, which I did not expect and would rather have not received." Well, for most of my thousands of recipients, this was not spam with a lowercase "s." Many of them did reply, and I engaged in a few weeks of email catch-up on people I had not seen in ages. But a few did reply harshly. They explained (or rather, cursed) that the message was spammy and wrong.

In Summary

I did not want to upload my entire contacts database to an email service provider (ESP) to send a commercial email message. Many specifically advise against doing exactly this, but then again they are likely to bear the brunt of any complaints. Furthermore, most ESPs probably assume that you will send many messages, whereas I only intend to send one. Or at least, one every time I write a book.

I feel pretty good that what I did was right, clever, and effective. I don’t think I broke the law. But I do believe I demonstrated that email is complicated. I won’t repeat the process in the future without talking to an email expert.

What do you think? Am I spammer?

Dennis Dayman: Watch out for DeepWWW

Over on, Dennis Dayman shares a tale of spam and information about an uncooperative seller of email list data. Anybody else heard of this DeepWWW? Never heard of them before, myself.

How to Generate Leads with LinkedIn

I guess I’ve still got LinkedIn on the brain. In response to my complaint about being spammed by somebody due to harvesting of my email address from LinkedIn, the individual in question decided to aim a scattershot blob of tweets consisting of a whole bunch of old "B2B social media strategy" articles at me. I’m not sure why -- they’re good articles -- many of them were written by a very smart colleague of mine -- but none of them advocate doing anything like "export your contact list from LinkedIn and start sending emails to those people."

LinkedIn: A list-building opportunity?

Wow! 500+ new subscribers! It seems an exciting and easy opportunity, doesn’t it? If you’re like me, you’ve got a big list of contacts that you’ve “linked up” with on social (business) networking site LinkedIn. So many email addresses!

Microsoft, Holomaxx, ISPs Reading Your Email

Way back on December 19th, John Levine posted Microsoft's response to the Holomaxx lawsuit. I haven't had a chance to read it in depth until now -- and let me tell you, it has been an interesting read. I'm not a lawyer (and I don't even play one on TV), but I think Microsoft is going to squash Holomaxx like a bug. John Levine calls this first response from Microsoft a "crushing brief" and I find that a suitable description.

Top 5 Spam Resource Posts in 2010

As we transition to the new year, I thought it would be fun to share with you the top five most popular posts on Spam Resource, based on number of page views in the past year. Enjoy!