This is True
Randy Cassingham

Randy Cassingham’s Blog

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bullet  Yahoo Alert: True's Biggest Crisis Ever

I've given up trying to work with Yahoo, which represents the largest domain subscribed to True. There are more than 20,000 addresses within simple Yahoo.com domain on True's distribution (plus a couple thousand more on variants such as yahoo.co.uk, yahoo.ca, etc.)

But most of them are not getting True anymore: Yahoo has blocked us. Why? Because of idiots (dare I call them "yahoos"? Filo and Yang chose "yahoo" as their name because it meant "rude, unsophisticated, uncouth" -- and it fits). The yahoos who ask to be put on True's distribution, then confirm that request, and ...then click the "This is Spam" button when they don't recognize the mailing or simply don't want it anymore. Yes, those yahoos have screwed thousands upon thousands of others who really do want my newsletter. Too bad: Yahoo is listening to the yahoos instead: they're blocking it. To them, we're "spammers" and no protestations from "spammers" count.

As far as I can tell, there's only one group of people with Yahoo addresses who are still getting their issues: those who have at one time found True in the "spam folder" and clicked the "Not Spam" button. But for the rest it's too late: we're now blocked, and you will not find issues there so you can hit that button.

As of now, about 70 percent of the Yahoo addresses are blocked. That's more than 15,000 folks. That's more than 10 percent of my entire distribution. And that's catastrophic: it has the potential to kill True's newsletter. Nearly 15 percent of my audience, as of this week, which means 15 percent of my revenue, including 15 percent of my ad revenue, has suddenly stopped. It's the biggest crisis in True's more than 14 years online. And it's (sigh) right in the middle of a worldwide economic slowdown. What lovely timing.

Yahoo is over-represented in my distribution because True is so old: We've been publishing since 1994, when Yahoo was a little collection of links. They didn't get their millionth page view until late 1994 (according to Wikipedia), well after I had over 100,000 online readers every week, some of whom had to go through a lot of effort to get their issues (through BBS gateways, UUCP bang addresses, and other now-archaic means).

Yahoo mail opened to the public in 1997 (when it acquired Rocketmail). That was after I first editorialized on what a problem spam could become -- what's now the Spam Primer. I take no solace in the fact that I was right about spam; it has grown so much that the world's first for-profit e-mail publication is having massive delivery problems because its shiny little jewel can't stand out among the garbage.

Yeah, I'm mad: it's my own readers who have done this. Addled idiots can't click "unsubscribe" after they asked to get these issues, lumping the white hat guy who warned them about spam in with the criminals who send spam. But they're gone now: they don't see the carnage they caused, even if they liked, even loved, True. It's like shooting a gun into a crowd of people, then walking away before seeing what happened.

I've had occasional problems with other big mail sites too, like AOL, Hotmail/MSN, and more, usually because of those same false "this is spam" complaints. Currently, I think all those other problems are cleared up, but I'm already seeing a revenue slide. It will likely get worse over time. Can I reverse it and keep True going? I'm not sure. It's possible True will become Premium-only (plus the few newspapers who carry it), which would certify you all as victims of the spam war.

Can You Help?

Yes. Complain to your provider every time you miss an issue. Tell them you asked to get True and responded to a verification request, and that no one can get on the distribution without both of those steps. Spammers don't do that: they add you whether you want their mail or not. (And when was the last time you wanted spam?!) If you complain, maybe they'll get the message that their customers really want True and other legitimate e-mail publications. But if they don't listen, give your business to someone else!

Next, help me replace those tens of thousands of lost readers. I've asked you again (and again and again!) to help "spread the word". Few have bothered. If you really can't be bothered, you may lose True forever. Please tell at least 50 friends now! I need them more than ever. Please promote True on your web site or blog. Reporters: I need articles in print publications. I can help you with pretty much any angle you want.

And if you have $24 to spare, help prove that True is worthy of your support: upgrade to a Premium subscription (I just hope you have a non-Yahoo address for it). Or sign up for two years and get the second year for just $19. (And yes, sales of "Get Out of Hell Free" cards and related products help too, not to mention True book collections.) If you've done any of these things, Thank You: you helped.

If you have more than that to spare, consider sponsoring issues, either with ads or replacing the ads with a sponsorship message (contact Randy to offer). You can also sponsor True's online archive or this blog -- again, contact Randy to offer.

It is possible to turn this disaster into a new start, but only with help. If you care about True, I need your help right now. Just close this page and True may go away, or do something yourself, rather than hope someone else does. Really; it's that simple. Do you care?

Update: Bloggers Take Up the Cause

I'll post just some of the links to bloggers around the world who are working to increase awareness:

Update!
I heard from a senior tech at Yahoo at the end of the day on August 5: "Your IP [address] should have no issues delivering now."

