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I Don’t Give Damn About My Bad Reputation - Joan Jett

I don’t give a damn
‘Bout my reputation
I’ve never been afraid of any deviation
An’ I don’t really care
If ya think I’m strange
I ain’t gonna change
An’ I’m never gonna care
‘Bout my bad reputation

Two friends of mine wrote pieces today about reputation, one about email, the other about real-life stuff. I think they are strangely, tangentially yet inextricably linked.

Laura Atkins, email specialist and part-time meteorologist at Word to the Wise aggregated a series of posts about a storm gathering on the email front.

Receivers and filter-makers are up in arms about the crappy mail streams they see coming to them from ESPs, email service companies providing sending services for clients of various pedigrees. There is noise, a lot of it credible noise, about large-scale blocks going into place to prevent some or even all of this mail from getting to the inbox. That is damned scary to consider. The problem is, the average ESP’s client-base runs the gamut from Joe’s Plumbing Service trying to send out Christmas greetings to his customers, to some newly-formed shell company sending out 3rd-party crap-credit offers to lists garnered from co-registered (or worse) collection practices.

ESPs are under severe financial duress. Their price point has dropped 70% in the past five years—before the recession—because everybody and his dog is now in the ESP business, and so, they have had to attenuate some of their vigilance with regard to client vetting. That is the nice way of saying this.

But not everybody in the space is bad, indeed, few ESPs are ‘all bad’ it is a mixed bag, and it is the mixed bag that has worked to their advantage in the past. ISPs don’t want to throw babies out with bathwater, it now appears they might be willing to. The die is cast, it is time for ESPs to take a serious look at the customer base, and issue some marching orders. I get it, competition is fierce, but it is unsustainable, long-term, to keep lousy mail on the systems. Binge-time is over, now they must purge.

And so, the hue and cry wafts up to the ramparts. Read all of Laura’s citations (and especially the comments) to grok the reaction. Read the suggestions of mail streams and collection processes that don’t cut it anymore. This ain’t no foolin’ around.

(This all reminds me of a conversation I had years ago, speaking with someone at a large receiving site about botnet mitigation, how to deal with infected clients on their networks. “Block ‘em and get them to fix their shit” was my suggestion. “We can’t! They would flee, and our quarterly bottom line would be adversely effected” is a nice polite paraphrase of a reply that questioned my sanity.

These days, ISPs are working up best common practice documents like those at maawg.org: Comcast was one of the largest ISPs to announce such a move to doing exactly this—sandboxing infected clients and helping them to find a way out of infectionville)

The second, and related article is by one of my oldest and dearest friends, Lynn Crosbie ‘It’s hard to do good, when your reputation is so bad’. Lynn writes about Lindsay Lohan’s recent imbroglio with the press, she is trying to do right, but can’t catch a break, because of her bad reputation.

The logical link I see is one of warning—in the email community the ESPs need to take heed of Lindsay’s folly and circumstance. They must clean up now, or no matter what they do in the future, no matter how good or how clean, they will not be trusted, and instead, ignored, maligned, and all good intentions and acts (and mail streams) questioned or even dismissed.

One hopes that Ms. Lohan did good for good sake, and doesn’t give a damn about her bad reputation. because what she did was in fact laudible and good. She went to raise the profile of the situation of children working in sweatshops in India. End of story, except, not quite. Instead, she is mocked.

The ESP’s reaction to the predicted storm brewing is reminiscent of the K├╝bler-Ross grief cycle:

Acceptance stage

Let’s hope they get through these stages in the same rapid manner Homer Simpson did when he ate poison blowfish, and was given 24 hours to live (hint: really really fast).

Because, if not, and they don’t give a damn, others will, and that storm may be epic in what it blows away. Like, entire businesses. Time to step up, folks.

By Neil Schwartzman, Executive Director, The Coalition Against unsolicited Commercial Email - CAUCE

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