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Forum E-mail Issue: Bounces & Blocks



2:44 am on Aug 5, 2003 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator rogerd is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Any good discussion forum should have versatile notification features so that users can see when someone replies to their own post, sends them a private message (e.g., sticky), or posts in a topic of interest. This builds community and brings people back to the site, right?

One downside of great notification is that e-mail addresses go bad for a variety of reasons. People change addresses, or their mailbox fills up, and suddenly those handy notifications turn into bounces. (On one forum, I've had people sign up for notification on every topic available. Naturally, within a few hours their Hotmail account is full and they are bouncing like crazy.)

A new and more disturbing thing that users do is block forum notifications at their ISP rather than logging in and turning them off. My concern is that one could get labeled as a spammer if multiple users block your mail.

I'm curious as to what other webmasters do about this. It would be easy enough just to dump the bounces, but I fear the volume might spiral out of control. I currently watch the bounces and edit user profiles as needed. This is kind of a pain, but it keeps things under control. For "blocking" users, I'll often send them a note requesting that if they want to stop the mail, they should edit their profile. If they respond, their reply usually reflects extreme density (e.g., "I kept replying to 'unsubscribe' but the mail kept coming, so I blocked it.")

Is a high degree of maintenance for this stuff inevitable? What tricks have you found to keep this under control? What are the risks of not correcting bounces promptly?


1:07 pm on Aug 5, 2003 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator rogerd is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Geez, this is going to further depress my spawn average... Anyone?


1:27 pm on Aug 5, 2003 (gmt 0)

In relation to a discussion board, I guess your problems would be solved if you made people "Switch on" all notifications, rather than having them on by default. The other then is to give people a once per week (or at most once per day) summary of posts, so they don't get bombarded.

WebmasterWorld works well for me. I only get emails when I want then and have to opt in to each thread that I want to be kept informed of.

It is true that sooner or later, too many emails from the same domain will end up in a block, rather than me going in to switch it off. We have over 300 password protected websites to log in to and we have now stopped using the same password everywhere as the company grows, which means just logging in to a website involves finding the local passowrd which changes weekly to log into the spreadsheet for my level of security in the company to see what the monthly (probably ramdom) password is to get in to your site.

So... loggin in to a website is a big turn off just to switch off an email that I can block.


1:31 pm on Aug 5, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Just so that you know you are not alone.

I currently watch the bounces and edit user profiles as needed.

Me to.

I would have thought it would be relatively easy to automate this process if the numbers become to large to handle manually.


1:36 pm on Aug 5, 2003 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

/thinking out loud

Could you force every notification (or maybe one in every X notifications) to be followed up or have the system suspend all further notifications until a user interaction at the control panel?

So rather than an email containing:

Hey, there's a new message in /forums/widgets/


you would tag a unique ID onto each URL:

Hey, there's a new message in /forums/widgets/


where $foo is picked up by your forum system and used accordingly.


1:48 pm on Aug 5, 2003 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator rogerd is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Receptional, all notifications are opt-in on the board in question. It's just that people opt-in without thinking.

Some people like to get lots of notifications - they have plenty of space, and it gives them a quick way to keep up on discussion activity without logging in. Mods in particular make good use of it. They may not be logged in, but a new post titled "Check this hot new website" is an immediate flag that a post should be checked.

The software currently doesn't have grouping ability, i.e., to combine multiple notifications in a set time period into a single e-mail. New software I'm implementing will have that capability. Still, this will mitigate the problem (fewer overflowing mailboxes) but not eliminate the fundamental bounce problem.

Dmorison, your periodic query idea is interesting. Sort of like a periodic opt-in.

I know some software, like Lyris list manager, will handle bounces automatically. With limits that you set (e.g., x number of mailings that bounce), the address will be flagged as unmailable. For managing large lists, this feature is a huge timesaver. For most discussion software, email notification is a minor feature, though, and I haven't seen anyone advertising automated handling of bounces.


3:02 pm on Aug 5, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

For my automated notification emails, I set the return path to go to a different account, so my Outlook doesn't get clogged up with bounced mails. I then log into this account via the web once a week and update those users' profiles to stop notifications.

What I should do if I found the time, would be to encode the return path with the username of the recipient. E.g. some-username@mydomain.com. I could then write a nice PHP script to automatically sift through these bounced emails and update the relevant profiles. I'd schedule this in a daily (or hourly) cron job and then I wouldn't have to manually intervene.


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