Short, sweet, to the point. Now the work begins to restore all the "held" subscribers, and with luck we'll have all 15,000 back by Friday's issue. [Accomplished! See next post.]

51 Comments on This Entry

All comments in this blog are reviewed prior to being published. Spammers: don't waste your time. The posting criteria are simple: if a comment is worth visitors' time to read, it's approved. If not, it's not.


Posted by Allen, Nagoya, Japan on August 1, 2008:

While I'm certainly saddened to hear this, I'm also not surprised. It disturbs me more though to know that a publication as old as yours, with such an exemplary reputation, can be hit this hard by a few of the idiots who just don't have the sense or the common courtesy to properly unsubscribe.

I guess most of those are folks who were afraid they'd show up in an issue, and not in the comments section :-), before too long.

*sigh* The worst part is that there's no way now for you to actually reach those folks who still wish to receive True, and this problem is only likely to get worse.

---

Yeah, I predicted it too -- in 1996 when I first wrote the editorial that became the Spam Primer. It actually took longer than I thought it would. It's still depressing. -rc

Posted by Jonathan Disher, Yahoo Inc on August 1, 2008:

I (obviously) work for Yahoo! - not for Mail, but for another property. I have a paid subscription going to my personal domain, and if you contact me at my work email address with some details, I will forward them on to the mail team and ask them to please work with you on the issue.

It's unfortunate that so many people "forget" that they subscribed to the list and mark the emails as spam. I hope to help you fix it.

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Thanks, Jonathan: I'll have e-mail waiting for you Monday morning, and I hope you can indeed help. -rc

Posted by Doug, Wheaton, IL on August 1, 2008:

Sent a link and a personal note to friends who I think would really enjoy This is True. Tomorrow, I will spam everyone I know. Just kidding.

I'm hoping my personal experience being a premium subscriber will encourage some friends to subscribe to the free or premium editions.

I cringed everytime I added a yahoo address to the addressees. Hope they got my note!

Keep it up Randy, we will get through this tough patch. I'm between jobs right now, and This is True is a bright spot in my week.

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Thanks, Doug: it always helps to hear from others who are also going through rough times. -rc

Posted by Ron, California on August 1, 2008:

What would the world be without "True." After reading your comments I sent a link to your home page to everyone in my address book that would be interested. Not quite 50 but close.

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Thanks, Ron. Much appreciated. -rc

Posted by Kelson from California on August 1, 2008:

I just thought I'd let you know that as the email admin for a small ISP, we've had rules in place for several years now to keep "This Is True" out of our spam filters, even when your newsletter discusses topics that might otherwise trigger them.

I've also just posted a recommendation (with the True-a-Day widget) on one of my blogs, and I'll be posting a brief write-up of this issue on another.

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It is appropriate to whitelist mailers you know to be legit, so thanks for that, as well as helping to "spread the word". Indeed the True-a-Day feature is a great way to help spread the word, as well as have fun content on your site. -rc

Posted by Harry, Jakarta on August 1, 2008:

Hi Randy, I'm sorry to hear about your troubles. I agree, this is very serious.

While you're waiting for Jonathan & Yahoo to get back to you, there is something that you can do as well.

If you can get someone to implement SPF & DomainKeys for your outgoing email, then you may be able to reduce the impact of this problem in the future.

If you have this up & running, and Yahoo's email team agreed to whitelist your domain - then even better. You won't see this problem again.

That's it, until your Gmail subsribers started hitting "Report this as spam" button :-)

Hope it helps.

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I have had an SPF record for years. I'll look into DomainKeys when it's not past midnight after a long, hard day. Thanks! -rc

Posted by Colin, UK on August 2, 2008:

There is certainly some irony that stupid, lazy people have condemned 'True' to being more spam because they cannot be bothered to click 'unsubscribe', but that would mean having to actually click on the message first! I'm mean let's face it, some people wouldn't get out of bed if work would pay them to stay there, rather than sit in a shop, mostly unsupervised, doing nothing all day. It's a sad fact of the dumbed down society we're breeding.

That said, the blame this time does lie at Yahoo's door, because if they could understand the concept that people actually asked for it, twice effectively, then maybe they would do something about it. So I think a campaign is needed where by those of us who have yahoo accounts (but wisely don't use them for 'true') should mail off a standard letter to Yahoo explaining the problem and why we choose not to use Yahoo, and how many of us may not use our Yahoo address at all because of the hassle of checking more than one account! We don't see their targeted adverts etc. I was told long ago that if you want to change something you have to hit the purse strings. I'm sure many of your supporters would go along with this concept.

