BPA List move to Google/Yahoo Groups: Details
Detail: Apparent inevitability
When I have tried to work around the erronenous blacklist'ing by the ISPs,
a too common response from their Tech Support Reps is
"You should just use Google or Yahoo groups."
The prevalence of this attitude tells me that "Resistance is futile."
Details: My deduction about the underlying problem
The change is being forced by sloppy and/or overly-aggressive SPAM fighting actions
by a variety of the major Internet Service Providers (ISPs),
notably AOL, Comcast, Earthlink, Hotmail, and Yahoo.
With increasing frequency, the major ISPs are blacklisting the BPA mail
server. The "Customer Service" and "Technical Support" representatives
can provide little information on why this is happening.
My observation is that when there is a small flurry of messages to the
combined BPA email lists, one of the ISPs will blacklist the BPA server
(Interesting aside: There has not been a case when two ISPs blacklist'ed
the server at the same time).
By "small flurry", I mean 3-8 message in a day or 5-10 messages in 2-4
days. Although there are only 20-60 address from the email lists going
to a particular ISP for a single message, their anti-SPAM software
apparently decides that these messages (hours apart) represent a SPAMmer
attempting to avoid detection by sending in small increments.
The actual thresholds for triggering blacklist'ing seem to vary.
This is not surprising - it is common practice in security systems to
routinely shift such thresholds - otherwise the miscreants will
discover them and design their activity to avoid detection
by operating just under those thresholds.
The BPA mail server has a mix of moderated and unmoderated email
lists. Since submissions to the unmoderated lists are uncoordinated,
it is easy to inadvertently push over the threshold - a couple of
people sending a single message each, and a few replies to those
Although the various ISPs claim to provide mechanisms - "whitelisting" -
for avoiding erroneous blacklisting, they are ineffective:
Whitelist entries seem to expire within a few months - The Tech Support
Reps say they are permanent - experience indicates otherwise.
There is a unpredictable delay in a whitelist entry taking effect,
and there is no notification.
Consequently, the mailing list administrator has to experimentally determine
when it is possible to get messages through to people at that ISP.
Dealing with blocked messages involves unpleasant choices:
- Resend to the whole group - members at other ISPs get duplicates
that are hours (or days) apart, which can be confusing.
- Create a custom, one-time mechanism to resend the message
to those who didn't get it.
- Decide that the message isn't important to be worth either
of the above.
Getting off an ISP's blacklist can be a time-consuming task because
of inconsistencies and errors in the ISP's database.
I have been on the phone with a Tech Support Rep and been told
that there is no blacklist'ing in effect, sent a message and seen
it rejected. Because I have seen similar inconsistencies with the
automated response systems, I suspect that this is not the Tech
Support Rep misunderstanding what the computer is telling him,
but rather an inconsistency between different sections
of their database.
Similarly, the error messages I am receiving from their mail server
are incompatible with the status messages in the database the
Tech Support Rep is working from.
Major ISPs have multiple servers for inbound mail and I occasionally
see very different results from different servers that are persistent.
Note: With some ISPs, blacklist'ing seems to be temporary -
it is removed after a day, or a few days.
But I have seen cases where it seems to be much longer term,
requiring email and/or telephone calls by the administrator.
Note: This problem is NOT one that you can handle within the mail account
of list members by putting the BPA email list addresses in their individual
whitelists (called something like "Always Allow" filter) - the blacklist'ing
of the BPA mail server occurs before the ISP's anti-SPAM software even looks
inside the message (at the addresses of sender and recipient).