Thursday, December 20, 2012

Why Geeks Don't Like You: A Hint for United Way of Central Maryland

Like many others around here, I am fairly used to getting spammed about this that or the other United Way campaign at my JHU work email. I've made my peace with it, after all configuring a spam filter isn't all that complicated. Of course a more appropriate solution would be for the spam to stop, but I decided a while ago that it's not worth picking a fight over.

In any case, every now and then something from United Way gets through. Tonight I received an email from

Nicole Lipinski <>
asking me to please donate money like I had in previous years. Now I have actually never donated to United Way, ever. It's not like I don't believe in charities, I just prefer to donate to other charities, maybe even some that don't spam me. 
But what the heck, I thought I'd take the time to point out to someone at United Way how I feel about the spam I get: I hit reply and explained briefly and politely that I am not donating and that it would probably help them with the geekier population around JHU if they stopped spamming us. I was a little surprised when I got back the following:

550 No Such User Here

Huh? You can probably guess what happened next. In a slightly less friendly tone I contacted

to complain about them sending me email from a completely fictional email address, one of the hallmarks of any self-respecting spammer. Then what happened?

550 No Such User Here
550 No Such User Here

You better believe it. Never mind that RFC 2142 clearly states that both of these addresses have to exist if you run SMTP on your host. So the next thing I do is check their whois record where I find two more email addresses:

Of course I had little hope by now that they would follow RFC 1834 any better than they had followed RFC 2142, and predictably I got back two more of these:

550 No Such User Here
550 No Such User Here

I don't know what the IT people over there are thinking. Maybe something like "Those rules only apply to old-fashioned business organizations, but we're a lean-and-mean donation-gathering-machine so we don't have to follow those weird RFCs!" Whatever it is, I can pretty much guarantee that this kind of ignorance in setting up their email infrastructure does not reflect very kindly on them. At least not from where I sit: deep geekland. Now excuse me while I tighten up that spam filter a bit more.