Eightball and Thundercloud's RANT

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Our Little Rant by Eightball & Thundercloud
From InfoAve Premium Issue #108 - November 11, 2005
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Uncle Joe and the Kartoffelpuffer

Ah, it's Friday. A day most of us working class folks look forward to. The weekend is almost here - time to relax a little and spend some time enjoying the things we like - time to stop and catch our breath and get away from the rat race. We are no different. We enjoy a little extra free time on the weekends too.

But, in the past six months Friday's have been more than just a "Thank Goodness It's Friday" day. It's been a day that brings home to us just how much spam and just as bad, ISP's attempts to control spam, have affected our ability to communicate with our subscribers - and indeed our customers. While, to be sure, spam is an annoyance and spam phishing attempts downright dangerous, nothing has ruined the form of communications we call "email" more than zealous ISPs who attempt to block, censor, manipulate, remove, delete and otherwise prevent the delivery of email to customers based on a flimsy, ambiguous, and questionable set of "rules" which attempt to define spam. Worse, some larger ISPs spend millions of dollars inundating us with commercials telling us how they'll keep us safe from the 'fear du jour" and spam. What they're really trying to do is convince you that having big brother censor your email is somehow "protecting you" and something that should make you all flock to one national ISP or another. The point of this advertising is trying to convince you that one ISP can protect you from everything dangerous (of course they can't) and that having some Big Brother meddling with your email is somehow beneficial to you.

While there is no doubt that spam filters installed by ISPs do filter out a lot of spam, they also filter out a lot of good email too. And, of course, they still let some spam through. These spam filters, based on nebulous rules, vary from ISP to ISP. What is one ISPs gravy is another's garbage - to some ISPs - almost all email is garbage, especially if it has the word "Newsletter" in it.

Every Friday we deal with dozens of irate subscribers who blame us for not sending their newsletter (for which they paid!). But, wait! Hey! We did send it.
So, let's take you through a "Day In The Life". We'll take a typical Friday and tell you what it's like in our world.

Normally our Fridays begin around 5:00 AM. First we fill any orders that came in overnight, answer support mail, update our Start Page and then finalize the InfoAve Premium newsletter and get it ready to send. After we've tested the newsletter by sending test copies from our mail list hosting service, Netatlantic, and we're certain it's fit for your eyes to see, we send it to the entire InfoAve Premium subscriber list. Normally this is between 7:00 and 8:00AM every Friday. The high-speed mail servers provided for us by Netatlantic take about ten to fifteen minutes to send one newsletter to each subscriber. When the "send" is completed, we get a report that tells us how many of the newsletters were delivered (to the subscriber address). Normally this first report indicates 97% to 98% of subscribers received the newsletter without problem. The mail server does three more "sends" and attempts to reach the 2 or 3 percent of subscribers that, for one reason or other were listed as "unreachable". Unreachable means that the mail server of the recipient rejected the mail for one reason or another - bad address, mail box full, etc.

So, when we send a newsletter to you on Friday mornings and our mail host's mail server is unable to deliver it the first time, it will keep trying several more times before it gives up (in exasperation?).

After we send the InfoAve Premium newsletter, the fun begins. Every Friday, without fail, we get blamed for not sending someone their newsletter. Would you like to see some of the comments we get, that put the blame squarely on our shoulders? OK. Here are some we see every Friday:

#1. Subscriber writes: "I have you on my white list but I still don't get the newsletter!"

Answer:  Our newsletters come from pr1.netatlantic.com which is our mail list server. We do not send them from thundercloud.net or any of our domains. If you have "thundercloud.net" on your "whitelist" that's fine, but you'll need to put "pr1.netatlantic.com" on your "whitelist" if you want to ensure you get our newsletter and your ISP insists on using the outdated technology of "whitelisting".

#2. Subscriber writes: "I get free edition but not premium!"

Answer: The Premium edition of the newsletter contains approximately five times the information than the Free edition. We discuss many topics in our newsletters including spam, worms, viruses, trojans, rootkits, spyware, adware, etc. Some, in fact many, ISPs actually delete email by using filters which identify certain words and phrases as spam. If we're discussing "spam" for instance, the ISP may censor our newsletter because it contains the word spam. Now that makes a lot of sense, I mean spammers always identify their emails as "spam" don't they? Of course they don't - yet in all their brilliance ISPs reject email if it contains certain words like spam. Since the free edition contains much less content and since the answers and the tips are actually on the Web and not inside the newsletter, the chances of it getting filtered (censored) are much less than the Premium Edition.

#3. Subscriber writes:  "My ISP claims they are not filtering my email."

Answer:  Make sure that you understand and that your ISP understands that the newsletter does not come from thundercloud.net - it comes from pr1.netatlantic.com . We sent it and you didn't get it - that gives us pretty good reason to think that either your ISP censored it or you have a spam filter installed with is misconfigured and sending our newsletter to your deleted items folder, spam folder, or worse, just outright deleting it. We've even sent people proof (mail headers showing their ISP rejected it) and still their ISPs deny they censor (filter) email. What can we do but send it to you. What your ISP does with it is beyond our control - but not yours: Make sure your ISP understands that you're the customer and they're providing you a service which you're paying for. Tell them you don't want them meddling in your Email. If they don't agree to stop filtering your email, find another ISP. Because, one thing is for certain: If you're not getting our Premium Newsletter you're not getting other important email as well. Don't let your ISP dictate what mail you can and cannot receive - it's your right and your email. It does not belong to your ISP, regardless of what they tell you. We've found in our experience that most ISPs like to get you off the phone as quickly as possible. Don't take "We don't filter any email" as a fact. Investigate further. If you've written to complain that you didn't receive your newsletter and your ISP claims they don't filter your email, we've probably written you back showing you proof (mail headers) showing your ISP rejecting our newsletter. Use that proof to confront them and tell them to leave your personal property (your email) alone!

