Top Spammer Arrested
They say it's because this spammer got arrested:
A 27-year-old man described as one of the world's most prolific spammers was arrested Wednesday, and federal authorities said computer users across the Web could notice a decrease in the amount of junk e-mail.
Pixel Awards 2007 Call for Entries
Deep down, designers know that design awards are nothing special, and they don't validate you as a designer with real talent (unless you win one!).
One exception, IMHO, is the Pixel Award. It's a new design award (started by an actual designer) that showcases some great talent, and they give trophies that are works of art (literally---works of art).
MailChimp was a sponsor last year, so we got one of their cool robot/space invader plaques to hang on our wall. When people visit, they pass by all our other trophies (and our animatronic monkey head) and go straight for the Pixel Award. It's just too cool.
This year, they've got an artist (Tsega Dinka) making individual awards for each category. Very nice. Check out the different 10" x 10" paintings over at the Pixel Awards website:
If you're one of those creative agencies that already has countless plexiglass trophies and golden pencils out in your lobby, you should try to win a Pixel Award this year. There are 20 categories, like "Fashion" and "Animation" and "Non-profit" and "Vegetarian" and "Weird."
We're a sponsor this year, too. Besides their nifty works of art, you'll also win 500 MailChimp email credits. If you win, you could use MailChimp to take a picture of yourself holding your prize, and email it in a newsletter to 500 friends, family members, and clients. Not to gloat or anything. Just because they'd probably be happy for you. :-)
Microsoft sues over spam sent through Hotmail
I've always secretly felt that some ISPs were slightly hypocritical when it comes to "fighting spam." On the one hand, they make ESPs like MailChimp follow best practices to make sure spam doesn't originate from our system and end up in theirs. They spend bazillions of dollars to keep spam from reaching their users' inboxes. That's good.
But in a way, they're a part of their own problem...
You see, at MailChimp, we go through a lot of work to make sure spammers don't sign up and pollute the system. Because if spammers get into MailChimp, they can get us blacklisted fast by big ISPs like Yahoo, MSN, Hotmail, AOL, etc. One bad apple can spoil it for the rest of our legit customers.
That's why a human review team has to approve every new account before they can send emails from MailChimp. It's also why ESPs like us have to get on those ISPs' feedback loops. We all know that if spammers get in, the big 900-lb gorilla ISPs will block us. They have the leverage to make us shut down accounts when senders get too many spam complaints (even if the sender is legit). Too many complaints, you're blocked. They don't care who you are.
Anyways, for the most part, spammers rarely visit MailChimp, because they have much better (more evil) ways of sending mass amounts of email anonymously.
But when spammers DO try to get in, they always have one thing in common: they're using a free email account from Yahoo!Mail, Hotmail, MSN, etc. to hide their identity.
That's why we block free trials when someone tries to sign up with an email account from those "free email" ISPs (we actually block several thousand "free email" domains, and the list is constantly growing).
That's where I start wondering. We have to go through so much trouble to keep spam from reaching ISPs like Yahoo and Hotmail. But it's those very ISPs that seem to help spammers get their work done in the first place!
Free email accounts make it too easy to hide your identity.
Granted, spammers can't easily sign up for a Yahoo! or Hotmail account
and send a million pieces of spam from that ISP. I'm not saying free
email accounts are easy to send spam with. Spammers just use
those free email accounts like an offshore bank. When they send spam,
and idiots signup for Viagra or Rol3x watches, their information is saved in some free email account for the spammer to retrieve later.
If companies like Yahoo and Microsoft stopped offering free email accounts altogether, I think the spam problem would go down significantly.
Maybe I'd just get 590 spams a
day, instead of 600. And it wouldn't just help with the spam problem. We'd certainly have fewer forum trolls. Maybe content on the Internet in general would get a big boost in quality. Think of all the bandwidth we'd free up.
At least some of those big ISPs are starting to sue people for using their services to spam:
Maybe they do care afterall?
SenderID Authentication For Your MailChimp Campaigns
MailChimp customers: You can now setup your DNS to include our MailChimp servers in your SPF record (so that your campaigns will be SenderID authenticated).
We sent out the news recently in a System Alert, but just in case you didn't get it, here are the details...
