Message from MAAWG: Quit Whining

Posted by Neil Schwartzman on

Neil Schwartzman
By Neil Schwartzman
Senior Director, Security Strategy, Receiver Services

I was at Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group (MAAWG) conference this week and, as always, it was very interesting. Most enlightening was a conversation that George Bilbrey and I had with the head anti-spammer at a large receiving site. His sighed at one point and said, “Senders need to quit whining. We are busy fighting spam here!” While I thought it might not be a particularly politically correct or even polite thing to say, perhaps it is a message that needs to be relayed to senders.

The botnet situation is at a crisis point. If the receiving sites don’t put all their resources into shoring up the defenses, there may well not be receiving sites to deliver to.

Perhaps marketers could take a look at the volumes they send, and scroll back. We know that targeted email works better anyway. As Seth Godin says, “Small is the new big.” Sending targeted messages to a small, but more responsive, list is going to yield better ROI for marketers and help alleviate ISP overload. Talk about a win-win.

Also, the people who make the decisions around sending of email should understand how often their deliverability specialists need to intervene at receiving sites on their behalf. Are you being fair? Are you making the changes the ISPs have asked for in order to distinguish your email from all the crap that is coming in to them?

I know of a Sender Score Certified client who has a spam trap problem. They have been suspended for some time. To deal with spamtraps invariably involves some pain in terms of list size – you sometimes have to drop good addresses to ensure you have removed all the bad addresses. And, the work to even figure out where the bad stuff is can be a slow, painstaking process. Nevertheless, the client assured me they were doing everything possible to deal with the spamtrap hits. “Absolutely everything,” they said.

Well, I recently learned that every time they got off the phone with me the tune changed, and the key players refused to drop any addresses, or even segment their list. And so, they remain uncertified.

Legitimate senders need to work together with ISPs to fight against dynamic spammers by doing everything in their power to distinguish their email from the bad actors. This means cleaning up their lists, moderating frequency, keeping messages relevant and maintaining low complaint rates. The largest senders should also stay on top of fluctuations in the ability of receiving sites to actually accept email (meaning, if an ISP is under attack, your system would back off sending for an hour or two, or even a day or two). And quit whining.

Keep in mind that the abuse teams at receiving sites are a cost center – and every minute they needlessly spend dealing with the deliverability problems of legitimate email is a minute they aren’t fighting the spam that threatens to overwhelm us all. Lend them a hand by fixing your own problems before you send, and they will definitely be grateful. This MAAWG was all about collaboration – let’s try to collaborate by taking these steps. You will make friends and positive relationships in the receiving community should you do so. I can 100% guarantee that the message of collaboration will be delivered to the receiving sites. And nobody likes a whiner, after all.


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