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Now, that’s what I call spam

Email’s Not Dead: Season 1, Episode 2

Now that's what I call spam

Email's Not Dead

About this episode:

As email spam became more widespread in the early 2000s, policymakers started fighting back. In this episode, we’re covering the introduction of the CAN-SPAM Act, terrible compilation albums of the decade’s pop hits, and the big privacy changes brought on by GDPR.

Meet your presenters

Jonathan Torres

Jonathan Torres

Manager of the TAM team at Sinch Mailgun

Eric Trinidad

Eric Trinidad

Technical Account Manager II at Sinch Mailgun


Email’s Not Dead – S1, E2: Now that’s what I call spam



Eric Trinidad: Hey, welcome. My name is Eric and this is Jonathan.


Jonathan Torres: Hello.


Eric Trinidad: Hey, thanks for joining us today as we continue our journey with the spam, spam.


Jonathan Torres: All things spam, all things spam now. Spam, spam now. Twenty nineteen.


Eric Trinidad: Yes.


Jonathan Torres: Comes in compact disc. No, no, no, no. We can't go way back. It's no.


Eric Trinidad: Now, are you sure?


Jonathan Torres: It's totally fine. We're going to go for full digital to digital the more we can do this.


Eric Trinidad: We can do mini disks? Mini disks, are those still a thing?


Jonathan Torres: Possibly. I haven't seen a mini disk in a very long time.


Eric Trinidad: It's been a while. Maybe the last time I saw one was, I don't know, Judge Dredd. No, that's a while ago. Ok, but this week we want to talk to you and talk about our, like I said, continuing our journey with spam and all things spam, how it is affecting us today and what's going on with it, how things have changed since the last time we talked about it. And really, like, there's been so much. I mean, it is a part of our daily lives. Like that's a given fact we'd have to get away from as we speak. I am getting notified about spam right now. I forgot that I signed up for this thing. 


Jonathan Torres: Definitely not spam.


Eric Trinidad: It is blowing up.


Jonathan Torres: You talked about that last time.


Eric Trinidad: It's intentional. It got sent to me. It's hidden in one of my boxes. I'm not too sure which one, but we'll see. I got too many. I get too many mailboxes out there. But yeah. So like what's going on today? People are actually interacting with them. Somebody got very, very well known about it. James Veitch, actually, I don't know. Have you seen this TED talk?


Jonathan Torres: Oh, of course. Yeah.


Eric Trinidad: Yeah, OK.


Jonathan Torres: Yes. In this industry I think you have to, and if you haven't seen a TED talk, like, when you link to it, just because, you know, when you make sure it's out there and it's known because this is one of the fun things that can happen with spam, especially older spam, I think nowadays this happens less and less. But there are some very good examples out there of things that happened within the recent past of, you know, getting an email, responding to it, getting an action going, having a fun time, as James Veitch did.


Eric Trinidad: Yeah, like James. I don't know what was going on. I know he's a bright mind. He might have had just too much time on his hands or, you know what? He just got upset enough that one day he just couldn't take it anymore and just kind of responded to this email and interacted with this spammer that went back and forth. And now he has an ongoing podcast and a YouTube channel.


Jonathan Torres: Yeah, exactly. Which is, which is fun. And that's great. And it's great comedy behind it because it's one of those things. Right. Like somehow this message got through or this message was allowed through filters and everything else that has been set up by mailbox providers to try to combat this kind of stuff. And before there was a lot of this stuff, like a lot of people just out there hammering away at a unique message to a unique person, and trying to just extort them or whatever the cause may be. So, yeah, it's definitely one form of spam and one thing that can't happen and a great example of that. But what happens when we look at the actual thing, like, the whole spam industry as a whole right now, because it really is an industry, right? Like you have good mail and people trying to send good promotional things and informational things. And we don't consider that spam. And that's nice. But there definitely are people who are on the opposite side of that, people who are intentionally trying to do bad things and making some pretty good money off of it as well.


