We’ve all suffered from lost time and lost connections because of false positives from necessary spam filters. Just this morning, board members of a non-profit I volunteer for were complaining to me that email to board members gets trapped as spam, and while working on this blog I nearly lost an email that was treated as a false positive.
But some businesses lose more than time. Open source advocate Ryan Bagueros, who does consulting around web developer and open source (his firms are northxsouth and Linefeed) told me lots of promising social networking companies are stymied because the emails they send members and prospective members get trapped by spam filters–especially at the major email hosting sites.
I find this ironic, because the social networking sites are structured networks that promise ultimately to be a replacement for email: richer with identifying information, more secure, and full of features to build relationships and communities. Yet to get off the ground, the sites depend on email, the only universal online medium, in all its primitiveness. And the sites suffer because of it.
Bagueros knows a couple ways to avoid having social network sites filtered as spam. Some email host services offer free whitelisting, but others depend on third-party whitelisters that charge email senders an initial fee of several thousand dollars plus ongoing assessments.
Another approach is to expend a lot of sweat complying with the dozen requirements set up by the major email hosting services. Yet Bagueros writes, “you will still experience periods of non-deliverability as your outbound volume increases.”
A contrasting approach is to “subvert the filters,” by putting some junk text at the bottom of each email and faking with some mail headers. This, however, violates terms of services and can even get the sender sued. He points out that the particular mail server you hit in a cluster determines which set of mail rules you’ll be dealing with, and the rules change all the time (as spam filters much always do).
Right now, I’m suffering from the syndrome identified as “social network fatigue” in Wired Magazine. I belong to only a couple networks, and I discourage people from establishing contacts with me (that means you!) because I haven’t found the effort worth the benefits. But someday, I’m sure, we’ll all depend minimally on electronic mail and will instead by part of a network of social networks linked by standards and competing fiercely over features.