If you have access to and can modify your DNS, add this bit of code to your SPF text record to enable SenderID Authentication for all your MailChimp campaigns:
For example, your SPF record might look something like this:
v=spf1 mx ptr include:servers.mcsv.net ~all
If you have absolutely no idea what any of this means, print this out and give it to your IT group (wrap it in a candy bar to expedite it). Tell them your email campaigns will have a little better deliverability if they do this for you.
After we sent our email about this, we got a ton of questions from our customers. So here's a little information that might help:
- Yes, authentication can be confusing as hell. For more information on SenderID authentication, visit this Microsoft website
- Why this is important: ISPs (like AOL, Hotmail, MSN, Bellsouth, Yahoo, etc.) are starting to check incoming emails for authentication. If your email is not authenticated, it looks slightly suspicious to them, and they run it through their spam filters extra, super-duper hard. If your emails are authenticated, they run them through their spam filters slightly less extra super-duper hard. Some ISPs are marking emails that are authenticated with special badges, indicating they're slightly more 'trustworthy.'
- SenderID is only one type of authentication (but it's getting very, very popular, and is pretty easy to implement, compared to DKIM authentication).
- How SenderID authentication works: Basically, when you send an email using MailChimp, but your reply-to address is "yourcompany.com" it kind of looks suspicious to ISPs. So a receiving ISP would ask, "Why does it say it's from "yourcompany.com" when I can tell it came from MailChimp's servers (mcsv1.net, mcsv2.net, mcsv3.net...etc)" But so long as your email isn't very spammy, it's usually okay, and you have nothing to worry about. They'll just let it slide. But ISPs are increasingly checking for SenderID authentication now. So when you send your email campaign and put "yourcompany.com" in the reply-to, a receiving ISP will go to "yourcompany.com" and ask if MailChimp is an impostor, or if we're truly authorized to send emails on your behalf. Adding that line of code tells ISPs, "Yeah, MailChimp's cool. You can trust him."
- The ISP where you host your website and manage your DNS might not let you modify your DNS records (it's a pretty advanced feature, not offered in common small business hosting packages). Some will let you modify your mx-records, but not SPF. You need to be able to edit your SPF record.
- If you can't modify your SPF record, all is not lost. We will be offering an alternative for you later (details in the System Alert we sent to all customers)
- This is not the same as SPF authentication. SPF authentication is different from SenderID authentication, even though to make SenderID work, you have to edit your SPF record. Don't ask. For a really technical explanation, go here.
- After you've setup your SPF record on your DNS, you can check your work. Use MailChimp to send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org and you will get a bounce back. The bounce back will tell you if the message passed SenderID authentication.
- Some people have asked us, "What if my ISP doesn't allow me to edit my DNS' SPF records?" Well, we could tell you to switch ISPs, or to use a separate DNS hosting service, but that's a huge pain, and we're not convinced it's totally worth it right now. We haven't seen lack of authentication really hurt anyone's campaigns. But having authentication can sometimes help a little (here's one case we've seen just recently). So if you can't really edit your DNS, don't worry too much about this. We'll be offering alternatives for you soon.
- We can set you up with DKIM authentication on MailChimp too. But it's only worth it if you send a very high volume of emails on a very regular basis. You will need a <a href="http://www.mailchimp.com/add-ons/">MailChimp PRO</a> account.
Updated Feedback Loop Reports (abuse complaints)
We've just been added to the feedback loop of another (very) major ISP, and you should start seeing some new data in your Abuse Reports.
For those of you who don't know, a feedback loop is sort of a secret reporting system used by ISPs to warn senders when they've been getting too many spam complaints about your campaigns. We use feedback loops to automatically remove complainers from our users' lists. More importantly, we use FBLs to find customers with dirty, old, or bad lists and who need to be shut down before they spoil things for the rest of our customers.
Who's the new ISP? We can't tell you. Because on the record, they don't have a feedback loop. They're still in beta.
So in your abuse reports stats, you'll see "Unavailable Email" if anyone from this particular ISP reports your campaign as spam. Although we can't show you who complained, rest assured we've automatically removed that person from your list.
Feedback loops MailChimp monitors for you:
- United Online: Netzero, Juno, etc
Image-based Spam On The Decline?
