Friday, 3 October 2008

The Missing Email Mystery

So why are emails from birdguides.com struggling to get past the spam defences of the likes of Hotmail and (spit!) BTInternet? You really don't want to know. Trust me.

Still here? OK, you asked for it. Prepare to be eye-glazingly bored.

It's all your fault, actually. You people out there, registering willy-nilly, and then changing ISPs without telling us, and registering again under your new addresses. You see once you've registered an address on our website and told us you want to receive our weekly newsletters, we keep sending them, week after week. Even when you register again under a new address, the old one's still in our database, and we're still sending emails to it. (This is why, if you change your address, we ask you to edit your existing registration to replace your old address with the new, rather than just re-registering afresh, which leaves your old redundant registration still in place. But when did you people ever read the instructions? I'm teasing...well, mostly.)

And that's why some ISPs think we're spamming. They notice that they're receiving a bunch of emails from news@birdguides.com to obsolete addresses on their domain and they think "boys, we've bagged us a spammer" - because why would a legitimate person keep emailing the same duff addresses week after week? A real person would give up, or find a new address. They must be spammers, right? So we get listed on various spam blacklists. You're thinking, why don't we just switch off accounts when emails to that address start bouncing? Well, we should do; we used to, and we still do sometimes. But then we were too busy for a couple of weeks, and the number built up, and now the task's become just too big and horrible to do by hand (plus there are other complexities - it's not always immediately obvious whether a "bouncing" email address is permanently dead or just a bit under the weather temporarily - a full mailbox, for example).

So, what we plan to do is institute a rolling programme whereby every once in a while (and it won't be often) we'll send you an automated email asking you to re-confirm that your email is still working. All you'll have to do is click a link - job done. But if you don't respond, we'll assume that that registered email is dead, and we'll stop sending messages to it. But don't worry, we won't completely delete you - if you come back later, all you need to do is log in on the website; if we've switched off your account in the meantime we'll just send you an automatic email to allow you to prove that address is still alive.

Oh, a special plea for AOL users. If you decide you don't want our weekly emails any more, PLEASE (pretty please) use the link at the bottom of the weekly email (it's there, every week, your very own customised opt-out link). Please DON'T add news@birdguides.com to your list of "blocked senders" or whatever AOL choose to call it. Yes, it'll stop you receiving any more emails from us - but it also leads AOL to think we're dubious characters and may stop our emails getting through to your fellow AOLers. And the same probably applies to other ISPs - some of them even share their lists of "suspects".

There's more to it than that, but I think you've suffered enough already...

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