Posted by Kim, Japan on August 2, 2008:

Well, my e-mail is through Yahoo, and I've been trying to use Yahoo Help to contact them... but when I try to use their "Contact Us" link to e-mail them about this issue, I keep getting cycled between a page that won't finish loading and a password request page. Hmph! In the meantime, I've signed up for This is True on my Gmail account.

Such an experience does not inspire ANY confidence in Yahoo for me! I suppose this explains some of their market share losses.

Posted by Blair, Clarksville TN on August 2, 2008:

Sorry to hear about your dilemma Randy. It's sad when someone legitimate gets blocked because someone hits the wrong button while the real spammers find workarounds to Yahoo and others' spam filters on a daily basis and still get through.

I know this because I have a Yahoo email account that I'd like to quit using if only I could get a friends to quit sending me mail there. But to get to the point I get at least 5 to 10 pieces of spam in my inbox everyday that should have been caught by Yahoo's spam filters. It is obvious that the spammers change their "tactics" frequently so as to stay one step ahead of Yahoo, etc.

Seems to be a lose, lose situation.

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The way to get friends to stop sending you mail to your old address is to send them a message telling them your new address (assuming you DO want to hear from them), and then shutting the old one down. -rc

Posted by John Davis, Michigan on August 2, 2008:

I scan my "Bulk" folder daily, (In fact multiple times a day) so if it goes there ... I'll "NOT SPAM" it.

Plus I think you are on my white list (Address book).

Though the address does not look like it (it's a reflector) my mail box is really Yahoo, or Yahoo alias (sbcglobal.net).

Helps if you use web mail that way you see your bulk folder; if you use client mail then you have the option of ignoring it.

Posted by Jim, Texas on August 2, 2008:

I know it might seem to be strange behavior for the author of The Stella Awards, but have you considered having an attorney write Yahoo a letter and threaten to sue for loss of revenue?

You have confirmation that every Yahoodiot that clicked the spam button had agreed at one time to take your newsletter, so you've got a pretty good case for prevailing in any litigation. Think about it, Yahoo is wrongly denying you income due to actions beyond your control but within their control.

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Lawsuits are (or typically should be) a last resort. I have a lot of steps to try first before even considering the idea. That is how it should be, too. -rc

Posted by Susan, GA on August 2, 2008:

I've been reading true for several years and signed up for premium a few months ago. I can't believe it took me so long, what a great deal for a 52 issues. I sent the issue to probably 75 people. I hope it will help.

Thanks for not only helping us think, but also starting a great internet business.

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Thanks, Susan. Yes, it DOES help. -rc

Posted by M Robert on August 2, 2008:

Just a tip: One thing that might add to it is calling your subscribers "addled idiots".

---

It does amaze me when people are so scared and unsure that they use a fake name and obviously fake AOL address in order to snipe -- especially when they're totally, completely, out of line.

So, "Robert" using Comcast cable in Texas, not AOL, here's my reply: try reading what I actually said. I have no subscribers who are "addled idiots", since those are the people who hit the "This is Spam" button: they don't get the newsletter anymore. So by definition those who remain aren't. But you can't be bothered to actually THINK about what I said, and PREFER to be offended. How pathetic, and it says plenty about your own intelligence ...and not a thing about any other reader. -rc

Posted by Mike from Dallas on August 2, 2008:

I can't tell you the number of times I've been admonished by Yahoo for violations of Terms of Service without the specific Term ever being specified. When I've asked for clarification, I get a laundry list of possible reasons. And when I've rebutted their opinion with my reasons spelled out that I've committed no violation, the response is that, after review, it's determined that I'm still in violation. I've long since given up trying to do business with such sophomoric teenagers running that operation.

By the way, I've found that my own domain is considered spam for a lot of ISPs simply on the basis that it could possibly be used for spam, even though it has never been. Nothing I can do about it except appeal to each ISP and hope it may change its opinion.

Posted by Ben from Oak Park, IL on August 2, 2008:

The yahoo mail problem may be greater than some folk realize. Yahoo mail is the underlying mail service for all of the family of AT&T DSL customers. Maybe it is not coincidence that the AT&T logo is known as the "Death Star" logo. The prospect of losing the access to email for all of these DSL customers is a real bummer. And another reason that I also decided to get mail addresses on my own domains, several of them.

Posted by Andi, North Carolina on August 2, 2008:

Unbelievable! Yahoo blocks This Is True as spam, and yet almost every spam email that a Yahoo Group I moderate gets comes from a Yahoo.com email address. They can't keep spammers from using their own email service to spam users of other Yahoo services, but they'll block This Is True from every Yahoo email account because some people clicked the "This is Spam" button instead of unsubscribing. Ludicrous!

Makes me glad that I don't use Yahoo mail.