An article from PCWorld that suggests image-based spam might be on the decline.
At MailChimp, we're still shocked at all the designers and marketers who are sending HTML emails that are nothing but big images. They don't seem to realize that an all-image legit email campaign looks the same as an all-image spam campaign.
Related: Stupid Email Design Mistakes
Email Marketing Ideas for Travel Industry
Ken Magill has some creative ways a luxury ski resort operator uses email marketing.
Memorial Day Support Availability
On the record, the MailChimp support team will be off in observance of Memorial Day on Monday, and will return on Tuesday.
Off the record, we almost never unhook ourselves from email, so we'll be watching for any tickets and issues every once in a while.
Have a safe and happy Memorial Day, and hope you get a moment to remember our heroes.
Shoebox Greetings Blog (A tiny little division of Hallmark)
When we were kids, my sister and I used to make greeting cards. Not the crappy glue and glitter kind, mind you. Ours were pop-up cards. They had moving parts. She'd draw all the pictures, cut out the parts, color the cards, and assemble the pieces. I'd sit on the floor and watch her work. We made a good team.
I later went on to co-create Lollipopcards.com, an online greeting cards website (the technology eventually became the engine behind earlier versions of MailChimp).
My sister, on the other hand, went on to become an editor at some little company called "Hallmark cards." Poor girl. She just didn't have the drive to follow her dreams, I guess.
Anyways, she just pointed me to their new Shoebox Greetings blog.
If you want a nice example of a "corporate" marketing blog with personality, here you go. If they can keep it up, it's going to be a great blog.
When she was just an intern at this "Hall-Mark" startup, I remember my sister used to bring home a secret, underground newsletter that the Hallmark creatives distributed around the office. It had all kinds of crazy, almost-demented stuff (I said "almost" so as not to offend any people there---but just between you and me, those people can be pretty friggin' demented) that the artists would draw. You could tell they were venting their frustrations after designing happy-fluffy-cutesy cards all day. It was really an awesome newsletter. Now that she's been there a while, she of course denies its existence.
I'm trying to send myself a test, but keep getting blocked
Question: "I'm trying to send myself a test campaign, but keep getting blocked. What's wrong with MailChimp?"
It's not us. It's because you are sending an email from yourself, to yourself. But behind the scenes, the email is actually originating from MailChimp's server. Your company's spam filter or email firewall thinks that the email must be an impostor.
You don't believe me. Nobody ever believes it when we explain that to them.
Here's some proof, and here's what you can do...
Dan, our customer service guy here at MailChimp, saw an interesting article on CNN, and he wanted to send a copy to himself for later. He clicked the "forward to friend" link. He entered the same email address under both the "From" and "To" fields (he wanted to send an email from himself, to himself), and this is the warning he got:
Apparently, CNN's forward-to-friend vendor is experiencing the same issue. It's pretty common. We only have a few thousand customers on MailChimp. I can't imagine how many times CNN deals with this problem (apparently, it's enough for them to post a message about it).
If you can't seem to send test campaigns to yourself, one thing you can do is tell your company's IT group to "white list" MailChimp. They'd basically need to tell your spam filter to go ahead and just trust all emails from MailChimp, even if they look like an impostor. That'll help you get your test campaigns delivered internally for review. Your IT group would basically need to know the IP addresses that we use. Contact us for that information.
Another tactic (if you don't want IT to get involved) is to change the "reply-to" address to some other email account, such as your home email address. Just remember to go back and change that before you actually send to your list!
Finally, if you have access to your DNS (or if you have access to a nerd who has access to your DNS) it's helpful if you setup an SPF record for your DNS, to authenticate your email campaigns. It basically says, "If you receive an email that claims to be from my company, but it's actually sent from a MailChimp server, it's okay---we've approved it."
To do that, your IT group would just need to add this code to their SPF record:
v=spf1 mx ptr include:servers.mcsv.net ~all
This would basically make all your campaigns you send from MailChimp SenderID authenticated, which can actually help your deliverability. To learn more about email authentication, check out the Microsoft website. More and more big ISPs are checking for authentication, so if you have the ability to add this to your DNS, you should go ahead and do it sooner than later.