bounces/disabled accounts (long!)

Steve Marak
Mon, 18 Feb 2008 16:33:53 PST
I chatted a bit with Diane (Whitehead) off list about this several days 
ago, assuming no one other than list admins would want to see posts about 
what can quickly become a technical topic, but it seems many people are 

Mary Sue is correct, as usual, about there being many reasons for e-mail 
bounces, and she listed the most common ones. She also described how the 
PBS listserver handles bounces, and that's typical of most listserver 
software. Usually those numbers are settable by the list admins, but not 
always - sometimes the site owning the server controls the settings.

Several people have mentioned the issue of a user, perhaps on vacation, 
having the space allotted them by their e-mail provider fill up. That's 
certainly an issue (though less so these days, when big e-mail providers 
routinely give out a gigabyte or more to everyone), but it will only 
affect that individual subscriber - it very seldom causes anyone else any 
problems. It doesn't seem to be the issue here.

On a list I moderate, we have problems similar to this one with AOL users, 
and we've had so many problems I've raised the bounce limits quite high 
just to reduce the number of times I have to go re-enable them manually. 
That saves me some work, but doesn't help them to realize that something 
is wrong and that they're missing posts.

The messages Mary Sue quoted in her post -

> delivery temporarily suspended: host
>[] refused to talk to me: 421 4.7.0 
> [TS01]
>      Messages from temporarily deferred due to user complaints -
>; see

give the action (Yahoo is rejecting e-mail from the e-mail 
server, which appears to be the mail gateway for our list), and the 
ostensible reason ("user complaints"). If you visit the URL in the 
message, there's a longer explanation which says basically the same thing, 
and is equally unhelpful in explaining exactly what the problem was, 
except to own up that it might not be user complaints, it might be 
anything they consider suspicious or unusual.

Unfortunately, calling a provider like Yahoo or AOL and trying to find 
anyone who cares and can do something about this is a job for someone with 
good technical skills, hours to spend on the phone, and the patience of a 
saint. I don't qualify on either of the latter 2 and don't even try any 
more; I now just advise my afflicted list members to get a different 
e-mail provider.

In this case, it may have been something we (the PBS list) did, something 
another list hosted by ibiblio did, or some other activity on the UNC 
servers not related to ibiblio at all. Our PBS list admins probably don't 
have access to enough information to tell. And it might really have been 
something unusual and alarming, or it might just be a poorly defined rule 
in Yahoo's filters.

I've even seen cases where someone intentionally joined a list, decided 
later they didn't want to be on it, and rather than either following the 
directions to unsubscribe or contacting the listowner for help, marked 
mail from the list as spam, and their provider immediately blocked all 
mail from that server to everyone on their network. You would think that 
no provider would implement such an overzealous and poorly thought out 
policy, but it's not that uncommon. (You'd think people wouldn't be so 
inconsiderate to other users of their provider who might be on the same 
list, too, but once again ...)

The Yahoo web page does have an online form that can be filled out to 
inquire about the situation. I know how busy our list admins are already 
and the likelihood of it being useful is small, so I wouldn't encourage 
them to spend any time on it, but I mention it just in case. I've tilted 
at a few of these windmills in the past, too.


-- Steve Marak

More information about the pbs mailing list