Why is my window fogged up?

I get a lot of questions about the specifics of our anti-spam systems, and a fair amount of commentary and questions about other ISPs as well. These are generally expressed with a certain frustration, and often by ESPs who do a really good job but have run up against something they don’t understand. My frustration lies in the fact that I can’t helpfully answer those questions any more, because of the ESPs and hosting companies that don’t do a really good job. This trend is not exactly a secret. It has been openly discussed in the last couple years, at industry conferences, on industry mailing lists, and on industry blogs. In fact, Laura Atkins over on the Word to the Wise blog recently said something germane to the issue:

History says that the more information the ISPs share with senders the more the bad guys take advantage. (read more…)

And she’s right. That is precisely the reason that ISPs are no longer as transparent about their anti-spam processes as they used to be: a trend was noticed – if specific numbers and thresholds were published, then senders would aim to get as close to them as possible. In other words, they’d do the least amount they could get away with to still comply with the existing standards… and no more than that. Sometimes, they’d go to great lengths to attempt to game the systems. Naturally, this behavior was noticed, adjustments were made to counter-act these tricks, and transparency decreased to virtual opacity over time, thus ruining it for the good guys. (And for me. I like helping people. The fact my ability to do so has been significantly reduced makes me a sad panda.)

We want our customers to get the mail that they want to get, ranging from the family’s year-end-wrap-up newsletter, to college application results, to forum mail… and to marketing mail that they requested and have a continued interest in receiving. We want happy, engaged users who don’t dread opening their inboxes. Senders should want the same, since happy engaged users are the ones least likely to drive IP reputation down by complaining about their mail, and the most likely to purchase something!

This should be a strong incentive to not just do the bare minimum, but rather to do the very best job that can be done.

Can anyone explain to me why this is not the overwhelming reality?

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