Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Mail Issue

Last week I had an issue where I sent an e-mail to someone (non-work-related), and a while later got the response forwarded to me from my wife, with a note that Harvard was rejecting the response e-mail.  It seemed to be a one-time issue -- I was getting other e-mail -- so I assumed it was a spurious issue and ignored it.

Last night, it happened again -- both of my brothers had their mail to me bounced from Harvard, with the same error message.

The commonality was easy to spot -- all were using Yahoo mail accounts.

I sent mail to IT, who quickly found that yes, a firewall upgrade last week had somehow made mail from mail.yahoo.com undeliverable.

It's always a little disturbing to me when I find these problems.  For historical reasons I think I'm on a mail server that doesn't involve a large number of people at Harvard, but still, nobody noticed for a week that mail from Yahoo wasn't being delivered?  Perhaps it says something unfortunate about how many people still use Yahoo mail accounts these days.

It's also an example of something I feel I always have to explain to people:  e-mail is not a 100% reliable delivery service, and shouldn't be thought of as such.  Yes, most of the time if your e-mail is dropped it is a "me issue" (you can either view it as my laziness/irresponsibility, or view it from my standpoint -- I get 50-100 e-mails a day and yours fell off the end somewhere);  and sometimes these days it's a system issue (your mail looked like spam, and never reached my eyes).  This time at least there was an error response so it was known that the mail didn't get through.  But always best to be wary of your e-mail system, and use the phone if it's something important you need a response to.



David P. Williamson said...

Um, what do you have against Yahoo! Mail? I guess your brothers still use it...

Michael Mitzenmacher said...

I don't have anything against Yahoo mail, and wonder what in my post suggested that I did. I made a factual assertion that mail from Yahoo had been rejected without anyone (except myself, apparently) noticing for about a week, and suggested a possible extrapolation regarding its current usage. No judgments offered.

David P. Williamson said...

Sorry, Michael, I interpreted your 'unfortunate' comment not as the number of people using Yahoo! Mail, but that no one was missing the email that such users were sending.

Richard Bradley said...

Michael--I suspect the reason Yahoo is banne is that it is so widely used for spamming; even for my own personal email, I've thought of simply blocking all email from Yahoo--it's about ten parts spam to one part person.