A confederation of e-mail dunces

A confederation of e-mail dunces
: My outgoing email is working again and it’s frightening what made it break.

If I have all this right…

Njabl.org, a self-appointed spam blacklister, blocked my Cablevision IP not because it’s associated with spam but just because the address is assigned dynamically (like most addresses on the Internet). Hosting Matters, my host, in turn uses the njabl blacklist. So Hosting Matters blocked me from sending email through its server.

It was fixed when Hosting Matters whitelisted me. (Though I now wonder–will other receiving email servers now block me? What happens when I get a new DHCP IP through Cablevision?)

What’s wrong with this picture?

First, njabl sets its own laws and like a Wild West posse rides off to lynch good citizens without a trial. The cause is good. The intention is good. The action is deadly.

Second, Cablevision has to now contact this blacklist group to deal with it and get off the list.

Third, Hosting Matters joins the njabl posse by using its blacklist, although it is created with dubious logic.

And the bottom line is that a user, a customer, a citizen, an innocent is blocked from doing what he needs to do. I’m in the Internet business, so I tracked down the cause and got somebody to fix it (with some great help from Charlie Martin). But I can’t imagine my mother or your grandmother doing this.

They’re killing email with the best of intentions.

Of course, the real evildoers are the spammers. They’re the ones killing email.

But the vigilantes are doing harm themselves.

And they feel the need to step in because government has not.

Email is in a crisis. Email is broken. Email is anarchy. Email has to be fixed and it’s the government’s job to step in and slam the spam. (Or if you don’t watch out, watch out, the U.N. will start talking about taking over.)

This is utterly unacceptable.

: And, by the way, isn’t it amazing about this ‘sphere that at midnight, a nice guy like Charlie would leave me comments and email me and volunteer his phone number just so he could help a friend in need. That’s what’s great about this medium. Evildoers and posses aren’t so great.

: UPDATE: Reader Dann has a very good comment explaining much of this. I don’t pretend to know how it all works. Anne also questions my point on government.

It’s a chicken-rotten-egg thing: If there were tough laws to regulate spam, then we’d be going after the source of the problem, the people who are vandalizing and stealing our services. But instead, a lot of good people just trying to do their jobs — Hosting Matters, Cablevision, nbabl, me — are stuck trying to clean up this mess. That’s not right.