Why Some E-mail May Not Reach Me, And What To Do About It

As you might be aware, I try to respond to e-mail in a timely fashion. Usually, if I have not responded within a day, something may have gone wrong. After all, some e-mails do disappear in write-only memory.

How does this happen? The problem is multi-layered. I receive over one hundred e-mail messages daily. If I were to look at each of them, I’d have to pay attention to an e-mail every six minutes in average over a 10-hour workday. Obviously, this situation is untenable, especially since I am not a good multi-tasker.

For this reason, I rely heavily on e-mail filters. I handle my e-mail locally with a POP3 client instead of a webmail client. My local mail client first removes e-mails from a list of known spammers, then sorts the remaining e-mail in mailboxes that correspond to tiers. This arrangement could work well if it wasn’t for a third party — Microsoft.

UGA has outsourced their mail service to Microsoft, and e-mail is handled by Microsoft’s Office365. This has several consequences:

  • The webmail client of Office 365 is completely unusable for me, because I use a script blocker for security reasons. However, Microsoft (unlike other freemail providers, such as Gmail) offers no fallback noscript version. This means that I would have to enable scripts globally just for the “privilege” of accessing Office365. Won’t happen.
  • Since all filtering is performed locally, I do not need Microsoft’s filters, and I disabled them. However, it appears that Microsoft (“here is where you’ll go today”) has decided that I need my filters and regularly re-enables them.
  • Since I do not access the Web interface, I do not have access to Microsoft’s internal mail boxes, such as Spam or Trash. Once an e-mail was classified as Spam or Trash by Office365, it is gone for me, and becomes invisible for my e-mail client.

My local e-mail client performs additional filtering. However, if the filter classifies an e-mail as Spam, it will at least be in my local Trash folder and thus recoverable.

Some criteria that cause an e-mail to either be deleted or dropped in priority are:

  • Sending e-mail through known spammers. Any e-mail received from known spam companies (such as Constant Contact, Vertical Response, Mail Engine, B2B Mail and several dozen others) will be deleted without warning or trace. These spammers do not respect opting out and cannot seen as legitimate for this reason.
  • HTML only. Spammers frequently use HTML messages, and HTML-only messages are treated as suspicious. Consider sending plain-text e-mails or using the compliant setting where any HTML e-mail also carries the plain-text body.
  • Short text, large attachment. Often, spammers disguise their message in attached files (images or Word documents), and messages with a low text-to-attachment ratio are also suspicious. Consider embedding your message in the main e-mail body instead of using a Word attachment.
  • Listservs. Those are the bane of today’s e-mail communications, and my e-mail client relegates all listserv messages to Tier-2. If you really want to send me a message, consider sending it directly, not via listserv.
  • FYI. Any message that begins with FYI is probably not important and is relegated to Tier-2.
  • Missing name in “To:” field. Here is the real doozy. I found that 90% of all my e-mail problems are solved with one simple filter rule: If my name is not in the “To:” field, it is not important and relegated to Tier-2.

Essentially, this gives me a three-tiered system: E-mails from known spammers and those recognized as spam are sent to the trash bin. Those that meet the “not overly important” criteria are sent to Tier-2, and I may glance at them if I find the time. Everything else goes to Tier-1 and receives a proper response. With this system, I am down to perhaps 10 out of my 100 daily messages that deserve my attention.

If I missed your e-mail, my apologies. Chances are fifty-fifty that it was either “eaten” by Office365 or relegated to Tier-2 on my local system. In the latter case, it is easy to fix it and elicit Tier-1 priority.

Thanks for understanding.

One thought on “Why Some E-mail May Not Reach Me, And What To Do About It

  1. A new filter: Mail from known spammers elicits an autoresponse to abuse@spammer.com (substitute “spammer” for your favorite target, such as vresp or constantcontact). Use carefully.

    The only company so far that shows any reaction is Mailchimp. They send a canned reply that they take those allegiations of abuse seriously and will investigate their client’s list collection process. While I seriously doubt that there will be any repercussions for the client, at least Mailchimp takes you off the list. In this respect, Mailchimp is the *only* spam company with at least a minimum of legitimacy. After months, the flood of incoming illegitimate mail from Mailchimp has significantly receded.

    As for the other spammers… does anybody know how to send a fork bomb via e-mail?

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