EDITORIAL: Crossing This Chasm Doesn't Look Likely

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First order of business is a correction: last week's editorial (It Ain't Over, www.dmnews.com/articles/2000-07-31/9634.html) mistakenly reported that e-mail marketing firm yesmail.com was put on the anti-spam group Mail Abuse Prevention System LLC's Realtime Blackhole List. Yesmail was never listed. MAPS only threatened to put yesmail on the feared RBL. No excuses for the error.

Meanwhile, e-mails to the editor since last week's editorial were evidence of two camps seemingly incapable of understanding one another. The debate is like one big national information technology department feuding with its marketing counterpart.

"Look, I've got permission to mail these people," says marketing.

"Ah, but do you really have permission? You marketers seem to think that just because I haven't told you 'no' that you've got permission," says IT.

"No, really, these people have subscribed. I really have permission."

"But was the permission box prechecked? If it was prechecked, you don't have explicit permission, you only have implied permission. You need explicit permission..."

At this point in the conversation, physical violence seems unavoidable. "You want an unchecked box? I'll uncheck your damn box..."

As further evidence of this communication gap, one anti-spam advocate sent an e-mail rightfully critical of the factual error in last week's editorial, but then included a link to an article about the need for e-mail filters because of the increasing volume of get-rich-quick, pyramid-scheme-type spam. No one in the yesmail debate is defending spam or the fly-by-night clowns who engage in it.

To marketers it seems that too many people in the anti-spam camp do not differentiate between spam and permission marketing that isn't quite up to their rigid standards. They see every commercial e-mailer as a spammer whose evil urges are just barely contained.

To be fair, e-mail administrators have a heck of a job fighting a seemingly ever-rising flood of spam. The RBL is one, albeit mindless, way to do it.

Meanwhile, e-mail from marketers expressed fear, disgust and bewilderment.

Said one marketer, "Interestingly, in relating to others outside the business about MAPS, it seems that MAPS compares with the Mafia in many subtle and not-so-subtle ways. Both have created jobs for themselves and are self-appointed police of neighborhoods without government approval, etc., MAPS being the self-appointed police of the Internet 'neighborhood' and if you don't do exactly what they tell you to ... you'll pay dearly."

Like them or hate them, MAPS can reportedly make 40 percent of an e-mail transmission bounce back, so marketers better at least understand why they do what they do.

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