Spam policing makes life difficult

For years, it was possible for visitors to our site to fill out a job advert form, press "submit", pay their two quids' worth and send out their advert to all our members in the form of a direct email. Instant and easy. No intervention required by me, except gentle moderation and keeping an eye on what came through. It worked. It was great. There were seldom any problems and, thanks to the requirement to pay two quid, no spam users of this facility.

In recent months, however, first our server and then Google started blocking such messages and preventing them from even leaving the starting-blocks. I suspect this is the result of a global concerted effort by all servers and host providers to put in place more sophisticated anti-spam measures. I kept having to push more and more advertisements through manually, which was annoying at best, and disastrous at worst if I happened to be away from my computer for any length of time and the advert was for an urgent job placement.

I tried every trick in the book to get our system to work reliably once more, but every workaround had a downside and/or was not failsafe. One of these attempts to fix the problem led to some embarrassing incidents of mail with sensitive information, meant for my eyes only, getting posted to the whole list. Every time I had to go back to the drawing board, spending many fruitless hours on it, until I simply ran out of options to try. Eventually, after consultation with our form providers and our server, I was told that the only reliable way was to avoid the direct web-to-group system and to route everything through an authenticated SMTP email account, which had to be an account owned by me. So at first I routed all the web-based advertising submissions to the group via my own personal Gmail account. This was hardly an ideal situation. Luckily I found out that it was now possible for one person to have more than one Gmail account. This used not to be the case. So DepList now has its own dedicated gmail account for the sole purpose of gathering outside advertisements created on our website and then forwarding them automatically to the group. Unfortunately there is a compromise attached. The "reply to" field, which I had programmed to be the advertiser's email address, gets ignored and is replaced by the address of the new gmail account. As everything that comes in to that new account immediately gets sent to the group, anyone who is careless enough to use the "reply" button, instead of following the instructions for using the advertiser's contact details, will see their reply posted to the whole of DepList. This is unavoidable and is the price we have to pay for a system that now works in spite of the spam police.