6.5 Challenges and advice
You can expect a few challenges once you have activated automatic processing. Here is some advice on how to deal with the most common issues.
- Be patient. Initially, most incoming spam reports will refer to messages created before the SPAM_FEEDBACK_PROBE= setting was defined in the LISTSERV configuration. It may take a day or two for automatic processing to start kicking in. You will continue to see unprocessed messages for at least one month after enabling the feature. There is nothing you can do about it, other than wait for these old messages to have “expired” from the pipeline.
- Many false positives. L-Soft’s experience has been that many spam reports are sent erroneously. We have seen list owners with certain ISP accounts report their own lists as spam! It is exceedingly easy for a user to generate a spam report without even realizing it; for instance, exiting the mail interface in a hurry will silently generate a spam report for any unread messages automatically sent to the junk mail folder by some ISP filters.
- Complaints from certain ISP users, such as AOL. For instance, the heavy-handed “one strike and you’re out” rule is not popular with AOL users who have erroneously generated a spam report. If anything, the lack of notification is even less popular. AOL users may get upset and blame your organization. But, in reality, you do not have a choice in the matter. The terms of AOL’s whitelist agreement require “one strike and you’re out” and forbid notification. You have a choice between being heavy-handed and not being on the whitelist, which in practice would promptly cause all of your mail to AOL to be blocked and all AOL users to be deleted. Be prepared to write a FAQ for your list on this topic.
- Complaints from list owners. It is convenient for most list owners to refer to an organization-wide policy that in turn refers to the legal terms of an ISP’s whitelist agreement, which most reasonable people will understand must be followed. But some list owners will complain that they are unable to re-add users that have been served off. Be prepared to make a policy on serving these users back. It is up to you as whitelist agreements are silent on that issue.
- Spam reports from reinstated users. You will find that many reinstated users continue to issue spam reports because they simply do not understand what causes these spam reports to be sent. Until they know what they must do differently, they will keep generating spam reports that hurt your deliverability – and blaming LISTSERV and you for the false positives. This is why it is important to keep archives of all your spam reports. Once the user is convinced that you did receive a new spam report, the problem will be transferred to ISP’s help desk, which in most cases is able to help the customer disable these reports.
- Lax or tough? One of the decisions you will have to make is whether to reinstate all users simply for the asking, or only if they petition you in writing and agree not to send any further reports, or never. It is important to understand that every spam report is a petition by a customer to terminate your organization’s access to that particular ISP. Of course, it takes a lot of reports for this to happen, but there is absolutely no difference between voluntary and involuntary spam reports. The risk, if you keep reinstating anyone who asks, is that you keep receiving spam reports from users who are unable to learn how to turn them off, and that your deliverability will suffer. By trying to help a handful of users who share their account or are just not very good with computers, you may end up hurting thousands of users who have meticulously followed instructions to turn off spam reports for your organization.