Eric Trinidad: So, yeah, I mean, billions and billions of messages get sent out. And even if one percent or point zero, one percent of those people respond, then it's going to be worth it because you're going to get all the money. Yeah, maybe not all the money, but like at least all of theirs. Right. You know, so we get hit up numerous ways by, like, either text messaging, phone for you, just all our emails or just as I got ten email addresses, I'm going to give you one.


Jonathan Torres: Ten email addresses.


Eric Trinidad: I know.


Jonathan Torres: Is that for real?


Eric Trinidad: For real.


Jonathan Torres: Oh, my goodness.


Eric Trinidad: I know.


Jonathan Torres: I feel like I have a lot. And I'm thinking maybe like four to five, you know, four to five range. I don't think I've hit the double digits yet.


Eric Trinidad: Yeah, I don't remember. Like, I know I have the AOL account, but I just don't remember the password to it. So I think it's maybe just Yahoo or Y mail now. So I don't know. I don't even know anymore. They're just too many of them.


Jonathan Torres: Yeah. I have a Yahoo account that's over twenty years old.


Eric Trinidad: Really.


Jonathan Torres: I believe so, if I'm calculating things right in my head I believe it's twenty years old.


Eric Trinidad: Probably.


Jonathan Torres: Which is ridiculous. That's way too long to have an email address. No, it's totally fine now, but it does get a lot of spam.


Eric Trinidad: I bet it does. Is that the one that you used to, like, sign up for stuff? Jonathan Torres [00:04:24] Yes, still to this day I put it everywhere. It's dumb.


Eric Trinidad: It's like a burner phone. You got a burner email address. You know. Jonathan Torres [00:04:30] It's all over the place.


Eric Trinidad: Right on.


Jonathan Torres: But yeah. I mean, it brings up, like, I mean, good point of like, you know, people can do spam from anywhere and any point – like I have an address that's twenty years old. Right. That's how long email has been a thing. It's been way longer than that. Even we talked about the first, you know, spam message ever, which was sent back in the ‘70s?


Eric Trinidad: Yeah, early ‘70s.


Jonathan Torres: That's a long time ago. That's a long time for spam to have been around. So obviously with how easy it is to spin up a server nowadays, how easy it is for you to be able to program something, like there's tons of services that do that kind of thing, but there's also just a bunch of programs out there that you can easily make or procure. Yeah, the way to say that, like, really just obtain some kind of program that will send a bunch of messages all at once. So it really has become very sophisticated. And it's one of those things that, you know, back in the day it was a lot easier to not reply to the Prince of Nigeria email, as everyone saw back in the day. But now, you know, what are the points? How much should you be interacting with his messages? Should you be interacting with them? One of the things that are being done, and I think that's kind of the point of today, right. We're going to go a little bit through how people are fighting it, what people are doing to combat some of that. And then, more importantly, like, what you know, what we can do as good senders as people who want to get good things out to make sure that we're following, or at least trying to follow some of these rules that are out there.


Eric Trinidad: So what is it Jon? What are some good things that individuals are doing? Or maybe not even individuals, just like the community as a whole is doing?Jonathan Torres [00:06:09] Oh, the ISP side of things, I guess is really what it comes down to. Right? And like, they're all in the business of trying to protect their users. They're all in the business of trying to make sure that they're removing as much of this as possible. So, yeah, I mean, we can definitely start off there right now. So, for instance, Google. Do you have a modern Google inbox? Let me let me put it that way. Let me ask you that question first.


Eric Trinidad: Yes.


Jonathan Torres: Do you have the tabbed approach?


Eric Trinidad: Yes, I do.


Jonathan Torres: Oh, you see.


Eric Trinidad: Yeah.


