Greylisting

Here’s an idea! Let’s add a new feature called Greylisting, set the default to be on, and push the update out without a word. What could possibly go wrong?

Back on 3/25/2021 at around noon I sent an email to a pimp I keep in touch with. (For those that don’t work in IT, person at consulting firm. They arrange a date, collect a fee . . . you get the idea.) I called him a few hours later because I was surprised he had not responded. He didn’t get the email. I got a phone call from him early the following morning telling me that email showed up at 1am.

A few days later there was another pimp talking to me on the phone pushing me to get a signed RTR (Right to Represent) back to him so he could present me to the client. Well, “signed” is a bit of an overstatement in today’s world. They send an email and you reply with “I confirm.” We were talking on the phone. I was replying to his email which had just come in. About half an hour later I forwarded his email to my almost never used GMail account. Replying from there got to him right away.

This morning was the last straw. I bought some stuff on eBay about 7am. I had been buying other stuff on eBay this past week and the sale confirms showed up right away. It was well after noon and I had seen nothing. In the words of Popeye “That’s all I can stands I can’t stands no more!”

CPanel menu

The boys and girls developing CPanel decided to add a new feature called “Greylisting.” This shiny new feature randomly hangs onto email from, apparently, every source that isn’t Gmail until the wee hours of the morning. They pushed this out with basically a word to no one. I didn’t find out about it until I chatted with support.

The default is ON for all domains managed by your CPanel.

What could possibly go wrong, right?

So, log into your CPanel account. If you are like me that means logging into your hosting service then choosing CPanel from their menu. You are looking for that little envelop with the exclamation mark in it that says “Configure Greylisting.” It’s in the email section of your CPanel menu. Click it and turn Greylisting off for all your domains.

If you want to read more about technical recruiters (pimps) you can start here.

Is Gmail Black Listed

My Web sites are hosted by JustHost.com. While I don’t have problems with sites going down I would not recommend anyone exposing themselves to what passes for technical support either via on-line chat or God forbid, phone.

The reason I have had multiple contacts with their support is I keep getting postcards in the mail from Janus saying they tried to deliver to me electronically but the email did not go through. I would endure another long period on chat hold (they stopped people from creating tickets and exchanging email quite some time ago) trying to get the 2 email addresses the postcards indicated cleared to come through again.

You see, the service subscribes to Spam Assassin and some other black list service. Apparently Janus uses those same to email addresses to send out marketing as well as actual customer documentation. It is also possible people sign up for electronic delivery then flag the account statement emails as spam.

What sparked this post is an event which happened last Friday. I had been exchanging email in the morning with a pimp who was trying to present me to 2 different contracts. They were both at the same client and I had a multi-decade history with the client. About noon communication stopped. “No biggie, he’s at lunch” I thought. Over the next hour I sent a couple of emails to him and heard nothing. Finally at around 2:30 I called and left a message. About 3:30 he called me back asking if I had received any of his emails.

We spent the next hour trying to send and receive emails while on the phone. His company uses Gmail with a non-Gmail looking return address. In a last desperate attempt he went to the confirm site to have it send me a link to a right to represent form. I got the email and we completed the paperwork. I even received confirmation of successful submission from the site. Just no email from the pimp and he received none of mine.

Gmail is notorious for issues. There is a rash of sites whose singular purpose is to track if Gmail is down. We even have articles appearing in the Huffington Post about Google services being down. This is a side effect of using cheap PC type processors and free software to do what large scale midrange and mainframe systems were designed to do, maintain 100% up-time. The container full of cheap PC processors is based on the swarm design, “Many Will Die But Some Will Survive.” A far cry from 100% up-time when measured from the “no transaction lost” perspective.

Yes, I endured another chat session with support making sure his email address was added to the white list. Since neither of us knew the IP address of his outbound Gmail server I could not have them check to see if that server had been black listed.

I have heard this same complaint from others in the industry. Spammers sign up for “free” email services then, after sending a bunch of spam the outgoing email server gets black listed. Any email system subscribing to the black list service eventually gets an update and suddenly no mail coming in from that IP gets through. The same thing happened to JustHost.com once because I found out and told them about it.

This IP based black listing, while efficient and serving the purpose of black listing spammers who run their own IP server, is a real PITA for everyone else. JustHost isn’t good about keeping its mail server IPs off the list and it appears neither is Google. I’ve been tempted to ask technical support at JustHost how many times they have black listed their own email servers but that would require yet another horrible chat session after a glacial wait time for it to start.

For those of you who are curious, my emails to him and his emails to me have not surfaced. I suspect they were routed to the bit bucket via some intermediary that subscribes to a black listing service.

Tracking down these issues for a common user can be daunting. You still get other email messages and you have no indication, until someone calls, that you aren’t getting any of their email.