Posted by Kat in the midwest on August 2, 2008:

I am not sure how much the big providers communicate spammer info with each other. (3 years ago I knew lots, before I left IT...) But I wonder if it is coincidence that Gmail today decided True was spam. Of course I clicked "not spam" as soon as I found it, so hopefully Gmail will be smarter than Yahoo.

I was going to say that even a few "not spam" clicks ought to outweigh lots of "is spam" clicks, because we know people call things spam that aren't, but who clicks "not spam" when they get spam? Then I realized, spammers probably have lots of addresses where they get their own spam and mark it "not spam" for just this reason.

Canter & Siegel and all your descendants, may you... well,
I don't like to ill-wish, even spammers. Let's just say I hope they don't have a GOOHF card if they need one.

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GOOHF cards don't work on spammers.

I think the gmail bit is coincidence. I do think the "not spam" button counts a lot since all these providers know that people are lazy, and use the "This is Spam" button to mean "I just don't want this" -- whether it's legit or not. Yes, spammers might try such tactics themselves, but I'm sure there are algorithms for detecting legit clicks on "Not Spam" vs those done on actual spam. -rc

Posted by Pearl, Montreal on August 2, 2008:

I am so sorry this is happening. I really do enjoy This is True. I'm afraid that I do not have 50 friends, or much money, or a blog or website but I will forward an issue to those I think would enjoy True with a recommendation to join. My general habit is to not forward anything, especially as a group mailing, so I will send this individually to those I believe will like True.

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That works, and thanks! -rc

Posted by Tristram , Maine on August 2, 2008:

Randy, you always manage to bring the stupidity of people into the forefront of my consciousness. I thank you for this. I never wondered why my email service marked True as spam, assuming it was because it could detect that it was emailed to so many people at once. It never deleted it, just marked it as spam. The last two issues, however, have not been marked as spam. I'm not sure who runs the webmail I use since it is done through my university, but I shall remain ever vigilant that it does not happen again. Like so many of your loyal fans, I will do all that I can to help spread the word and keep true going.

Posted by Mark, Ridgewood NJ on August 2, 2008:

I just recently started a free subscription (in addition to my Premium feed) for the sole purpose of giving my friends samples and encouraging them to order it for themselves.

Hope this helps.

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Definitely! -rc

Posted by Richard, Sun Valley, NV on August 2, 2008:

I'm so sorry to read this. I've had occasional dealings with Yahoo "customer service", and they are unresponsive.

In order to help out in some small manner, I have downloaded two of your banners and have placed them on my websites. It may not help much, but I will also let my friends and associates know about This Is True and suggest they subscribe.

Posted by Tanja, Australia on August 2, 2008:

Just wanted to say that maybe Aussie True readers are not as daft as the rest. I have a yahoo.com.au acocunt and I have never had to tell my server that it's not spam. I've never missed an edition. The Aussie Yahoo seems to know the difference between spam and subscriptions.

Posted by Jacy, Houston TX on August 3, 2008:

Thanks for writing about this. I was just thinking to myself...where is This Is True?, so I came to the website and saw the most recent issue highlighting the problem. I've complained now, hopefully this can be speedily resolved.

Posted by Jim, Texas on August 3, 2008:

You might have misunderstood me Randy. My suggestion was to have your attorney send a notice, not to file a lawsuit.

But please don't dismiss a lawsuit so quickly. If Yahoo is doing you wrong, they are doing others wrong too. A lawsuit might be a good thing by causing ISP's (not just Yahoo, all of them) to sit up and take notice that their actions have consequences; that they cannot be so lazy as to allow their users to be the sole determination as to what is and isn't spam.

It might cause them to have a structured appeals process for "spammers" like yourself, it might cause them to create a warning system giving notice. It might force a *gasp* real human being (even better, a committee) to review the situation each and every time a newsletter (This Is True and All Others) reaches some arbitrary and invisible threshold of "this-is-spam" clicks by users.

Lawsuits can be a good thing and an extremely powerful tool, please don't dismiss them so quickly. Lawsuits were designed to assist people who have been wronged. Losing 15% of your subscription base because Yahoo won't override some silly setting somewhere in their system isn't quite like spilling hot coffee on your legs.

Posted by Marc, MA on August 3, 2008:

I haven't ever been a yahoo user, but I wonder if user whitelists are effective for letting True get through. Many emails I've opted into (from my bank, airlines, etc) say at the top "Add us@domain to your address book so our email doesn't get filtered as spam". Maybe that would work for true, too.

Yes, it's stupid that your readers need to take this extra step when the problem lies with yahoo and your ex-readers, but at least this is something you can do which has a possibility of working. I assume you have a yahoo test account of your own (or you can get one easily) to try it out.