Jonathan Torres: I don't. I was living that life before the tab thing and I never got used to doing it now. But it's definitely one of the things that, you know, has been done to try to combat some of that stuff. Right. Google is very much... Google is Google Analytics-driven. They're definitely looking at a bunch of different stuff and pioneers in machine learning and automation. They're doing a bunch of things within that space. And it's one of those things that has helped them within the email space as well. So in Google, you see things like the promotional tab and the social tab. You have the bulk folder. Right. Like where spam actually is meant to go. So there's different things that they've done to help automate some of that for their users so that a user can see something coming in, maybe it goes to the promotional tab. But maybe that's a good thing, right? If you're sending a promotional email, sending out something that you want somebody to kind of engage with or buy something from you and things like that, the promotional tab is a great place, but this is their way of kind of filtering out some of that for their users and exploring some of that space and making a little bit easier for everybody.


Eric Trinidad: I remember when Gmail was like first coming around and thinking, like, that's just a search engine. Like, I'm not going to ask Lykos to get like a mailbox going or I'm not going to Ask Jeeves to, like, start, you know, receiving my messages. But I was like, there's no way Google is going to make it as, like, an email provider. And I think I said the same thing about Apple being a phone company as well. So I should just stop making investment websites.


Jonathan Torres: Yeah, that's one of those things. Yeah. Don't you can't. Yeah. Those are bad predictions that… I'm never coming to you for stock market advice. OK, it's one thing for sure.


Eric Trinidad: That's good. I think I'll share something. Is that a thing? Sharing shares. That's the thing, right? Yeah. Stock markets. OK.


Jonathan Torres: Yeah, definitely not coming to you for advice. But one of the things you know – on top of everything else that Gmail is doing – is definitely, you know, creating automation, creating the automation to help out with the mail flow. So not only are we talking about the promotional tabs and social tabs, like tabbing things out, but really automating how they're filtering and learning the things that should not be coming through. Right. So, you know, that's always one of those things we've got to look out for. We want people to get email. Great things to talk about here, a few minutes about getting permission to send to people, because that's one of the things that can definitely affect things with the way that Google automates some of this learning.


Eric Trinidad: Yeah, yeah. TensorFlow. I read about that earlier this week and how that's going to get used to, you know, that Gmail is going to put out there to help not only block even more spam messages, but like how it's going to also help us get the messages, like eliminate false positives as well.


Jonathan Torres: Right.


Eric Trinidad: So that's going to be dope, like, you know.


Jonathan Torres: As long as it's doing the right thing. Right. Like we can we can try to do our best to send things out. And as long as we're hopefully pulling some of the rules and doing things correctly, sending email, then, you know, we want to stay out of that bad spot. Right. What the machine learning is doing to filter out some of these things and really get into those bad spaces. And I mean to touch on some of that, like so things like the CAN-SPAM laws they've been out there for. Oh my gosh. Two thousand seven? I can't remember when it was now, it's been a long time – the CAN-SPAM laws have been out there for quite a while and it should be fairly simple things, right, like there are simple, simple rules, right? So don't mislead with your header information, don't use deceptive subject lines. You want to make sure that if you're sending out an ad, you're identifying it as an ad. You want to let people know where you're located, give people an option of opting out of your emails, obey those opt outs pretty quickly or promptly, I guess, is the technical word there. But, you know, everybody can make an assumption of what prompted means.


Eric Trinidad: What is prompt to one person is completely delayed to somebody else.


