[Mailman-Users] Goodmail spells doom for mailing lists?

Brad Knowles brad at stop.mail-abuse.org
Sat Mar 4 21:06:39 CET 2006

At 7:36 AM -0800 2006-03-04, Dave Crocker wrote:

>  1. The effort it takes to get on the EWL and stay on it is substantial.

	We know this.  This is why we created FAQ 3.42.

>  It therefore creates a significant division between "all mail" and "mail
>  from folks on the EWL".

	Let's go back to your original statement:

| AOL creates a specialized, rather expensive process that it provides for
| free, to ensure delivery of a class of mail.  The operation of this
| mechanism is pure overhead for AOL.  Worse, it is distinct to AOL.  To
| the extent any other receive-side ISP operates such a service, it is
| entirely independent of AOL.  That is, anyone wanting on these special
| lists must to special things for each of these lists.

	No one required AOL to create such an enhanced white list system, 
or to operate it in a manner that is so overhead-intensive.  The 
enhanced white list system that they've run in the past has been 
applicable to all mail with volumes over some pretty small amounts 
(which is why many mailing list operators run into this issue, and 
why we created FAQ 3.42).

	This is not true for the kinds of systems that you're talking 
about -- those are oriented towards commercial bulk mailers who can 
pay for guaranteed access and are not suitable for the broader 
community of not-for-profit mailing list operators.

>  The claim is that the mechanism is intended for mail that receivers
>  really want to get.  "Mail I don't want" is the classic form of the
>  most extreme definition of spam.

	Sounds like the "I-Can-Spam" law to me.  I mean, all good 
spammers actually give you a way to unsubscribe, right?

>  Whether actual operation matches actual goal is always a good question,
>  of course.  For that, one needs to look at the criteria to qualify for
>  the program, its enforcement at the admission phase, and its enforcement
>  after admission.

	That's closing the barn door after we've let the horse run out 
into a firestorm that we know would be likely to happen.

>  I DID say that the per-ISP EWL model does not scale across ISPs.

	True enough, but the "I paid my money so I get guaranteed access 
to your mailbox" model of Goodmail is not an appropriate solution to 
this problem.

>>   See
>>  <http://www.boingboing.net/2006/03/01/saudi_arabia_joins_l.html>
>>  and <http://www.boingboing.net/censorroute.html>.
>  It is very much in vogue, these days, to assert such choices and claim
>  that they really are based on fact. However any reasonable analysis of
>  the basis for the choice turns out to have nothing to do with legitimate
>  empirical data that is directly relevant to the conclusion.

	I think that BoingBoing has some pretty clear proof of what's 
being done to them, although they can only speculate as to why.  They 
certainly know what's being done to their readership and that this 
classification is unjust and unfair, and they know a fair amount 
about how to work around such stupid procedures.

	Do you have any proof of anything they have said on this subject 
that is not accurate?

	Let's generalize this a bit -- BoingBoing is a special case, but 
we know that there have been many such cases in the past, where pages 
were blocked by badly operated web filtering systems, and where the 
operators themselves admitted their incompetence and reversed the 

	Do you have any proof that none of these things have ever happened?

	Can you provide any such proof, in either event?

>  If one does not find that their published criteria automatically
>  unacceptable, then your statement is a prediction based on no data.

	It's based on human history.  They have a huge financial 
incentive to sell access to those mailboxes to the highest bidder. 
Where are the checks and balances on this process?

>  Hence it really translates into: Nobody who tries to make a profit ever
>  has any integrity.

	There are some.  But they are few and far between.  And the 
larger they are, the less likely they are to have any integrity at 
the corporate level, even if many of the people they employ may have 
a high level of personal integrity.

>  An argument that entropy will eventually convert the entire universe into
>  pure randomness does not mean that we cannot find and enjoy productive
>  coherence in the intervening eons.  As for myself, I enjoyed my dinner
>  last night, in spite of knowing the the universe will eventually end.

	True enough, but when we see cases where people are whipping up a 
whole bunch of entropy and putting things in dangerous proximity to 
that, should we not speak up?

	If vandals were to take down every street sign and signal, and 
then you saw a bunch of old ladies walking down the sidewalk towards 
a street where a bunch of hooligans are known to drive their cars 
recklessly and with complete disregard for their own life or safety 
much less anyone else's, do we not have a moral imperative to do 
everything we can to try to prevent the likely disaster from 

>>      There's an old saying about power and corruption.
>  True.  That is why a) it is important to have real competition, and b)
>  it is important to make sure that there are other forces to protect
>  important categories of mail.

	Neither of which are present in this case.  There are no real 
competitors for AOL in the minds of most AOL customers -- that's the 
only thing they know, and short of a nuclear bomb being dropped on 
North Virginia (thus wiping out AOL's main operations facility in 
Sterling), nothing is going to get them to change providers.

	They will simply grin and bear whatever abuse that may be heaped 
on them, or maybe one day they will decide that nothing is worth this 
and just go away.  Neither of these outcomes are appropriate.

	Moreover, if we don't stand up to protect those users, who will? 
Once those users are taken out, is there going to be anyone left who 
can stand up for you and me?

>  Or rather:  that is why it is important to make sure that these new
>  services provided *added* services, rather than that they become the
>  basis for *all* service.

	Which is another problem here, since we know from AOL's past 
behaviour what they will do under these circumstances.

>  Ignoring nit-picking about the formal definition of goodmail's "certified"
>  mail, versus the formal definition of the term "certified" for postal mail,
>  it is worth noting that both provide an *incremental* service on top of a
>  basic service.

	The potential is there for an incremental service, yes.  But the 
economic incentives are not.

>  Although I understand the concern for possible loss of the basic service,
>  I do not understand why anyone would object to incremental value.  I
>  especially do not understand claims that an incremental service must,
>  inevitably, cause the elimination of the basic service.

	So long as it's truly incremental, and participation is optional, 
I have no problem with it.  Violate either of those principles, and 
there is a problem.

>  For example, the fact that 60% of the end-user email market lives within
>  a tiny number of service providers is something I find far scarier than
>  an incremental mechanism from a third-party supplier.

	Except when one of those principal providers starts doing stupid 
things, thus endangering a large part of the overall population, and 
setting a bad example that many of the other primary providers are 
then likely to try to follow.

Brad Knowles, <brad at stop.mail-abuse.org>

"Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little
temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."

     -- Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), reply of the Pennsylvania
     Assembly to the Governor, November 11, 1755

  LOPSA member since December 2005.  See <http://www.lopsa.org/>.

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