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While the "add to the address book" helps at one level, it's moot if the site has instituted a transaction-level block. -rc

Posted by Crystal - Albany, OR on August 3, 2008:

I've been a free subscriber to This is True for a long time now, and as much as I like your publication I've never been able to justify the expense of a pay subscription. In fact, I don't subscribe to any pay publications either on or off-line because I just don't have a "discretionary income."

I don't say that for the purpose of garnering sympathy, nor am I asking for anything. But when I read your article about the loss of income you've experienced due to the yahoos at Yahoo! and the danger it presents to the survival of your publication, I realized that I would seriously miss it if you had to go out of business.

So I've purchased a year's paid subscription and ordered some of the plastic Get out of Hell Free cards that I've been wanting for years. I promise I'll forward the free publication to my friends too. I sincerely respect the fact that you can point out the idiocy that surrounds us without promoting either a conservative or liberal agenda and I hope you continue doing so for a long time to come.

I may not always agree with you, but you've always provide well reasoned and thought provoking commentary and you've brought several issues to my attention that I might never have recognized on my own, for example the problems caused by the widespread misapplication of the 'Zero-Tolerance' concept.

Please keep on doing what you're doing.

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Thanks, Crystal. I know that $24/year is beyond many people's means. That's why I emphasized "spreading the word" first. But I'm glad you were able to get some of the cards you always wanted! -rc

Posted by Anthony, United Kingdom on August 3, 2008:

You're possibly missing something. Free webmail accounts such as those offered by Yahoo! are disposable, and are regarded as such by their users. It is by no means certain that the (say) abc123@yahoo.com that you are mailing now is the same abc123@yahoo.com who originally subscribed to your mailings. Most free webmail account holders don't unsubscribe from mailing lists when they switch webmail providers, they just re-subscribe from their new free webmail account. Then, when whoever is re-allocated their original free webmail account address receives the previous owner of the address's mailings, they report them as being unsolicited (which they are from the perspective of the email address's new owner, of course...).

There isn't an easy way to handle this with regard to Yahoo! at present since, at this moment, they don't have a Feedback Loop (FBL) program that you can sign up to.

Ordinarily, with most mail service providers, setting up an FBL then immediately unsubscribing recipients who complain (no ifs, no buts - *immediate* unsubscription) would resolve this kind of issue, however until Yahoo! put their FBL properly in place, you're going to find this difficult.

In the meantime, working with a good email deliverability consultant (one with a good reputation, who Yahoo! trust) would help.

---

Spammers keep sending mail to an address no matter what. I don't follow spammer practices. If someone at Yahoo closes their address, Yahoo bounces back a "User Unknown" -- at which point that address is taken off my list. I seriously doubt Yahoo allows them to be reissued in less than a week, so I find it pretty much impossible to believe that there are any instances of the scenario you suggest happening. -rc

Posted by Lionel, France on August 3, 2008:

Yahoo has other problems, we've more than 40,000 yahoo subscribers to a news service and their system purposely slows the delivery at a point where we risk emails to be lost (nearly 5 days for delivering all mails). Delivery are simply temporarily refused (because of user-reported SPAM). There's no meaningful answer from their postmaster (a robot as usual).

Posted by John, Independece, MO on August 3, 2008:

As far as Yahoo re-issuing email accounts, I don't think they do. I have been trying to get them to re-issue me my yahoo account, that I'd had for over 8 years, due to the fact that I changed the password, went on vacation, and couldn't remember it after I got back. Wrong info to reset my password, so I am thoroughly scr^@#d, and Yahoo won't help. This was almost 2 years ago, and I STILL can't sign back up for it, but email sent to it bounces, saying it is not a valid mailbox.

Posted by Cory, Minnesota on August 3, 2008:

I work for a company who delivers subscription email for web publishers and we have seen the same delivery problems with several of our customers. Yahoo! is the largest email provider w/o a feedback loop and they don't seem to care about delivering messages that their customer requested. Feedback loops have worked well for every email provider who offers them -- unfortunately, few do.

We had a customer with a list of about 120K get slowed/blocked by Yahoo! last week. Message delivery was being permanently delayed for over 37,000 messages when we filled out Yahoo's complaint form and got their typical robotic answer. Fortunately, delivery resumed to a normal pace shortly afterwords. I don't know if our complaint made a difference, but it appears to have helped.

I would like to see all email readers offer an opt-out link whenever the List-unsubscribe header is provided. This should help reduce the false spam complaints and make it easier for the subscriber.

Posted by aGuy, in New England on August 3, 2008:

Honestly, this just reminds me why I long-ago banned Yahoo, and all Yahoo applications, from all the computers I manage.

And why I will keep doing do.