Jonathan Torres: Exactly. Exactly. But the more prompt you do it, the more immediate that happens, the better it’s going to be on you and for you and, you know, and make sure that you're just monitoring what's being sent out, you know, as far as mail that's identified as you. So it seems pretty simple. It seems like it's you know, fairly simple rules to follow. But that's not always the case. People don't always follow those rules. And the machine learning that's out there for places like Gmail, that's exactly what they're trying to identify is – when are these rules being broken? When is somebody sending out email that people don't want? You know, and that's that's something that is very tough for a provider to identify. And they're using the best information that they possibly can to try to make sure that they're doing that filtering as best as possible. So, you know, making sure that you're getting people to opt into your emails, that's definitely one of the things that's really, really big. Right? If you're getting a message and you never sign up for that message exactly like you were saying earlier. Right. Like there's a difference between you signing up for something and you never signing up for something and not knowing why you've written this email. So, yeah, there's definitely some gray area. And, you know, there's definitely things where the rules can be bent a little bit, but there's definitely still those rules in place. You want to make sure, one, that you're getting permission from somebody, that you're letting them know why they're getting this email, I think is a very, very important thing. You know, if they sign up for your services, let them know, give them the option to opt out, that's that's definitely a big one, because that's a thing that is required. You know by CAN-SPAM, by I believe, just about everybody now at this point, it says, hey, if I don't want your email, make it so that I don't get your email. 


Eric Trinidad: Give an unsubscribe and as a sender like you definitely want that unsubscribe there because, you know, if you're paying for your services, if you're paying for dedicated infrastructure, you have IPs that you're running your your business out of. You know, you don't want that marked as spam because that's going to be a ding towards your reputation and affect not only your sending ability to people on that platform, but overall that's going to affect your cash flow at the end of the day, because that's you know, that's how you make your money.


Jonathan Torres: Right? Exactly. Yeah. I mean, we always talk about or one of the things that's always talked about with an email is a return on investment, you know, so everyone's wanting to hit that high ROI and, yeah, it needs to be done. And these are things that directly increase that, you know, getting an opt in, making sure that, you know, doing the testing, making sure that, you know, doing things as far as a marketing perspective is concerned. But even when you get just a technical piece, like getting a double confirmation of an email address, that makes sure that they want your email is something that can help that ROI greatly. You know, if you're not having to send a million emails because those people didn't opt in to your services, but, you know, maybe reduce that by half. Well, now you're looking at things like getting into the inbox, making sure you're not filtered by, you know, these services that are really customized things to make sure that they're filtering out the bad emails. And you can get to an inbox, you can get your email visible in front of people, and you can make sure that you're getting the best return on investment numbers you possibly can.


Eric Trinidad: Yeah, right on. On what we talked a little bit about Google and their practices and what they've been doing. What about Yahoo? You've been using Yahoo for forty five years of your life?


Jonathan Torres: Oh, yeah. Yeah, that's definitely right. OK, forty five. Yeah it's all right. It's compounded all on there ok? 


Eric Trinidad: Ok, Right on. Right on. Yeah.


Speaker undefined: Jonathan Torres [00:14:03] I mean when we talk about Yahoo, It's definitely one of those things that you want to make sure that you've set up everything correctly. Right. They're one of the ones that you're going to make sure the IPs been announced for three days. You want to make sure that you've registered a domain well before you start sending email from it. Make sure using a dot com, dot edu, if that's what your business is, you want to stay away from the new TLDs. New TLDs are definitely one of those things that are not necessarily hurtful, but they're one of the things that, you know, people use. It's a lot cheaper sometimes to buy a new TLD that is a, I don't know, dot, dot, anything specific, one in particular.


Eric Trinidad: Dot rocks, dot ninja, dot toaster. Yeah, yeah.


Jonathan Torres: There's definitely some out there that aren't necessarily the best for sending email and to set up a good legitimate business. You want to make sure you have some of those things on there, making sure that technically you're ready to go with it, but that you know, with them and you know. Places like Microsoft that you're warming up slowly to make sure that they recognize the mail that's coming from your service, that it's coming from your domain, and once you have that IP established, once you have that domain established, then you know, you can really open up the gates and send out a lot of messages if that's what you're trying to do with your business. So making sure that you've... you've set that up, you've kept a slow build of those emails and the email flow and then that your consistency is there because that's another... another major player, right? Whenever an email service is sending out messages, you know, a thousand here, 10,000 the next day, you know, 1,000 again the following day after that, and then one hundred thousand fifty. It definitely can hurt reputation and a lot of different places, not just places like Yahoo, Microsoft, Google, all those kind of take that into consideration, too. Like what does this server do that they're constantly blasting or not blasting, or what does that – what does that cadence look like for you? And you want to establish that? So are you a daily sender? Are you a weekly sender or are you a daily sender with the weekly blast? And then keep consistent with that. Don't just drop off the face of the planet for 10 days and then assume that you can be able to blast out another message after those, after that time. And that it is going to go OK for you, because trust me, it won't.


