Undelivered e-mail an offshoot of spam-prevention
Two steps forward, one step back. That's a pretty accurate description of many technological innovations. One of the most prevalent manifestations of this theory is in the seemingly growing instances of non-delivered e-mail.
You know the one -- your cousin sends out a great joke and everyone in the family gets it except you.
What causes this? Believe it or not, it's an offshoot of spam. More accurately, it's an offshoot of spam-prevention.
Spam really took off a few years ago and has been increasing ever since. To combat this, many service providers as well as IT departments have implemented filtering software that examines each incoming message. If the filter thinks that the message is spam (or contains a virus), it prevents it from reaching your inbox.
This type of filter often goes both ways. That is, not only does it prevent you from receiving spam, it aims to prevent you from sending spam.
The problem is that spammers have gotten wise to the filters and can be pretty clever about getting around them. Similarly, the developers of the filtering software have to continually upgrade their products.
This battle of good versus evil has been going on for years. Unfortunately, the bad guys have improved their stock so much that the good guys are starting to have a difficult time fighting back. The end result? The good guys' software is becoming more error-prone and mis-identifying messages as spam when they really are not.
Rarely is it a straightforward, business-related message that you don't get. More often, it's messages with "cute" subject, attachments, embedded images of questionable decency, or that include links to Web sites. What has happened is that the filtering software thinks the message is bad, when, in fact, it is not.
In this day and age, most service providers and IT departments provide some sort of e-mail filtering. Many filters provide a means for you to review the incoming e-mails that have been flagged and diverted. After all, it doesn't make any sense for the provider to notify you every time a suspected junk message comes in.
Most times, of course, if you suspect you have missed an e-mail, the easiest (and perhaps least embarrassing) remedy is to simply ask the sending party to resend. Just in case, sign up for a free Web-based e-mail account (such as Yahoo or Gmail) and ask the sender to cc that account. It is rare for two different service providers to incorrectly flag messages as being bad. If the message is not received in two separate accounts, there's a good chance that the sender's service provider is filtering the message on the way out.
Remember, e-mail is not a guaranteed form of delivery. For anything important, follow up with a phone call to ensure that your message has been received.
is president of ISDI Technologies Inc., a Honolulu-based IT consultancy. Call him at 944-8742 or e-mail email@example.com