Posted by Peter, London, UK on August 4, 2008:

Just to say, I read of your plight in Slashdot and came over for a looksee. Liked what I saw and I've subscribed - it's not a Yahoo! address, either :o)

So maybe, you'll benefit as more people will be made aware of 'This is True'.

I also agree with John, Independence, MO. Yahoo doesn't reissue addresses. I've lost one of mine in similar circumstances to John.

Posted by Piotr from Warsaw on August 4, 2008:

I've just read about the problem on /. and have subscribed to the newsletters to show my support. I've never heard of your site until now, but I'm interested in finding out more.

Posted by Mike, Hamilon Ontario Canada on August 4, 2008:

No conspiracy theories put forth yet. Interesting. I have a similar situation with a social networking site where competitors are signing up with throw-away yahoo and hotmail accounts and marking the confirmation emails as spam. The results have been brutal. We're seriously thinking about rejecting yahoo and hotmail signups, period.

Posted by michael, plantsville ct on August 4, 2008:

I wondered why This Is True keeps appearing in my spam folder. And even though I keep clicking on the "not spam" and have it returned to my inbox, it comes in as spam next time anyway. But I don't miss it, I just scroll thru the spam in alphabetic order to the T's and there it is. As much as I like This Is True, I've been able to find most of the headlines on my own so I don't need the paid version but I don't want YAHOO to block something that I keep telling them is not spam.

Posted by Danielle, Virginia on August 4, 2008:

Well - the mystery of why I haven't seen This is True in my yahoo account for a few weeks is finally solved. I'd tried adding thisistrue.com and lyris.net to my contacts (the closest thing yahoo has to a whitelist) and I tried re-subscribing in case that was the problem (it wasn't - I got a notice I was already subscribed). So I thought I'd check you site one more time before I emailed you - glad I did!

Sorry to hear about this mess! I will indeed be contacting yahoo about this. This is True had been showing up in my Spam folder sometimes (and I'd been clicking "not spam" each time). Other times it would just be in my inbox. I'm very mad at them for blocking you and still letting real spam in. I plan to email my friends and family urging them to subscribe, and I'm going to get a gmail account and then sign up for Premium (been meaning to for a while anyway). Good luck fighting them!

Posted by Bernadine in KY on August 4, 2008:

As a Yahoo mail user, I have a filter to put True in my inbox, and the address in my contact list - but True still disappeared. Inspired, this morning, I e-mailed a complaint to Yahoo using their report abuse e-mail address. I complained about THEIR abuse of my account by blocking e-mail that I specifically requested. I asked them to remove all blocks from the e-mailing addresses for both the free and premium editions. If I do get any responses beyond the auto-reply promising action within 48 hours, I'll pass it on.

Posted by Paula, OK on August 4, 2008:

Sorry to hear about the problems with Yahoo! I hadn't received 'This is True' in a few weeks and was getting worried so I went out to the website and of course ended up resubscribing with a different email address. By my email address you can see that I work for a company that many people detest... but right now I'd lay odds that it is more popular than Yahoo! with your readers.

I also wanted to let you know that as soon as payday hits I will be upgrading to premium, using this email so I'm sure to get it!! Hope that will help... I am forwarding the free edition to all my friends and family and encouraging them to join up.

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It *all* helps, Paula. Thanks! As far as your employer, it could be worse: it could be Exxon. :-) -rc

Posted by Peter - Ottawa, Ontario on August 4, 2008:

You are not the only one that this has happened to. I have had this happen with other sites & Yahoo. In one case they blocked all attachments - no reason given. Solution - go to another Email provider.

As for your problem - A while back a 'warning' was sent out advising people not to "Unsubscribe". (Sorry did not keep the Email). The warning went on to say that one had to input their Email address & that doing so would allow it to be intercepted & distributed by Spammers. The 'warning' recommended hitting the SPAM button instead.

My ISP (I would not use Yahoo if it was the LAST Email provider - I'd go back to snail mail!!) blocked your Email as they had been notified that it was Spam, but had the decency to notify me. I was able to got it released.

Good luck with Yahoo.

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I haven't seen that e-mail, but it's stupid advice. You shouldn't use the unsubscribe link on spam. You must definitely should use it on mail you asked to receive but no longer want. To do otherwise is obscenely irresponsible. -rc

Posted by Michael in Burlington, VT on August 4, 2008:

Yahoo Mail has done the same to our service, called Front Porch Forum. We host 100+ online neighborhood forums covering our metro area and 10,000 households have subscribed already. Recently, Yahoo started blocking us in many cases and about 17% of our subscribers use Yahoo Mail. No resolution from Yahoo. And we can't easily contact our subscribers letting them know how to mark our e-newsletters as "Not Spam" because our instructional messages is... you guessed it... marked as spam. Very frustrating... I guess we're "collateral damage" in Yahoo's war against spammers.

