Do you use an AOL, Yahoo, or iCloud (mac.com, me.com, or icloud.com) email address? If so, and if you subscribed to the email edition of TidBITS at some point in the past but stopped receiving issues along the way, my sincere apologies. Recently, while tracking down a problem that caused significant email deliverability problems for comcast.net addresses (“Comcast Email Delivery Restarted for TidBITS Subscribers,” 3 November 2014), I realized that thousands of subscribers from AOL, iCloud, and Yahoo had also bounced due to inaccurate spam filtering on the part of those email providers. The iCloud bounces happened in the past few weeks, but the AOL and Yahoo bounces took place sometime earlier. (Note that Yahoo manages email for a number of other domains, many associated with AT&T and the Baby Bells, so this applies to you if your address is at sbcglobal.net, bellsouth.net, att.net, pacbell.net, ameritech.net, swbell.net, and even the Canadian provider rogers.com.)
I have now restarted email delivery for everyone in these domains, so if this is the first issue of TidBITS you’ve received in a while, welcome back, and I’m tremendously sorry for the deliverability problems! If you’d like, you can resend issues to yourself manually, which is also a great way to test if your email provider is blocking TidBITS for some reason. For details, read “Resend TidBITS Issues to Yourself” (8 March 2013).
You can also check on the status of your subscription and restart delivery manually in the event of bounces by logging in to your account. That page also lets you change your name, email address, password, and more.
Of course, if you’ve already resubscribed to TidBITS from another email address, or if you’re no longer interested in Apple-related news and products, unsubscribing is simple. Just scroll to the very bottom of the message and click the Unsubscribe link there.
How Did This Happen? -- We’ve been distributing TidBITS via email since 1990, with the technology underlying the list changing a number of times. We currently use a homegrown system that ties in with the overarching account database that also tracks everyone who buys Take Control books, so sending email, whether for TidBITS or Take Control, is a matter of building a list on the fly from a database query.
Because we’ve been doing this for so long, and for the most part successfully, I’ve been lax in keeping up with the latest in the email deliverability world. Or, rather, I was until earlier this year, when I buckled down, implemented technologies like SPF and DKIM, and started signing up for feedback loops that alert me when a subscriber at a major email provider marks one of our mailings as spam instead of unsubscribing.
(Marking a legitimate, if unwanted, message as spam is unfortunately common, but please don’t do it, because it hurts the reputation of the sender for no reason, and that in turn can hurt email deliverability to other users in your domain. To get off a list you subscribed to, always use the unsubscribe link, usually available at the bottom of a message.)
One aspect of our system that’s not ideal, in retrospect, is that the primary reporting it provides is the number of active users sent to each week. In the past, I’ve often gone weeks or months without checking it, since it normally isn’t particularly interesting. Losing 750 Comcast subscribers was noticeable, and the loss of another few thousand iCloud subscribers on 27 October 2014 also got my attention. Unfortunately, the URL in the bounced messages that purported to explain the problem showed that there was no problem, and email to firstname.lastname@example.org is bouncing.
I’ll be keeping a closer eye on both subscription numbers and the bounce logs in the future, and if you notice problems, please let me know and complain to your ISP or email provider.