Eric Trinidad: Yeah, it really it's kind of like they really kind of have like, that fish memory, you know, only after, like a few moments they really forget. So you got to be consistent and, you know, make sure that you're doing everything properly so that, you know, you don't you don't get throttled.


Jonathan Torres: So what you're saying is ISPs are goldfish.


Eric Trinidad: Yes.


Jonathan Torres: It's not a bad way to look at.


Eric Trinidad: Yeah, just keep swimming.


Jonathan Torres: Just keep swimming. Yes, I love it. I love it. That's definitely. Yeah. One of those things, you know, and there's definitely things that... that are out there. We talked about the, you know, CAN-SPAM thing. And now we're in a landscape where not only ISPs are trying to combat some of the stuff, you know, but by doing this learning and automation and, you know, a lot of things that are happening behind the scenes that nobody's even touching. Right. It's an unmanned system that is doing a lot of the stuff because you can't have a manned system to do a lot of the stuff because there's so much of it happening at such a great scale. It's very difficult, but that's one side of it. And then the other side is these rules that are happening. CAN-SPAM has been around for a very long time now. You're getting things like GDPR, you know, that have come into play. And that's yes, it's EU. And I might not necessarily affect everybody if you're only sending messages within the United States. But again, how are you supposed to know that if I have somebody on the list that I'm sending to you, that all of a sudden moves to the EU? That affects me now. And it may be something that I didn't notice or hadn't become fully aware, but it's one of those things that can definitely happen. So you've got to be careful with things like that. You've got to make sure you're following their best practices, their rules. They are very much one of the ones heavy in the camp of you got to get permission to send to that person. If you don't have permission, you're talking about, like, actual monetary fines. If you're sending a bunch of people that don't... that haven't opted into your services, haven't opted into your email. So definitely make sure you're on that. And when we start getting closer to home because we live in the U.S., so, you know, this is where we're at, you even have things like the California Consumer Privacy Act, which is, you know, a little bit less on sending, a little bit less on, you know, how you're getting email to a person. But definitely one of those things where you have to be careful where you're requiring email addresses from, because if you get an email address from an improper location or in an improper way, that is somebody who is under the California CCPA, this is called CCPA. It's a mouthful.


Eric Trinidad: You're kinda tripping up a little bit already.


Jonathan Torres: I know. I know. It's already bad. Coffee didn't kick in well just yet. But yes, when you have the CCPA and if you buy email addresses that are part of that protection, that is really bad, like, you're talking about some major things that can be very much a problem for you coming on down the line. And they're not the only ones. There's other legislation and a bunch of other states around the U.S. that are saying enough is enough. You know, I know I don't like spam in my mailbox. And every time I saw a piece of spam, I was like, "aghhh", yeah, Maybe even the Darth Vader. Noooooo. It's one of those things. It happens. It's going to get to you. And we want to combat that and we want to do the right things to make sure that we're, we're doing things the right way again and repeating it over and over again. But it's because there are things like this and the more we do things correctly, the better it's going to be lined up for us. When states do start adopting some of these things, when they start creating, you know, a Texas Consumer Privacy Act or a Delaware Consumer Privacy Act, you know, it's going to spread and there's going to definitely be things that are happening, especially if this works. And this establishes a thing that says, hey, stop the spam. So the best thing we can do is start preparing ourselves now so that we don't get in that trouble later.