Posted by Tiffanny, VA on August 4, 2008:

When I suddenly stopped getting This is True, I was really disappointed - I thought you had stopped publishing :(

But while checking my spam folder for "not spam" (For some reason Yahoo thinks my old college professor is a spammer), I found several issues of This is True. I marked it as "not spam" and have been enjoying it in my inbox ever since.

I'm definitely going to spread the word on my blog and on payday, I'm finally going to upgrade, using a new non-yahoo email address.

Posted by Eric, Vernon Hills, IL on August 4, 2008:

So sorry to hear about the Yahoo problem.

It's a big problem! You lost me as a premium subscriber a couple of years ago when my server company was blocking my subscription (and they were denying that they were doing it!).

Now that I've switched email servers and been a free subscriber successfully for a while, You'll be seeing my upgrade very shortly.

Another surprising issue: Yahoo's search doesn't even list your site if you search for: This is True (It does, but only if you put it in quotes) What a lousy search engine & company.

The same search on Google has the site as the #1 link (where it should be) as well as other related sites and links.

Posted by Richard, Marietta, GA on August 5, 2008:

Irony: The Google Ad panel running down the left side of your page is for methods to bypass spam filters. I know you have little control over this, but it is still annoying.

Love This is True - I look forward to it each week.

I've subbed via Yahoo to This is True for years, and I too noticed that recently I did not receive any issues. I've just realized that you were being blocked; you didn't even show up in the spam box. I've since subbed via my personal email addy, and I am also going to upgrade, even though I am out of work right now. (It's well worth it!)

Don't let the bastards wear you down!

I'm complaining to Yahoo, though it won't do any good. Yahoo is notorious for sending e-mail of this type to Dev/Nul. I'm also taking my business elsewhere, and letting them know why.

---

Sounds like exactly the right approach. And correct: I don't have control over the ads; they are automated based on the content of the page. I'd just hope that Google would kick out any advertisers who offer "illegitimate" products or services. -rc

Posted by Allison, Midland TX on August 5, 2008:

I too have True blocked by the spam filters with my email host (not Yahoo). I have even whitelisted Lyris, but to no avail, they end up with the junk. Luckilly, as my company's network administrator, so to speak, I am able to view all mail caught by the filters and release the legitimate emails. So every Tuesday, I log in and release my premium edition of True. The funny thing is, the free edition gets through with no problems! Technology, ya gotta love it! Keep up the excellent work RC! Damn the man!

Posted by Ann, Ukraine on August 5, 2008:

Yeah, I've had the same problem with other kinds of newsletters and Yahoo! Some newsletters like from Cuba, Venezuela or other sources, which may not necessarily politically aligned with current mainstream US politics, seem to get either blocked of spammed out, unfortunately.

Posted by Andrew, OH, USA on August 5, 2008:

There's a possible tech solution to your problem on your end. You are:

1. Using a VERP-ish Return-Path. (Are you actually listening to those bounces? If not, that's your problem right there.)

2. Using SPF.

But you're not using domain keys. You want to do this. Note, Yahoo was an early proponent and developer of DKIM...

With Yahoo in particular, we found it to be more effective than SPF in preventing their spam filter from incorrectly marking emails as spam. As always, YMMV, but in our experience, Yahoo immediately stopped incorrectly marking our email as spam once we turned on DKIM. It's also a requirement to get on their whitelist, which is something else you want to do.

---

Of course we use VERP, and we aggressively delete bad addresses, even if it's just chronic "mailbox full" bounces. I'm already researching how to get DomainKeys installed. -rc

Posted by Bernadine in Kentucky on August 6, 2008:

Glad to see your update. Much better news than the response I finally got:

"Hello Bernadine,

Thank you for writing to Yahoo! Mail.

Our servers are running normally at this time and your account appears to be functioning properly.

Please note that very few messages are simply lost in transit. Please make sure that the sender has actually sent the message and is able to send messages successfully to other users. If you still have not received the message, a number of things may have happened:

1. If you have set up filters, your messages may be arriving in a folder other than your Inbox. This includes the Trash folder. To view your filters, click the "Mail Options" link on the top right-hand navigation bar, then click "Filters". You may want to set up a filter for mail having delivery problems to be specifically delivered to the inbox.

Note: Messages in the Trash folder can be deleted by the system at any time without any warning. Please remember that after messages have been emptied from the Trash, they cannot be recovered.

2. If you have SpamGuard turned on for your mail account, the message may have been delivered to your Bulk Mail folder. While we make our best effort to deliver solicited bulk or commercial email directly to your Inbox, we may occasionally send a message you have requested to your Bulk Mail folder. It is important therefore, that you check the Bulk Mail Folder from time to time to make sure you do not miss these messages.