#4. Subscriber writes:  "It seems funny I get all my other email, just not your newsletter!"

Answer: Each Friday you expect to receive a newsletter from us. When you don't see it come you notice it. By Saturday morning you're wondering if we even sent it. We have sent it every Friday morning (or earlier) for 108 straight weeks now. So because you expect it and didn't get it you are very aware of it.

But let's say, for example, Uncle Joe wins the lottery in Germany and invites you over to share some of his new found wealth. Unfortunately for you, uncle Joe decided to contact you by email. You weren't expecting an email from good-old uncle Joe so when it never arrives you don't miss it. However, cousin Sally is glad your ISP is censoring your email, because she's now in Germany, eating kartoffelpuffer, wienerschnitzel, frikadellen, schwarzwälderkirschtorte, stollen; drinking some fine German beer and partying with the jet-setters. She's almost ready to return home nearly a million dollars richer, thanks to good-old uncle Joe. Just think - all of this could have been yours if only your ISP had not censored uncle Joe's email - all because it contained the word "wienerschnitzel" . But, uncle Joe rarely emailed you, so you never missed it because you weren't expecting any email from him. Uncle Joe thought you were ignoring him, emailed cousin Sally instead, and put you on his black sheep list. Woe is you! But Sally's ISP respects her personal rights and personal property and doesn't filter (censor her email). Sally is now very wealthy and now quite rotund.

Look at the bright side: Your ISP's censorship saved you from gaining 25 or 30 pounds :)

#5 Subscriber writes:  "My newsletter comes with "spam" in subject line. What's wrong with you folks? Why would put "spam" in your subject line????"

Answer: We're crazy, we freely admit that. But we're not crazy enough to put "spam" in our subject lines. Our subject lines are always "Cloudeight InfoAve Premium - Issue #____ - And The Date. So what's happening to your newsletter is that you or your ISP is using a mail filter that cannot tell spam from a newsletter or a legitimate mailing. This is typical of spam filters - sorry to say. You should be able to immediately tell by reading past the word "spam" that your spam filter or you ISP's spam filter has inserted, that this is the newsletter which we publish and for which you have paid to receive. We have enough faith in you to determine that an email with the subject line "----SPAM---" "Cloudeight InfoAve Premium - Issue #108 - November 11, 2005" is different from "Re: Hoodia Breakthrough Breaks Fat Bellies". Right?

But wait, there's more! Some other common reasons people don't receive their newsletter:

Mailbox is full: You need to make sure that you are deleting your old mail if you are accessing your email by logging on to your ISP's Web Mail interface. Most ISPs have a limit on email storage space and it's usually not a very large amount (unlike Gmail which gives you over 2.6 GB of space for example). Make sure you keep your mailbox clean so that your newsletter is not rejected because your mailbox is full of old emails. Also, make sure you check your email at least a few times a week - not just on Fridays :-). We see this "Mailbox" full message a lot. If your mailbox is full, we cannot deliver your newsletter.

Those using Hotmail need to check the Junk Mail folder. Hotmail has a nasty habit of putting anything resembling a newsletter (except of course Hotmail's own newsletter) into the Junk Mail folder. Check your Junk Mail folder and if you find our newsletter there (boo hoo!) make sure you mark it as NOT JUNK. The same is true for Yahoo mail and Gmail (Spam Folder). Make sure you check the Spam Folder for our newsletter. If you find it there make sure you mark it as "Not Spam".

Believe it or not, Eightball spends quite a bit of time each Friday and Saturday answering those who write to complain that we didn't send them their newsletter. And the crowning blow comes when we answer their email and it too is deleted by the ISP's censorship scheme. Now they're not only angry with us for not sending their newsletter, they're livid that we won't even answer their email when they write to complain or ask for help.

You know we hate ISP censorship of personal email almost as much as we hate spam. Arbitrary censorship costs us a lot more time than dealing with the several thousand spam emails we receive each week.

We do want to point out that only a very small percentage of the total number of Premium subscribers do not receive their newsletters because of meddlesome ISPs or other reasons pointed out in this rant. Still, one or two percent of thousands is a significant group of people to have angry at us :) We do our best to get our Premium newsletters to everyone who has subscribed. Alas, sometimes we are fighting against ISPs who believe that censoring and deleting your email is actually a beneficial service - actually it benefits no one - certainly not you and certainly not us.

Now we've taken you through a typical Friday in the life of Cloudeight. If you're reading this you should have come to the conclusion that we can be relied upon to send your InfoAve Premium each week. And, that, if you didn't get it something, most likely your ISP's penchant for censorship (it's a "service" you know) has, once again, caused major problems for you and for us.

Pass me some kartoffelpuffer, I'm going to see uncle Joe. We're going to float down the Danube and drink beer together.

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Opinions expressed herein are the opinions of the authors as individuals and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of Cloudeight Internet LLC, its hosts, or sponsors. These Rants are editorials and are,  therefore, opinions. All content is copyright ©2005 by Cloudeight Internet LLC (all rights reserved)

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