Eric Trinidad: Just do it right. You know, just either get your users from your website, making sure either if you have a storefront and you're getting their email addresses from there and making sure that they sign in and they give you permission to send to them, you know, don't buy your lists, don't you know, don't scrape mail websites. Yeah. Don't do that. You know, before the CCPA or the TCPA or the DCPA comes after you, you know, those don't even exist.


Jonathan Torres: GDPR, OK. CAN-SPAM even.


Eric Trinidad: Yeah, for sure. Yeah.


Jonathan Torres: Definitely one of those things.


Eric Trinidad: We talked about, Google, talked about Yahoo, Microsoft touched on.


Jonathan Torres: You touched on a little bit.


Eric Trinidad: A little bit. Yeah. Because they're doing the tab now thing, they're trying to do that and conversation view stuff like that. Let's see what else.


Jonathan Torres: I mean that's definitely the big thing we want to hit on. Right. And while you can get in the bad graces of those companies, sometimes the worst thing you can do is get on an additional blacklist beyond that.


Eric Trinidad: Oh, yeah.


Jonathan Torres: And I mean, the big one that we talk about all the time, I think it's the name that's out there because you have such a good reputation of if you're on their list, you've done something... you done messed up. And that's a Spamhaus, definitely one of the big ones. And, you know, even when you talk about them and what their requirements are like. Right there, like top of the rules, is confirm opt-in they want you to make sure that you're sending to people who want your messages. So if you do, you have a storefront, let's say, and you get somebody's email address right from there. Well, yeah, put that in your system because they gave you their email address. That's definitely one part of the opt-in. And send them a message to confirm that they are 100% who they said they were. If my name is Bob and it's not really Bob who gave you their Bob's email address on Gmail. And now you're sending to somebody who never opted in, who never really had a chance to say, like, yes, I do want emails from here and from you. So do that confirmed opt-in, get them on the list, but then send them a confirmation right away. Say, hey, if you want to receive my emails, please confirm by replying to this or clicking on this link or some kind of confirmation that says, yes, put this person on the list, start sending to them because they do want your stuff. So, you know, yeah, that's definitely definitely a big thing. And yeah, when somebody like Spamhaus puts that, you know, in the top rules of what they want to see from senders, from marketers that are sending out good, legitimate email, that's something you definitely should look into and do to your best, the best of your ability.


Eric Trinidad: Yeah, I know we've been in this business for a while and just working with email for a long time and now even working more closely with deliverability and and making sure everybody gets this opt-in process done and we hammer at home. So much like I even recently went to a wedding where they had a guest sign in and they wanted their email address. And I was like, where's the opt in? Like, where's the you know, there's a checkbox here right? Like, no? Oh, man.


Jonathan Torres: No captcha or anything like, what are you doing?


Eric Trinidad: How do I know these are three stop lights? I don't know. You know, so. Yeah. So great information. You know, hopefully we gave you some some things to look over or at least think about in how you gather your information and, and how to stay, you know, off the blacklist, how to be not marked as spam. If you do have any questions or anything like that, please check us out. We have so many blogs about this information. Check out the links that we're going to be posting, hopefully with this as well. And yeah.


Jonathan Torres: Email best practices. We definitely have some rules on that. So all the stuff that we talked about today is definitely within that and so much more within those blog posts, within the best practices. Like definitely one of the things to take a look at when you're trying to do things legit, be legit. Yeah. Too legit to quit.


Eric Trinidad: You had to.


Jonathan Torres: I couldn't stop myself.


Eric Trinidad: Yeah, I know. Well, you are wearing the... the parachute pants today.


Jonathan Torres: Yeah. I got to do that every once in a while.


Eric Trinidad: Yeah, it is parachute pants Friday. So with that being said, thanks for hanging out with us and thanks for coming and going on this journey with us. We have one more section to go through, the future of, of spam and how that goes. So hopefully you'll see us then. But until then, thanks, everybody.

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