If you believe a message that has been delivered to your Bulk Mail Folder is more appropriately delivered to your Inbox, please click the "Not Spam" button, located in every message.

3. The message was delayed. Most messages are delivered within a few minutes, but messages can sometimes be delayed while in transit due to problems on the sending/receiving mail server, heavy Internet traffic,
or routing problems. On rare occasions, delays can last for several hours or more.

4. Your account is over the allowed quota. If so, any messages sent to your account will bounce back to the sender with an error message stating, "User is over quota". You will have to delete messages in your
account in order to make room for new ones.

5. You can add the address for the mail with delivery issues to you address book.

6. It is possible (though perhaps unlikely) that the sender's address is on your Blocked Addresses list. The Blocked Addresses feature in Yahoo! Mail allows you to create a list of addresses that you do not want to
receive mail from. Mail coming in from one of these senders will neither arrive nor bounce, but will simply be discarded.

You can check your Blocked Addresses list by clicking "Options", then "Blocked Addresses".

7. Occasionally, interruptions or disruptions in email transmissions over the Internet will render a message undeliverable.

While this is very rare, it does happen. Unfortunately, aside from waiting, there is no way to know for certain whether a message has been delayed or whether it has been rendered undeliverable.

In any case, the best solution is to contact the sender to make sure they are still delivering messages to your account without getting any error messages. If, upon contacting the sender, they indicate that they
are experiencing delivery issues when trying to send emails to Yahoo! Mail, we encourage you to have them contact us directly via the Help page below in order for us to get specific information regarding any issues they may be having when delivering to our users.

http://help.yahoo.com/help/us/mail/defer/defer-03.html

Please let us know if you still experience problems so we may assist you further to resolve your issue.

Your patience during this process is greatly appreciated.

Thank you again for contacting Yahoo! Mail. "


In reply I told them that I had ALREADY done all the things they suggested BEFORE contacting them - and that you were dissatisfied with their help in addressing the problem. I ended with the comment that over 10,000 users could soon be leaving if the problem remained unresolved!

---

Classic: "It's your fault" or "It's the Internet's fault" -- no possibility that they did something wrong. -rc

Posted by Brian in Ohio on August 8, 2008:

When I first read that Yahoo had told you there should be "no issues delivering" I thought "Issues of This is True".

"Exactly! No issues delivering! That's the PROBLEM!!"

Then I figured it out...

---

:-) -rc

Posted by Charlotte, Sacramento, CA on August 12, 2008:

In regards to the "Not Spam" issue, I have to say that when you are wading through a sea of messages, it's very easy to accidentally mark a message as Spam accidentally and never realize it unless you find a valid email in your spam folder. I've certainly had this happen to me. Of course I mark it as Not Spam as soon as I find it, but with hundreds of spam messages to scroll through, it's also easy to miss those few that got sent there by mistake. It doesn't take malicious intent or laziness. I especially find this to be true of gmail.

Posted by Hank, Burlington, NJ on August 30, 2008:

Well, they told you wrong 'cause I just found the 8-27 Stella's and the 8-29 HeroicStories and This is True in my Spam folder in Yahoo. Clicked NOT SPAM for all the good it'll do.

Posted by Bernie, San Diego, California on September 10, 2008:

Yahoo is also blocking hundreds of our legitimate emails.

We are a small ISP with about 5000 users. Only a very small percentage of our users can send email to Yahoo, and even that is sporadic.

Hundreds of our users' legitimate emails are rejected daily with the following message:
421 Message from (208.66.56.9) temporarily deferred - 4.16.50. Please refer to http://help.yahoo.com/help/us/mail/defer/defer-06.html

Our email server tries tries resending deferred (queued) emails every 15, 30, 60, 90 and 120 minutes to Yahoo and Yahoo continues to defer all connections until our email server finally gives up on the delivery.

Our email server has never been blacklisted by any other mail server or any SBL organization.

I have filled out "Yahoo! Mail Delivery Issues Form" a few times. I get the following automated response message:
--------------------------------------------------------------------
Hello,

This is an automated message regarding your recent request for Yahoo!

Mail Customer Care support. We have received your message and willYa respond within the next 48 hours with an answer.

Thank you for reaching out to us. We look forward to helping you!

Sincerely,

Yahoo! Customer Care

**Please do not respond to this message as no one will receive it.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------

But I never received a response from Yahoo and they continue rejecting our users' legitimate emails.

After reading many forums and blogs, it appears that they are doing the same thing to many other small ISPs and companies with their own email servers.

This practice can interrupt many legitimate business communications and hurts many small businesses.

Does anyone know if Yahoo has recently revised their email acceptance policy or implemented new policies on accepting emails from competitor hosting companies?

Bernie

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