Filters and windmills


A colleague of mine was dealing with a client who is experiencing some difficulty delivering to the bulk folder. Said client spent much of a one hour phone call repeating “This is not how a free society works!!”
After the call my colleague commented, “I refuse to get ranty about filter systems.”
I know that filters, and the people who write and maintain them, are a frequent scapegoat for senders. The filters are always the problem, not anything the senders do.
Now, I’ll be the last person who will claim spam filters are perfect, they’re not. Filters sometimes do unexpected things, sometimes they do boneheaded things, sometimes they are broken.
We can’t forget, though, that filters perform a vital role in protecting users from malicious emails. Phishing emails, scams, fake products, viruses are a constant threat. Many end users don’t need to worry about this because filters are so good. But an unfiltered account can get thousands of scams and spams a day (ask me how I know).
Most of us in the delivery space can tell when a filter is working as intended and when there’s an underlying problem. And when the filter is working as intended there’s not a lot of use complaining about them. Ranting about filtering systems often delays a resolution. Senders that focus on what they can control tend to have more success reaching the inbox than those senders that focus on ranting about filtering systems.
Tilting at windmills doesn’t get the mail through.

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  • I work with a lot of people who manage and develop spam filters. I regularly tell them: your product blocked this email, it shouldn’t have. Quite often, they claim it’s the sender’s fault.
    I don’t think it’s for either the sender or the filter developer to decide what should be delivered. That decision is the email account’s owner.

  • My mail users have only the vaguest idea how my mail filters work, and have better things to than to twiddle filters for every possible contingency.
    In the past year I’ve cranked up the filters a lot, and gotten practically no complaints other than a few times when it turned out that a live correspondent’s mail host was at a poorly run hosting company who otherwise sent 100% spam. The sad fact is that most of the hosts on the Internet send no mail worth receiving (this includes a lot of ESPs) and it’s not worth the effort to try and see if they send anything else.

  • Not speaking for Laura, but I think you can be annoyed with whomever you like. There are definitely people who don’t run their filters the way I would, and that annoys me. But being annoyed won’t fix anything–you have to deal with things as they are and work within the limitations that are presented to you.

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