What’s Worse–Spam or Spam Filters?

December 19, 2007

Nobody likes spam. I get at least 500 pieces of “no questions about it” spam every day. There are probably another 50 pieces a day that are definitely not spam, but they aren’t of interest to me. For example, I receive quite a few press releases because I write about computer stuff. Some of them talk about products that I want to tell you about and some are about really obscure stuff that doesn’t have much to do with what I cover.

Like most everyone, I have spam filters that filter out the majority of the stuff that should never be sent. Heck, a lot of the spam is in Russian and I can’t even read it so I’m not really sure how someone benefits from it. Oh well, I digress.

I needed to cover that ground so I can explain the true problem with spam filters. They are often over aggressive and block “good” mail. Part of this is user error, but a lot of it has to do with stereotyping.

A day doesn’t go by where we don’t hear from a customer furious that we haven’t sent them a product they purchased via e-mail. I freely admit that maybe 1% of these are our fault. There are probably another 10% where the customer has an old e-mail address on their PayPal account and so we sent to this “old” e-mail. It was the only address we had. The vast majority of the problems are spam filters. We did send the mail and the user either didn’t get it at all because of spam filters or they haven’t looked in the area where their spam lands.

So please go to your spam filter right now and whitelist the unleash.com domain. This will save all of us headaches down the road.

Dealing with those spam filters is certainly annoying, but it is nothing compared to the problem we had last week. I sent out a newsletter announcing that the latest issue of our CorelDRAW Unleashed magazine was available. If you have an AOL address, you didn’t get it. AOL blocked the e-mail because it contained a “spammy” URL. Of course, they just tell you that one is spammy without telling you which one. This upset the company who manages our newsletter list as all of their customers were blocked from sending to AOL addresses because of our newsletter.

We did some investigation with AOL. Their first response was that there was nothing wrong with the newsletter. After digging a bit further, they gave us the bad URL. The offender? It was a link to buy CorelDRAW from Corel Corporation directly. No matter your personal definition of spam, that is about as far from spammy as it gets.

Like many companies, Corel has an affiliate program. That means they provide links to buy their products and those links are coded so that a third-party can receive a small commission if they send a sale to the company selling the product. Corel uses Commission Junction to handle their affiliate program. So the link is actually a Commission Junction (CJ) domain which then redirects to Corel. If you were to click on the link and bought a copy of CorelDRAW, we’d get a small commission on the sale. This helps vendors sell products and helps those of us who publish content make a little bit of money.

I can only guess why the CJ domain is blacklisted by AOL. There was probably someone who put one of their links in an e-mail and truly sent it as spam. CJ manages affiliate programs for hundreds of companies and millions of products. The sad thing is that AOL just blacklists them all. Other companies that supply large amounts of freemail like hotmail.com, Gmail, yahoo.com are not nearly as strict with their filters and do allow some user configuration. AOL is just bad. Their filters are clamped down so tight that I’m sure there are false alarms going off like crazy. If I had an AOL e-mail address, I would drop it immediately!

So while I hate spam, I really hate spam filters!

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2 Comments

  1. Rikk

    Foster,

    I have had two instances in the last week of vendors (people wanting my money)consigning my email query for service to their spam buckets. By the time their mistake was covered, it cost them about 500.00 collectively. False positives are costing companies money. I let them know about it with the admonition that they forward to their IT departments with the question: “How much more business has your agressive filtering cost this organization?” My experience with IT departments is they don’t care. IT has become a self-serving counter culture to the Spammers and Virus Zombies. Some days I wonder who is the worse enemy of business.

    Reply
  2. Gérard Métrailler

    Foster, I can assure you that we are looking into this as quickly as possible to get this sorted. I am very sorry for the problems you had with this.

    Reply

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Foster D. Coburn III

Foster D. Coburn III is author of 13 best-selling books on CorelDRAW and has been a contributor to numerous technology and graphics-related magazines. Foster has taken many projects, including this Web site, from the early design stage through to a finished piece. He has been a featured speaker at many graphics conferences. His first Web site was built in 1995 and he has been working exclusively in WordPress since 2013.

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